Yesterday, Hynd’s Blog asked Stroud MP Neil Carmichael a searching question regarding Gloucestershire County Council’s investment in tobacco companies. Comparing the deaths that tobacco causes with the arms industry, we asked:
Neil’s response is at best a side step.
I think Neil knew all too well that I was not asking about ‘the legitimacy’ of such investment but the ethics. Our rules and regulations are set up to put profit before health, the environment or even human life which is exactly why we need our elected councils to be making proactive decisions about more ethical ways to invest our money.
I obviously made a false assumption when talking to Neil. I assumed that he would hold some moral qualms about investing in the ‘defence industry’ – obviously not.
He is obviously not concerned about the ethics of BAE systems (the UKs largest company in the defence industry) that has admitted to, “one count of conspiring to make deceptive statements” – for which they have paid out $400 million in fines (some expensive deceptive statements). And who of course have been accused of dodgy dealings with various dictatorial regimes including Pinochet’s, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.
Equally Neil is obviously not worried about pumping money into the tobacco industry which, as already stated, kills six million people every year.
Like the arms trade, these tobacco deaths are not accidents either – the industry approaches the sale of their product (and the resulting deaths) in a deliberate, systematic manner. They compete among each other to see who can sell the most cigarettes – and as such increase the probability and number of deaths. Anyone who tries to get in the way of this deadly profit is faced with a well financed business plans complete with lobbying, political contributions and favours.
Does Neil really think that this is a suitable industry for public finances to be invested in?
So I finish with another question, re-worded to see if I can get a direct answer from him:
Do you think Gloucestershire County Council investments should be put into companies or organisations whose stated goal is in direct conflict with one of council’s stated goals – such as the improvement and protection of resident’s health?
I am sure all of the readers at Hynd’s Blog look forward to his response.