• PSC is disappointed by the Court of Appeal’s decision, which fails to protect the right of pension holders to make ethical decisions regarding the investment of their funds.
  • On May 17th, 2018, the Court of Appeal heard the Government’s appeal of a High Court ruling that determined they had acted for an improper purpose by seeking to use pension law to pursue its own foreign and defence policy. The Court of Appeal has, however, overturned this decision.
  • The Court of Appeal found, contrary to the conclusions of the High Court, that the power of the Secretary of the State to issue binding guidance to Administering Authorities of Local Government Pension Schemes on what non-financial factors they could, and could not, take into account in making investment decisions, was effectively unrestricted. 

Last year, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign won a key victory for the peaceful Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement when parts of the UK government’s Guidance governing investment by Local Government Pension Schemes (LGPS) were struck down as unlawful. Campaigners are concerned about threats to freedom of expression in the UK on Palestine as well as Westminster overreach in local democracy.

Hugh Lanning, Chair of Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said: “We are incredibly disappointed that the High Court ruling was not upheld by the Court of Appeal. This decision will allow the government to pursue its own agenda at the expense of democracy and the ability to exercise freedom of conscience. PSC will be considering the possibility of an appeal. The principle upheld last year by the High Court that the government should not have the power to prevent people from making ethical decisions with regard to the investment of their money remains valid.”    

Ben Jamal, Director of Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said: “The boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement continues to grow in strength as growing numbers of people across the globe refuse to be complicit in Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people. It is shameful that the UK government seeks to prevent people from exercising this fundamental means of peaceful protest and that the Court of Appeal has overturned the clear ruling that they were acting illegally in doing so. PSC will not be deterred from continuing its campaign for justice for the Palestinian people.”

Jamie Potter, who is representing PSC along with Ben Gaston, said:

The outcome of the Court of Appeal hearing is disappointing and has potentially far-reaching consequences.  In particular, it could allow the Government of the day to impose their own political agenda on Local Government Pension Schemes, even where that agenda is contrary to the wishes of the members of the Scheme whose money is being invested.  Accordingly this affects not only those that do not wish to see their money invested in companies working in the Occupied Territories in Palestine or those that form part of the UK defence industry, but also those members that feel strongly about the environment or other social issues such as pay day lenders.”

ENDS

NOTES FOR EDITORS:

– Jamie Potter and Ben Gaston of Bindmans LLP and Nigel Griffin QC and Zac Sammour from 11KBW chambers represented PSC at the appeal.

– In his judicial review in 2017, Administrative Court Judge Sir Ross Cranston determined that the Government had acted unlawfully by attempting to restrict local councils from pursuing BDS against foreign nations (such as the state of Israel) and UK defence companies through their pension schemes on the basis that the secretary of State was acting for an improper purpose.

-The Guidance was announced by the Department for Communities and Local Government in September 2016 specifically to curtail divestment campaigns against Israeli and international firms implicated in Israel’s violations of international law, as well as to protect the UK defence industry. This occurred despite a public consultation indicating that 98% of respondents thought this was the wrong thing to do. Pension holders would have been forced into investing in companies that are complicit in human rights abuses contrary to their conscience and beliefs.

-The Palestine Solidarity Campaign applied for judicial review of the new government measures for LGPS in December 2016. The claim was upheld by the High Court in June 2017.

YouGov polling on British public attitudes to Palestine shows that 43% of the public consider the BDS movement to be reasonable.

– In 2005 Palestinian civil society called for a campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions measures until Israel adheres to its obligations under international law. It is modelled on the successful South African anti-apartheid boycott of the 1980s. Various local councils responded to the Palestinian call by passing motions to boycott goods from illegal Israeli settlements. Campaigners have been calling for councils to consider divesting from companies complicit in human rights violations in the occupied West Bank, such as Hewlett Packard (HP).

– The Israeli government has set up a Ministry devoted to anti-BDS activities, and laws have been introduced in the US, France and elsewhere attempting to criminalise BDS.