DSEi - The Facts
There is a lot of incorrect information, and deliberate misinformation, about DSEi available online. It disseminated via a small number of people whose ultimate objective is to stop the production of any kind of arms or defence equipment – including for legitimate use - anywhere in the world.
While we would all wish to see a world in which no nation has any need of equipment for defence or peacekeeping, it is not the world we live in now. This page contains answers to many of the questions many people have about DSEi and the defence industry.
What is DSEi?
DSEi is a defence and security exhibition. It happens once every two years at the ExCeL centre in east London.
What restrictions are there on the kinds of equipment that can be displayed?
All exhibitors are required as part of their contract to ensure that all equipment, services, documentation and any other forms of promotion comply with UK, EU and international law.
In particular, the UK laws DSEi exhibitors have to comply with include the Export Control Act 2002 (updated April 2010), Trade in Goods (Control) Order 2003, Trade in Controlled Goods (Embargoed Destinations) Order 2004.
Broadly, this means that promotion or display of the following items is banned at DSEi:
•Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)
•Cluster Munitions as defined by the Oslo Accord
•Electric shock belts
•Shackles with a minimum dimension of more than 240mm
•Individual cuffs with an internal perimeter of more than 165mm when fully locked
•Portable devices designed for riot protection or self defence using an electric shock (e.g. tasers, electric shock batons and shields, stun guns) – even though these have been deployed by UK police forces
What kind of equipment is on show?
Unsurprisingly, military systems and equipment are on show but much of the equipment on show at DSEi is designed for humanitarian relief and for emergency services. After all, security can be threatened by humanitarian disasters – famine, terrorism, natural disasters or pandemic illness.
As well as military systems, DSEi delegates can expect to see simulators, software, palmtop computers, ships, helicopters, life rafts, medical, air ambulance and medevac kit, de-mining and mine detection equipment, disaster planning tools and search and rescue equipment.
Can you buy equipment at DSEi and walk off with it?
No, you can’t. DSEi is an exhibition. Any contracts signed on UK soil by foreign companies require UK export licenses and are therefore subject to the UK’s strict export regime.
So if you wanted to buy something from a particular exhibitor – despite the fact it isn’t on display and it might be illegal – all you would have to do is travel to a country where the laws aren’t as strict to seal the deal?
The question implies that it is easy to acquire arms anywhere. It isn’t. There are all sorts of measures in place in different countries. But neither Clarion nor DSEi can guarantee the actions of the whole defence industry everywhere in the world – that is why we support calls for new international rules. What we can do is ensure that where we hold exhibitions, all appropriate regulations are applied. It is hard to think of a situation where it would make sense to enter the UK, let alone DSEi, in order to do such a deal why enter a country where to do so is so likely to end in prosecution.
Which countries have Clarion Events invited to DSEi?
Clarion Events is not responsible for inviting overseas delegations. They are all invited by the UK Government. Out of courtesy, Clarion invites defence attaches from London based embassies as well as international students from the Royal College of Defence Studies. It is important to stress that attending DSEi doesn’t necessarily mean any weapons, licensed items or possible dual use technology can actually be bought. Visitors, delegates and exhibitors are always subject to the export controls and the law.
Who controls which companies can come?
Clarion Events is responsible for vetting and controlling access to the exhibition, taking into account the views of the UK Government and Security Services.
Why are you allowing other countries to exhibit?
The defence industry is increasingly globalised, with joint ventures, countries co-operating in defence procurement or purchasing from each other. DSEi, like numerous other defence exhibitions worldwide, has recognised those trends. It is also a good way for the UK armed services to see the latest new products and technologies developed by other countries. Any company that exhibits anything at DSEi is subject to UK, International and EU law.
Didn’t Mark Thomas find illegal equipment on display at DSEi in 2005?
No. Mark Thomas was invited to attend DSEi 2005 by its owners at the time. What he found was literature about equipment. Nonetheless, this was a breach of DSEi policy, so when the leaflet was discovered the stand in question was closed and the companies involved were reported to HM Revenue and Customs. Since then there have been two other DSEi Exhibitions (in 2007 and 2009) and the exhibition is now owned by Clarion Events.
How do you police DSEi, to stop exhibitors or delegates from doing anything that isn’t allowed?
HM Revenue and Customs ensures compliance with UK, EU and international law at DSEi. Clarion Events also takes advice from experienced UK Trade and Investment Defence and Security Organisation (UKTI DSO) and HM Revenue and Customs staff, who can make random checks of any exhibits or materials before or during the exhibition.
If any exhibit is found to be showing illegal equipment, or displaying materials containing information about illegal equipment, the stand would immediately be shut down and the company may face prosecution for breaking the law and legal action for breaching the terms of their contract.