Thank you for contacting me about JCB and the recent findings by the OECD National Contact Point.
As you will be aware, as Vice Chair of Labour Friends of Palestine I have spoken and written many times about the illegal occupation and demolition of Palestinian homes. I have also worked over the years on strengthening the responsibility of British businesses in operating in situations like these and their own requirements to abide by international law.
I therefore really welcome the finding against JCB that they were in breach of the OECD Guidelines on the Human Rights Responsibilities of Business over the use of JCB machines in illegal demolitions.
It found that JCB did not take any steps to conduct human rights due diligence of any kind despite being aware of alleged adverse human rights impacts and that its products are potentially contributing to those impacts. The NCP has confirmed it will seek an update in a years time from both JCB and the advocacy group that took the claim to ensure that their requirements to strengthen their due diligence on human rights have been followed.
More broadly, of course I believe these guidelines and legal framework should be tougher. British business should be upholding the same legal and ethical standards that we would expect them to at home, wherever they operate in the world.
And the British Government should not be a passive observer to the Israel/Palestine conflict. That is why I supported a trade ban which included banning goods entering the UK from the illegal settlements and any annexed territories if the Israeli Government followed through on its annexation plans. This would have meant working with international partners to exert pressure on the Israeli Government to change course. Although formal annexation was stopped, illegal settlement expansion continued and Palestinians have still been evicted from their homes. I remain seriously concerned about ongoing violations of international law, but importantly in Israel a new government has recently been elected. I support the efforts being made, including by Shadow Ministers, to press the new Israeli Government for a significant change in approach and to assess whether this has taken place.
I am totally committed to a two-state solution, in which a sovereign and viable Palestinian state exists alongside a safe and secure Israel. I support the recognition of Palestine as part of international efforts to bring about a viable and sovereign Palestinian state. I would also like to see the Government take its responsibility seriously and help provide a process in which peace talks can take place. I work closely with the Palestinian Ambassador and many advocacy groups on a regular basis on this and many other issues.
I can assure you that I will continue to press the Government to meet our international and moral obligations on this issue.