Our view on new boycott regulations
Why we strongly oppose the proposals
Since we reported on the proposed change in the law on local authority support for boycotts last year the issue has become headline news.
By introducing new regulations the government hopes to to stop local councils from choosing goods or pension investments on the basis of “politically motivated boycotts and divestment campaigns” - notably around Israel and arms exports.
The issue of ethical procurement is one on which we have campaigned long and hard and forms a large part of our manifesto.
The proposed regulations have the potential to be detrimental on a range of ethical issues in space that is hotly contested and has seen numerous recent campaign victories not just on the issue of Palestinian rights.
In the first instance they are an affront to the rights and dignity of Palestinians living in illegally occupied lands against whom this law appears to be targeted.
Far reaching impacts
However the regulations have the potential to have much further reaching impacts.
For example we've seen the growth of tax avoidance as a huge problem and the proposed regulations could mean that councils who are brave enough to stand up against tax avoiders such as Oxford City Council punished and forced to procure from companies that are avoiding tax.
It could also see increased investment in the highly polluting fossil fuels sector by denting the blossoming divestment campaigns in this sector. For example in May 2015 SOAS, University of London, announced that it will divest from fossil fuels within the next three years and this action could now be potentially illegal.
Potential for change
It is our feeling that councils have huge potential to help drive changes through their ethical choices and this government should not seek to undermine their efforts and the principle of local democracy with draconian rules changes such as this.
It is ironic that a party outwardly supportive of free-market ideals are the first to clamp down on freedom of choice when people don't behave the way they want.
The government say they are interested in human rights but these sort of regulations echoes Thatcher's support for apartheid South Africa in the 1980's. It seems that little has changed in the Tory Party over the last 30 years.
Ethical Consumer founder Rob Harrison will appear on tonight's edition of the Moral Maze on BBC radio 4 to discuss this government's proposal and the issue of boycotts.
More on boycotts from Ethical Consumer >