Boris Johnson is facing scrutiny from American and EU authorities over accusations that companies working on the Emirates Cable Car could have been forced to unwittingly break the law.
City Hall came under pressure after it emerged Transport for London had agreed a controversial ‘anti-Israel’ clause with Emirates airline as sponsors, which effectively banned them from engaging in any deals with Israel.
The Mayor was “unaware” of this clause and asked TFL to look into it, according to his spokeswoman. Speaking at Mayor’s Question Time last week, Johnson said “I have read the clauses in the contract. I can see that they are capable of misconstruction by suspicious and paranoid minds”.
However, London Labour assembly member Andrew Dismore has written to the chairman of the US Foreign Affairs Committee, the U.S Department of Commerce and the European Union Trade Commissioner asking them to investigate the Mayor’s “discriminatory” contract.
The “anti-Israel” clause would have put any company working with TfL and also in the USA over the last two years at risk of prosecution and fines of up to $250,000, according to Dismore.
Logistics company Mace, which built and maintains the cable car, has major American business interests and carries out work for the US Government. TfL business partners are at risk of breaking the US Export Adminisration Act, forbidding any US-based operation from taking on any contracts with Israel boycott clauses, and the EU-Israel Association Agreement.
Labour London Assembly Member Andrew Dismore said: “TfL has put major companies and itself at significant risk of prosecution due to this contract fiasco. The US government is very clear that businesses operating in the United States are not to be involved in a boycott of Israel and if found to be dealing with a business that is so involved, face a fine up to $250,000.
“This is what happens when the Mayor has a vanity project and does not read the contract. The offending clause is clause 1 of the contract so it’s not even in the small print. At last week’s Mayor’s Question Time Boris said this deal only looked suspicious to those with ‘paranoid minds’ I don’t think it’s paranoid to question why a clause was included in a contract signed by a public body like TfL, which is under the Mayor’s control, that blacklists an entire country and its people.
"Discrimination is completely unacceptable in all its forms, and for the Mayor to have accepted in the formal terms of this contract such an anti-Israeli boycott in this way beggars belief.”
TfL's head of the Emirates Air Line, Danny Price, said: "We have already agreed to remove the text in question from the contract. The intention behind it was always to give Emirates the option to withdraw their sponsorship should we sell the Emirates Air Line to someone else, something which is common in such contracts.
"The clauses as they stood would not have constrained how TfL do business, however to avoid any confusion they will be rewritten and we will publish the alternative wording. For the avoidance of doubt, we cannot foresee any circumstances in which we would sell the Emirates Air Line."