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”
Tags: Action on Smoking and Health, ASH, Dick Puddlecote, Jeremy Hunt MP, Paul Burstow MP, Philip Davies MP, plain packaging of tobacco, sock puppets