The Bill that will undermine human rights: The Economic Activity of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill

3 Jul, 2023 | Latest, Protecting Human Rights in the UK

Share with others…

later today, Parliament will hold a second reading of The Economic Activity of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill, proposed by Leveling-Up Minister, Michael Gove.

The main purpose of the legislation is described as preventing UK public authorities from
being influenced by “political or moral disapproval” of the conduct of any foreign
state. The justification is that the legislation would prevent public bodies engaging in boycotts that ‘undermine community cohesion’.

The restrictions in the Bill would, therefore, apply to decisions by public authorities in relation to countries with poor human rights records, such as the Chinese Government, which the independent Uyghur Tribunal determined was guilty of committing the crimes of torture, crimes against humanity and genocide, against the Uyghurs and other ethnic groups in China.

René Cassin’s key concerns with this Bill:

  1. The Bill is an attack on fundamental civil and political rights, in particular the right to freedom of expression as outlined in the preamble and Article 19 of the Universal Declaration for Human Rights, and as guaranteed under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
  2. The Bill is an anti-democratic over-reach of state power. The Bill gives the Secretary of State extensive personal discretion in relation to territories that they may choose to exclude from the reach of the legislation. This sets a dangerous precedent, where the personal preferences of an individual minster can influence the extent to which local democratically elected bodies can exercise their rights.
  3. The Bill will hamper our work to support Uyghur Muslims currently facing genocide at the hands of the Chinese state. Encouraging disengagement from companies and products associated with forced Uyghur labour is one of the very few tools UK campaigners have in trying to exert pressure on the Chinese government. The Bill could potentially prevent public bodies from making the principled decision not to purchase products tainted by such gross abuses of human rights.
  4. The Bill will undermine community cohesion by implying that Jewish communal interests can be served by restricting the fundamental rights of the UK public as a whole (including the Jewish community itself).

You can see the full letter here

Let’s stay in touch!

We are constantly developing our campaigns, planning events, and cultivating discussions on Human Rights issues, sign up for our email updates and we’ll keep you informed on all we are working on and how YOU can get involved.