William Eichler 19 December 2016

Pro-Palestinian activists take Government to court over pension boycott restrictions

Pro-Palestinian campaigners are taking the Government to court over law preventing local authorities from boycotting companies involved in Israel’s human rights violations.

Whitehall amended the rules governing Local Government Pensions Schemes (LGPS) last October to make clear that it considered using pensions and procurement to boycott or divest from foreign allies ‘inappropriate’.

The move was designed to prevent councils joining the pro-Palestinian boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS) which aims to end Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, its siege of Hamas-controlled Gaza and discrimination against Israeli Arabs.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) - with the support of War on Want and Campaign Against Arms Trade - is challenging the Government’s procurement restrictions in court, arguing they pose a threat to freedom of expression and the right of pension holders to invest/divest funds.

They also argue the restrictions amount to Westminster overreach into local government affairs.

‘The right to call for and practice BDS in all arenas is guaranteed by the right to freedom of expression and freedom of conscience,’ Hugh Lanning, chair of the PSC, said.

‘Local democracy is undermined when central government clamps down on people’s abilities to diverge from or disagree with UK foreign policy and the defence industry.

‘There is no legitimate reason why the Government should prevent people with local government pensions from being able to divest and invest exactly as they wish.

‘These regulations are part of a larger pattern of attempts by the government to delegitimise BDS. We are concerned that these new measures limit our fundamental freedoms.’

Read our feature exploring Whitehall's attempt to ban procurement boycotts.

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