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NWLA puts off decision on Veolia until March 2013

For background material on No to VAG click here. See also the Facebook Stop Veolia campaign.

NLWA extends its deadline

By Dump Veolia
December 02, 2012

The message below was send to all members of the NLWA on 28 November. It postpones a decision on this crucial £4.7b contract for many months. Campaigners in the No 2 Veolia Action group have no doubt this is because of a series of embarrassing developments and questions the group has been posing during the course of its very active campaign against Veolia being awarded this contract. The campaign will continue with additional energy and urgency over the months to come.

As of 2nd December, the timetable advertised on the NLWA site had not been updated…

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Dear NLWA Authority Members,

Following the Authority meeting on Friday 23rd November, a notice of the agreed extension to the procurement timetable has now been placed on our website at www.nlwa.gov.uk.

The notice reads as follows:

The procurement process timetable for our waste services and fuel use contracts procurement project was considered at a meeting of the North London Waste Authority on Friday 23 November. The Authority has chosen to extend the timetable for selecting bidders on both procurements. We expect to receive final tenders from bidders on both procurements in March 2013.

The procurement timetable on this website will be updated in due course. For further information on our procurement project, visit our procurement web pages.

Kind Regards

Ian Wheeler
Communications and Consultation Officer

North London Waste Authority
Unit 360, Lee Valley Technopark
Ashley Road
Tottenham
London N17 9LN
Tel: 020 8489 5599
Fax: 020 8489 1775



Activists in Waltham Forest protest Veolia’s bidding for London waste contracts, 27 October

Stop Veolia Protests Blitz in North London
By Yael Kahn
November 09, 2012

The Stop Veolia Protests Blitz in North London continues and everyone can help even if you are unable to physically join us.

If you wish to discuss how you can help please contact No2VAG: novag@hotmail.co.uk

Or leave a message on the Facebook page, where you can also find details of locations, dates & times of the next No2VAG protests in North London
Updates on the campaign.

UPDATE on forthcoming protests

Monday 19th Nov. 7.00pm Haringey Civic Centre, High Rd. Wood Green. N22 8LE

Wednesday 21st Nov. 6.30pm Hackney Town Hall. Mare  St. E8 1EA

Friday 23rd November, 11.00 am Camden Town Hall, Judd St. WC1H 9JE (tube, Kings X)

Thursday, 6 Dec. 9.00 am. Camden Town Hall, Judd St. WC1H  9JE


Hackney Council censor resident from speaking against corporation complicit in war crimes in Palestine

Why was I censored by Hackney Council from speaking against Veolia?

By Caroline Day, Occupy News Network
November 22, 2012

Yesterday (Wednesday 21st) I was meant to speak at a Hackney Council meeting about the potential selection of the multinational Veolia for a colossal multi-billion pound waste management contract, an issue I wrote about last week for the ONN.

Veolia is guilty of grave misconduct in the course of its business in providing vital services to the Israeli settlements therefore abetting Israeli war crimes in occupied Palestine. It also has a perilous financial standing and appalling health, safety and environmental record that should concern any resident of north London.

As I arrived at the council an hour before I was due to give my speech to the Council, I was heartened to see a large gathering of local people from the No 2 Veolia action group protesting at the shortlisting and possible selection of Veolia. In contrast, just two Zionists appeared to wave Israeli flags and shout ‘Support Israel! Support Veolia!’
The speaker of the council introduced the deputation as planned but whilst I was sat ready to give my speech inside the Council chamber, at this very late stage, an unprecedented cross-party procedural motion was tabled by Conservative Cllr. Linda Kelly of Haifa Twinning and seconded by Labour Mayor Jules Pipe. Mayor Pipe gave a speech, which I have since heard is aberrant in the case of seconders of procedural motions, claiming that my deputation should not be heard at council.

