The government has published guidance (17 February, 2016) for councils and other public bodies on boycotts and procurements. The guidance aims to prevent what the government has called “inappropriate procurement boycotts by public authorities”.
Commenting on the publication of the Procurement Policy Note, Hugh Lanning, Chair of Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said:
“It is significant that the government chose to publish the Procurement Policy Note during a visit to Israel by Cabinet Office Minister, Matthew Hancock. This is clearly an attempt to silence the movement for Palestinian rights. In a bid to protect Israel from boycotts, the government is trying to intimidate councils and other public bodies which wish to make ethical procurement and investment decisions. This flies in the face of democracy.
“However, the guidance itself is not particularly coherent and there are still opportunities for councils to divest from companies whose business violates Palestinian human rights. The Note states that the new guidance is consistent with existing FCO guidelines on doing business with companies active in the settlements.
“These existing guidelines warn against such business, citing legal and economic risk and the risk of reputational damage. The advice itself also notes that it is possible to take ‘social and environmental factors’ into account – which means that there is still the possibility for companies with involvement in wider human rights abuses to be excluded from contracts.”
Hugh Lanning added: “This undemocratic move by the government will not deter supporters of international law and human rights from campaigning for the end of Israeli occupation. Freedom and self-determination for the Palestinian people is long overdue, and we urge everyone to exercise ethical choices in favour of the Palestinians and their rights under international law.”