Saturday, February 02, 2013

Investing in Tobacco

On Wednesday 23rd January Cllr Julia Cherrett proposed a Lib Dem motion calling for the Council to encourage the trustees of the Teesside Pension Fund to look at their investments in tobacco companies.  This is the fund which carries the pension investment of thousands of public sector workers and councillors - generally not big investments for each individual but a significant sum in total.

As Julia pointed out, the responsibility for public health becomes the council's in April this year.  It seems somewhat hypocritical to invest millions in the tobacco companies to enable them to continue to expand and encourage even more people across this borough and the rest of the world to take up a life-threatening and addictive habit.

So what did the Labour group do?  They decided that they would send the matter to the committee which is looking at tobacco control in the borough, conveniently forgetting that it was a senior Labour member of that committee who'd suggested it needed to be a motion to council in the first place!  Julia chairs that committee and had brought the subject up during a committee meeting.  It seems that Labour councillors have very short memories when it suits.

Unfortunately for them, they seem to have forgotten to check with the MP for Stockton North whether he was doing anything that might be affected by their partisan politics.  So the MP is seen calling for a rethink of the investments on local TV and pointing out in the local paper that the work on improving public health is in conflict with investing in tobacco companies.

Lib Dems agree with him, on this and on other campaigning messages about cutting down on smoking and its bad effects.  We have supported votes at council calling for plain packaging on cigarettes, moves to make taxis smoke-free and more.  We didn't mind who proposed them - if they're good policy we'll support them.  What a pity his own party couldn't be open-minded enough to support a move started by another.  And what a pity that so many of the Independent councillors followed Labour in voting to delay action while a committee debates the matter, takes evidence and brings a recommendation to cabinet.

Julia has written an open letter to the Stockton North MP, expressing our support for the campaigns to reduce the harm done by tobacco.

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