Jules Pipe claimed there was no ‘freedom of speech’ issue but I regard this as a clear act of political censorship. I was forced to leave the chamber without having uttered a single word, despite having submitted a delegation that was approved at every level of council procedure. The legal officer for Hackney Council advised the councillors that the delegation WAS legitimate.

The councillors chose to ignore this and voted for the motion, although it must be stated that all Labour councillors were whipped, meaning that to vote against the motion would have resulted in suspension from the party. Because of this we’ll never know how many were able to vote with their conscience.

The Council have since issued a joint statement which I would like to respond to here. I will also publish here the full text of my censored speech which I will also send to all the 57 councillors who were prevented from hearing it last night.

The Council statement statement begins “at Wednesday night’s Full Council meeting, the Mayor and councillors of all three political groups voted not to receive a deputation from a group wishing to raise issues concerning NLWA.”

The North London Waste Authority is made up of elected representatives from each of the seven north London boroughs. Those councillors are responsible for representing the interests and concerns of their constituents. Their voting decision on the huge £4.7bn waste management contract being considered should be guided by what is best for the people of their boroughs. The constituents of the boroughs concerned should have a right to address their elected representatives on matters that affect them, such as who handles their waste and how £600m of taxpayers money, including their own, is spent by each borough on such an undertaking.
“Elected members felt that to receive the deputation could give the incorrect appearance that they were open to lobbying on procurement issues and would be in turn be prepared to lobby an external organisation about its procurement.”

My response: it is important to distinguish between secretive lobbying, which regularly has detrimental consequences for the public interest, takes place behind closed doors, often on behalf of powerful vested interest groups who seek to gain financially from the result of decisions, and the right of a local constituent to put forward views on important ethical, environmental and financial matters in a public forum and on behalf of concerned residents from the borough who signed the deputation.

“Elected members also said that it was inappropriate for Full Council to debate what is intrinsically an international political issue which the local authority is in no position to resolve.”

Can the councillors and mayor Jules Pipe explain to me how Veolia’s dire financial situation and the risk this poses to the taxpayer who will foot the bill in the event that the company goes into administration “intrinsically an international political issue”?

How is Veolia’s dire health and safety record (including a notorious industrial accident which closed both the M5 and M6 motorways) and the risk this poses to their employees and the public “intrinsically an international political issue”?

How is Veolia’s lack of an environmentally friendly CHP solution (which the NLWA itself regards as best practice), and the apparent lack of the necessary capacity to carry out recycling for the area the NWLA covers, “intrinsically an international political issue”?
“Representatives of all three party groups issued a statement that said: We are here to represent residents and do not shy away from difficult debates on local issues, about services and issues that directly affect out borough.”

Fundamentally, this IS an issue that affects all residents of the borough as it regards the use of THEIR money. The issue being considered IS a local service, that of local waste management. It is hard to see how there could be an issue that affects residents less since all residents are affected by the issue of waste management. Veolia’s bid trebles the amount Hackney is currently paying for waste disposal, and this will clearly impact other services, cutbacks will presumably have to be made elsewhere.

“We believe, however, that although technically acceptable, to have received this deputation would not have observed the spirit of the Council’s constitution and went beyond what was reasonable for Members to consider.”

In other word’s a political decision was taken by Jules Pipe not to hear a deputation that conformed to the letter of the Council’s constitution and a whip which would have seem members voting against suspended from the Labour Party was required to enforce this political decision. What is ‘reasonable for the Council to consider” seems not be determined by the fair and reasonable council procedure but by the political beliefs of the mayor and others. Since many Labour councillors were under the intimidation of being suspended from the party we don’t know how many voted according to their beliefs and how many were forced into this embarrassing and unnecessary censorship of a local resident.

The text of the speech Caroline Day wanted to give to Hackney Councillors can be read by clicking the headline above


Veolia
By Jonathan Hoffman, Jblog, ewish Chronicle
November 22, 2012

Last night I first went to Hackney Town Hall. The Council was due to consider a request from a Labour Member to invite in a Deputation to speak against Veolia, in order to lobby the Council and two of its members on the North London Waste Authority, with regards to the contracts they are considering. Before the meeting we demonstrated outside the Town Hall, neutralising an anti-Veolia (and of course anti-Israel) demonstration.

