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Lib Dem MP admits #PlainPacks failure

By Editor
March 25th, 2015 at 4:28 pm | 2 Comments | Posted in Government lobbying government

Lib Dem MP Paul Burstow made a remarkable confession in Parliament on Tuesday. Whether it was intentional or not, only he knows, but this is what he said

“I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to require the Secretary of State to undertake a programme of research into the costs and benefits of introducing an annual levy on sales to be paid by tobacco manufacturers, with the proceeds to be used to support tobacco control measures, to discourage young people from starting to smoke tobacco, to help existing tobacco smokers to stop smoking; and for connected purposes.”

Of course what he actually means is this

“Now that we have managed to get plain packaging of tobacco through Parliament, my fellow anti-smoking campaigning chums who have earned vast sums of taxpayers money from Tobacco Control in recent years are deeply worried. The Government may actually stop handing over taxpayers money to them. To put my good friends minds at rest, I wonder whether we could all agree to force the Secretary of State to find some more pointless, evidence-free drivel to put before you to keep them busy for a while longer.  The evidence-free drivel I have in mind is to “prove”  that an extra tobacco tax should be levied and handed over to my smoker-hating mates to see them through to their fat pensions. They have a whole raft of persecutions sitting on the drawing board that they can dust off. With a few £millions in the bank they can keep their jobs and their pensions dreaming up some more evidence-free drivel for you all to swallow. And have a load of cash left over to lobby you all at every twist and turn (that is what I meant by “connected purposes” btw) – which won’t break any lobbying rules because, ha ha, it won’t technically be taxpayers money.”

Well you can see his point. Handing over swathes of taxpayers cash to so-called “charities” to be used for lobbying the very government that handed over the money is coming to an end slowly but surely. If the likes of ASH can’t get it’s money from Government to lobby Government, they will have to convince medical research charities to fleece even more cash from their supporters who think their donations are going on a cure for cancer. So on the face of it, bringing in a law to take an extra slug of money from tobacco companies and handing it directly to the anti-smokers brigade would neatly side-step the horny issue of not using “taxpayers” money to keep them all in jobs and allow them to lobby Government (national and local) to their hearts content.

But wait just a minute. We were told that the introduction of plain packaging was the very thing we needed to “discourage young people from starting to smoke tobacco” and “help existing tobacco smokers to stop smoking”. Yet here we are, just days after the parliament voted to bring in plain packaging, witnessing the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Smoking and Health himself admitting it will do no such thing! They don’t just need a few thousand to mop up the few remaining smokers, they need £millions a year to do the very thing they told everyone plain packaging would do! Oh dear.

The ever-vigilant Dick Puddlecote quotes one MP who spotted this tom-foolery immediately. Conservative MP for Shipley, Philip Davies was quick to his feet highlighting this very point…

“I particularly wanted to oppose the Bill because the right hon. Gentleman has done us all a great service. He has let the cat out of the bag. Of course, the Government have already accepted ASH’s campaigning on banning smoking in cars where there are children, which is completely unenforceable. They have also accepted the plain packaging of tobacco, which is completely idiotic. Of course, the Government accepted those policies because ASH told them that if they did so the amount of smoking in the country would plummet. We were told that if we introduced plain packaging it would be absolutely fantastic because all of a sudden cigarettes would not appeal to young people and children and that would close the gateway into tobacco use. The whole policy was based on that premise.

That policy has not even been implemented and already the right hon. Gentleman is saying, “Actually, that was all a load of tripe. It won’t make any difference whatsoever. What we need now is a levy on the tobacco industry so that we can do some research to find out why young people smoke and then try to stop them smoking”….

“The point is that this is just the latest campaign from ASH. Every time it advocates the introduction of another measure, it tells us that that is what the Government need to do to tackle tobacco, but as soon as it is implemented we are told that actually it was a load of old cobblers and now we need something else.”…

Quite [note in addition to smoking in cars with children ban, we have also seen the introduction of the cigarette vending machine ban, and the tobacco display ban in this parliament. They were also meant to discourage young people smoking and yet the effectiveness of these has also yet to be evaluated].  You can read more from the magnificent Mr Davies over on Dick Puddlecote’s blog. It is a joy to read.

