Read Foreign Office questions

Foreign Office questions, House of Commons, March 28 2017

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

Secretary of State Boris Johnson: 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.

Andy Slaughter: 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?

Boris Johnson: 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. 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.

Richard Burden (Birmingham, Northfield) (Lab): 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?

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

Crispin Blunt (Reigate) (Con): What is our policy on goods and services produced in the settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories?

Boris Johnson: Our policy 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.

Margaret Ferrier (Rutherglen and Hamilton West) (SNP): 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 Deputy Foreign Secretary Sir Alan Duncan would fall foul of the new law if he attempted to travel there?

Boris Johnson: I do not believe he 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 her.

Mrs Theresa Villiers (Chipping Barnet) (Con): The main aim of the boycott movement is to delegitimise the state of Israel, so will the Government continue to strongly oppose it?

Boris Johnson: We certainly shall.

Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD): 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?

Boris Johnson: With great respect to him, 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.

Stephen Kinnock (Aberavon) (Lab): Many  Members on both sides of the House have called for a ban on goods produced in the illegal settlements on the West Bank. Does the Foreign Secretary think that those Members should be banned from travelling to Israel?

Boris Johnson: I am sure that  Members who wish to travel to Israel will have absolutely no difficulties, but it remains up to the Israeli immigration authorities to decide whom they choose to admit.

Tommy Sheppard (Edinburgh East) (SNP): I want to go back to that meeting of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva last Friday and the rather petulant tirade by the British mission, which ended with the threat to “adopt a policy of voting against all resolutions concerning Israel’s conduct in the Occupied…Palestinian Territories.”  Will the Secretary of State make it clear that it continues to be Her Majesty’s Government’s policy to oppose illegal settlements in the West Bank?

Boris Johnson: Yes.

Alan Brown (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (SNP): Will the UK Government make representations to the Israeli Government, as we have seen an increase in demolitions, including of donor-funded structures; the land regularisation Bill; the possibility of construction in [planning] area E1 [in the West Bank east of Jerusalem]; and the travel bans imposed by the Israeli Government. If the UK is really committed to doing all it can to achieve a two-state solution, is it not time to recognise Palestine, before it is too late?

Boris Johnson: Both the Prime Minister and I have raised this issue specifically with Prime Minister Netanyahu, and we will continue to do so. We are opposed to such demolitions and we continue to believe that continued illegal settlements are an obstruction to peace.

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