Defence industry needs PR rethink
The “charm” offensive â€“- held under the auspices of trade body the Defence Industries Council (DIC) â€“- began with executives from BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce and QinetiQ, among others, telling assorted media that the defence industry needs more investment (not less) even during a recession.
The head of Rolls-Royceâ€™s defence and aerospace business went so far as to say that Britainâ€™s armaments sector could â€ślead us out of recessionâ€ť, thanks to the jobs it creates and the exports it fuels.
The industry may well employ 300,000 people in Britain and generate an annual turnover of ÂŁ35 billion but to say it needs more investments — it gets around ÂŁ38 billion a year from the government — at a time when unemployment is at its highest level for 13 years smacks of greed.
Perhaps the remarks were made as a warning shot to political parties not to cut the annual defence budget at a time when spending is under the microscope.
Next year Britain conducts its first strategic defence review in more than a decade and with a general election due by June 2010, the issue of how to cut a record budget deficit will certainly be one of the central themes.
However, Britain has some 9,000 troops in Afghanistan and critics say a lack of helicopters makes them particularly vulnerable to roadside bombs so perhaps a redistribution of resources is the right move.
But to flag up the governmentâ€™s annual spend on education (ÂŁ88 billion), health (ÂŁ119 billion) and social protection (ÂŁ189 billion) as reasons to show how the poor old defence industry needs more cash is surely unrealistic â€“- and rather tasteless — in the extreme.