This week the Cabinet Office (17/2/2016) published new government guidelines intended “to stop inappropriate procurement boycotts by public authorities.”
Principally aimed at the Palestine supporting BDS campaign it intends to remove the freedom from local authorities and other bodies to refuse to buy goods and services from companies involved in the arms trade, fossil fuels, tobacco and other products.
The change in policy has been condemned by politicians, charities, campaigning and church groups and in the press. Many pointed out that these rules, as intended, would have blocked many groups from supporting the campaigns against Apartheid South Africa.
A spokesperson for Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn MP stated:
“People have the right to elect local representatives able to make decisions free of central government political control. That includes withdrawal of investments or procurement on ethical and human rights grounds.”
During the General Election LFPME asked candidates to sign up to our 6 election pledges, one of which was – ‘Illegal Settlements: Call for a complete freeze on illegal settlement growth in order to save any hope for a viable two state solution, and end all trade and investment with illegal Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian territory.’
Boycott campaigners have reacted to the new guidelines as simply re-stating existing policy, which will not stop groups from following an ethical procurement policy that discriminates against companies based on their human rights record or compliance with international law.
Grahame Morris MP Chair of the Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East said:
“We have reached a contradictory situation in which we in the International Community economically sustain a major obstacle to peace—the illegal settlements.
Settlement products are the proceeds of crime. They are illicit goods, the product of a brutal occupation and the exploitation of the occupied and their resources. By trading with those who produce them, we financially encourage them.
Those settlements are built on the foundations of immense suffering—that of the Palestinians who have seen their homes destroyed, have been expelled from their own land and are living under brutal oppression—yet we make the illegal settlement enterprise profitable for the occupying power.
That seems to me a gross injustice.”
Commenting about the BDS movement, Mr Morris added:
“We should not have to boycott settlement goods; we should not be allowed to buy them in the first place. I am appalled that the government are more focused on preventing boycotts and disinvestment from the illegal settlements rather than attempting to end settlement trade.
This undermines their commitment to international law, human rights and resolving the conflict.”