- Sajid Javid’s Department for Communities and Local Government may have acted unlawfully by attempting to restrict ethical divestment from companies, including those complicit in the occupation of Palestine.
- The Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s (PSC) judicial review over restrictions on Local Government Pension Schemes (LGPS) divesting from Israel will be heard on 14 June 2017.
- Campaigners are concerned about threats to freedom of expression in the UK on Palestine with Westminster overreach in local democracy.
Today, the embattled minority Tory government faces a legal battle with Palestine campaigners over changes to rules for Local Government Pension Schemes. These changes are intended to stop ethical divestment against foreign nations and the UK defence industry, although the exact scope of these restrictions remains unclear.
In September 2016, the Tory government announced new measures governing LGPS, with the specific aim of curtailing divestment campaigns against UK defence and international or Israeli firms implicated in Israel’s violation of international law.
Campaigners believe people should have the right to divest on an ethical basis, including in respect to Israel as a result of its consistent international law violations, including the illegal occupation that turned 50 years old this month. Instead, pension holders may be forced into investing in companies that are complicit in human rights abuses. War on Want and Campaign Against Arms Trade have supported the legal challenge with witness statements.
The DCLG had tried to stop the case being heard by arguing that permission to proceed should be refused. The permission judge disagreed, declaring the case to be ‘of significant public importance’ and appropriate to be brought to full trial.
Hugh Lanning, Chair of the PSC said: “We have high hopes that Theresa May’s government will have more egg on its face after this court case. Everyone has a right to peacefully protest Israel’s violation of Palestinian human rights. It is reprehensible to forbid people from making decisions about where their own money goes, and forcing them to profit from human rights abuses. Yet another example of her government’s obsessive need to trample on local democracy.”
That trial will take place on 14 June 2017 before the Administrative Court. The Court will consider whether the Government’s ban on certain ethical divestments is unlawful for being contrary to EU Law, pensions legislation and/or on the basis that the Guidance is so badly drafted as to be unacceptably
uncertain. If PSC is successful, then the ban could be struck down by the Court, allowing LGPS to make investment decisions without inappropriate interference from central Government.
In 2005 Palestinian civil society called for a campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions measures until Israel adheres to its obligations under international law. The PSC believes that this is another governmental attempt to undermine the peaceful British BDS movement for Palestinian freedom, justice and equality, which is modelled after the South African anti-apartheid boycott movement.
Notes for Editors:
- Sajid Javid’s Department for Communities and Local Government issued guidance on LGPS in September 2016 declaring ‘divestment and sanctions against foreign nations and UK defence industries are inappropriate, other than where formal legal sanctions, embargoes and restrictions have been put in place by the Government.’
- This guidance came in despite a public consultation on the issue in which 98% of respondents vehemently disagreed with the plans.
- The Palestine Solidarity Campaign applied for judicial review of the new government measures for LGPS in December 2016.
- Other government measures to restrict activism for Palestinian human rights and raising awareness of the Israeli state’s abuses include a new definition of antisemitism (adopted December 2016) that includes criticism of the state of Israel.