Anti-boycott Actions Viewed

Members of a House of Lords Select Committee studying draft legislation against the Arab boycott will go to Brussels next week to take evidence from representatives of the European Commission. Shortly afterwards, the committee, under the chairmanship of Lord Redcliffe-Maud, hopes to end its hearings and to report to the Lords on what form of legislation–if any–it recommends. Even if the bill went back to the Lords, it could fail if there were a general election in October, but could be reintroduced under the next government.

Tom Normanton, Conservative MP for Cheadle and a member of the European Parliament’s Economic and Monetary Committee, told the committee that there was a growing desire inside the Parliament and European Commission for strong European Economic Community (EEC) resistance to discriminatory practices. But the Council of Ministers, representing member governments, still lacked the political will to issue a unanimous directive.

Nevertheless, once public pressure grew and American anti-boycott legislation took hold, the EEC Council could issue some form of directive within five years. The British government should seize the courage of its convictions and take the initiative among other members of the nine, he said, adding that soundings were already taking place at inter-governmental level.

While praising the Foreign Boycotts Bill, sponsored by Lord Byers, Normanton thought it could only be fully effective if there were action by other EEC members. “If a European Community package were linked with the American legislative package, it would have a political leverage transcending the power of individual states,” he said.

A former president of the British Textile Employers Federations, Normanton said that the Liverpool Cotton Exchange and other British interests who had criticized the Byers bill were suffering from “schizophrenia” since its long-term benefits would outweigh any short-term harm it may do them.

Normanton, who is also active in the human rights campaign in the House of Commons, told the committee he opposed all trade boycotts on principle, terming them “blackmail.” He told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency later that as a student he lived in Germany between 1931 and 1937 where he learned the need to fight discrimination and not try to appease it.

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