Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) is a campaigning health charity set up in 1971 by the Royal College of Physicians to work towards eliminating the harm caused by tobacco. This could have been a force for good - afterall there is nothing intrisically wrong with wishing to reduce the harm caused by tobacco. It rather depends how you go about it – and that is so often determined by who is footing the bills.
ASH receives huge amounts of money from the taxpayer and sadly, like so many publicly funded bodies with too much money and too little scrutiny it has NOT gone about its task well. ASH has now become a fat, over-staffed, political, and single-minded organisation hell bent on eradicating smoking from the face of the earth, by whatever means necessary. Where it could have worked with the industry to find solutions to the issues, it has set itself up against the manufacturers, the retailers and the consumers. And much of its so-called advice has been at best ineffecitve , and all too often counter-productive , with huge financial and social unintended consequences.
The future of ASH’s government funding must, now, surely be in doubt. Here we have an organisation funded by government, actively lobbying government - often behind closed doors and with alarming success. I say “alarming” becuase it is. Government spending money to lobby itself makes ordinary folks blood boil at the best of times – indeed David Cameron said he would put a stop to it – but this extraordinary abuse of public money surely can’t continue in the current economic climate.
I don’t say abolish ASH – we live in a free country. But government funding must cease. I came
Read this letter from Kieran McDonnell, president of the National Federation of Retail Newsagents, to David Cameron :
21 June 2011
Dear Prime Minister,
Formal complaint regarding breach of the Ministerial Code
I write to you in my capacity as President of the National Federation of Retail Newsagents (NFRN), which represents 16,500 newsagent members across the UK, with a complaint regarding the conduct of your Public Health Minister Anne Milton with reference public statements made and circulated on 15th June when Ms Milton attended the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking & Health’s 40th anniversary for Action on Smoking & Health (ASH).
At the meeting, Ms Milton credited the Vice Chair of the group (and former Chair of the Health Select Committee) Kevin Barron MP for his help “behind the scenes” when addressing smoking legislation. In addition the Minister also accepted an award and presented an award to the Director of ASH.
This statement and public acceptance and deliverance of awards to an organisation that has been lobbying her department, MPs and other government departments (and indeed is granted government funding on the basis that it not be used for lobbying purposes) has called into question the manner in which recent tobacco display ban legislation has been made; and the ability of the Minister to be considered unbiased on the issue.
I attach a copy of the event report from an independent parliamentary reporting service and would ask that you formally conduct an investigation into the conduct of your minister in the light of her public admission that she had worked with an officer of an ASH funded parliamentary lobby group on recent legislation “behind the scenes”. Moreover, this inappropriate conduct necessitates a review of the legitimacy of the legislation itself.
We have long suspected that ‘behind the scenes’ dealings have been going on in the formation of this legislation in the manner in which it has been pushed through without running the legislation past the Reducing Regulation Committee; without identifying a ‘one out’ for the legislation; and indeed without fulfilling the BRE Guidance to undertake a Small Business Impact Assessment.
In light of these recent statements, I regrettably now see proof of these suspicions which is deeply offensive to our members who have campaigned so hard to see the government fulfil its pre-election commitments to bring the debate back to the House of Commons for a free vote and which the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats publically opposed in opposition.
I look forward to hearing from you in due course.
President, National Federation of Retail Newsagents