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« Women, poor things, so easily influenced | Main | Did health minister leak Queen's Speech story to Guardian? »

Health minister in hot water

Ian Paisley Jr, member of parliament for North Antrim, is not happy, reports Guido Fawkes:

He’s on the attack after Anna Soubry was revealed in yesterday’s Times to have lunched Patrick Wintour just before a story by him appeared in the Guardian suggesting plain packaging of fag packets would be introduced.

See: Price of Soubry's spin.

Here's the full story, which follows yesterday's post, Did health minister leak Queen's Speech story to Guardian?.

Speaking in a House of Commons debate on Northern Ireland yesterday afternoon, a furious Paisley said:

I want to draw the House’s attention to a full frontal attack on £16 million-worth of salaries in Northern Ireland. I have waited some time for an opportunity to put this matter on the record, and the Government must address it. They are contemplating plain packaging for cigarettes, and they are now indicating that the proposal might be in the Queen’s Speech in a matter of weeks. We need to be absolutely clear about this.

According to the response to a freedom of information request, which is in the House of Commons Library, the Under-Secretary of State for Health, the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Anna Soubry) was interviewed by Patrick Wintour of The Guardian on or about 28 February. Five days later, on 5 March, an article appeared in that newspaper indicating that the proposal was going to be in the Queen’s Speech. That drove 2.8% off the stock market value of the shares of a manufacturing company in the United Kingdom. The share price has not yet recovered, despite Ministers’ denials that they are going to introduce such a policy on 8 May.

The Government have a duty and a responsibility to defend employment in Northern Ireland. They might not like what is being manufactured, but that industry keeps 1,100 people in jobs in Northern Ireland and puts £60 million directly into the wage economy there. More importantly, it supports tens of thousands of other smaller companies including retail shops and other minor businesses in the locality. The Government have a serious responsibility to stop that full frontal attack on business in Northern Ireland and to address this matter once and for all. I hope that they will not put the proposal into the Queen’s Speech, and that instead they will have a serious look at defending our manufacturing industry in the tobacco sector. They will have a serious problem if they do not do so.

I ask the Minister to ensure that the freedom of information request in the Library is looked at, and to give consideration to an inquiry into whether anyone gained from the drop in share price that occurred in the five days between that interview taking place and the article appearing. Any such inquiry should look into who benefited from that share value drop, as this could be a very serious matter for all those involved in what I think was a deliberate attempt to undermine that business and to adjust share pricing, which has affected business in Northern Ireland.

You can find the relevant section in Hansard here.

To see the FOI response that got Paisley's goat click here.

I think we'll hear a lot more about this.

See also: The Anna Soubry ministerial level car crash continues (Dick Puddlecote).

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Reader Comments (6)

Bye, Bye

Anybody brave enough to think Soubry will keep her job?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013 at 17:08 | Unregistered CommenterDennis

So, um... will the DH ever release the so-called "public consultation" to the public? Here we are eight months after the consultation closed. Why are the DH hiding this from public view? That was a rhetorical question, obviously.) I cannot find any consultation that took this long for the results to be published -- not one! -- and there were many that were far more complex than the plain packaging proposal. We need to demand an answer from our unelected civil servants as to why they are outrageously subverting the standard consultation process.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013 at 18:45 | Unregistered CommenterJay

Tch tch!
Stock market manipulation?
Never ever would "fonctionnaire's" of government do a thing like that surely?
Sarc/ off.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013 at 21:39 | Unregistered Commenterc777

Has Global warming induced a New Ice Age in Hades, are the Damned wandering around Tatarus in Berghaus fleeces and woolly hats and is "Gehenna Worms" Birds Eye's answer to Turkey Twizzlers?

Seriously, Hell must have indeed frozen over cos I can't explain my agreeing with The Son Of Dr NO any other way.

Strange times we live in, strange times indeed.

Thursday, April 25, 2013 at 0:59 | Unregistered CommenterThe Blocked Dwarf

Either there is a lot of disagreement in the DoH and the Cabinet about standardised packaging or the Zealots are terrified of publishing the report.
I have a feeling that what the Zealots in the DoH want to do is to release the report at the same time that an intention to legislate is announced (via the Queen's speech). In that way, discussion of the report will be irrelevant, since the Government will have already made the decision to legislate.
It looks as if another cute parliamentary trick is in the offing.

Thursday, April 25, 2013 at 1:20 | Unregistered CommenterJunican

Yes, Junican, but this time it will be noticed by many thousands of people. If they do as you say, they nail their colours to the mast as corrupt.

Thursday, April 25, 2013 at 13:33 | Unregistered CommenterClemmy Roberts

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