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  • Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) and a delegation of civil society groups have today (31/8/23) handed in a petition at 10 Downing Street calling on Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, to scrap the Economic Activity of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) bill, or anti-boycott bill.
  • The anti-boycott bill aims to prevent public bodies – including local councils, universities, and public sector pension funds – from deciding how to spend, invest and trade ethically, in line with international law and human rights.
  • Nearly 18,000 people have signed the petition in support of the right to boycott, highlighting the history of boycott and divestment campaigns as a means to campaign peacefully for progressive change in this country and around the world, and calling on MPs to reject the bill.

A delegation led by PSC and representing more than 70 civil society groups has today visited Downing Street to hand in a petition signed by thousands of people opposed to the government’s anti-boycott bill. The bill is about to enter its Committee stage in Parliament, having passed it’s second reading in the Commons but facing widespread, cross-party criticism. The Scottish government has formally announced its opposition to the bill and pressure is growing on the Welsh government to do the same.

The delegation to Downing Street comprised PSC Director, Ben Jamal, Director of War on Want, Asad Rehman, Clare Baker from Unite the Union, and Grace Da Costa from Quakers in Britain.

A coalition of more than 70 civil society organisations – including trade unions, charities, NGOs, faith, climate justice, human rights, and solidarity groups – have stated that the bill will stifle a wide range of campaigns for justice, erode local democracy, and present a threat to freedom of expression.

Ben Jamal, Director of Palestine Solidarity Campaign UK (PSC), says,

“The huge response to this petition reflects widespread alarm across whole swathes of progressive civil society that the anti-boycott bill represents a major attack on freedom of expression. Opposition to this bill is growing because it threatens, not just the ability of public bodies to take part in boycott and divestment campaigns in support of Palestinian rights, but all those who seek change through peaceful and democratic means.”

Grace Da Costa, Quakers in Britain, says,  

“Quakers have a long history of nonviolent action against global injustices. Boycotts and divestments are key tools in the campaign for equality, peace and sustainability. The government must withdraw this bill to protect human rights in the UK and around the world.”