Monday, 25 February 2013

Local authorities to withdraw investment in tobacco?

Yesterday's Mail on Sunday asked whether councils could damage the tobacco industry by withdrawing their investments in it: 
Shares in tobacco firms could fall if local authorities pull millions of pounds in investment as they take a lead role in NHS anti-smoking campaigns in April.
Whether or not local authorities in England and Wales unite in pulling their investments from tobacco it would seem that the pressure to disinvest will increase enormously after responsibility for anti-smoking campaigns is handed to local authorities this year.
 
While I think councils should be aware of the ethics of different companies (armaments companies would be near the top of my list of damaging investments), censorious remarks from Martin Dockrell of Action on Smoking and Health (see here) don't meet this requirement. This is top-down government at its best: central government sets policy and requires councils to implement it. It's not local government being responsive to local wants and needs, unless you consider that central government unfailingly respects local needs.

Meanwhile central government's tobacco investment portfolios will no doubt continue unmolested. Actually there is very little mention of them in the press, which seems very focused on local authority tobacco investments. Is this because there is no tobacco investment by central government, or because they are very good at keeping it quiet?

The tobacco control community seems to be trying incrementally to undermine the value of tobacco investments and also the idea that local authorities are required to obtain the maximum return. In this press release from FairPensions, which campaigns for ethical pensions investments, a spokesperson says:
'It's simply not true that the law requires pension funds to ignore their members' ethical views. It's time to move on from this tired old myth: savers who care about where their money is being invested have the right to expect a considered response to their concerns.'
She offers no evidence to refute the idea that pensions funds do have to get the best return. But even if she is right, other industries are just as destructive as tobacco in their environmental impact and employment practices. Tobacco is being singled out just because an orchestrated campaign is on hand to do just that, not because tobacco is more damaging than cluster bombs or any other hazard you might like to think of.

Advocating the withdrawal of millions in tobacco investment is exactly the kind of tactic that the UK doesn't need. But we can expect tobacco control to push for it because their livelihoods depend on attempting to strangle tobacco companies at whatever cost to the community at large.

5 comments:

Jonathan Bagley said...

It's a shame the British public don't understand pensions. They should be alarmed.

Anonymous said...

THE HOLYROOD HYPOCRITS

SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT PENSION SCHEME

Scroll down to PAGE 6

They have investments in :-

BRITISH AMERICAN TOBACCO
And
IMPERIAL TOBACCO


http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/Financeresources/2012_10_11_Signed_version_of_2011-12_annual_accounts.pdf

Dick Puddlecote said...

I find it quite funny. There will be no effect on tobacco share values even if all authorities disinvested. The only outcome will be that public sector pensions are less profitable (and I quite like that idea). ;)

Junican at Boltonsmokersclub said...

'It's simply not true that the law requires pension funds to ignore their members' ethical views.'

The usual trick of 'conflation' - First, the scheme would need to be a 'mutual' type. Secondly, there would need to be a majority vote.

The Zealots use this trick all the time to give false impressions.

eko said...

great info
Thanks