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Israel and Palestine

Volume 699: debated on Tuesday 20 July 2021

When he plans to make a decision on whether the UK will support the International Fund for Israeli-Palestinian Peace. (902999)

Whether his Department's guidance advising against trade with illegal settlements in the West Bank extends to public bodies. (903010)

The UK Government share the objectives of increasing understanding and dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians. UK officials remain in close contact with the US Government regarding the international fund. The US is at the early stages in its planning and, once more information is available, we will consider options for collaboration.

The UK’s overseas business risk guidance is intended to provide guidance for UK businesses to identify and mitigate security and political risks when trading overseas. The guidance is not aimed at public bodies or Her Majesty’s Government. The UK’s position on settlements is clear, and we have articulated it regularly. We regard them as illegal under international law, and they are therefore a risk to the economic and financial activities in settlements. We do not encourage or offer support for such activity.

The UK consulate in Jerusalem has given vocal support to oppose the illegal evictions in Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah. What practical action can the UK Government take to ensure that those evictions end? They run contrary to the intentions of the international fund for peace and, as the Minister has just stated, we are opposed to illegal occupations.

The UK enjoys a close and important relationship with Israel, and because we have that close relationship, we are able directly to bring up sensitive issues. I and my ministerial colleagues have brought up with the Israeli Government our opposition to those demolitions.

Given that the Minister has just said that his Department’s policy is not to encourage or support economic and financial activity in settlements, will he at least say that, where public bodies decide that they do not wish to invest in settlements, following his Government’s advice, he will not stand in their way in doing so?

Procurement by public bodies is governed by various public procurement regulations. The Public Contracts Regulations 2015 require contracting authorities to treat all economic operators equally and without discrimination. In addition, the Local Government Act 1988 requires local authorities to exercise their functions in relation to public supply or works contracts without regard to non-commercial matters, which includes the location in any country or territory.