Quakers brief MPs and peers on right to boycott
Quakers in Britain briefed parliamentarians on the anti-boycott bill before its third reading in the House of Commons on Wednesday, 10 January.
Joining other organisations including Amnesty International, Liberty and Unison, Billy Vaughan, public affairs officer for Quakers in Britain, told MPs and peers that the bill would prevent Quakers putting their faith into action.
The government's Economic Activity of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill would restrict people's ability to tackle injustice, he said.
The government says the bill will ensure public bodies follow UK foreign policy in their purchasing, procurement, and investment decisions.
In reality, it will force universities and local authorities to ignore ethical issues when investing in or procuring services from foreign companies complicit in human rights abuses or environmental degradation abroad.
By specifically granting permanent immunity to Israel and its illegal occupation of Palestinian territories, the legislation serves to legitimise human rights abuses, Vaughan told parliamentarians.
Clause 4 in the bill prevents public bodies from stating whether they would support boycott or divestment campaigns if it were lawful to do so.
This could force Quakers who work in, or are elected to, these organisations, to refrain from open and honest communication on matters of conscience.
Almost 18,000 people, including many Quakers, have signed a petition against the bill and Quakers in Britain joined over 70 other civil society organisations in opposing it.
MPs passed the bill in a vote on Wednesday and it will now be considered by the House of Lords.