It has become almost an accepted tradition of British government that the reports of Royal Commissions should be disre garded. It is therefore almost a sign of grace that the present government should take the trouble to issue a White Paper explaining its attitude to the Report of the Royal Commission on the Arms Trade. And when it proceeds to accept some of the Commission's conclusions and to reject others it appears to be acting in quite a judicial manner.
The illusion is dispelled when it transpires that they choose for acceptance all the recommendations to do nothing to check private profiteering in arms and choose for rejection all the major re,commendations to do something.
Disposing of a Corpse
When the report appeared some six months ago we criticised it for rejecting proposals to nationalise the arms industry without sufficiently exploring a possible alternative to the scheme which they not unreasonably rejected. We criticised it still more strongly for concluding that the abuses and ,evils connected with private trade in trade in arms were unsubstantiated or exaggerated after it had first declined to hear evidence concerning the gravest of them. All this part of the report is adopted by the government with enthusiasm. The very modest proposal that the State should exercise some control over the arms industry through a Ministry of Supply which would keep an eye on manufacture and profits is rejected root and branch. Even such minor recommendations as are tentatively accepted are watered down in the process.
The truth of the matter is that, as we remarked before, the life seemed to have been taken out of the Commission itself by government pressure while it was still hearing evidence, and now the government is coming out into the open and disposing of the corpse.