Former Archbishop Carey under fire over arms trade comments

By staff writers
September 10, 2009

The former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, has drawn criticism for making comments supportive of the arms industry. Speaking on BBC television, he suggested that Britain should be proud of being “particularly good at manufacturing tanks”.

His remarks have come at a sensitive time, with the London arms fair taking place this week and the government under attack for inviting regimes such as Libya and Saudi Arabia to send representatives to it.

The former Archbishop surprised viewers of BBC 1's The Big Questions by saying that “This country is particularly good at manufacturing tanks and one thing and another”.

When the presenter, Nicky Campbell, asked “Is it something to be proud of?”, Carey said “Yes, it is”.

Carey went on to emphasise that he believed in strict ethical controls on arms exports. However, the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) pointed out the flimsiness of the controls in operation at Europe's biggest arms fair – known formally as Defence Systems and Equipment International (DSEi) – which is taking place at London's Excel Centre.

“Promoting and selling arms is not something to be proud of” said Chris Cole of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, a Christian NGO, “The UK’s pushing of arms around the globe endorses the underlying idea that violence is the way to solve the world’s problems”.

Cole, who was arrested on Monday (7 September) while peacefully protesting against preparations for the London arms fair, said that the UK government's promotion of the arms trade “makes me and many other people ashamed – not proud – to be British.”

Symon Hill, associate director of the religion and society thinktank Ekklesia, suggested that “many people will be surprised to hear a Christian leader encouraging pride in the manufacture of weapons whose purpose is to destroy and kill”.

“George Carey's comments seem particularly insensitive when arms traders are doing deals in the heart of east London with despotic regimes” said Hill, “If the government were to scrap subsidies for arms companies and put the money into developing technologies to tackle climate chaos, Britain could be at the forefront of an industry of which far more people would be proud”.

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