In a written question tabled last month, Mark Pritchard MP asked the Foreign Secretary what action he has taken “to stop UK funding being used to pay the wages of convicted terrorists from the Palestinian Territories in custody in Israeli prisons”.
Mr Pritchard, the MP for The Wrekin, Shropshire, referred to the practice carried out by the Palestinian Authority of paying monthly salaries to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons convicted of terror offences.
The Middle East Minister, Tobias Ellwood MP, responded by stating that “no UK money is used for payments to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails”.
Mr Ellwood said that “the UK’s direct financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority (PA) is used to pay the salaries of PA public sector workers only”.
He added: “Our support is provided through a World Bank trust fund which carries out close monitoring of PA expenditure. The whole process is independently audited, which means we know exactly how our money is spent. We also have robust accounting procedures in place which mean we are confident that our funds do not benefit terrorist groups, and we ensure that our partners do the same”.
However, there is reason to believe that the receipt of significant international funding in aid has allowed the PA to use its own general budget to support terrorist or criminal activities.
In a question to the Business Secretary, Mr Pritchard drew attention to the importance of increasing bilateral trade between Britain and Israel.
He asked the Business Secretary “what the level of trade was between Israel and the UK in 2013-14; and what steps he is taking to increase bilateral trade with Israel”.
Minister of State, Rt. Hon. Anna Soubry MP responded by stating that “Bilateral trade in goods and services between the UK and Israel was £4.6 billion in 2013 (Source: Pink Book 2014). Figures for 2014 covering trade in both goods and services will be published by the Office for National Statistics on 30 October in the 2015 edition of the Pink Book”.
She stated that “UK Trade and Investment engage in promotion activities which focus on promoting the UK’s financial services, healthcare and food and drink sectors to the Israeli business community”.
Mr Pritchard also raised issues including the use of the death penalty by the PA and the compatibility of labelling goods from Israeli settlements with World Trade Organisation law.