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Shameful: Cameron gags MPs

March 10th, 2015 Posted in Uncategorized by

So, the vote on plain packaging of tobacco is going to happen tomorrow – Wednesday (and by sheer coincidence – or not – “No Smoking Day”).

It is hard to understand how this policy ever got to the voting stage. It did not appear in any major poliresponses to govt consultation 2012tical party’s 2010 manifesto; the Government’s “independent” evidence review, though undertaken by advocates of the policy, admitted that the evidence available couldn’t predict the likely impact of plain packaging; the Government’s 2012 “public” consultation reported that of the  665,989 public responses, 427,888 opposed the policy; the much shorter second consultation in 2014, received 136,404 public responses, of which 99% were STILL opposed to the policy; the real evidence from Australia (the only country to have introduced this policy to date – December 2012) shows that tobacco sales actually increased post the introduction of plain packaging; the UK is obliged by the EU to introduce larger health warnings (amongst other things) in 2016 anyway.

Despite all of that, (and more), for what are clearly and solely political reasons, David Cameron has decided that one of the last acts of this government is to pass this legislation.

Not only that, he has decided to gag parliament:

“Tory whips, in charge of party discipline, have decided that Wednesday’s vote [on plain packaging] will be conducted without debate on slips of paper.”

Conservative MP Nick de Bois is reported to have said that the lack of any chance for a debate on the floor of the Commons was “regrettable”.

“With no credible assessment of the threat from increased counterfeit tobacco, no credible assessment of the cost to the public purse through legal claims and little evidence to show this policy will actually reduce smoking it’s regrettable that the full House can’t debate this proposal”.

“Regrettable” is putting it mildly, but full marks to him for speaking out.

Likewise, Sir Gerald Howarth, former defence minister, who also spoke out against the gagging :

“This is extremely damaging – we cannot push this controversial measure through the Commons when so many Conservatives are opposed.”

The excuse given for no debate is that the legislation is not primary legislation, so the Government can have them scrutinised  rubber-stamped by a “legislation” committee [1], rather than fully debate by the whole House.

Sure, you “CAN” have the legislation looked over by a committee filled to the rafters with those advocating the policy, rather than offer a full debate in parliament, but just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.last chance saloon

All in all it’s been pretty shameful. David Cameron should hang his head in shame. Not just for the gagging of elected members of parliament from debating this policy, but for the whole damn process from beginning to end.

Democracy, what Democracy? No wonder people are disengaged with politics.

The die is cast on plain packaging – but we should still not let this pass without a fight. If you haven’t already done so, please email your MP now via Forest’s Last Chance Saloon microsite.


[1] According to the Government, the Legislation Committee, held on 9th March 2015, was attended by the following – the vast majority having pledged their support to plain packaging long before this committee was convened – obviously.   Do go read the minutes taken – quite an eye-opener!

Chair: Roger Gale
Abrahams, Debbie (Oldham East and Saddleworth) (Lab)
Barron, Kevin (Rother Valley) (Lab)
Berger, Luciana (Liverpool, Wavertree)(Lab/Co-op)
Brown, Mr Russell (Dumfries and Galloway) (Lab)
Burstow, Paul(Sutton and Cheam)(LD)
Carmichael, Neil (Stroud)(Con)
Cunningham, Alex (Stockton North)(Lab)
de Bois, Nick(Enfield North) (Con)
Ellison, Jane (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health)
Howell, John (Henley) (Con)
Jones, Andrew (Harrogate and Knaresborough) (Con)
Jowell, Dame Tessa (Dulwich and West Norwood) (Lab)
Newton, Sarah (Truro and Falmouth) (Con)
Paisley, Ian (North Antrim) (DUP)
Penrose, John (Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty’s Treasury)
Stunell, Sir Andrew (Hazel Grove) (LD)
Wilson, Phil (Sedgefield) (Lab)
Wollaston, Dr Sarah (Totnes) (Con)
The following were “in attendance”
Burley, Mr Aidan (Cannock Chase) (Con)
Chope, Mr Christopher (Christchurch)(Con)
Cooper, Rosie (West Lancashire) (Lab)
Davies, Philip(Shipley)(Con)
Field, Mr Frank (Birkenhead) (Lab)
Sutcliffe, Mr Gerry (Bradford South)(Lab)
Watkinson, Dame Angela(Hornchurch and Upminster)(Con)

3 Responses to “Shameful: Cameron gags MPs”

  1. ChrisB Says:

    More proof, if any was required, that self-interest groups, quangos and unelected officials have the power to totally ignore the wishes of the electorate.
    This defines LibLabCon Democracy in the 21st. Century.

  2. Ed Butt Says:

    Not only undemocratic and unwilling to consider any evidence that does not support the precribed outcome, but hopelessly out of touch.
    Official estimates state one in three cigarettes sold in the UK is contraband and that is probably way below the real figure. When this law is rubber stamped by parliament the figure will rise, and worse – a higher propotion of the cigarettes sold will be fakes, knocked up in back street factories.
    Being disabled I sometimes watch daytime TV, there’s a show titled fake Britain. They have exposed illegal cigarette factories operating out of anonymous units on trading estates, sophisticated operations that are turning out very convincing fakes. Packaging is their biggest expense.
    Seems to me the government are just giving them a helping hand by lowering costs.

  3. Hugo Petrus Says:

    The MOST important health measure in the last 75 years and the cancer selling scumbags have lost this is CAMERON’S one and ONLY finest achievement WELL done