Imperial Receives Inside Information from the European Council

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Documents released under Freedom of Information by the UK Department of Health reveal that Imperial Tobacco had access to what should be confidential information from the European Council concerning the [EU Tobacco Products Directive Revision].

The European Council is the third pillar of EU decision making along with the Commission and Parliament. It constitutes the Heads of State or Government of the Member States, together with its President and the President of the Commission. It set up a Working Group to examine the EU Tobacco Products Directive Revision.

On 9 April 2013, Richard Ross a lobbyist from Imperial Tobacco wrote to the Department of Health, expressing concern about the UK’s negotiating position at the European Council Working Group on the 26 March 2013, having read an insider’s report on the matter. [1] This indicated that the UK government had spoken in favour of standardised or plain packaging.

On the 11 April, the Department reassured Ross that the UK Government had not spoken in favour of plain packaging. [2]

On 16 April, Ross again expressed the company’s concern “about the UK negotiation positions taken at the Council Working Group” on the 8 April, adding that “we have not spoken with officials of the European Commission on this”. [3]

Seeing that these negotiations are meant to be confidential and subject to “professional secrecy”, it raises the issue as to how Imperial knew what was going on. This point was not lost on the Department of Health, who later wrote to Imperial that they “disappointed that you have not felt about to confirm the source of the information.” [4]

A Department of Health official also told Imperial that the “unattributed reports that you have received about the proceedings of the Council discussions” on the TPD “are not accurate”. ref> Department of Health, European Tobacco Products Directive & Plain Pack, Email to Richard Ross, 17 April 2013 </ref>

A Violation of Article 5.3?

These emails are important as they suggest that the tobacco industry was receiving confidential information from inside the European Council, presumably with the information coming from a government source. This kind of information exchange suggests that the industry has sway and influence over some governments which would be in contravention to the UN Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Article 5.3. [5]

TobaccoTactics Resources

Notes

  1. R. Ross, Subject: European Tobacco Products Directive & Plain Pack, 9 April 2013
  2. Department of Health, European Tobacco Products Directive & Plain Pack, Email to Richard Ross, 11 April 2013
  3. R. Ross, Subject: European Tobacco Products Directive & Plain Pack, 16 April 2013
  4. Department of Health, European Tobacco Products Directive & Plain Pack, Email to Richard Ross, 17 April 2013
  5. World Health Organisation, Guidelines for implementation of Article 5.3 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control: on the protection of public health policies with respect to tobacco control from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry, 2008