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Wednesday
Jun222011

Minister’s links with ASH questioned

Letter from Kieran McDonnell, president of the National Federation of Retail Newsagents, to David Cameron:

21 June 2011

Dear Prime Minister,

Formal complaint regarding breach of the Ministerial Code

I write to you in my capacity as President of the National Federation of Retail Newsagents (NFRN), which represents 16,500 newsagent members across the UK, with a complaint regarding the conduct of your Public Health Minister Anne Milton with reference public statements made and circulated on 15th June when Ms Milton attended the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking & Health’s 40th anniversary for Action on Smoking & Health (ASH).

At the meeting, Ms Milton credited the Vice Chair of the group (and former Chair of the Health Select Committee) Kevin Barron MP for his help “behind the scenes” when addressing smoking legislation. In addition the Minister also accepted an award and presented an award to the Director of ASH.

This statement and public acceptance and deliverance of awards to an organisation that has been lobbying her department, MPs and other government departments (and indeed is granted government funding on the basis that it not be used for lobbying purposes) has called into question the manner in which recent tobacco display ban legislation has been made; and the ability of the Minister to be considered unbiased on the issue.

I attach a copy of the event report from an independent parliamentary reporting service and would ask that you formally conduct an investigation into the conduct of your minister in the light of her public admission that she had worked with an officer of an ASH funded parliamentary lobby group on recent legislation “behind the scenes”. Moreover, this inappropriate conduct necessitates a review of the legitimacy of the legislation itself.

We have long suspected that ‘behind the scenes’ dealings have been going on in the formation of this legislation in the manner in which it has been pushed through without running the legislation past the Reducing Regulation Committee; without identifying a ‘one out’ for the legislation; and indeed without fulfilling the BRE Guidance to undertake a Small Business Impact Assessment.

In light of these recent statements, I regrettably now see proof of these suspicions which is deeply offensive to our members who have campaigned so hard to see the government fulfil its pre-election commitments to bring the debate back to the House of Commons for a free vote and which the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats publically opposed in opposition.

I look forward to hearing from you in due course.

Yours sincerely,

Kieran McDonnell
President, National Federation of Retail Newsagents

I'll let you know if he gets a reply!

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    Simon Clark - Taking Liberties - Minister’s links with ASH questioned

Reader Comments (18)

"I'll let you know if he gets a reply" says Simon.

I would estimate the temperature in Hell, to be something around 7000 degrees Celsius, which means the likelihood of it ever freezing over, is Nil!

This also applies to Kieran McDonnell receiving a real answer from anyone in Downing Street.

And when I say a real answer, I mean an answer that actually addresses the subject, not a pre-prepaired letter with a rubber stamped signature attached.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011 at 10:36 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Thurgood

I'd say the Minister will direct his gofer to conjuring up a new verse on one of the pre printed letters that's probably filed under Smoking Anarchists, that will be so couched in weasel words and gobbledegook that it would take an Einstein to decifer but at the same time will allay our fears of dodgy dealings while at the same time will leave us wondering if we imagined it all.
That is, if he thinks its in his interest to reply in the first place.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011 at 10:47 | Unregistered Commenterann

I imagine the reply, if any, to be an extremely confusing diplomatic translation of 'That's what the DoH (read ASH) want us to do and you can do nothing to stop us, so there!''

Wednesday, June 22, 2011 at 11:04 | Unregistered CommenterFrank

Here is All-Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health admitting ASH hold receptions for them and provide secretarial services to the group too.

"Action on Smoking and Health provides administrative support to the group, including sharing of information with members of the group, the occasional provision of briefing material at meetings, and occasional funding of receptions."

re: Parliament home page > Parliamentary business > Publications and Records > House of Commons Publications > Register of Members' Financial Interests > Register of Members' Financial Interests
Register of All-Party Groups Contents

Section 2: Subject Groups
TITLE All-Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health
PURPOSE To monitor and discuss the health and social effects of smoking; to review potential changes in existing legislation to reduce levels of smoking; to assess the latest medical techniques to assist in smoking cessation; and to act as a resource for the group's members on all issues relating to smoking and public health.

OFFICERS
Title Name Party
Chair
Vice-Chairs


Secretary Stephen Williams
Kevin Barron
Baroness O'Cathain - Con
Lord Rennard - LD
Lord Patel - CB
John Robertson
Jeremy Lefroy LD

TWENTY QUALIFYING MEMBERS

Stephen Williams - LD
Bob Russell - LD
Lord Rennard - LD
Lord Jones of Cheltenham - LD
Annette Brooke - LD
Andrew George - LD
Peter Bottomley - Con
Baroness O'Cathain - Con
Jeremy Lefroy - Con
Dr Sarah Wollaston - Con
Frank Dobson
Baroness Gale
Ian Mearns
Lord Faulkner of Worcester
Sheila Gilmore
Phil Wilson
Lord Dubs Baroness Finlay of Llandaff
Lord Laird
Lord Patel CB


CONTACT DETAILS FOR CORRESPONDENCE AND GENERAL ENQUIRIES ABOUT THE GROUP
Mr Stephen Williams MP, House of Commons, London SW1A OAA. Tel: 020 7219 8416

BENEFITS RECEIVED BY GROUP FROM SOURCES OUTSIDE PARLIAMENT

Action on Smoking and Health provides administrative support to the group, including sharing of information with members of the group, the occasional provision of briefing material at meetings, and occasional funding of receptions.

