Posted on June 30, 2023, by & filed under News.

The government has now published its anti-boycott bill, officially called the "Economic Activity of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill". It is just as draconian and anti-democratic as we feared it might be. It prohibits public bodies (eg local authorities and universities) from boycotting or divesting from any organisation or state (eg goods from illegal Israeli settlements) if this conflicts with government policy. The Bill would also affect a wide range of other activities, eg campaign groups taking action against oil companies.

Once the Bill becomes law, a government minister could remove any country from the effect of the Act, eg China in relation to its persecution of Uyghur Muslims. But the Bill states that just one country, Israel, and the territories it illegally occupies, could not be removed from the effects of the Act, which makes it clear that this is in essence an anti-boycott bill. It would even be illegal for someone, say the leader of a Council, to explain that they would have taken action (like banning illegal settlement goods) if the Act had not been in operation.

ICAHD UK is part of a wide coalition of civil society groups (for example churches, environmental campaigns, trades unions) which has been discussing and will now campaign against the Bill - Right to Boycott.

The second reading of the Bill (when it is first presented in the House of Commons, followed by a debate) will happen on Monday 3rd July. The Labour Party is proposing to abstain. MPs who are deeply concerned about the bill have urged us to flood MPs' inboxes with messages in opposition to the Bill. Please do this by Monday if you possibly can, and encourage others to do the same. It would be very helpful if messages came from a variety of causes, for example Friends of the Earth as well as ICAHD UK or PSC.