Councils will be blocked from boycotting Israeli products or pursuing other foreign policy goals that conflict with the Government, writes Justin Cohen. 

Councils will be blocked from boycotting Israeli products or pursuing other foreign policy goals that conflict with the Government.

Conservative aides said the measure was a response to growing concern about the “militant actions of left-wing councils” which they claimed was spurred on by the Labour leadership.

The new rules will stop politically-motivated boycott and divestment campaigns by town halls against UK defence companies and against Israel.

Sir Eric Pickles, Conservative Friends of Israel parliamentary chairman said: “This move by the Government is very welcome. The attempt by the irresponsible left to demonise Israel is bad for British business, bad for the local taxpayer, and deeply damaging to community relations. It encourages anti-Semitism and strives to make a municipal foreign policy contrary to the interests of the UK.”

“The boycotts also fail to understand the close integration between our two economies in medicine, biotech and high-tech software. One in six generic prescription drugs used in the NHS come from Israel.”

“In the battle against cyber-terrorism Israel is a vital partner. Cooperation with Israel makes Britain a safer place”.

Cabinet Office Minister Matthew Hancock said the action was intended to prevent the “playground politics” from councils.

The Government will amend pension legislation to make clear using pensions and procurement policies to pursuit boycotts, divestments and sanctions campaigns against foreign nations and the UK defence industry are inappropriate, unless they are in line with action on a national level.

The same approach will be contained in new procurement policy guidance.

Communities and Local Government Secretary Greg Clark said: “Divisive policies undermine good community relations, and harm the economic security of families by pushing up council tax. We need to challenge and prevent the politics of division. Conservatives will provide the stable, competent and sensible Government that working people want to see.”

In November last year, Leicester City Council agreed a boycott on products from Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.