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« Health minister in hot water | Main | ASH Scotland wants Commonwealth Games to be 'smoke free' »

Did health minister leak Queen's Speech story to Guardian?

Interesting, very interesting ...

For several weeks we've been speculating about the identity of the "senior Whitehall source" who told the Guardian that plain packaging of tobacco would be in the Queen's Speech in May.

The report by political editor Patrick Wintour appeared on March 5 under the headline Government to legislate for plain cigarette packaging this year.

Ministers are to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes along the Australian model with legislation this year ...

"We are going to follow what they have done in Australia. The evidence suggests it is going to deter young smokers. There is going to be legislation," said a senior Whitehall source.

The report threatened to embarrass the prime minister who was forced to deny, live on air, that a decision had been made (see: David Cameron: no decision on plain packaging).

So who briefed Wintour? We had our suspicions but no proof.

Today The Times reports that a Freedom of Information request has revealed that public health minister Anna Soubry met Wintour on February 28, just five days before his story appeared in the paper.

A list of the meetings of eight other senior Department of Health officials, ministers and advisors showed none had met Mr Wintour between January and March.

This doesn't prove anything, of course, but The Times' Alex Ralph this morning tweets that:

Department of Health's FOI response also showed a list of eight other senior officials, ministers and their advisers had not [my emphasis] met Wintour.

At the same time there is increasing evidence that Soubry is lobbying for plain packs.

Last Friday, as I wrote here, Soubry told Radio 4's Today programme that she supports standardised packaging even though the Government insists it still has an "open mind" on the subject.

Then, on Sunday, The Lancet editor Richard Norton tweeted:

Word arrives that Anna Soubry has fallen out of love with Jeremy Hunt. She wants plain cigarette packaging but he is resisting her.

So, what is going on? Ms Soubry has a lot of explaining to do ...

See also: Keep calm and carry on campaigning

Update: Guido Fawkes has linked to this story. See Seen Elsewhere.

New visitors who wish to say no to plain packs should write to their MP. It takes less than a minute. Every little helps!

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Reader Comments (4)

I WILL write to my MP. However, previous experience from letter writing has demonstrated that he is an enamoured anti who does not represent his constituents' views to government on this matter, but simply his own.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 12:15 | Unregistered CommenterBlad Tolstoy

I don't think there's much point in "writing to one's MP" any more. They've insulated themselves by money and power, and no longer need to even pretend to listen.

statists want plain packaging, because they knew it will make counterfeit-tobacco-pushers' jobs easier, multiplying their number. Dried cowshit is much cheaper than real tobacco, will command £25 for 20 on the "black" market, and the complainers can have their legs broken quietly in dark alleys. This is what the state wants, as it can "increase police numbers to combat tobacco-counterfeiting-crimes" (a new category that it will have brought into being), further solidifying its votariat.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 12:18 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Davis

Would you trust this woman to toe the line after this?

If Anna Soubry didn’t have permission from Number 10 – and it’s unlikely that she did – then running off to the Guardian and making this statement to Patrick Wintour (a man in love with the smoking ban), is going over the head of the Prime Minister – and that by any other definition is a betrayal.

I think you will find at some convenient moment during the next cabinet reshuffle she will go.

No Prime Minister will allow the integrity of his position to be usurped in this way in public.

Of course this won't matter to the likes of ASH, since they would have been deliriously happy at having their message put out in the public domain by a curry-favouring lap dog in government - but you see, their jobs aren't at risk are they?

H/T The Times.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 17:39 | Unregistered CommenterDennis

It is no longer comical that Milton MP was replaced by an incompetent clone. Where do these people come from, and how do they get selected? None of it makes sense.

Or is it true that Milton MP, Subry MP, Lansley MP and Hunt MP are just tiny fleas caught in an enormous spider's web? When an anonymous official in the Foreign Office ratified the Tobacco Control Treaty, all hell was let lose. By that I mean that the template was established.

I do not understand Cameron, Clegg and Milliband at all. They say that they intend to make the UK's interests the main thing, but they seem to fail to understand that cooperation means NOT demanding that the UK's interest is the main thing. It is like saying that: "I am perfectly happy to agree with my neighbours about barbecue smoke, provided that my view is accepted"
On the other hand, it also means NOT accepting, regardless of majority vote, any rules which militate against UK interests.

States in the EU cannot be bothered about smoking bans. They are not important to States. And so they will let them pass. But what other similar things will also be let pass? How about a ban on ecigs?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013 at 3:52 | Unregistered CommenterJunican

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