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Boycotting ‘Unethical Companies’ to Become a Criminal Offence for Universities

Universities and other publicly funded institutions are to be banned from boycotting companies over ethical concerns, as part of a controversial plan announced by the government on Monday.

According to the Independent, universities will no longer be able to refuse to buy goods and services from companies involved in the arms trade, fossil fuels, tobacco products or operating in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

A spokesperson from KCL Action Palestine said: “Both environmental movements and pro-Palestine groups will be resisting this attack on local democracy. It is important to remember that these measures do not only affect Palestine campaigners, but anyone with a concern for ethics, the environment and human rights.”

The National Union of Students voted in favour of boycotting Israel last year, following similar decisions taken by several student unions across the UK, including King’s College London.

The motion calling on King’s to divest from any companies or institutions operating in the illegal Israeli settlements passed with a majority of 58 percent of students’ votes in March 2014.  Under the new regulations, this motion could now be annulled.

King’s ethical investment policy, which prevents it from investing in tobacco shares, could also be affected by the government’s plan.

The Conservative government has justified the new policy by stating that these practices undermine “community cohesion” and Britain’s “international security”.

They also announced that penalties for non-compliant institutions could be severe.

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