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Milton – paradise regained?

I don't know how much truth there is in this, but it was reported yesterday that Theresa May could promote Anne Milton to Health Secretary.

According to the Sun:

She would replace Jeremy Hunt who pals say is keen for a new role after five years at the helm of Britain's health service.

Currently a junior minister at Education, Milton served in the Department of Health 2010 and 2012 as public health minister before a being appointed Deputy Chief Whip.

If readers of this blog are experiencing a sinking feeling I don't blame you.

During her previous DH posting Milton not only introduced the tobacco display ban (a piece of Labour legislation the Tories had opposed when in Opposition), she also developed what appeared to be an unhealthily close relationship with ASH and other tobacco control lobbyists.

According to Retail Newsagent (June 2011):

The National Federation of Retail Newsagents is demanding a formal investigation by Prime Minister David Cameron into the conduct of the public health Minister in charge of the tobacco display ban.

National president Kieran McDonnell has written to No 10 with evidence he says calls into question the actions of Anne Milton and the relationship between government-funded charity ASH and the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health and that could even scupper the ban at this late stage.

He writes that Ms Milton’s “inappropriate conduct necessitates a review of the legitimacy of the [display ban] legislation itself.”

The letter backs up questions from Torbay Liberal democrat MP Adrian Sanders to Secretary of State for Health Andrew Lansley, asking for his comments on Ms Milton’s acceptance of an award at an APPG Smoking and Health event and presenting one to the director of ASH.

Mr Sanders also seeks Mr Lansley’s response to the chairman’s comment at the event that ASH “do a great job in supporting MPs with lobbying their colleagues in Parliament”. ASH receives Whitehall cash on the proviso that it does not directly lobby the government.

My post on the subject was headlined 'ASH's credibility goes up in smoke' but it could also have read 'Public health minister's credibility goes up in smoke'.

Milton's cosy relationship with ASH had been noted by this blog exactly twelve months earlier when I wrote:

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Smoking and Health yesterday celebrated the 40th anniversary of ASH with a function at the House of Commons. Here are some of the 'highlights':

Guests welcomed by Lib Dem MP Stephen Williams, chairman of the APPG on Smoking and Health.

Williams, Labour MP Kevin Barron (former chairman of the Health Select Committee), and public health minister Anne Milton presented with awards by Cancer Research.

Milton said it was a pleasure to celebrate ASH’s "birthday party". She then presented Deborah Arnott, chief executive of ASH, with the World No Tobacco Day Award from the World Health Organisation.

Accepting the award, Debs thanked those who funded ASH.

Sir Richard Thompson, president of the Royal College of Physicians, which founded ASH in 1971, wished a "very happy birthday to our baby, now our grown up child" and called for a campaign to "get rid of cigarettes eventually".

Prof John Moxam, chairman of ASH, compared it to his own birthday, and spoke of an "ASH family across the world".

Sir Richard, he said, was was "the father of ASH" and the support of the Royal College of Physicians has been "absolutely wonderful".

He also paid tribute to Kevin Barron who he described as a "warrior for the cause", adding, "ASH just thinks you’re magic".

Ms Milton, he said, was "tremendous", and had "won over the hearts of everyone involved".

See 'I think I'm going to be sick' (Taking Liberties).

I'm not sure what Milton has done in the intervening years to deserve promotion to the Cabinet, but if she does return to the DH it could represent a 'Patricia Hewitt' moment.

Older readers will recall that when John Reid was Health Secretary the Labour government had no plans to introduce a comprehensive smoking ban.

Instead Reid wanted to compromise by allowing smoking in private members' clubs and pubs that didn't serve prepared food.

After the 2005 general election he was replaced as Secretary of State for Health by Patricia Hewitt who quickly changed tack and threw her weight behind a blanket ban.

Last year I was surprised how relieved – complacent, even – some people were after the Government announced its latest Tobacco Control Plan.

The fact that no new legislation was included in the plan may be a positive (time will tell) but I've been around long enough to know that the tobacco control industry never stops lobbying government to make that "next logical step".

Imagine how much easier it will be for ASH, Cancer Research et al to sell their ideas to a Secretary of State with whom they have previously enjoyed such a harmonious, mutually back-slapping relationship.

If I was Deborah Arnott, the prospect of my old friend returning to the DH as head honcho would be the best New Year gift I could imagine.

I might even crack another smile.

Below: Anne Milton, centre, with Deborah Arnott, CEO of ASH, in June 2011

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Reader Comments (5)

She hates smokers and is happy to criminalise them and ban them from the right to use the nhs. What other qualifications do ambitious politicians need these days?

Wednesday, January 3, 2018 at 13:21 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

Is this 'fake news'? It surely must be. Perhaps the inclusion of Milton is intended to distract attention from the others.
I wonder sometimes if we are not vilifying Corbin unfairly. Has he written anything explaining his philosophy? Perhaps he is not as awful as the MSM portrays him.
We do not know. Would it not be wonderful if he announced that the smoking ban in prisons was unethical? Fat chance.

Thursday, January 4, 2018 at 2:10 | Unregistered CommenterJunican

Corbin is just as smokerphobic as other politicianso. Do not think for one minute that he believes in equality for us. More likely we will be put into rehabilitation camps to force us to quit for our own good under Corbin.

Remember what is said about tyrants motivated by their own beliefs that what they do us right and so the ends justify their means.

Corbin is a Communist. Should he win, we smokers would be even more in peril.

Thursday, January 4, 2018 at 13:58 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

Fake news? Oh, I do hope so. Milton was – err – “moved” from her previous junior position in health at least partly because of her rather too “cosy” relationship with ASH, which was revealed at just the point at which questions were being raised about the over-influence of single-issue lobby groups on public policy, i.e. for political reasons. Politically, Theresa May would be very unwise to put Milton back into an arena from which she had already shown herself to be less than suitable.

Friday, January 5, 2018 at 2:46 | Unregistered CommenterMisty

As a non smoker but sympathetic to the smokers cause, I often wonder if Forest has got it right. Ash and the non smokers campaign seem to be walking all over you, is it not time for you to use stealth and cunning against the opposition.

It is said that 30% of people that die with Cancer are smokers, but 70% that get cancer also die with that disease. That is more than twice the amount of those that die supposedly through smoking.

Who can say that those who are attributed with dying from smoking wouldn't die if they hadn't smoked at all.

Is it not time that Forest spent some money on say,something like stick-on lables that could be stuck on packs of cigarettes and tobacco after leaving the shop.

I as a non smoker find the images on these packs offensive and over the top. Also I think it conniving and manipulative by a campaign that really has ulterior motives, the U N Agenda 21 comes to mind.

Sunday, January 7, 2018 at 17:51 | Unregistered CommenterDan E

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