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Letter: Too much defence, too little industry

Sir: Congratulations to the Independent on printing at considerable length Britain's chief scientist's "savage attack on UK arms industry" (report, 1 December). This important news received no coverage at all in nearly all the other newspapers.

The President of the Royal Society, Sir Michael Atiyah, condemned our huge expenditure on nuclear and conventional weapons on economic grounds and for the waste of resources involved, not to mention the moral objection, which is still more serious.

The House of Commons Research Section (5 April 1995) informed Labour MP Harry Cohen that if our arms spending were reduced as a proportion of GNP to the average of the other European Nato nations, it would save no less than pounds 7.6bn a year. That would provide a tremendous boost to education, housing, the NHS and social security.

Further, the British government devotes no less than 42 per cent of its research to "defence" (compared with 5 per cent in Japan). It is unsurprising that Japan has been able to conquer the world market in electronics, television, radio, motor cycles, motor cars, and even heavy engineering (such as shipbuilding).

Despite the ending of the Cold War, the Ministry of Defence is this year spending pounds 23bn, money that is needed for pressing civil causes.

For six consecutive years Labour's annual conference delegates have carried a resolution stating that Britain's share of the gross national product going to the military should be reduced to the average proportion of the other European Nato governments and that there should be conversion of those armament factories concerned to non-military production.

Each year the Labour leadership has either ignored that decision or has publicly and brutally rebutted it. Yet the annual delegate conference is our party's supreme policy-making body. This year the executive dodged debating the issue at all (because they knew that it would again be carried).

This kind of treatment, if continued, will destroy the party's democracy.

Yours sincerely,

Frank Allaun


Labour Action for Peace


1 December