Home > Uncategorized > Health Minister on LA investments in tobacco

Health Minister on LA investments in tobacco

Thanks to Gabriel Scally for spotting Public Health Minister Anna Soubry responding to a question from Simon Hughes MP attacking all parties in local authority control for having tobacco investments in their tobacco fund.

Simon Hughes (Bermondsey and Old Southwark) (LD): In my borough of Southwark we have higher than average smoking rates, and the Cabinet member responsible for health has said that hundreds of people are dying early because they smoke. Can Ministers help me to persuade our Labour council that it is inconsistent to say “Don’t smoke” on the one hand and invest £2.6 million of pension funds in British American Tobacco on the other?

TThe Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Anna Soubry): That is a good point, but I have to say that I am not convinced that it is just a Labour-run council that might have chosen to invest their staff pensions in this way; I strongly suspect that all political parties are guilty of this. While this is, of course, a matter for local authorities, it is also the sort of great campaigning work that MPs can do with their local councillors. It is even more important that they do that, given that they now have this great responsibility for public health.

But she says it is, of course. a matter for local authorities.  Personally I think that is not good enough.  The Guidelines to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, to which our Government is committed, specify that local authorities should not invest in tobacco companies.  But in many cases they feel constrained by case law and fear of legal challenge from divesting their tobacco stocks.  Councillor trustees have told me they would love to get out of tobacco, but are advised against by legal and financial experts from doing so.  It is surely time that government acted to ensure that no public sector bodies are permitted to invest in tobacco companies, whether that be local government pension funds or other parts of the public sector. 

The UK commitment to the FCTC should be met in the spirit as well as the legal sense, and that demands compliance with the Guidelines to which we are party.



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