Since Britain became a leader in the Allied Coalition's intervention in Libya it has had to live down the arms sales that it made when Arab strongmen were valued customers of British industry. A cross party parliamentary committee issued a condemnation of arms sales during the Labor government of Gordon Brown but David Cameron's current Conservative Liberal Democrat coalition did not escape criticism.
The report concluded: "Both the present Government and its predecessor misjudged the risk that arms approved for export to certain countries in North Africa and the Middle East might be used for internal repression."
Sir John Stanley, the committee’s Conservative chairman, noted that the government was working feverishly to revoke the many export licenses to problematic regimes.
Prime Minister David Cameron was criticized for his bizarre trade mission in February after the ouster of Hosni Mubarak in which he combined verbal support for democracy with arms peddling in the Middle Eastern bazaar.
Obviously the biggest embarrassment are the arms that made their way to the Qaddafi regime in Libya. This horn of plenty included sniper rifles shotguns, crowd-control ammunition and small-arms ammunition, all of which are in use against the Coalition-backed rebels.
Britain’s defense export companies were only too pleased to have responsibility laid at the government's door and protested that they must follow exacting regulations to get export licenses approved. This represented corporate responsibility on the part of the companies who would continue to respect and support government export controls, they claimed.