Thanks partly to great work by UK Lawyers for Israel, the request was thrown out almost unanimously (there were two abstentions). The turning point was a powerful speech by the elected Mayor of Hackney, Jules Pipe, who said that Hackney had no need of a foreign policy and he did not intend to adopt one and that the issue would be needlessly divisive within the Borough.
…………………………………
Addendum 1:
Two months ago on my blog I linked to an excellent Report* which points out that any decision by a local authority to reject a commercial bid by Veolia on political grounds would be illegal…..

http://www.thejc.com/blogs/jonathan-hoffman/veolia-new-report-exposes-bd…

Addendum 2:
After the Hackney Council meeting the following statement was issued by all three Parties:
*At Wednesday night’s Full Council meeting, the Mayor and councillors of all three political groups voted not to receive a deputation from a group wishing to raise issues concerning NLWA.
Elected members felt that to receive the deputation could give the incorrect appearance that they were open to lobbying on procurement issues and would be in turn be prepared to lobby an external organisation about its procurement.

Elected members also said that it was inappropriate for Full Council to debate what is intrinsically an international political issue which the local authority is in no position to resolve.

Representatives of all three party groups issued a statement that said:

We are here to represent residents and do not shy away from difficult debates on local issues, about services and issues that directly affect our borough.”
“We believe, however, that although technically acceptable, to have received this deputation would not have observed the spirit of the Council’s constitution and went beyond what was reasonable for Members to consider.

[* The report is Recycling Veolia. It is primarily an attack on what it regards as inflated claims of success by BDS campaigners.
This legal advice posted by JfJfP argues clearly that a council may indeed refuse a contract on the grounds of ‘gross misconduct’ and operating to service settlements which are, just as clearly, illegal under international law is such conduct.]

Jonathan Hoffman writes that he is Co-Chair Advocacy, Zionist Federation; elected member of Defence Division of Board of Deputies. Campaigns have included opposition to the antisemitic play “Seven Jewish Children”, to the boycott demonstrations at Ahava and to the biased Judge Bathurst Norman in the EDO case. As well as the JC Blog, I write occasionally for CiFWatch, Harrys Place and Z-Word.


Richard Falk urges London waste authority to not award contracts to Israeli settlement profiteer Veolia

By Adri Nieuwhof, Electronic Intifada
November 19, 2012

Due to Veolia’s investments in illegal Israeli settlements, the No to Veolia Action Group has been campaigning intensively to keep the French multinational from winning a tender for several important waste contracts in seven north London districts. The North London Waste Authority (NLWA) is considering who it should award contracts with a value of £4.7 billion ($7.5 billion) to.

But now Richard Falk, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, has increased the pressure on the NLWA by sending a letter to its member councilors.

In his letter, Falk urges the NLWA not to award the multi-billion waste contracts to Veolia “due to its deep and ongoing complicity with Israeli violations of international law.”

The Electronic Intifada received a copy of the letter:

I am writing to you in my capacity as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 to urge you not to select Veolia for public contracts due to its active involvement in Israel’s grave violations of international law.

On October 25, I presented a report to the United Nations General Assembly on the legal responsibility of business enterprises, corporations and non-State actors involved in activities relating to Israel’s settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory. The report concluded that corporations and non-State actors play an instrumental role in Israel’s belligerent occupation of Palestinian territory and the infringements on the human rights of Palestinians and that public authorities and civil society must take actions to hold complicit corporations to account.

Due to its deep and ongoing complicity with Israeli violations of international law and the strength of concern of Palestinian, European and Israeli civil society about the role played by Veolia, I decided to select Veolia as one of the case studies to include in my report. I have attached the report for your consideration.

