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Civil servants threaten to stop work over arms sales to Israel | Politics News

Civil servants overseeing arms exports to Israel have requested to “cease work immediately” over fears they could be complicit in war crimes in Gaza.

Officials in the Department for Business and Trade (DBT) have raised concerns with senior civil servants that they may be liable if it is deemed Israel has broken international law.

Politics Live: Ex-Foreign Office minister hits back after probe into Israel comments

In correspondence seen by Sky News, the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), which represents civil servants, has requested an urgent meeting with the department to discuss “the legal jeopardy faced by civil servants who are continuing to work on this policy”.

The letter, sent on Wednesday, said: “Given the implications for our members we believe there are ample grounds to immediately suspend all such work.

“We therefore request that you meet with us urgently to discuss this matter and cease work immediately.”

The correspondence shows the PCS has been asking the government for its legal advice on arming Israel since January, when a preliminary ruling from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) found Israel’s acts in Gaza could amount to genocide.

A response to the union dated 13 March said “the question of criminal liability for civil servants is very unlikely to arise”.

However, the department said it can’t share the legal advice it is receiving as it is “confidential”.

Labour MP John McDonnell, a founding member of the PCS union group in parliament, said the government must “come clean”.

John McDonnell
Image:
Labour MP John McDonnell

He told Sky News: “These civil servants should not be put at risk. The Rome Statute covering war crimes is clear that following a superior’s instructions is not a defence when it comes to charges of war crimes. The government must come clean on the legal advice they have.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has come under growing pressure to suspend arms sales to Israel after three British aid workers were killed in an airstrike on Monday.

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Last night, a letter signed by more than 600 lawyers, including former Supreme Court justices, warned the UK is breaching international law by continuing to arm Israel.

The government does not directly supply Israel with weapons, but does grant export licences for British companies to sell arms to the country.

The US remains by far the largest supplier of weapons to Israel, with Foreign Office minister Andrew Mitchell recently telling MPs that UK exports accounted for just 0.02% of Israel’s military imports.

There has been pressure within the Conservative Party to end exports – with MPs Flick Drummond, David Jones and Paul Bristow urging the government to reconsider.

The Lib Dems, the SNP and dozens of Labour MPs also want arms sales to be suspended, although the Labour leadership’s position is the government should publish its legal advice and suspend arms sales if there is a risk weapons could be used in “a serious breach of international humanitarian law”.

A government spokesperson said: “We keep advice on Israel’s adherence to International Humanitarian Law under review and will act in accordance with that advice.

“All export licence applications are assessed on a case-by-case basis against the Strategic Export Licensing Criteria.”

Majority of drivers say aggressive cyclists threaten their safety | UK News

Almost two-thirds of drivers have said they believe aggressive cyclists are a threat to their safety.

Around 2,000 motorists in the UK were polled by road safety charity IAM RoadSmart for a survey, which also revealed that 60% of drivers believe aggressive cyclists are now a bigger problem, compared with three years ago.

A similar percentage of people said they would not support a law assuming drivers are always responsible for collisions with cyclists or pedestrians in urban areas.

“The government has introduced a range of laws in recent years in an effort to fix the daily conflicts we see between motorists and cyclists,” IAM RoadSmart director of policy and research Neil Greig said.

“However, if our research is anything to go by, this has largely been to no avail, with the majority of respondents still reporting aggression and conflict among road users.”

Mr Greig added that there was “no quick-fix” to this issue, but that the research revealed an urgent need for the government to continue to educate people on the new Highway Code.

The charity director also advised the government to invest in safe road markings for those who are “vulnerable road users,” in order to minimise the chance of “conflict”.

“In the meantime, all road users, whether on two or four wheels, should exercise calmness and restraint to help us all use Britain’s roads safely.”

Read more:
Cyclists could face speed limits and may need number plates, reports say
Cyclists given priority in new rules as drivers ordered to keep distance

Some 108 people were killed in 2021 in crashes where aggressive driving was a contributory factor.

Cyclists can also cause ‘real harm’ when there’s ‘lack of care’

A “death by dangerous cycling” law was proposed in 2022, by then transport secretary Grant Shapps.

Under this plan, cyclists who kill other road users would be treated the same as motorists.

Mr Shapps said the law is needed “to impress on cyclists the real harm they can cause when speed is combined with lack of care,” he said in the Mail last year.

“We need to crack down on this disregard for road safety. Relatives of victims have waited too long for this straightforward measure,” he added.

Nearly four out of five (78%) respondents to the IAM RoadSmart survey said people driving motor vehicles aggressively are putting their safety at risk.

Appeal issued after men break into home of woman and threaten her at knifepoint while she’s holding her child | UK News

Two men who forced their way into a woman’s home and threatened her at knifepoint while she held her child are being sought by police.

At 1.24pm on Tuesday, 15 November, the victim, a 22-year-old woman, was at her home in Wandsworth, southwest London, when two males knocked on her door and forced their way in.

She was forced into the kitchen at knifepoint by one of the males, who demanded money before they both fled.

Nothing is believed to have been taken and there were no reports of any injuries.

Detectives have now released pictures of the two men they are trying to trace as they pursue a number of enquiries.

Pic: Met Police
Image:
Pic: Met Police

Detective Sergeant Cerith Jones, investigating, said: “The community will be appalled by this awful incident and I know many people will want to reach out and help us identify them.

“I urge local people to please check your doorbell and dashcam footage for any material that could assist us. If you were in the vicinity and saw two men acting suspiciously, or running away, we want to hear from you.

“The young woman was terrified and it is imperative that we catch the men responsible.”

Pic: Met Police
Image:
Pic: Met Police

Officers from the Metropolitan Police will be conducting extra patrols in the area over the coming days to reassure locals.

If you have information that could assist police, please call 101 or tweet @MetCC ref CAD 3421/15 Nov. To remain anonymous contact the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.