An MP has called for Veolia to be banned from public contracts in the UK, describing it as “amoral” for its operations in Palestine.
The North London Waste Authority this week named Veolia on the final shortlists for two major waste contracts, and said it would not take the French-owned firm’s activities in the Middle East into account during the procurement process.
Islington North MP, Jeremy Corbyn, a long-standing campaigner for Palestinian rights, added his voice to the calls for Veolia to be rejected on the basis of its operations in the illegally occupied Palestinian territories.
Corbyn said he had tabled a motion in Parliament calling for “economic operators aiding and abetting the building, maintenance or servicing of illegal Israeli settlements be excluded from public contracts in the EU”.
A statement from the Labour MP’s office said Veolia was “way up there in the amoral stakes”.
It said the British government had spoken out against illegal Israeli settlements at every opportunity and should follow that stance up with “effective disincentives to corporations from in any way supporting illegal settlement activity, which must include a firmer approach to excluding such corporations from public contracts”.
In April 2010, the UN Human Rights Council declared the Jerusalem Light Railway, which Veolia Transport operated and until recently held a 5% stake in, to be “in clear breach of international law”. The company still provides technical support to the rail system, which links illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank with mainland Israel.
Corbyn’s office said the JLR helped ensure the survival of the Israeli settlements, which were “the most significant obstacles to peace talks”.
NLWA announced that Veolia had been shortlisted against FCC/Skanska for its waste services contract, and against E.On/Wheelabrator for its refuse derived fuel scheme.
NLWA said it had received “letters and representations” on the issue, while it faced protests at its meeting last week.
But the authority said: “The legal position is very clear and these are not issues that the NLWA can or will in any way take into account.”
“The decision to retain Veolia in our procurements, along with other bidders, was made based on a rigorous evaluation process looking at technical, commercial and financial issues.”
It said the winner would be decided on the basis of which bid offers the “best overall package for the benefit of residents.”
Veolia Environmental Services UK declined to comment before MRW went to press.
Veolia Environmental Services UK and Veolia Transport are both subsidiaries of Veolia Environnement which, in December announced a programme to sell off £4.3bn of assets and slash its debts by £2.5bn. Last week it saw its senior unsecured ratings downgraded from A3 to Baa1 by credit ratings agency Moody’s.