This afternoon I asked the council why it was still investing in tobacco companies through its pension fund when we also have a clear duty to promote the stop smoking message through our public health responsibilities.
I was grateful to receive an assurance from the health portfolio holder Carolyn Rule that she is supporting out public health work and would like us out of tobacco investments. But I was disappointed to be told that we are not allowed to withdraw the pension fund money from tobacco firms.
Apparently the only duty of our fund managers is to maximise income and they are not allowed to consider ethical factors, even when they directly contradict some of our other work. So whilst we are not forced to invest in tobacco, we are not allowed to withdraw. Our pension committee members are trustees of the fund and they could apparently be sued if they gave an instruction to the fund managers which resulted in anything other than the maximum return.
So, given that Cornwall Council's hands are tied in this way, it seems the only option is to get the law changed to allow us to set some ethical standards - or at least not be forced to carry on supporting an industry we would like to see closed down.