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Ministers spend millions on missiles in middle of Covid crisis

Ministry of Defence (plaque on the front of the building)

Ministers spend millions on missiles in middle of Covid crisis

The Peace Pledge Union has condemned the UK government's purchase of new surface attack missiles for £550 million.

Despite the severe Covid situation and anger over NHS underfunding, the Ministry of Defence announced today (6 January) that they were spending £550m on “Spear 3”, a new brand of missiles that will be used by F-35 fighter planes. They are manufactured by arms company MBDA.

The Peace Pledge Union (PPU) warned that, as with most weapons, the majority of people who will be killed by these missiles will be civilians.

The announcement from the Ministry of Defence came with the usual boast about the supposed accuracy of the missiles, but the PPU pointed to the evidence from the last 20 years that the majority of people killed by recent RAF bombing in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria were civilians, not combatants.

There is particular outrage that the government has chosen to buy the missiles just as the pandemic has made clear that weapons cannot defend the British people from the most serious threats that they face.

“This announcement is an insult to Covid patients, NHS staff, care workers and other key workers who are heroically struggling to deal with the pandemic in the face of underfunding and government incompetence,” said Symon Hill, PPU Campaigns Manager.

The PPU pointed out that the money could be spent on things that would really make people safer during the Covid crisis, such as funding for social care, support for people who have lost their jobs during the pandemic or assistance for people whose mental health is affected by isolation.

"The only thing that these missiles will protect is the profits of arms dealers,” said Symon Hill. “In the last 20 years alone, we have seen that bombings in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria have killed more civilians than combatants. Violence only fuels more violence.”

Junior defence minister Jeremy Quin claims that the plan would protect up to 700 jobs, but the MoD provided only vague information to back up this claim.

The PPU said that they would not be taken in by yet another claim about arms industry jobs, so many of which turn out to be inaccurate. They said that real investment in socially useful industries, including renewable energy, would create more jobs that are more sustainable.

In spring 2020, the PPU launched the Healthcare Not Warfare campaign, calling for military resources to be diverted to tackling the Covid pandemic and other real threats such as poverty and climate change. Nineteen charities and NGOs signed an open letter in April 2020 backing this call.

The Peace Pledge Union is a group of people who have pledged to resist war and the causes of work. Join us here!