Boris Johnson’s government has unveiled a new legislative programme that includes measures to stop publicly funded bodies backing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.
A Bill announced during the Queen’s Speech to the House of Lord was aimed at stopping public bodies “imposing their own approach or views about international relations” by “preventing boycott, divestment sanctions campaigns against foreign countries.”
Councils will be banned from “taking a different approach” to the national government on sanctions or boycotts – including the BDS movement against Israel.
The government said legislation was required to address concerns that “such boycotts may legitimise antisemitism.”
The move would ensure that there was a “coherent approach to foreign relations” and ensure that “public bodies were not pursuing their own foreign policy agenda with public money.”
A government briefing note added: “This will be in the form of preventing public institutions carrying out independent boycotts, divestments and sanctions against: foreign countries, or those linked to them; the sale of goods and services from foreign countries; UK firms which trade with such countries, where such an approach is not in line with UK government sanctions.
“The measures will cover purchasing, procurement and investment decisions which undermine cohesion and integration.”
The Prime Minister had made a similar commitment to counter BDS is the December 2019 Queen’s Speech.
There have also been successful challenges made in the Supreme Court to government attempts to prevent local government pension funds from taking any divestment decisions that are not in line with government policy.