Israeli Settlement Goods

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Office – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 28th March 2017.

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Photo of Andrew Slaughter Andrew Slaughter Shadow Minister (Housing) 12:00 am, 28th March 2017

What representations he has made to the Israeli Government on that country’s ban on visitors who have advocated boycotts of Israeli settlement goods.

Photo of Boris Johnson Boris Johnson Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

The British deputy ambassador met Israel’s Europe director on 13 March to discuss the new immigration rules, and we continue to push for clarification from Israel on the impact on UK nationals. We have updated our travel advice for Israel.

Photo of Andrew Slaughter Andrew Slaughter Shadow Minister (Housing)

UK citizens such as Hugh Lanning, the chair of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, have already been refused entry because of this ban, which has been widely condemned, including within Israel itself. The advice on the Foreign Office’s website says that people should contact the Israeli embassy. Should not the Foreign Secretary be contacting the Israeli embassy to say that people should not be restricted from travel to Israel and Palestine simply because they wish to enforce international law due to the ban on goods from settlements?

Photo of Boris Johnson Boris Johnson Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

We have of course offered to provide consular assistance to Mr Lanning. He did not in fact request our support, nor did he seem to need it. As the hon. Gentleman will know, Israel’s immigration policy is a matter for Israel. We firmly oppose boycotts—the boycott, divestment and sanctions approach—against Israel, as I am sure that he does too, although clearly it is a two-way street.

Photo of Eric Pickles Eric Pickles Conservative, Brentwood and Ongar

Is there not a need to be even-handed? Many countries have banned people from entering and are indeed deporting people. Does not this underline how right the Government were to warn the UN Human Rights Council of its disproportionate bias against Israel?

Photo of Boris Johnson Boris Johnson Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right in his verdict on the UN Human Rights Council. I thought it was absolutely preposterous that there should be a motion condemning Israel’s conduct in the Golan Heights when, after all, we have seen in that region of Syria the most appalling barbarity conducted by the Assad regime. I think that was the point the UK Government were rightly making.

Photo of Richard Burden Richard Burden Shadow Minister (Transport)

The Foreign Secretary says that he is seeking clarification from the Government of Israel. What questions is he actually asking them? In particular, has he asked what kind of activity would lead to someone being denied entry, particularly given that the Foreign Office’s own website discourages financial and commercial dealings with settlements? Is he saying that someone who advocates that is likely to be denied entry to Israel? Has he asked that question?

Photo of Boris Johnson Boris Johnson Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

We are of course seeking clarity about exactly how the law would be applied in practice, although, as the hon. Gentleman will appreciate, the Israeli Government, like our Government, already have very wide discretion about how to apply their immigration laws.

Photo of Crispin Blunt Crispin Blunt Chair, Foreign Affairs Committee

What is our policy on goods and services produced in the settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories?

Photo of Boris Johnson Boris Johnson Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

Our policy, as my hon. Friend will know, is that consumers should have the right to judge for themselves whether they wish to purchase them. That is a policy that this Government have pursued for many years.

Photo of Margaret Ferrier Margaret Ferrier Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Scotland Office)

A Foreign Office Minister has previously described the situation in Hebron as apartheid and settlement endorsement as a form of extremism. Can the Secretary of State tell the House whether the Minister for Europe and the Americas, Sir Alan Duncan would fall foul of the new law if he attempted to travel there?

Photo of Boris Johnson Boris Johnson Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

I do not believe that my right hon. Friend has said anything of the kind or called for any such boycott, and nor do I believe for a second that he would be interrupted if he chose to go to Israel. I must stress that the policy of the Government is unchanged. We remain opposed to illegal settlements and we believe that they are an obstacle to peace. I have said that many times already in this House, but I am happy to repeat it to the hon. Lady.

Photo of Theresa Villiers Theresa Villiers Conservative, Chipping Barnet

The main aim of the boycott movement is to delegitimise the state of Israel, so will the Government continue to strongly oppose it?

Photo of Tom Brake Tom Brake Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Foreign Affairs), Liberal Democrat Chief Whip, Liberal Democrat Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

Has the Foreign Secretary had any indication that such a ban might be extended to those who advocate a ban on goods from the occupied Golan Heights? Does he agree that the UK Government’s refusal to support a resolution at the UNHRC condemning the occupation of the Golan Heights increases that likelihood?

Photo of Boris Johnson Boris Johnson Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

With great respect to the right hon. Gentleman, I have made very clear what I thought was the profound absurdity of denouncing Israeli conduct in that region at a time when we are seeing absolute barbarism conducted by the Assad regime against the people of Syria.