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.

Last updated 23 September 2020

CAAT has information on thousands of meetings between government and the arms industry in our Political Influence browser.

The volume of meetings and levels of access are a clear manifestation of the intimate relationship between the arms and securities industries and the UK government.

The relentless, special access warps, narrows and distorts government priorities.

There are, of course, all kinds of meetings. Many will be lobbying meetings, though they won’t be identified as such. There are meetings to plan sales campaigns, operational meetings about arms procured by the MoD, formal dinners and informal breakfasts, and routine catch-up meetings.

Near the most influential end of the scale are the formal high-level advisory bodies, where company executives help ministers work out what they should be doing. A prime example is the Defence Suppliers Forum. This features two MoD ministers, one BIS minister and a collection of the departments’ senior civil servants, meeting with chief executives and vice presidents of many of world’s largest arms companies.


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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.

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 .

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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