Rayner and LFI lead renewed Labour attack on government’s ‘flawed’ anti-BDS bill

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Rayner and LFI lead renewed Labour attack on government’s ‘flawed’ anti-BDS bill

EXCLUSIVE: Angela Rayner and Labour Friends of Israel hit out at the government's 'flawed' Economic Activity of Public Bodies Bill ahead of its third reading in the Commons

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Angela Rayner MP at the Board of Deputies Chanukah Party
Angela Rayner MP at the Board of Deputies Chanukah Party

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner and the Labour Friends of Israel group have both criticised what they claim is the government’s “flawed” attempt to pass anti-BDS legislation ahead of the general election.

Speaking out ahead of the third reading of the government’s Economic Activity of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill in the Commons on Wednesday evening both called for the government to work with Keir Starmer’s party on improving what they claim is bad legislation in its current form.

Shadow communities Secretary Rayner told Jewish News:”“Labour is opposed to BDS policies against Israel, but this Bill is poorly drafted and ill-thought-out. It is not fit for purpose, risks inflaming tensions and creating fresh legal disputes.

“Despite efforts by Labour at every stage of this Bill to ensure public policies are applied equally to all countries rather than singling out individual nations, the government is looking to force through this deeply flawed Bill regardless.

“Labour will continue to urge ministers to stop sowing division and constructively engage with our sensible proposals to address these fundamental flaws and create a workable piece of legislation.”

Steve McCabe MP speaks at LFI annual lunch

In a significant intervention, an LFI  spokesperson also said:”There is a broad cross-party consensus in parliament which opposes the BDS movement and its effort to delegitimise and demonise Israel and its people. 

“It is disappointing that the government has opted not to use this consensus to work with Labour to forge strong and workable anti-BDS legislation but instead appears determined to force its flawed bill through the House of Commons unamended. 

“As Keir Starmer has shown in his approach to the 7 October atrocities, support for Israel should never be used as a party political football. 

“If the government is truly interested in getting anti-BDS legislation on the statute book before the general election, it will use the future stages of the parliamentary process to think again and work with Labour to secure this important objective.”

The Economic Activity and Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill promises to make it illegal for local authorities, or any public body, to implement a policy of BDS. 

It seeks to prevent local councils being “influenced by political or moral disapproval of foreign states when taking certain economic decisions”.

But it has been criticised by some, including human rights organisations in Israel, for its drafting and for its that pledge that boycotts will be similarly illegal if they target the Jewish state and “the Occupied Palestinian Territories”.

Introducing the bill to parliament last year Communities Secretary Michael Gove  said the bill will ensure local authorities do not direct resources “inefficiently” and that the legislation “provides protection for minority communities, especially the Jewish community, against campaigns that harm community cohesion and fuel antisemitism.”

But by singling out and naming only the state of Israel, critics argue that the proposals will only fuel further tensions if it becomes law.

But there has been significant opposition to the bill from within the Conservative Party itself.

Kit Malthouse

Former cabinet minister Kit Malthouse spoke out in favour of boycotts of goods from West Bank settlements in the Commons on Monday.

Alicias Kearns, the Tory chair of the influential foreign affairs select committee has also led opposition to the bill from her party’s backbenches.

Jewish News understands Labour will table a reasoned amendment ahead of the third reading of the bill, before it makes its way to the Lords. 

A communal source added:””The Tories need to decide if they want this legislation or if they’re simply playing partisan games.

“It may be an election year, but – on this issue at least – you’d have thought the Prime Minister would put the interests of an ally fighting a war above the whims of his political strategists”

In an article for Labour List, Labour shadow Middle East minister Wayne David outlining why his party would vote against the government’s bill.

He argued:”Months before this bill was laid before parliament, Labour put forward an alternative approach in an amendment to the procurement bill, and we have also tried repeatedly to amend the government’s bill.

“We believe public bodies should be able to take ethical decisions, but these must be based on consistent principles applied equally to all countries. Our amendment – rejected by the government – would have ensured precisely that. ”

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