MLA Pension Scheme: Fossil Fuel Companies

Oral Answers to Questions — Northern Ireland Assembly Commission – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:00 pm on 15th March 2022.

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Photo of Rachel Woods Rachel Woods Green 3:00 pm, 15th March 2022

11. Miss Woods asked the Assembly Commission for an update on work to divest the Northern Ireland Assembly Members' pension scheme from fossil fuel companies. (AQO 3299/17-22)

Photo of John O'Dowd John O'Dowd Sinn Féin

I thank the Member for her question. The Assembly Members' pension scheme is a trust-based occupational pension scheme. Up to five Members are appointed by resolution of the Assembly to act as trustees. The trustees are responsible for administering the pension fund in accordance with the scheme rules, the law as it relates to pensions and pensions regulatory guidance.

The trustees have appointed an investment manager to invest the pension fund on a day-to-day basis. That appointment and the direction of the investment manager is a matter for the pension trustees. While the matter is for the pension trustees and not the Assembly Commission, I am advised that the trustees have recently appointed a new investment manager. In doing so, they ensured that the need to be able to undertake socially responsible investments was included in the specification for the new investment manager. The Member may wish to contact the trustees to discuss the matter further.

Photo of Rachel Woods Rachel Woods Green

I thank the Member for his answer. I have been continually contacting the trustees in the last two years and have yet to receive a firm date for when I can meet them.

The war in Ukraine has brought a sharp focus on the reliance on Russian fossil fuels and companies. Will the Member assure the House that the Commission will recommend a full review of the amount that is invested in the Northern Ireland Assembly Members' pension scheme, which, I believe, every MLA is a member of, and into Russian oil, coal and gas?

Photo of John O'Dowd John O'Dowd Sinn Féin

For the sake of openness and transparency, I will declare an interest. I was a trustee in the last mandate, but I have not been a trustee in this mandate.

While the Assembly Commission makes pension contributions, the pension scheme is administered by the trustees and not by the Assembly Commission. Therefore, where the money is invested does not fall to the Assembly Commission.