The Welsh government opposes anti-BDS bill which grants special protection to Israel

Middle East Monitor  /  September 21, 2023

The Welsh Government has announced that it is formally opposing Michael Gove’s anti-boycott bill, which grants special protection to Israel and recommended the Welsh Senedd withhold legislative consent. This follows months of campaigning by rights groups, including the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), demanding the Welsh government and Senedd oppose the bill.

The announcement by the Welsh Government follows the Scottish government’s decision to oppose the bill in August. It adds to the growing opposition to the bill from across the political spectrum seen in the House of Commons when it was debated in July.

Activists wrote to their Welsh representatives urging them to oppose anti-boycott legislation after the Scottish Government formally objected to it in August. Brought forward by Michael Gove, The Economic Activity of Public Bodies (Overseas Matter) Bill is understood to form the cornerstone of the Tory government’s “culture war” tactic in the run-up to the election.

The bill grants special protection to Israel and would not allow public bodies to choose to boycott states over ethical issues. 

The Welsh government was not involved in the drafting of the bill. “It is my view that it is not appropriate to adopt these provisions in this UK Bill for Wales,” said Rebecca Evans, MS Minister for Finance and Local Government. Outlining the reasons, Evans said that “It is unclear what problem the UKG is seeking to address through the inclusion of Welsh Government in this disproportionate and unnecessary Bill”.

Evans issued further warning about its adopting saying, “I cannot recommend consent is given whilst questions remain as to the compatibility of this Bill with convention rights and international law”.

Last week, the TUC also passed a motion at its annual congress, announcing opposition to the bill from the trade union movement and the millions of workers it represents. In the motion the 5.5 million-member strong TUC said: “Any attempt to delegitimize the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions and to suggest that Palestinians should be denied the right to appeal to people of conscience for support, must be rejected. 

The PSC, along with other campaign groups and rights organizations, have challenged the bill, arguing that it threatens to damage local democracy and the devolution settlements, to erode civil liberties and freedom of expression and undermine campaigns for social and climate justice.

PSC has brought together more than 70 civil society groups to oppose the bill. From trade unions, charities and climate campaigns to faith groups, human rights and solidarity organizations, a broad swathe of civil society has united against this proposal. They have been joined by significant grassroots opposition to the bill. Over 18,000 people signed a petition presented to the Prime Minister, calling on the government to abandon the anti-boycott bill.