LONDON (Feb. 10)
A government spokesman said today that while the British government has repeatedly stated its opposition to trade and shipping boycotts, including that of the Arab states against Israel, it could not intervene to prevent British firms from complying with boycott measures. Anthony Grant, Undersecretary for Trade and Industry, made that statement in a written reply to Michael Fidler, a Conservative MP. Fidler, who is president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, had sent an inquiry to the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, John Davis, concerning action the government intended to take in connection with the Mobil Shipping Co. ban on goods manufactured by Israeli or Jewish firms aboard its tankers calling at Arab ports. Fidler asked Davis whether the government would instruct British firms to ignore instructions and threats of boycott.
The Mobil Shipping Co., a British subsidiary of Mobil Oil Ltd., aroused the Jewish community’s ire when it sent a letter to British ship chandlers instructing them not to supply its vessels “with products of Israeli origin or with products which appear to be of Israeli or Jewish origin.” A Mobil spokesman later apologized for the content of the letter and said the words “Jewish origin” had been deleted. But he added that the they still held because Mobil tankers calling at Libyan and other Arab ports were subject to boycott and fines if articles of Israeli-make were found aboard, Grant said in reply to Fidler that the British government was opposed “to any interference with British companies’ freedom to trade” He added that, “it is nevertheless for each company to decide in the light of its own commercial interests what its attitude is to be towards such boycott.”