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« Q7: Genocide in Darfur | Main | A commercial break »



I know we had this debate before Tim but would you support then also not trading at all with these countries ie China?

Mark Fulford

I agree with you editor. I see no responsibility to sell weapons to help an oppressive regime protect itself.

Henry Fitzpatrick

What a comprehensively missed opportunity these questions have been thus far. With both campaigns tamely willing to provide a website with more detaield answers than they have to any of the big Tory papers, the questions asked of them could at least have addressed either issues germane to us winnign the next election, or even, as that a few years off, how the next Leader will actually run the party. But not a sausage - merely 'do you favour banning the export of Tofu to North Korea' style irrelevance after irrelevance.

And for all the Cameroons out there who, with gritted teeth, snarl that Tim Montgomerie is biased against your man - no one has benefitted more from the fact that all the hard issues, bar tax, have thus far been utterly ignored.


A great moment, Mark!

Peter: I certainly wouldn't sell weapons to China (or Saudi Arabia). The huge danger in weapons trading with such countries is the risk of technology leakage. The US has warned that it won't work with defence companies that trade arms with China for fear of such leakage. Given that America is the world's biggest defence spender this seems to be a good economic reason not to trade with China etc.

Selsdon Man

What about the US which armed Saddam? Any ban has to be agreed by other nations.


Ideally yes, SM, but I'd rather we stopped trading with despots now - whatever France etc chooses to do. Let the blood be on their hands.


Mr Editor, I completely disagree with you. DD's answer does NOT have wriggle-room: he says we should NOT sell to repressive regimes.

Cameron is astonishing: an amazingly stupid sentence seems to mean that we could sell to ANYBODY:

"but countries have a right to self-defence, and we cannot expect smaller countries to manufacture every single piece of defence equipment themselves"

Mark Fulford

No Selsdon, it's very easy to unilaterally not sell weapons to certain countries. Would you want your income to be earned from weapons sales to Iran - regardless of whether somebody else is happy to take the cash?

James Hellyer

We can unilaterally decide not to supply a country, Selsdon.


I mean, please, what does this rubbish mean?

"countries have a right to self-defence" - yes, countries do, but do murderous regimes?

"and we cannot expect smaller countries to manufacture every single piece of defence equipment themselves"

So small countries that murder their neighbours must be given help, in fairness?


Mark Fulford

Buxtehude, if Tim would re-judge Darfur as a draw, I'd be very content to see this put as a clear DD win. Believe it or not, there are parts of Cameron's campaign that have worried me - and this answer ranks right up there.


Bux: I think it was "patently" that worried me in DD's response but may be I'm being too harsh on him...


I believe it is not the British government, but independent companies that sell arms. While I agree that it would be better if these regimes did not get them, the reality is that by unilaterally preventing British companies from doing business with them, we would merely be handing the business over to other less ethical nations. The result would be a big hole in our export trade and a massive blow to the British arms trade.

In the real world, we carry on and hope no one notices. This is not the answer of any poltician who wants your vote, but it is the true answer. It happens under every government.


What about the US which armed Saddam?

Russia and France armed Saddam, not the US.


Sorry Tim but I meant all trade?


It's a crazy position to take, anyway, Editor. Selling weapons to foreign despots is no different to giving them food aid, or selling them food, or selling them any other commodity. You're either in favour of sanctions against all corrupt and non-democratic regimes, or you aren't. Either way, innocent people will die.


I'm afraid the US did arm Saddam Andrew.

He was a key recipient of US weapons during the Iran-Iraq war. One Donald Rumsfeld even visited Baghdad at the time to help things along.


Gareth: In absolute terms, yes, the US sold Saddam some weapons. These sales were dwarfed by the amounts he was buying from Russia and France.

Mark Fulford

Andrew, are you truly saying that you can't see the between weapons, food and medicine?

Daniel Vince-Archer

Editor - notwithstanding the 'patently' part, David Davis still offered a straightforward 'yes' in the answer to the question. Compared to the noncommittal waffle offered by Cameron, I think your judgement on this one is a little harsh on David Davis. Again, as with the Darfur question and his attack on a Christian charity that works hard to alleviate suffering in Africa, Cameron's compassionate credentials apropos of foreign policy are found wanting.


DC also says we need a clear set of rules which is a positive contribution.

A more telling question would have been should we sell arms to despotic regimes that sit on huge oil reserves.


Andrew, are you truly saying that you can't see the between weapons, food and medicine?

Anything that props up a corrupt regime is going to hurt innocent people. Like it or not, selling commodities to foreign despots legitimises them. Of course there is no substantive difference. Witholding food and medicine from people kills them just as surely as shooting bullets at them does.

Selsdon Man

The same Donald Rumsfeld who has been reported as personally approving extraordinary rendition - the transporting of terrorist suspects to undemocratic countries for torture to get round America's anti-torture legislation.

Selsdon Man

I agree that we can take unilateral decisions but I would prefer multilateral agreements. The problem with unilateral decisions is that it does not tackle the armed despot problem. All that happens is that our firms lose orders and income. That reduces investment in research and development and costs British jobs.


Sorry, Mark, to clarify: If you don't believe that a foreign leader would ever use food or medicine (from aid or trade) as a political tool to control the populace, then yes, there is a clear difference between food, medicine and weapons. But I'm not that naive.

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