Via an amendment by Tory MP Robert Jenrick, that was shoehorned into the unconnected Public Service Pensions and Judicial Offices Bill on 22nd February 2022, the government will prevent councils from making decisions about investment of their employees’ pension contributions.
The amendment is an extension of central government interference in decision-making by democratically elected councils. Jenrick has a recent history of seeking central control: He developed the government’s plan to deny the right of councils to decide whether statues in public places should be removed.
The following was added to a clause (Guidance to public service pension scheme managers on investment decisions) in The Public Service Pensions Act 2013.
“including guidance or directions on investment decisions which it is not proper for the scheme manager to make in light of UK foreign and defence policy.”
The “guidance” or, more accurately, instruction against democratic decisions will include direction on what not to invest in and will force public sector employees and democratically elected councils to invest money where Tory government wants investment.
For example, the amended bill will force councils to invest in arms manufacturers who profit from slaughter of civilians by Saudi air force in Yemen, or to invest in British businesses that profit from palm oil trade that destroys natural habitats in Asia, or to invest in British financial institutions that profit from human and environmental exploitation around the world, or to invest in businesses owned by donors to the Tory party.
In a parliamentary debate Jenrick’s performed reason for the amendment was because councils’ employees work in the public sector.
“This is about public sector pension schemes. The broader issue, which I will mention in a moment with respect to tackling Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) within public institutions and the public sector, is all about the public sector.”
Tories are hellbent on privatising (dismantling) public services. They want all council services to be stolen and handed to privateers. Jenrick’s concern for the “public sector” is worthless.
His amendment is an attack on the democratic choices made by voters when choosing a council. Jenrick displayed his contempt for democracy. Note the language he used below when describing a council.
“The latest example of the politicisation of public pension schemes is by Wirral Council, which is currently considering realising almost £5 million-worth of investments in seven companies. This pet project of a small minority who seek to hijack the money of hard-working taxpayers for their own political ends is of no interest to the public pension scheme holders of the Wirral.”
The “small minority” is the elected council.
Jenrick emphasised his demand for authoritarian central control over local democracy by claiming “we have seen public pension schemes pursue pseudo foreign policies.” According to Tories, council elections should not result in a scenario where a council is opposed politically to the government.
He pretended to justify the need for central control of political decisions by mentioning a UK Supreme Court judgement on how council decisions “are liable to be identified with the British state” outside of UK. That judgement, even allowing for Jenrick’s interpretation of it to be valid, was bunkum. People know that, in democracies, governments can be opposed politically by councils or mayors. However, he said
“it would be wrong that, owing to a minority of an extreme and well-organised clique, the UK Government’s relationship with an ally has the potential to be undermined.”
That justification for his amendment was blatantly fraudulent.
Jenrick’s disdain for democratic choices made by voters was shown by his depiction of an elected council as “a minority of an extreme and well-organised clique.”
On a social media network – Twitter – on February 22nd and 23rd Jenrick published three statements. In the second statement he congratulated himself on his authoritarian amendment.
“Boycott campaigns are divisive. My amendment is the first time we have legislated to outlaw Boycott, Divest and Sanctions. And the Government have promised more action to come.”
That was sandwiched between two statements that issued support for sanctions.
The first statement said “I welcome the growing set of sanctions. We should impose severe sanctions now, to clearly demonstrate our resolve, not wait for yet further egregious violations,” and the third said “pleased to see the US (re)impose sanctions, something I have repeatedly encouraged the UK Government to do as well.”
His statements were about two different places. The first and third related to military action against Ukraine and the middle statement related to military action against Gaza. The Tory government is opposed to the military action against Ukraine (though financially supportive indirectly) and is wholeheartedly in favour of the military action against Gaza. Jenrick applied his logic based on his assertion that actions should be made “in light of UK foreign and defence policy.”
In a further series of published statements Jenrick asked for more sanctions and more divestment.
“Additional sanctions must be focussed on the financial sector. There must be restrictions on the issuance and trading of sovereign debt.”
“No respectable UK law firm or financial institution should shield these individuals now. There should be significant professional and reputable consequences for those that do.”
“Export controls on technologies that have applications for aerospace industry, defence capabilities, and digital surveillance are vital.”
The comments above referred to responses to military action against Ukraine, not to responses to military action against Gaza.
Jenrick is an opponent of democratic representation.
He presents his arguments dishonestly and he is a petulant brat.
Amnesty International report on Jenrick’s amendment