Suffolk: Council votes to disinvest pension funds from tobacco companies

Stubbing it out - Suffolk County Council has voted to end its pension fund's investment in tobacco companies. Stubbing it out - Suffolk County Council has voted to end its pension fund's investment in tobacco companies.

Friday, July 18, 2014
6:00 AM

Members of Suffolk County Council have voted overwhelmingly to ask their pension fund to stop investing in tobacco companies.

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However a final decision will not be taken until it is next discussed by the Pension Fund Committee – which also includes representatives from other bodies whose employees are members of the fund – in September.

A motion proposed by Labour Group leader Sandy Martin and seconded by Tory backbencher Michael Bond was passed by 19 votes to 10 with four abstentions after Mr Martin accepted an amendment which brought the authority into line with government guidelines on tobacco investment.

Mr Martin said: “There are NO benefits to smoking. There is no safe level of consumption – unlike with alcohol.

“It is highly addictive, and indeed I can attest as a former addict myself that feeding the addiction is the ONLY reason the vast majority of smokers continue to smoke.

“Suffolk County Council should not be investing in an activity we are trying to reduce – and if possible eradicate.”

He was backed by council leader Mark Bee who said his father had smoked and eventually contracted cancer of the tongue.

And cabinet member for adult services Dr Alan Murray said that, as a doctor, he had treated many people with smoking-related conditions.

He said: “Two to three people die in Suffolk every day because of smoking-related illnesses and it is wrong for us to see our money invested in tobacco.”

Suffolk people spent about £200 million a year on tobacco products, about £160 million went to the government in taxes – but the cost to the NHS and in lost productivity from smoking diseases was estimated at £195 million.

Dr Murray said he had been involved in more than 500 amputations because of smoking-related illnesses.

Cabinet member Graham Newman warned that the purpose of the pension fund was to make the best possible return for its members – and if there was no investment in tobacco companies, other sectors could come under the spotlight in future.

The Pension Committee is now expected to consider the clear majority when it considers its investments at its next meeting at the end of September – and Mr Martin is confident it will follow the lead of the full meeting of the county council, by far its biggest contributor.

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