Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

TUC Narrowly Backs Motion to Raise Defence Spending.

with 13 comments

For: 2,556,000. Against: 2,469,000.

This is the composited motion:

Motion 04 Defending manufacturing jobs

Composited motion

Received from: GMB

Congress believes that the world is becoming less safe and the policy carried in 2017 in favour of diversifying away from defence manufacturing is no longer fit for purpose.

Congress recognises that defence manufacturing cuts have hindered the UK’s ability to aid the Ukrainian people under brutal assault from Putin’s regime.

Congress further recognises that:

i. defence manufacturing is essential to many communities, from Barrow-in-Furness to Derby, and defence spending supports many parts of the wider economy

ii. up to 36p in each pound spent on defence manufacturing is returned through taxation – helping fund public services

iii. the 1990s submarine order gap, which led to catastrophic losses in jobs and skills, must never be repeated

iv. there is welcome potential for manufacturing orders under the Aukus agreement.

This Congress condemns the:

a. run-down of UK defence manufacturing and loss of more than 80,000 shipbuilding and repair jobs since the early 1980s

b. expansion of outsourcing and casualisation in the Ministry of Defence and private contractors

c. government’s international competition policies, including for the £1.6bn fleet solid support contract.

Congress therefore instructs the General Council to:

1. campaign for immediate increases in defence spending

2. support affiliates’ campaigns, including GMB’s Making It campaign, for defence contracts to be placed in the UK where possible and shipbuilding orders to be placed with UK yards

3. demand a 30-year pipeline of defence work across sectors, including delivery in full of the Astute and Dreadnought programmes that are essential to jobs at BAE Systems in Barrow and Rolls-Royce in Derby.

Both Stop the War and CND mobilised against the motion:

Reports indicate that not only the GMB and Prospect but also UNITE played a big role in getting the motion passed. Those who recall UNITE’s strong backing for Trident – and its members’ jobs working on it – will not be surprised.

This is not the kind of motion that the left would or should support. Backing more military spending goes against the grain of anti-miliarist tradition of the left and the TUC’s previous support for diversifying work in the sector. But unions are there to defend members’ jobs and that is the thrust of the composite.

It is doubtful that opposition, from Stop the War and CND, linking the cost-of-living crisis, and the menace of austerity, and the war in Ukraine to increased defence spending, helped the cause of those opposing the GMB Composite.

The notorious Chris Nineham wrote a couple of days ago for Stop the War:

Given their record of foreign wars it would be beyond naive to believe that the Tories or the wider British establishment have the interests of the Ukrainian people at heart. They are supporting the US in a proxy war against Russia in the hope that it will strengthen Britain’s position globally. In the context of a frightening rise in tensions between the great powers, this is a war that is making the world more unstable, not safer.

In these circumstances it is crucial that the labour movement opposes the government’s war policy. It is working people who will pay for any increase in defence spending.

Professor Malcolm Chalmers from the Royal United Services Institute estimates Truss’s plans would lead to an additional £157 billion of arms spending at current prices. As he points out this would mean massive spending cuts or a 5 per cent increase in income tax. In any case spending on arms manufacture creates less jobs per pound than investment in any other area.

In the interests of the Ukrainian people, of stopping wider war and nuclear confrontation, and of fighting for sane economic priorities we must oppose our government’s war drive and step up our campaign for peace.



Written by Andrew Coates

October 19, 2022 at 4:29 pm

13 Responses

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  1. I expect a large part of the support is predicated on the (correct) realisation that cheap talk about “diversifying away” from defense manufacturing simply mean industrial job losses. There is no recent history of “swords into ploughshares” in the UK. The save money goes into tax cuts or other forms of spending. Not surprised that defense workers vote to preserve their own jobs.


    October 19, 2022 at 6:52 pm

    • True, the 1970s Lucas Aerospace “socially useful” alternative plans – ” The workers, including Ernie Scarbrow (Combine Secretary), Phil Asquith,[5] Brian Salisbury, Mick Cooney, Danny Conroy, Mike Cooley, Ron Mills, Bob Dodd, John Routley and Terry Moran, argued that state support would be better used developing socially useful products and production than supplying military contracts.” never came to anything.


      Andrew Coates

      October 19, 2022 at 7:13 pm

  2. Chaos in the UK:

    Andrew Coates

    October 19, 2022 at 7:55 pm

  3. Total fiasco, it seems unlikely that Braverman’s sacking was due to her (pretty minor) indiscretion but rather as a desperate attempt to shore up Lettuce Liz and punish a supporter-turned-critic.


    October 19, 2022 at 8:18 pm

  4. Si vis pacem para bellum – If you want peace prepare for war
    Roman General Vegetius

    And also John Wick, Parabellum 2019

    Harold Pelham

    October 19, 2022 at 8:51 pm

  5. So for every pound we spend on weapons, we get up to 36 pence back to spend on public services, or possibly on more weapons, who knows? And the representatives of public service workers voted for this. Turkeys and Xmas come to mind.


    October 19, 2022 at 9:46 pm

    • It says UNISON and NEU voted against. Which public sector unions voted in favour?


      October 19, 2022 at 10:05 pm

      • Both GMB and Unite organise some public service workers. It’s been a long time since unions in Britain have been neatly divisible into public and private sector. Many of them straddle the two sectors.


        October 19, 2022 at 10:11 pm

        • I suppose that the leadership of Unite and GMB felt the potential for job loses amongst their members employed in manufacturing offset the alleged gains elsewhere. But you probably know better.


          October 19, 2022 at 10:55 pm

  6. There’s a forest of support for the plebitorial bandstand elite who opposed the coffitorial climbdown. A J Simpson once said, “if the people decide otherwise, it’s not for the party to muster anthing other than our support”. It’s the least we can do to stop the droit syndrone becoming the nightmare reality.

    Dr Ralph Pitman

    October 19, 2022 at 11:40 pm

  7. […] the issue by the StW coalition turned out to be very prescient: the British Trade Union Congress voted shortly after to support increased ‘defence spending’, more honestly stated as spending on […]

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