Street sign in Westminster, NW1 saying 'Whitehall'

Political Influence

How arms companies' influence in Westminster's corridors of power means arms sales are prioritised over arms control, and business interests are prioritised over human rights.

Last updated 8 October 2020

The arms industry has inserted itself into the very heart and machinery of government giving it totally disproportionate access and influence over vital areas, warping public policy and harming us all.

Arms companies have long enjoyed a close relationship with the Government, giving them immense influence over government decision-making.

There are many opportunities for arms companies to gain access to and influence the Government:

Why it matters

The influence of this network of relations warps government priorities, leading to the promotion of corporate interests over policies that would protect the security of people in the UK and elsewhere.

Many of the biggest threats to our security are not military, such as climate change and pandemics like COVID-19. These threats need to be met with appropriate responses and public services, not a militaristic security policy that is shaped and influenced by arms company interests.

We can see this influence in action when arms sales are prioritised over arms controls and human rights, and narrow and dangerous visions of security dominate.

Read our recommendations for change.

Channels of influence

The open door

The arms industry has an open door to government, as can be seen from the thousands of hours of meetings every year between top arms industry executives and government ministers and senior civil servants.

The revolving door

All too often, top civil servants and military officers go on to lucrative jobs in the arms industry. Likewise, top arms executives are recruited to key roles in government. This creates a conflict of interest, and a powerful sense of "groupthink" which warps priorities .

The inside job

Arms industry influence within government is bolstered by the presence of a dedicated arms export promotion unit within the Department of International Trade, and by several high-level advisory bodies packed with arms industry executives, drowning out voices from civil society.

Explore the data

See the meetings that take place between all kinds of public servants and the arms and security sectors. Learn which former ministers, civil servants and military chiefs have gone on to work for weapons manufacturers, military service companies, and the security industry.

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Impact and recommendations

David Cameron and King Salman

Political Influence in action

Arms company and military influence over government warps government priorities, leading to the promotion of corporate interests over policies that would protect the security of people in the UK and elsewhere.

Political influence: recommendations

There are many steps that could be taken to reduce the influence of the arms industry within government and allow a more balanced debate where voices supporting sustainable security could be heard alongside the voices of militarism.

CAAT would not exist without its supporters. Each new supporter helps us strengthen our call for an end to the international arms trade.

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