Veolia has a 5 per cent share in the CityPass consortium, through its subsidiary Connex Israel, which was contracted by Israel to operate the light rail project in Jerusalem. The light rail is designed to connect the city of Jerusalem with Israel’s illegal settlements. Veolia owns approximately 80 per cent of Connex Jerusalem, the company that operates the trains. Furthermore, through its subsidiary company, the Israeli Veolia group, Veolia owns and operates the Tovlan landfill in the Jordan Valley of the occupied Palestinian territory. The Tovlan landfill is used to dump Israeli waste from both within Israel and Israeli settlements. Veolia furthermore operates buses linking Modi’in and Jerusalem via road 443 and thereby servicing the Israeli settlements of Giv’at Ze’ev and Mevo Horon. All these activities directly contribute to flagrant violations of international law.

The UN and the overwhelming majority of its members have consistently condemned Israel’s settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory as illegal under international law (Article 49(6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 governing belligerent occupation) and as a formidable obstacle to peace, yet Israel continues with their expansion. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has documented how the existence and continued expansion of illegal settlements have a severe humanitarian impact on Palestinian civilians, including with respect to house demolitions, killings and injuries of Palestinian civilians and restrictions of movement that affect Palestinians, but not Israeli settlers.

Veolia is a signatory to the UN Global Compact, a set of principles regarding business conduct. Yet its wide ranging and active involvement in Israel’s settlement regime and persistent failure to exercise due diligence show utter disregard for the human rights related principles of the Global Compact.

One of the key recommendations of my report is to urge states to implement the new UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. These Guiding Principles suggest as good practice that state authorities consider “denying or withdrawing existing public support or services” to companies that fail to address their involvement in serious human rights recommendations.

I was therefore heartened to learn that a UK government minister has confirmed that UK legislation allows public authorities to exclude companies involved with Israel’s illegal settlements from tender exercises.

Indeed, I agree with the increasing number of experts in international law that argue that any decision by the NLWA to provide access to public funds to Veolia may contravene the UK’s international legal obligation not to facilitate Israeli violations of international law.

It is my view that Veolia’s violations of the UN Global Compact principles and its deep and protracted complicity with grave breaches of international law make it an inappropriate partner for any public institution, especially as a provider of public services.

As I conclude in my recent report, the failure to bring Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory to an end after more than 45 years creates an augmented international responsibility to uphold the human rights of the Palestinian people, who in practice live without the protection of the rule of law.

I urge you to follow the example set by public authorities and European banks that have chosen to disassociate themselves from Veolia and take the just and principled decision not to award Veolia any public service contracts. Such a measure would contribute to upholding the rule of law and advancing peace based on justice.


Activists roll out intensive campaign to keep settlement profiteer Veolia at bay in north London

By Adri Nieuwhof, Electronic Intifada
November 8, 2012

For two years now the No to Veolia Action Group (No2VAG) has been campaigning to keep Veolia at bay in a tender for huge waste contracts in seven north London districts. The North London Waste Authority (NLWA) is planning to award waste contracts with a value of £4.7 billion ($7.5 billion).

No2VAG argues for Veolia’s exclusion because of the company’s role in Israel’s violations of international law. Activists have voiced their opinion during protests in all seven London districts. Legal experts support No2VAG’s view that NLWA has the obligation not to support – direct or indirect – violations of international humanitarian law. Meanwhile, NLWA member councilor Brian Coleman caused a scandal by sending abusive emails to campaigners.

Veolia complicit in Israel’s violations of international law
In January 2011, the Veolia campaign in north London started uniting citizens and groups concerned about human rights such as Amnesty International, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and community groups. Ten months later, the councilors of NLWA received a 19-page legal representations written by British attorney Daniel Machover of Hickman and Rose solicitors.

In June 2012, No2VAG and Jews for Justice for Palestinians (JFJFP) submitted to NLWA a legal briefing note with evidence that Veolia is complicit in Israel’s violations of international law, which forbids the establishment of settlements in occupied territory.

