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Veolia revelations: pro-Israel group steps in claiming victory for blocking campaigner’s five-minute speech

PUBLISHED: 08:42 24 December 2012

Revelations have emerged about the events that led to a campaigner being silenced in the council chamber as she prepared to make a five-minute speech about waste company Veolia.

Last month councillors from all three parties united to prevent Hackney resident Caroline Day’s deputation opposing the company’s bid for a £4billion North London Waste Authority (NLWA) contract.

Seven London boroughs are involved in the deal, which will cost Hackney £600 million.

Veolia was among the last two bidders and Ms Day had wanted to bring attention to its environmental and financial record, along with its involvement providing transport, waste, sewage and water services to Jewish settlements in Palestine, which are considered illegal under international law.

However, Conservative Cllr Linda Kelly stepped in to propose a motion to block Ms Day from speaking, seconded by elected Labour Mayor Jules Pipe, who stated Hackney had “no foreign policy”.

Now David Lewis, secretary and treasurer for UK Lawyers for Israel, – a group supporting the country – has gone on to publicly claim his group had won a “symbolic victory” by blocking the deputation.

He revealed that Cllr Kelly contacted him about Ms Day’s intention to speak and he advised her she could use a section of the council constitution – rule 12.8 – to block her. To achieve cross-party support, Mr Lewis then contacted Labour councillor Luke Akehurst, who he knew through his job at advocacy organisation We Believe in Israel.

Propaganda

Cllr Akehurst went on to alert the Labour group to Cllr Kelly’s intentions and the party decided to support her in a vote.

Caroline Day said: “It can hardly be a stronger alignment with a certain foreign policy when Hackney Council invited an openly political group, aimed at serving Israeli propaganda, to draft its motion.”

Mr Lewis said there was no lobbying as councillors he approached were “thinking the same” as him, but he believes Cllr Akehurst’s role was “fundamental”.

He said: “It changed the situation from one in which Linda [Kelly] was going to make a motion and cause a bit of a fuss, probably without achieving anything, to something that was going to work.

“There was no lobbying at all, simply because I was only dealing with Linda and Luke and I didn’t need to lobby them anyway because they were thinking the same as me.”

Cllr Akehurst – who declared an interest and withdrew from discussions at the meeting – said: “I didn’t have any influence over the Labour group’s stance on this vote because I didn’t attempt to influence them, and was unable to participate in their deliberations.”

Mr Pipe insists the motion had not been drafted by UK Lawyers for Israel.

“The final wording of the motion was in fact written by me, as the Labour group’s support for the motion was absolutely conditional on the fact that it should be purely procedural and make no value judgements about the issues under discussion,” he said in a statement.

The waste authority was due to take a decision on the tender last week but bidders were asked to resubmit their tenders and the final choice has been postponed until March. Veolia has now pulled out of the tender.

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