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Row Over MPs Investing in 'Unethical' Firms

[WTN-L World Tibet Network News. Published by The Canada Tibet Committee. Issue ID: 01/06/26; June 26, 2001.]

Tuesday 26 June 2001

Politicians and ethical campaigners have called for an investigation after it was revealed that the Parliamentary Pension Fund had been investing millions of pounds in "unethical" companies.

Despite the fund's trustees last year calling on fund managers Cazenove and Barings to switch to a "socially responsible" investment policy, the fund has retained shareholdings in several tobacco, oil and defence companies.

In the week that the London Stock Exchange announced it was to launch a new index, FTSE4Good, listing only supposedly "socially responsible" stocks, the row threatens to embarrass some politicians who have been open critics of companies such as cigarette maker Gallaher and defence giant BAE Systems.

The government also recently introduced regulations requiring pension funds to declare how much social, ethical or environmental considerations govern their investment decisions.

BAE has been condemned for exporting arms to Indonesia and other repressive regimes, while BP and Shell have been criticised by campaigners protesting at their involvement in occupied Tibet and in Nigeria.

A spokesman for the Campaign Against the Arms Trade, which forced the Church of England to divest its shareholdings in arms manufacturers, called the situation "deplorable".

David Hinchliffe, chairman of the House of Commons health select committee, described the revelations as "very, very disturbing", and said he would be asking questions about the investments.

There is no suggestion that the fund managers have done anything wrong, as they are legally obliged to get the best return possible on their investments. Nor did the guidelines given to Barings and Cazenove specify any particular stocks regarded by the eight MPs on the board of trustees as unethical.

Members of occupational pensions schemes are able to find out how their contributions are being invested. The fund, into which MPs contribute 6 per cent of their parliamentary salaries, is thought to be worth about 300 million ($A822 million).

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