NHS Trusts Denied the Right to Boycott Israel

NHS trusts will be among the organisations prevented from boycotting Israeli products under new procurement guidelines that have been laid out by the government.

Matthew Hancock, the Cabinet Office minister, is set to announce the regulations during a visit to Israel, citing concerns that such boycotts can fuel antisemitism.

Many people are critical of Israeli foreign policy, in particular the ongoing occupation of Palestine.

But guidance on the subject will ensure that any boycott of Israeli goods going forward will be considered “inappropriate, outside where formal legal sanctions, embargoes and restrictions have been put in place by the government”.

NHS procurement policy will now reflect this.

Although the decision has particularly been made with regard to Israel, the regulations blackball any public authority from imposing any boycott on the countries signed up to the existing World Trade Organisation government procurement agreement.

The government has already warned organisations intending to defy the ban that penalties for failing to adhere to the guidelines will be strictly enforced and severe.

Hancock commented that it is necessary to ensure that the policies of town halls in particular are addressed and altered.

“We need to challenge and prevent these divisive town hall boycotts. The new guidance on procurement, combined with changes we are making to how pension pots can be invested, will help prevent damaging and counterproductive local foreign policies undermining our national security.”

Hancock also made further remarks about pension pots, as the government has recently moved to shore up legislation in this department as well.

This will prevent publicly funded organisations boycotting companies they consider unethical by divesting from pension investments in sectors such as fossil fuels or arms.

There has been a strong response to the decision made by the government in this area, with political opposition particularly vocal on the subject.

The Labour party views the restrictions as inimical to both regional democracy and freedom of expression, with a spokesman for the party leader Jeremy Corbin commenting extremely unfavourably about the decision.

“This government’s ban would have outlawed council action against apartheid South Africa. Ministers talk about devolution, but in practice they’re imposing Conservative party policies on elected local councils across the board.”

While the NHS will be affected by this new initiative, the notion of boycotting Israeli goods has been particularly prevalent in local councils across the country.

Most notably, Leicester City Council refused to purchase Israeli products linked to settlements on Palestinian territories back in 2014.

In the same year, the Scottish government published a procurement notice to Scottish councils that “strongly discourages trade and investment from illegal settlements”.

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