For four years, the Coventry Justice and Peace Group (CJPG) have been campaigning to persuade the West Midlands Pension Fund (WMPF) to disinvest from the Arms Trade.
Their investments are made from Council Tax money, collected across the West Midlands region. For the last two years we have homed in on investments made in firms known to be involved in the cluster bomb trade.
Under the terms of the Cluster Munitions (Prohibition) Act 2010, it is illegal for UK nationals to assist, encourage or support the trade in cluster bombs, wherever it may take place.
In 2014, one of these, Alliant Techsystems (USA) was dropped from the WMPF portfolio. In 2015, another firm, Singapore Technologies, was forced to withdraw from the trade. WMPF had £2.8 million invested in the firm.
Significant changes have happened in the last month.
First, on August 30, Textron (USA) announced its intention to cease production of the weapons. Pressure groups on both sides of the Atlantic have contributed to this. WMPF has about £500,000 invested in Textron. Then, on September 14, the Trustees of WMPF (all elected Councillors) agreed to exert pressure on the last cluster bomb-maker on their books, Hanwha (South Korea), to cease its involvement in the trade. This is entirely due to the local campaign.
The Strategic Director of WMPF has expressed her ‘delight’ at Textron’s decision, and Trustees have described the weapons as ‘horrific’. CJPG will be monitoring how the Hanwha case proceeds. The Trustees meet again in mid-December.
The million and more Council tax-payers in the West Midlands can feel a little better now about where their money is ending up.