Shropshire Star

'Their job is to kill': Armed forces veteran joins campaign against weapons fair in Shropshire

An army veteran has joined campaigners who are speaking out against an arms fair coming to Shropshire.

Dave Lawrence

Scores of organisations and individuals in the county have signed a petition to stop the UK’s Specialist Defence and Security Convention (SDSC-UK) in Telford next month.

The voices have been joined by veteran Dave Lawrence, who served in the British Army for 24 years until 1992.

He says he saw hatred and conflict in Northern Ireland and wants the convention kicked out of the Telford International Centre.

Mr Lawrence, speaking in a campaign video, said: "I spent 24 years in the armed forces, retired in 92.

"I've seen conflicts - it's not fun. I've seen hatred more than conflict. Northern Ireland is where I served mainly. Weapons have only one job in this world and that's to kill.

"There's no point saying 'oh, they're there to defend us'. Their job is to kill people, okay? Kill and maim and destroy so we don't need these weapons being sold in our town.

"I saw the arms fair down in London and saw the generals walking past with all their order books full - it's just wrong, wrong, wrong. There are enough conflicts in this world at the moment, they don't need escalating, they don't need more sophisticated weapons.

"Telford should just say no to the arms fair - no arms fair in this town."

The Telford International Centre is set to host the UK’s Specialist Defence and Security Convention (SDSC-UK) on November 1 and 2.

The event has been described by organisers as “the next stage in the evolution of the Three Counties Defence and Security Expo (3CDSE)”, which for the last five years has been held at the Three Counties Showground in Malvern.

The expo attracted 130 exhibitors and 20 industry speakers in 2021, including BAE Systems, US Department of Defense and Strategic Command (UK StratCom), but has proved controversial.

Campaign group CAAT (Campaign Against Arms Trade) have protested the show over the last few years to try to get the event blocked from the Malvern showground.

Campaigners have called on the Telford International Centre to cancel this booking and "confirm the SDSC will not be welcomed again".

They are also asking the international centre's other clients to rethink their business with the TIC as long as it hosts the SDSC.

"Such an event will stain the Telford International Centre's reputation and betray the values of Telford’s community, in particular disrespecting those of us who have experienced armed conflict or had to flee war and persecution," says an open letter.

Organisers of SDSC-UK have previously “categorically denied” the moving of the expo to Telford has anything to do with the protests.

A spokesperson said: “Fundamentally, we encourage freedom of speech so the protesters are more than welcome to come and protest but I can categorically deny it had anything to do with the move to Telford.

“We’ve outgrown the showground and Telford has the space we need and the right transport links.”

Richard Morgan, president of SDSC-UK, added: “For the past five years we have proudly provided a forum for members of the defence and security community to come together and share knowledge that is so vital to the defence of this country.

“We couldn’t be more pleased to extend the reach of this forum, ensuring every region, not just the three counties of Herefordshire, Gloucestershire and Worcestershire, benefits.”

An SDSC-UK spokesman said: "Many attendees to The Specialist Defence and Security Convention UK have at some point risked their lives to uphold the principles of freedom and democracy around the world. That is why we are committed to an open and constructive dialogue with anyone who has a view to express about our event.

"SDSC-UK has enjoyed continued growth year-on-year and so we have had to relocate to a larger venue that can accommodate our attendees and exhibitors. The Telford International Centre is a purpose- built exhibition space with excellent accommodation and transport links, and so this makes it the perfect venue for our increasingly sophisticated event.

"It is also important to note that the Three Counties Defence and Security Group (3CDSG), including the Three Counties Regional Defence and Security Cluster (3CRDSC) will still continue to operate across the three counties of Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire.

"At the heart of SDSC-UK is a desire to share technology and other innovations amongst the specialist user community. Arising from the 2022 event, there have been considerable national-level commercial transactions, together with at least $1.5 million in contracts awarded internationally, directly attributable to the intimate networking opportunities that SDSC-UK provides.

"We deeply appreciate the people of Telford, and more specifically the TIC, for welcoming us to their vibrant town. November 1 and 2 are already shaping up to be an exciting couple of days, and we cannot wait to host all of our guests and exhibitors.”

Telford International Centre has been asked for comment.