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« Plain packaging: what the Aussies want the Aussies get | Main | Parliamentary special interest groups under attack »

Exposed: the unhealthy relationship between a minister, the APPG on Smoking and Health and ASH

Well, that's a turn up for the books.

Yesterday I commented on The Times' report about parliamentary special interest groups and noted there was no mention of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health run by fake charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH).

But wait. Today, in a follow-up article, the paper reveals that:

Imperial Tobacco has raised concerns that a minister held a meeting with a leading anti-smoking lobby that sponsors a parliamentary smoking and health group.

The world’s fourth-largest tobacco company questioned the Department of Health on the nature of a meeting held in a health minister’s office with the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health after Action on Smoking and Health, a charity that provides the group’s secretariat and funding, allegedly did not declare the encounter ...

Imperial, reports The Times, wrote to the DH asking for clarification on whether Anne Milton, when Health Minister, had held an “official meeting with the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health or rather a meeting with the secretariat, ie ASH, the anti-smoking activist group”.

Andrew Black, the department’s tobacco programme manager, responded that Mrs Milton did not “attend a formal meeting of this group ... Rather a delegation led by the chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (Mr Stephen Williams MP) called on Mrs Milton in her ministerial office on April 30, 2012. This informal meeting was arranged at the request of the chairman, secretary (Mr Bob Blackman MP) and vice-chair (Mr Kevin Barron MP) of the All Party Parliamentary Group.”

(Note: the date is important because the consultation on standardised packaging began, two weeks earlier, on April 16 so this meeting took place during the consultation.)

Imperial, says The Times, "remained dissatisfied with the department’s position". The company wrote again "quoting private correspondence" between ASH and the DH which, said the company, sounded like the meeting had been prearranged by ASH rather than a “delegation of MPs calling in”.

The DH, says the paper, then apologised for “confusing” Imperial and repeated that the meeting was not “formal”.

Formal, informal – who cares?! The whole thing stinks.

The Times adds that:

ASH was founded in 1971 by the Royal College of Physicians and is funded by Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation.

The charity, which lobbies the Department of Health, has received £580,000 from that department in the past three years.

Government lobbying government? You be the judge.

Hats off to The Times for exposing the insidious relationship between a minister, the DH, the APPG on Smoking and Health, and ASH.

We've been banging on about this for years but only now has a leading national newspaper taken an interest.

Note too the reference to Kevin Barron MP who is vice-chairman of the APPG on Smoking and Health. I may be wrong but I don't recall him mentioning this role when he spoke approvingly of the group on Five Live yesterday.

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Reader Comments (4)

This is a prime example of the disconnect between parliament and the people.
And who the hell voted for the "Zombies" at ASH.

Thursday, January 3, 2013 at 15:23 | Unregistered Commenterc777


Thursday, January 3, 2013 at 16:40 | Unregistered CommenterGeorge Spellet

A good friend in Times of need

I can’t imagine any other newspaper putting their heads above the parapet in this way, and doing some very detailed investigative work which has revealed this incestuous relationship. I’m very impressed with the Times over this. A broadsheet like this is a massive boost to our cause.
Would we have learned about this through the television media – I doubt it very much indeed.

Whether the meeting was informal or formal is neither here nor there, what it shows is just how hand in glove ASH is with the government and completely discredits the claim the government maintain of impartiality.

It has always been known that ASH gets three bites of the taxpayer cherry when it comes to funding. There is the main tranche from central government, money from BHF, money from CRUK and of course private funding from Big Pharma. I just can’t for the life of me work out why the BHF and CRUK give part of their funding to ASH, are they getting too much of our money?
I bet this little item won’t appear on the ASH website.

I wonder if Eric Pickles knows about this.

Just recently Deborah Arnott went to a smoking cessation conference in Seoul, South Korea with her husband. It’s quite expensive flying there and back and staying in a nice hotel…I just wonder how much this package costs and why should the taxpayer pay for it all. Have they never heard of video conferencing?

I would also like to know if her husband paid his own way out there.

Thursday, January 3, 2013 at 18:52 | Unregistered CommenterDennis

Whoever is responsible for this fiasco should be sacked pronto.

Simon is doing a sterling job for us smokers and it's really nice to see The Times giving him support!

Saturday, January 5, 2013 at 20:56 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Davies

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