First Legislation Introduced in Britain to Combat Arab Boycott

The first legislation designed to combat the effects of the Arab boycott of Israel on British firms was introduced today in the House of Lords by Lord Byers, a leading Liberal peer. Supporters of the measure in both houses of Parliament predicted that it would eventually be adopted, but not without a long battle during which it will be strongly opposed by the pro-Arab lobby.

As Parliament recesses shortly, the bill will have to be re-submitted at the next session in October. Arthur Bottomley, MP, who is chairman of the All-Party Committee to Combat Foreign Trade Boycotts, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that he believes the government privately welcomes the bill which parallels legislation recently enacted in the United States and similar moves in France and Canada.

MP Greville Janner, another member of the committee, said the government would have to decide whether to grant the measure debating time. An alternative would be to put it in the hands of a select committee. He said it has a good chance of success in the long run.

ELEMENTS OF THE LEGISLATION

Lord Byers, a former chairman of the Liberal Party, explained at a press conference this morning that his bill does not affect “primary boycotts” in which one country refuses to trade with another. He said it provides protection to British companies and individuals against so-called “secondary” and “tertiary” boycotts and prohibits negative certificates of origin. He noted that President Carter has signed federal anti-boycott legislation and quoted Canada’s Trade Minister Jean Chretien as having said, “Our policy is to protect Canadians from being coerced into any undertakings which would be unacceptable as a matter of principle.”

Bottomley told the JTA earlier that Lord Byers’ bill was introduced only after all other attempts to persuade the government to curb the boycott by administrative means had failed. The bill makes it an offense for any person to seek or provide information concerning another person’s religion, racial or national origin, business connections or membership in or connection with any organization if such information is sought because of a trade boycott.

It also requires those receiving a boycott request or demand to report it to the Trade Department within 28 days and requires the department to publish a register of requests quarterly. Penalties for non-compliance include fines of 5000 Pounds Sterling for first offenders and 10,000 Pounds for subsequent offenses. Companies or business organizations convicted under the proposed legislation would be subject to fines of 100,000 Pounds.

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