Of course, both Labour and the Conservatives seem hell bent of spending any extra tobacco levy on reducing the national debt or paying for more nurses and doctors. It seems unlikely that IF the Treasury does get it’s hands on some extra cash from Tobacco that it will go to feathering the nests of anti-smoker campaigners.  All in all we should thank Paul Burstow for his public confession that plain packs is a “load of cobblers“.

As for ASH and its APPG on Smoking and Health, last month the Department for Communities and Local Government announced it was going to ensure that Government payments to external groups do not support activity that could influence or attempt to influence Parliament, government or political parties. It applies to any activity that could influence the awarding or renewal of contracts and grants or legislative or regulatory action.  Eric Pickles said that he hoped to roll this out across central government.  Let’s hope that Jeremy Hunt moves swiftly to ensure that this Government rule is stringently enforced over at the Department of Health and the many sub committees it funnels its cash into.

And given Burstow’s admission on plain packaging, here is hoping that the Liberal Democrats throw their full support behind this new anti-lobbying, anti-sock puppet measure.

To find out more on this issue read : “ASH In The Trough Edition”

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Fun, facts and fag-packets at Forest event

By Editor
February 27th, 2015 at 11:21 am | Comments Off on Fun, facts and fag-packets at Forest event | Posted in Personal Freedom, Uncategorized

The Hands Off Our Packs “Stop the Nonsense: Plain Speaking on Plain Packaging” event was held on Tuesday night. What a joy it was.MArk Littlewood southampton FC

All Forest shindigs are must-go-to events as far as we are concerned. They are lively and fun; the speakers are invariably excellent value; the alcohol flows; and the pavements/terraces/balconies are alive with smokers and non-smokers alike celebrating life, the universe and everything else.

This event was no less fun, informative and innovative than we have come to expect. We had intended to write up the event in  more detail, but Dick Puddlecote has pretty much said it all – so just go read his post.

[PS his added note was an eye-rolling moment..

“*An interesting note on David Cameron and his view of plain packs. He came out with a quip during yesterday’s PMQs which went something like this – “Now we are committed to plain paper packaging of cigarettes, it will give more space for the opposition to write their policies on”. Yep, it looks like David Cameron doesn’t have a first clue about the policy he is legislating on! “

Let us just add our salute to Simon Clark (Forest Director) for coming up with such an innovative format (8 or so quick fire speeches- each lasting no more than 2 or 3 minutes).

Hats off to our very own Angela Harbutt who kicked of the formal speeches delivering the plain facts from Australia and ending up with an ask that MPs “consider the facts – not the wishful fiction of state-funded lobby groups and self-serving Whitehall bureaucrats”.

We should also salute Mark Littlewood, formerly of this Parish, and now Director General of the free-market Institute of Economic Affairs. Not only did he deliver a suitably rousing finish to the formal part of the evening, he managed to namecheck (yet again) his much-beloved Southampton Football Club!

Not without merit…(though he rarely needs an excuse in our experience).  He simply pointed out that he had acquired a (very robust and rather snazzy) “SaintsFC cig box” into which he drops his chosen cigarette pack. Given the interest in the room that evening , we suspect many more will be doing likewise (acquiring their own bespoke cig case – not necessarily creating a Saints FC one.)

Forest has promised to put a video of the speeches up on YouTube in the coming days. But here is a close up pic of the much-discussed cig case.

ML cig case

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Minimum Pricing: Battle lines are drawn

By Editor
December 2nd, 2012 at 3:37 pm | 6 Comments | Posted in Uncategorized

There is an article in the Mail Online today that will warm the hearts of every good liberal.

Whilst Home Office Minister Jeremy Browne MP has been gagged (as has Farming Minister David Heath MP,) on the topic of minimum pricing of alcohol, word has leaked out that Jeremy is clearly on the side of the angels:

“…friends of Mr Browne have told The Mail on Sunday that he disputes claims that the policy is certain to cut binge drinking – or reduce the number of pub fights.”

A source close to Mr Browne said: ‘Jeremy’s view is that the thug who has downed nine cans of lager is hardly going to think, “Oh dear, I can’t afford a tenth because of minimum pricing. I think I’ll go home to bed instead of starting a brawl.”

