In a significant demonstration of growing opposition to Britain's involvment in the arms trade, Liverpool City Council has voted unanimously in favour of pulling its pension fund out of arms investments.
The Council has written to the Merseyside Pension Fund to call for a clean investment policy that rules out arms companies. This is the first time that a council in the UK has passed such a resolution.
Peace, development and church groups are among those who have been actively working on the issue, often through the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), which was formed in 1974 and has gained widespread recognition for its research and lobbying in recent years. Among its successes is the impending closure of the Defence Export Services Organisation (DESO). Christian student organisation SPEAK was among those working for that outcome, and a church service in London marked it recently.
The pioneering Liverpool resolution was proposed by Liberal Democrat Councillor Richard Oglethorpe. It insists that "investment in the arms trade is not compatible with good corporate, social and ethical governance". The Leader of the Council, Warren Bradley, is now writing to the Leaders of the four other Councils covered by the Merseyside Pension Fund to encourage them to express them the same view to the Fund. Two of the Councils - Knowsley and Sefton - are expected to consider similar resolutions shortly.
Liverpool resident and chairperson of Merseyside Stop the War Coalition, Mark Holt, who campaigned for the Council to adopt this policy, said: "People in Liverpool were appalled to discover that the Merseyside Pension Fund invests in arms companies such as BAE, Rolls-Royce and Boeing. Now Liverpool has given a lead to every other council in the country. Now we can hold our head up as next year's Capital of Culture. We've shown that we're also the Capital of Conscience!"
CAAT spokesperson Symon Hill commented: "Congratulations to Liverpool! We're delighted that they have taken such a major step. It's vital that other councils in Merseyside back this proposal and pull Merseyside Pension Fund out of arms companies. Public opinion in the UK has turned sharply against the arms trade in the last year, and I am confident that Liverpool will be the first of many."
Liverpool's decision is the latest in a series of setbacks for arms companies, caused by the strength of public opinion over the last year. Following a high-profile campaign by CAAT and other groups, the Prime Minister announced in July that he would close down the controversial Defence Export Services Organisation (DESO), a publicly funded unit that finds sales for private arms companies.
In June 2007, the multinational company Reed Elsevier, organiser of the biennial DSEi arms fair in London, decided to pull out of the arms trade by the end of 2007.