IssueMarch 2008
Feature by Symon Hill

Mike Turner, the head of BAE, is used to getting his own way. He wrote furiously to Gordon Brown last July, ranting against Brown's decision to close the Defence Export Services Organisation (DESO).

DESO is a marketing agency for private arms companies, paid for by taxpayers.

DESO's closure follows years of campaigning. In 2006-7, groups including Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) focussed on the economic arguments against DESO. Brown realised that he could save money by closing it.

CAAT responded to the closure announcement with caution. We are used to statements that say lots and mean little. We made sure of the reality.

In April, DESO's staff will move to UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), a unit of the Department for Business which promotes civil exports.

Disappointingly, there will be an arms sales group within UKTI, but it will differ from DESO in several ways.

It will be led by a civil servant rather than an arms industry executive. It will be in competition for money with the promotion of civil exports.

It will be outside the MoD, with its culture of subservience to arms companies.

Most importantly, it will reduce the easy access to ministers that DESO provides to arms dealers.

There are those who insist that DESO's closure will make no difference. It seems that some campaigners have become so used to defeat that they no longer believe the peace movement can be successful .

In contrast, CAAT's celebration party brought together people varied in age, background and outlook, who recognised that they had made a significant dent in the power of arms companies.

This victory has made us even more determined to push on with campaigns to end the influence of arms dealers within government. More people than ever are supporting CAAT.

I am confident that in years to come we will look back on DESO's closure as a crucial moment in the successful campaign to end the

Topics: Arms trade