Taxpayer Funded ASH Lobbied Government for Plain-Packs

tobacco lobbyists

Outraged anti-smoking charity ASH reacted with glee to the news that an attempt by a consortium of tobacco manufacturers to overturn the government’s plain-packaging legislation had been lost. The charity’s chief executive, Deborah Arnott, was particularly exultant:

“Millions of pounds have been spent on some of the country’s most expensive lawyers in the hope of blocking the policy. This disgraceful effort to privilege tobacco business interests over public health has rightly failed utterly.”

Arnott is not averse to using cash to influence government policy – our cash. ASH waged a half-decade campaign, involving top Civil Service officials, to introduce plain packaging. In a string of emails between Arnott, Hunt, the Department of Health’s top ranking official Andrew Black and surprisingly the PM’s Chief of Staff – Ed Llewellyn, the organisation appears to have broken the department’s rule on the use of its grant money. The Department of Health rules, as stated in November last year, prohibit government lobbying at the taxpayers’ expense:

“Funding applications from voluntary sector organisations are assessed against a number of criteria, but Departmental policy clearly states that grants will not be awarded if there is any indication within the application that some or all of any funding awarded will be used to support political activities, including political lobbying activity.”

Between 2011 and 2015, ASH received a whopping £745,650 in taxpayer funded grants from the Department of Health, their £200,000 grant last year was specifically for assisting the department to implement the “Tobacco Control Plan” (page 22). In that same period, documents seen by Guido highlight 74 separate incidents of lobbying contact, reaching as high as the PM’s office. Taxpayer grants form by far the largest donations given to ASH, and it would appear that they have been used to lobby the government against the Department of Health’s own regulations.

Tory MPs’ Parliamentary Ski Week Freebie

skiiers blunt spelman copy

During the Tory turmoil of the March recess, journalists calling up MPs’ mobile phones were met with a chorus of foreign dial tones. Some of the backbenchers briefing hacks from ski slopes at least paid for their holidays themselves. Crispin Blunt, Phillip Lee, Tim Loughton, Antoinette Sandbach and Caroline Spelman however enjoyed £2,500 worth of free ski passes courtesy of the Swiss Parliament. The alpine alliance bagged tickets to two of the world’s top skiing resorts, all paid for as part of the British-Swiss All Party Parliamentary Group’s Parliamentary Ski Week. Suspect that is one of the more popular APPGs…

Ed Davey Defends EDF Deal

Ed Davey’s worst ever Hinckley Point C deal, which will allow owners EDF to charge treble the current market rate for 35 years, was featured on the Today Programme this morning. The BBC failed to mention at any point before, during, or after Davey’s interview that he is now working for EDF’s lobbying firm, MHP. Davey spoke for three minutes defending his deal with EDF, and did not once think to mention his new role as a ‘strategic adviser at MHP to the energy sector’.

Davey claims the agreement was made with “the best available advice”:

“… the truth is, if you look at deals like this, which are over 60 years of generating, you don’t know sitting here today exactly what the value’s going to be, because you’d have to know the price of carbon, the prices of gases and things, in 20, 30, 40 years time – I’m not a clairvoyant, I’m not God.”

You do work for a firm that lobbies on behalf of EDF though…

EU Delete Damning Transparency Report From History

The EU has curiously removed from the internet a report on lobbying transparency that they themselves wrote. ‘Lobbying in the EU: the cost of a lack of transparency‘ was published this month and could be found on the EU’s website until two days ago. It has since mysteriously vanished…

In the briefing, the EU criticises itself for the way it handles lobbying, reporting a “lack of official (and reliable) estimates of the number of interest groups that lobby the EU institutions“, a “deficiency of reliable information on the typology of EU interest groups“, a “shortage of information on lobbying expenditure” and “conflicts of interest“. In the interests of transparency, the Guido has published the report in full below…

Covering up its own report on transparency? The opaque EU strikes again…

BBC Licence Fee Lobbying Circle Jerk

With impeccable timing, every MP has received a DVD and slurpy letter from the BBC’s lobbying wing.

Ostentatiously designed to show MPs the quality of recent BBC work, it’s no coincidence that the targeted lobbying campaign has taken place in the same week that Whittingdale launches his BBC Charter Review Green Paper.

The BBC really don’t help their cause sometimes.

Using licence fee payers’ cash to lobby MPs not to cut the licence fee because – as they claim – there is no room for cuts in the corporation.

Here is an easy rump saving: say goodbye to the ‘Head of Corperate Affairs’. And his entire lobbying team…

Big Tobacco to Government: See You In Court

Fag manufactures Philip Morris have hit back at the plain packaging vote, calling today’s action “an irrational and unnecessary attack on private property that vilifies products that well informed adults choose to buy”:

“The UK Government is ignoring serious legal issues under UK, European, and international law. Five countries are challenging the legality of plain packaging at the World Trade Organization, and 11 EU Member States have objected to the UK’s proposal at the European Commission – recognising their duty under EU treaties to uphold EU law and free competition. At the same time, the EU Court of Justice is considering whether the UK and other Member States have the power to introduce pack standardisation measures beyond those already required by the EU.

While advocates of plain packaging may downplay these issues, the UK Government should be fully aware of the potential consequences of ignoring them, and of rushing to preempt the legal process.”

Guido suspects we would not have plain packaging coming to the UK if it were not for Lynton Crosby. His lobbying connections made it impossible for a Conservative government to veto this nannying, arbitrary measure.



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Quote of the Day

Boris campaign team member Jake Berry not taking well:

“There is a very deep pit reserved in Hell for such as he. #Gove”

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