Government anti-boycott directive overturned by Supreme Court

Palestine Solidarity Campaign wins appeal


The Palestine Solidarity Campaign has successfully challenged the government over a directive to prevent local councils from boycotting Israel.

The Supreme Court ruled this week by 3 to 2 that the then Communities Secretary Javid had gone too far in telling local councils that they could not choose to shun countries when investing pension funds.

Lord Wilson, delivering the main judgment, said, there had been a “misconception on the part of the Secretary of State which probably emboldened him to exceed his powers”.

Mr Javid’s guidance issued four years ago was ruled unlawful after the PSC brought a case to the High Court in 2017 but the government won an appeal last year.

Councils had been told that they could not pursue policies contrary to UK foreign or defence policy and it was inappropriate to use pension funds as a means of sanctions against certain countries.

The PSC’s appeal to the Supreme Court was supported by the Quakers and the Campaign Against Arms Trade.

But in a minority opinion, Supreme Court judges Lady Arden and Lord Sales supported the government’s right to act.

Citing the background to the government’s original guidance, they quoted an official from the then Department of Communities and Local Government, who explained the government feared that  the BDS movement might undermine “UK foreign policy and UK legitimate trade”.

There were also “concerns about whether such campaigns might be perceived as legitimising antisemitic or racist attitudes and attacks,” the official said.

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