PAID EMPLOYMENT OUTSIDE PARLIAMENT OF STAFF WHO HOLD A PARLIAMENTARY PASS
None.

DATE OF GROUP'S LAST REGISTERED ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING 6 July 2010

CATEGORY OF GROUP
On Approved List; All-Party Parliamentary Subject Group.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011 at 14:41 | Unregistered CommenterDave Atherton

I have just looked at a site called Liberal Vision, which you can access here;
http://www.liberal-vision.org/2011/06/22/ash-abuse-of-public-money-must-end/

You can post on there, but be warned, some of the posts are....well I am not sure if they are bad, evil, or just plain silly. Take this one for instance, where a woman claims second hand smoke can travel through walls:

Sheila Says:

June 22nd, 2011 at 2:12 pm

I agree with Robin that smoking and smokers are evil.

They sit outside pubs when there are young children trying to have fun. They even think that it is o.k. to push out deadly fumes in their own homes when it has been scientifically proved that second hand smoke can travel through walls.
This is nothing short of murder.
Thank God for organisations like ASH. They are spending public money to stop the murder of millions of people.
If smokers were not controlled by help from ASH we would have no generations of children becoming workers to be able to pay for charities like ASH.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011 at 15:56 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Thurgood

Peter, are you being serious? 'Sheila' is obviously joking and having a laugh at ASH's expense. Lighten up , man.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011 at 17:06 | Unregistered CommenterJim

Look at the site yourself Jim, I am not the only one to question what is being said on there.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011 at 17:14 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Thurgood

Sheila: "We must all sell our homes and all our possessions to help fund ASH. It’s the sensible thing to do." And you still think she;s being serious? Strewth.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011 at 17:41 | Unregistered CommenterJim

I think Sheila is on a wind up, too, but Robin's a bit of a turd.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011 at 18:17 | Unregistered CommenterFrank

Actually the second Sheila was me, but the first Sheila could be on a wind up, too.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011 at 18:30 | Unregistered CommenterRegular Commenter

I think that Sheila One did a superb job of exaggerating the facts while still seeming to be plausible. That's what makes one think, "Could this person actually be serious?. Clever girl, Sheila One!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011 at 20:51 | Unregistered CommenterJunican

As for Robin - well, I suppose he still has not worked out the dilution implications of the statement in support of SHS bans: "It is like pissing in a swimming pool". He would no doubt applaud the emptying of a reservoir because a person urinated in it.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011 at 20:56 | Unregistered CommenterJunican

Cameron's reply (via nominee)(paraphrased):

""The PM is sorry that you feel that way...........

Smoking kills over 100,000 people in the UK every year, and is the single greatest cause.....

....powerful emotional message to millions of smokers to promote the Government's anti-smoking message.""

The two statements above are direct quotes from a letter I received from the DOH.

Some such pap.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011 at 21:03 | Unregistered CommenterJunican

Sheila's post was very funny, but unfortunately the people she was lampooning are already beyond parody themselves, with the result that it came across as extremely plausible!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011 at 21:56 | Unregistered CommenterRick S

"Martin" = Martin Dockerell at ASH, do you think? If so, he was posting at 9:30pm. There must be some sweating going on now that attention is slowly being paid to them. Philip Davies MP, Kieran McDonnell, the article in Liberal Vision.... Not a good day to be a corrupt, Machiavellian, money-whore.....

I've always said all it would take for ASH to be destroyed is one good Panorama or World in Action. That's not likely to happen soon, but the more people start to see through their "charity" status, the sooner they'll be exposed for the corrupt, authoritarian, deluded, science-distorting fascists that they are.

Thursday, June 23, 2011 at 0:53 | Unregistered CommenterMr A

I wonder if Kieran McDonnell has read the excellent "Dark Market " report published by Velvet Glove, Iron Fist a few months ago. Composed of a number of FoI requests it shows the complicity between the DoH and ASH as well as highlights their inability to tell the truth to Parliament on any issue related to smoking.

If not, someone should forward it to him.... soon!

Thursday, June 23, 2011 at 7:35 | Unregistered CommenterMr A

Can't see the problem with ASH. It's a charity, funded by government doing what the government ought to do themselves. Isn't that what the Big Society is all about? - charities taking responsibility for things the state should cover?

Thursday, June 23, 2011 at 13:40 | Unregistered Commentersimon (nsc)

The problem is that ASH is a propaganda organisation, not a scientific body and the Government being involved with it, particularly as a source of "information", gives it credibility. If the Government wants to tell us lies, it should not do so through a third party.

Thursday, June 23, 2011 at 14:40 | Unregistered CommenterJon

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