Press Release: The Public Service Pensions and Judicial Offices Bill may place the UK in conflict with its international obligations

he Public Service Pensions and Judicial Offices Bill (“the Bill”), is to be voted in the House of Lords on Wednesday 9 March. If passed into law, it would allow government ministers to issue guidance preventing the ability of public sector pension schemes to pursue ethically motivated boycotts and divestment policies. We believe the bill contradicts the United Kingdom’s international legal obligations to prevent international crimes, suppress the use of the proceeds of crime, and block money laundering through the British financial system. 


The United Kingdom is obligated to the prevent the use of public money to further criminal activities in the UK and abroad. Failure to do so would render the UK in violation of its international and domestic legal obligations. The UK Government clearly recognises Israel’s occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territories (“OPT”), and the building of Israeli settlements as violations of international law. Therefore, investment in illegal settlements or businesses operating in the OPT is contrary to the UK Government’s commitment to prevent the proceeds of crime being laundered through the UK.  


The Bill, if passed in the 1980s, would have prevented local communities from disinvesting or boycotting businesses involved in, or profiting from the injustices of apartheid South Africa. The Conservative Government has shown a willingness to disinvest from business involved in the breakaway Donbas and Lugansk regions of Ukraine, and to impose sanctions – defined today by the BBC as ‘a penalty imposed by one country against another, often in order to stop it acting aggressively or breaking international law’ – against Russia. Given this fact, it is surprising that the same Government is introducing a bill which would curtail the ability of local communities to disinvest from situations which the Conservative Government itself considers to be in violation of international law. This is a clear double-standard. In the words of the ICJP’s Director, Crispin Blunt MP: 

“The policy of the U.K. Government now looks utterly hypocritical between Israel, having invaded, occupied and settled territory, with no state sanctions and now abetted by this shabby measure to prevent wider civil society measures, and Russia, who quite rightly will receive every form of sanction as they now do the same in the Ukraine.” 

Further, the ICJP believes that the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (“BDS”) movement has done a great deal to expose complicity in Israeli abuses of international human rights and humanitarian law. Tayab Ali, Director of ICJP said: 

“The BDS movement has worked hard to shine a light on illegal Israeli activities in the OPT and campaigns hard to prevent public money being used to further criminal acts. This work continues to be crucial especially when our government incorrectly forms policies contrary to the UK’s legal obligations or lacks the political will to work in the best interests of the British people.  

We at the ICJP pledge to challenge the use of the Public Service and Judicial Offices Bill where it might be used to further criminal acts committed in, and supportive of illegal settlements in the OPT through direct legal action. We intend to protect public money from being used to further short-term political interest which is contrary to the UK’s well established legal commitments to suppress breaches of international law”.