‘Modest’ proposal outlined to ban council pension pots from boycotting
Former Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has launched a move to change the law to allow the government ban local council pension funds from boycotting Israel-linked investments.
The ex-cabinet minister told the House of Commons that a “modest” amendment to the Public Service Pensions and Judicial Offices Bill would allow the Government to update guidance on local council pension pots.
He said the proposals would prevent local councils from making “politicised” investment choices that interfere with UK foreign or defence policy.
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Jenrick made his call for a ban on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement within town hall pension pots on Wednesday despite the government losing a lengthy legal battle on the issue when he was Communities Secretary.
Robert Jenrick speaking at a Conservative friends of Israel event
In 2020, the Supreme Court ruled that parts of the Government’s guidance on boycotts were unlawful, and that it could not stop council pension fund administrators from making such decisions.
Jenrick told MPs: “We don’t want to see local councillors trying to influence foreign policy decisions which are properly the purview of the United Kingdom Government.
“This isn’t about politicising public sector pensions as was implied I think by one member of the Supreme Court. It is precisely the reverse.
“It is ensuring that public sector pensions, which are ultimately paid for by all of us as taxpayers, are not politicised and that political judgements don’t come into the types of investments that are made by these firms.”
The MP, whose wife is Israeli-born, and whose children are brought up as Jews, said the new Bill was the “appropriate place” for his “modest” amendment because it was the successor to the 2013 Public Pensions Act that the court case centred on.
Jenrick stressed that the Government needed to make sure the law is “clearer” than it was in 2013.
Justice minister James Cartlidge added: “Local authorities should not undertake boycotts that could undermine foreign policy, which is a matter for the UK Government alone.
“The Government remains committed to our manifesto pledge to ban public bodies from imposing their own boycotts, disinvestment or sanction campaigns, and we will legislate as soon as parliamentary time allows.”
The Bill aims to create a common legal framework for all public sector pensions, including police, teachers, NHS workers and the armed forces.
Last month Jenrick told a panel discussion event that he believed the BDS movement was being “beaten back” in Britain.
The Conservative MP said: “In the following months, we will be working to outlaw BDS in the UK.”
He added: “There is no political party in the UK that would support BDS today and it is becoming much more of a fringe activity.”