Did health minister leak Queen's Speech story to Guardian?
Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 8:50
Simon Clark

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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