Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham has been out and about this morning pushing Labour’s public health manifesto. It basically amounts to yet another series of caps – the usual series of nanny state, anti–business policies.
It wasn’t the detail which interested Guido – more then timing of the announcement. As part of the policies, Burnham has reiterated his pledge to introduce plain packaging on tobacco (despite dismissing it back in 2008 when he was Health Secretary). Such a move could result in a future government facing an £11 billion compensation bill to Big Tobacco, according to a report by analysts at the BNP Paribas and other legal experts.
Guido wonders why the future Labour leadership hopeful chose today of all days to make his announcement? Could it be because Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls is in the US – that he decides today to announce what is effectively a £10 billion deficit busting new spending pledge?
UPDATE: A co-conspirator shrouded in smoke reminds Guido that in government when he was Secretary of State for Health, Andy Burnham wrote in a November 2009 letter to Tessa Jowell:
“No studies have shown that introducing plain packaging of tobacco products would cut the number of young people smoking, or enable people who want to quit, to do so. Given the impact that plain packaging would have on intellectual property rights, we would need strong and convincing evidence showing the health benefits of this policy before it would be acceptable at an international level.”
What has changed?