Councillors insist parliament must have the final say to stop pension cash being invested in tobacco companies.

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The Norfolk Pension Fund, managed by the county council, has £44m tied into the tobacco industry.

This has prompted questions to be asked about the ethics of these investments - just months before the county council takes responsibility for public health, including encouraging people to quit smoking.

But members of the pensions committee yesterday said it is likely the profitability and value of tobacco company shares will influence their future investments, rather than taking a specific stance against them on moral grounds.

They also questioned where the line would be drawn if one industry was excluded on health grounds, and whether companies who made filters and other parts of cigarettes would also be included.

Committee member John Fuller, South Norfolk Council leader, told the meeting: “Where does it end? It’s for parliament to decide whether these things are investable or not.” He added the dividends from such investments “keep council tax down”.

Cliff Jordan, a county council cabinet member, said: “We used to have an ethical policy, we still do to a point. It used to be on black industries - child labour - the real big hitters.

“This [smoking], I must admit, is anti-social but it’s a long way from child labour and so forth.

“Where does it end? We are here to earn, or the pension fund to earn, enough money for people to retire from work.”

The pension fund is valued at £2.1bn and has more than 66,000 people from 135 organisations.

Councillors agreed yesterday to monitor the situation and await clarification on the committee’s position about what they can and cannot do regarding managing the fund in the best financial interests.

Derrick Murphy, Norfolk County Council leader, told members: “My view is one of the key milestones to improve public health in Norfolk, which is a really serious national problem, and a problem in areas such as Great Yarmouth, is childhood obesity. West Norfolk also has a high problem of diabetes.

“Does that mean we don’t pay money into McDonald’s and put money in food? There are serious issues there.”

But Mr Murphy said a review was ongoing and matters like this should be left to parliament.

6 comments

  • Well done NCC, don't let the likes of the BBC etc tell you where to invest the pension fund.As the saying goes, if the cow continues to give milk, keep milking it.

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    Rorping

    Wednesday, September 26, 2012

  • If this is the case then, NCC, dont even think of lecturing us on the health consequenses of smoking !.

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    "V"

    Wednesday, September 26, 2012

  • Smoking kills far, far more people than obesity - 1511 a year in Norfolk at the last count. The difference between tobacco and other consumer products is that tobacco kills half its lifelong users. It causes a quarter of all cancers. Any councillors who think that smoking is less important than diet, physical activity and drink need to look at the data. Tobacco is a completely different class of product to food and drink. It appears the committee was not aware of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, A UN treaty, the guidelines to which state that no branch of government should invest in tobacco companies. Investing in tobacco companies after 1st April next year will surely be untenable for local authorities. They will have a duty to improve public health. How can they comply with that duty if they part own the companies that cause more premature deaths than any other preventable cause, and if they loan money to tobacco companies in the form of bonds, so those companies can sell more tobacco? It would be like the police force buying shares in the mafia!

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    Stewart Brock

    Wednesday, September 26, 2012

  • Some 33.000public service pension fund members seemingly have no say in the matter of which their pensions are invested and their health in old age is determined by the profits that directly cause illness and death. Mssr. Murphy, Jordan and Fuller, once again have shown how much they value money before health.

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    ingo wagenknecht

    Wednesday, September 26, 2012

  • Why should we be surprised, as this is Norfolk County Council we are talking about.

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    Vic Sponge

    Wednesday, September 26, 2012

  • allow smoking in pubs and clubs again and think of the extra pension fund you could make.

    Report this comment

    ggj666

    Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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