Needless to say his stance has meant that Tory Police Minister Damian Green has been given the task of speaking publicly in support of the policy. Jeremy is right of course. As is the assertion made on his behalf :

“Jeremy maintains that the middle-class woman in Oxfordshire who drinks a £10 bottle of Chablis every other night will not be affected because it won’t go up in price and she can afford it anyway,’ said the source.

‘But the working-class woman in Oldham who drinks a cheap bottle of Lambrini will be hit because it will cost more”

Well said that man. Is his, and other MP’s, opposition enough though? It would appear sadly that there is no ‘organised’ campaign against minimum pricing to date. It is not clear if this is because the supermarkets & drinks companies are following the strategy of appeasement, looking at the likely boost to their incomes such a policy will deliver regardless of the hurt it will cause their customers, or were genuinely taken by surprise. Perhaps they feel the policy is too absurd to worry about?

But history tells us that you need more than having right on your side and reasoned arguments to win against the relentless, rich and powerful lobbying health “charities”. With privileged access to policy makers, often funded by those they lobby, these fake charities rarely fail their paymasters in delivering the desired outcome in such “public” consultations.

There are signs of a resistance building. An e-petition against minimum pricing was created a while ago but has trebled signatures in the past 24 hours and an informative facebook page here (and an event to sign up to here) has appeared in the past couple of days (that from which we harvested much info – thanks!) .We have also seen the excellent Chris Snowdon step up to the plate with a must read report (co-authored by statistician John C. Duffy) “Minimum evidence for minimum pricing” and enjoyed his many and brilliant turns on the media. And of course we have the efforts of Pub Curmudgeon, Dick Puddlecote, Frank DaviesSpiked! ASI, IEA and TPA, (and many others) to count on. (We also hear tell of a newspaper campaign though can’t pin that one down right now).

Whether their efforts, combined with the fact that minimum pricing is illegal , fails the evidence test, is based on a flawed model, punishes the poor, the sensible and the moderate, and of course that public opinion is against it, is enough to win out against the might and money of the government’s own pet groups, on a mission to deliver Mr Cameron’s desired outcome, however remains to be seen. For now our thanks and appreciation to Jeremy (and many other MPs) for standing firm.

Ps if you want to get the minimum pricing widget (above) for your web site, click here (courtesy of the marvelous Pub Curmudgeon).

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Salmon and brazil nuts to be subject to Cameron’s fat tax?

By Angela Harbutt
October 6th, 2011 at 9:12 pm | Comments Off on Salmon and brazil nuts to be subject to Cameron’s fat tax? | Posted in health, Nannying

HAT TIP… Regular readers of this blog will know how much I adore Dick Puddlecote’s blog . No matter how bad it gets, he always makes me smile. Yesterday’s  post is a particular peach.  In it, he hypothesises what food stuffs may be banned if “call-me-liberal-Dave” does elect to go down the same FAT TAX route as Denmark. Never mind taxing butter and cheese….

“…avocados appear to just miss the cut, but cashews fall under the tax. So do salmon, eggs, and dark chocolate”.

(I was so sure I had heard that dark chocolate was good for you?).

He also questions whether restricting saturated fats is really a sensible route to a healthier nation…

“…the jury isn’t just out on the health benefits of restricting saturated fats, it’s in the next town having a beer and a ploughman’s and discussing if such a move could end up being damaging. As these four recent studies argue…”

To find out what the studies reveal about why saturated fat ain’t necessarily the bad guy in this you will have to go read the post. Click on one of the above links – I know you will enjoy!

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ASH…We Really Must Do This More Often

By Angela Harbutt
June 24th, 2011 at 12:46 am | 12 Comments | Posted in Personal Freedom

A couple of days ago I wrote a small wee post on ASH . I thought it might be of  interest to those who read our blog and care about personal freedom and the nannying (and now “nudge”) state in which we live.  I was somewhat taken aback by the response (positive and negative). When Big ASH piles into the comments you know you have touched a nerve.

Anybody who thought that the debate on smoking was over, must surely think again.

Some of the comments were so astonishing that I was going to write a whole new post about them. Then I saw that Dick Puddlecote had done something already… “We Really Must Do This More Often” . To be honest, it wasn’t quite the post I had in mind, but it is really very funny and thought you might enjoy. And I will leave my  musings for another day. My thanks to Mr Puddlecote.

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