LONDON: Up to 50 Conservative politicians are reportedly set to defy their colleague Michael Gove’s bill designed to stop public bodies from boycotting Israeli goods and services.
The Economic Activity of Public Bodies Bill, an amendment to which the opposition Labour party is tabling on Monday, is aimed at stopping local councils from supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, or BDS movement, which opposes Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories.
Opposition MPs have slammed the bill as poorly drafted with the potential to restrict free speech should it become a law, and have proffered an amendment that would stymie the legislation’s enforcement powers.
“The bill has been drawn very widely. It gives far-reaching powers to the secretary of state, and has a number of far-reaching implications, none of which appear to have anything to do with tackling BDS, the issue the government says it wants to solve, which we share,” Lisa Nandy, shadow communities secretary, said in an interview with Jewish News.
A group of Tory lawmakers last month told Levelling Up, Housing and Communities secretary Gove they had reservations about the proposed law, and are likely to abstain rather than back the Labour amendment, the Guardian reported.
They are set to warn ministers that the draft law requires reworking, or it will face being voted against in later stages of its passage, the report added.
Opposition-led councils in the English cities of Leicester and Lancaster, both of which have Labour as the largest party, have approved the imposition of boycotts on Israeli goods by organizations.
Gove has said: “These (BDS) campaigns not only undermine the UK’s foreign policy but lead to appalling antisemitic rhetoric and abuse. My message to these organizations is to get on with your job and focus on delivering for the public.”
A spokesperson for the government said public bodies should not be pursuing their own foreign policy agenda, adding that the bill would ensure the UK spoke “with one voice internationally” and that the “taxpayer only has to pay for foreign policy once.”