Exposed: the unhealthy relationship between a minister, the APPG on Smoking and Health and ASH
Thursday, January 3, 2013 at 13:06
Simon Clark

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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