Government extends plain packaging consultation period
Thursday, July 5, 2012 at 11:02
Simon Clark

Just fancy that!

Three days after shop workers demonstrated overwhelming opposition to plain packaging of tobacco by submitting 30,000 signatures to the government consultation, the Department of Health today issued a statement extending the deadline for submissions by four weeks.

The full statement by Anne Milton, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department of Health, reads:

My Rt Hon Friend the Secretary of State for Health (Mr Andrew Lansley) announced on 16 April the Government’s consultation on standardised packaging for tobacco products, Official Report, col 11ws. A large number of responses have already been received from a variety of individuals and organisations.

The Government has been asked to provide more time for people to respond to the consultation [my emphasis]. We want to maximise the opportunity that people have to provide their views and evidence.

The Government is, therefore, extending the consultation period for an extra month. The new closing date of the consultation is Friday, 10 August 2012.

Through this consultation, we are exploring whether action on tobacco packaging has the potential to bring public health benefits over and above those from our current initiatives. The Government has an entirely open mind on standardised packaging, and want to know more about the possible benefits and consequences of taking action in this area.

Any decisions to take further policy action on tobacco packaging will be taken only after full consideration is given to consultation responses, evidence and other relevant information.

The big question is, who asked the Government "to provide more time for people to respond to the consultation"? It wasn't Forest/Hands Off Our Packs. (Can you imagine the response if we had asked for "more time"?!)

It wasn't the retailers (so far as I know). Nor was it the general public, most of whom are blissfully unaware that a consultation is taking place.

No, the prime suspect has to be the tobacco control industry which is desperate to win this battle and will do anything to ensure that it does.

Whoever is responsible the Government has shamelessly moved the goalposts. I'm not a conspiracy theorist by nature but occasionally events speak for themselves.

Update on Thursday, July 5, 2012 at 23:45 by Registered CommenterSimon Clark

Well, that's a turn-up.

The All Party Parliamentary Small Shops’ Group (chairman: Priti Patel MP) appears to be the party responsible for the consultation period being extended.

A press release issued by the APPSSG this afternoon reads:

After successfully lobbying the Public Health Minister to extend the tobacco packaging consultation deadline by a month to 10 August 2012 so that shopkeepers can respond to recently translated versions, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Small Shops’ Group, Priti Patel MP said:

“I am pleased that the Government recognises the importance of having a thorough consultation on proposed changes to tobacco advertising and welcome the extension to give shopkeepers who have recently been provided with translated versions the chance to respond.

"It is now extremely important that as many small shopkeepers as possible respond to the consultation and make ministers aware of the financial implications of these proposals.”

The background to all this is the fact that many Asian shopkeepers were only supplied with copies of the consultation translated into Gujarati, Urdu and Tamil in mid June. Consequently, on June 21, Priti Patel wrote to Anne Milton requesting an extension.

Oddly, given the urgency of the situation, it took Milton 14 days to respond. I would love to know who she consulted before making her decision ...

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