The evidence included Veolia’s provision of services to the Israeli occupation by linking illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank to Israel via the Jerusalem Light Rail and several bus routes, by dumping Israeli and settlement waste in the West Bank. Hickman and Rose solicitors argue in their briefing note that there is every reason for excluding Veolia from public contracts in the UK. All documents are available online.

Meanwhile, No2VAG can count on the support of UN independent expert Richard Falk who recently called at a press conference for a boycott of Veolia until it brings its operations into line with international human rights and humanitarian law and standards.

NLWA member councilor called to order for insulting activists
During the Veolia campaign in north London, the NLWA reached a low point when its member councilor Brian Coleman disrespected an activist “when he alleged that she would have been a member of the fascist blackshirts 70 years ago,” reports Edgeware and Mill Press. Furthermore, Coleman had labeled Israeli-born Ron Cohen as being disloyal for criticizing Israel’s human rights record in an email. A committee that handled the complaints of the activists decided that Coleman had breached the code of conduct for cabinet members and had to apologize in writing. Coleman choose to appeal the decision.

Judge Sally Lister, who ruled on the appeal to the decision, rejected Coleman’s claim that his comments were political and therefore a higher standard of protection applied. Coleman had told Cohen: “I am afraid I will not entertain this anti-Israeli nonsense” and “It doesn’t take much to flush you out.”

“Rather than engage in the actual political issue, the appellant chose to be rude, curt and dismissive in his reply to the complainant,” said judge Lister. She added that Coleman had crossed the line into “personal, offensive and insulting abuse, which lacked any reflective content,” according to a report in Edgeware and Mill Press.

Meanwhile, Coleman proudly advertised Veolia’s role in the Jerusalem Light Rail in a blog post of 17 September, encouraging the British government to breach international law by recognizing that “so called East Jerusalem is not occupied territory but is part of one city and that city is the legitimate capital city of the State of Israel.”

Barnet council removed councilor Coleman from the NLWA in its meeting of 6 November, while No2VAG staged a protest outside against handing the £4.7bn contracts to Veolia.

NLWA is obliged not to support illegal settlements
For two years, north London human rights activists have presented legal arguments to NLWA councilors in favor of Veolia’s exclusion from the north London waste contracts. In October, NLWA wrote in an email to a No2VAG activist that it has no position on either Israel or the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip and therefore it can not take this into account during its procurement.

Furthermore, a spokesperson for NLWA told London website Islington Now that such exclusion is constrained by EU law. “The legal position is very clear and these are not issues that the NLWA can or will in any way take into account,” reports the journal.

But legal experts refute NLWA’s legal position.

Dr. Jeff Handmaker, senior lecturer in law, human rights and development at International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam, wrote me this week saying that the NLWA is an organ of state of the United Kingdom. As a state body, NLWA is bound to the UK’s international legal obligations:

This includes the obligation not to support, direct or indirect, violations of international humanitarian law. It is well-documented that the Veolia Corporation colludes with the government and military of Israel. By providing transport and waste disposal services to Israel’s illegal settlements, Veolia directly reinforces Israel’s illegal network of settlements and settlement infrastructure. If the NLWA were to award a contract to Veolia, it would be contravening the UK’s international legal obligations and, furthermore, be turning a blind eye to serious violations of international humanitarian law against Palestinians.

In addition, Daniel Machover wrote me that:

The legal position is indeed clear, but is completely the opposite of the claim made by NLWA. Under EU competition law and the 2006 Public Contract Regulations, a public body will act unlawfully if it directs itself wrongly on its discretionary power to exclude an economic operator from bidding for a contract where that operator has committed an act of grave misconduct in the course of its business or profession; the NLWA can and should take into account the clear evidence of Veolia’s grave misconduct and make a principled and legal decision on whether a company with that track record should be given NLWA business, particularly in view of the UK’s obligation not to facilitate Israeli violations of international law.

I thank No2VAG organizer Yael Kahn for her input to this article.

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