A CONTROVERSIAL Bradford pension fund has come in for more criticism, after it emerged money had been invested in companies implicated in Saudi Arabia's war with Yemen.

Council pension funds have large shareholdings in companies including, BAE Systems, Airbus, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman, according to nearly 100 freedom of information requests submitted by a national newspaper.

West Yorkshire Pension Fund (WYPF), which includes Bradford Council employees, had £78.4million of holdings and earned £2million of dividends, spread across BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin and Airbus.

The holdings mean thousands of local authority staff will have their retirement payouts part-funded by the companies, some of which manufacture arms linked to incidents in which civilians and children were killed.

Managed by Bradford Council, WYPF oversees the pensions of groups including Bradford, Leeds, Calderdale, Kirklees and Wakefield Councils.

It currently has 286,000 members, and last year was worth £13.5 billion.

The Saudi military is currently conducting a campaign in Yemen and, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, the death toll is estimated at more than 60,000 people, including thousands of civilians.

The Guardian reported that Lockheed Martin is one of two companies that build the GBU-12 Paveway II missile, and shrapnel fragments found at the site where 40 children on a school bus were killed by a Saudi warplane were reportedly traced back to the US company.
Raytheon also makes Paveway missiles at a factory in Glenrothes, Scotland. Shards of bombs found at several sites where civilians died have been traced back to the US-based company, according to CNN.
The Saudi air force uses Eurofighter Typhoons, made by a consortium including Airbus and the British company BAE Systems, while Tornado fighter-bombers are manufactured by BAE Systems.
Northrop Grumman is “heavily involved in the training and development of the Saudi military personnel, most notably providing technical services for the ministry of the national guard”, according to its website.

The Fund has shares in companies as varied as Burberry, Ladbrokes and Carlsberg, and among its £284m shares in the tobacco industry are £155,945,250 in British American Tobacco.

The pension fund was last criticised in August last year for its decision to invest £284million in tobacco stocks.

Former Lord Mayor of Bradford Cllr Geoff Reid (Lib Dem, Eccleshill), slammed the decision-making, and questioned why the investments were being made when Bradford's smoking death rate is 350 per 100,000 population and the average rate for England is 272.

He has spoken out again about the latest revelations.

Cllr Reid said: "It seems to me that this is a pond the local authority shouldn't be swimming in.

"We need maximum transparency in these things so people know what the policies are.

"Most pension funds are aware they have the decision to take the transaction for social reasons or financial reasons, but questions need to be asked.

"If this issue comes to the Governance and Audit Committee I will be asking appropriate questions."

A West Yorkshire Pension Fund (WYPF) spokesman said: “WYPF’s Investment Strategy Statement, including its policy on Socially Responsible Investment, was approved by the Fund’s Investment Advisory Panel (IAP) in April 2017.
"Investment performance is regularly reviewed by managers and scrutinised by IAP.
"The IAP receives regular reports regarding the Fund, investment class and sector performance against their appropriate indices.” 

The Investment Strategy Statement can be viewed here.