Priti Patel is a British politician and former Secretary of State for International Development. She was elected Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) for Witham (Essex, UK) in May 2010. In November 2017, Patel resigned over undeclared meetings with Israeli officials.
- 1 Background
- 2 Relationship with the Tobacco Industry
- 3 Supporting Tobacco Industry Positions and Arguments
- 4 The Free Enterprise Group
- 5 Relevant Links
- 6 Notes
Previous Roles in Government
- Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (July 2014-May 2015)
- Member, Members’ Expenses Committee (July 2011-March 2015)
- Chair, All Party Parliamentary Small Shops Group (up to July 2014)
- Member, Public Administration Committee (December 2011-June 2014)
- Member, Draft Deregulation Bill Joint Committee (July 2013-December 2013)
- Deputy Press Secretary to William Hague MP (1997 to 2000).
Patel worked at public relations firm Weber Shandwick from 2000 to 2003. In her role as Policy, Media and Campaigns Adviser, she worked, among others, with Meat & Livestock Commission, IKEA, The Bar Council, and British American Tobacco (BAT).
Relationship with the Tobacco Industry
Working on the BAT Account at Weber Shandwick
Numerous internal tobacco company documents reveal Patel’s involvement with BAT, whilst employed at Weber Shandwick:
- In October 2000, she provided summaries of media articles on BAT’s involvement in tobacco smuggling.
- A memo from Shandwick to BAT in October 2000 set out roles on “Project Sunrise” and said that Patel was responsible for “day to day account co-ordination, project management” and “assists on media relations”. Two documents name Patel as "day to day Account Co-ordinator, project management, assists on media relation  and responsible for “UK media”, as part of Project Sunrise. The documents are unclear what this project was, but Philip Morris ran a project with the same name which “laid out an explicit divide-and-conquer strategy against the tobacco control movement”.
- In November 2000, Patel was part of a group sent a strategy about how BAT could influence the outcome of the World Health Organization’s negotiations on developing the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
- In the same month, she was part of a group sent a letter lobbying MEPs on the proposed EU's Tobacco Control Directive. The documents suggest Patel was a integral to BAT's lobbying on the Directive. The document stated "Our campaign on the proposed EU tobacco control directive is reaching a critical stage", and then added:
- "With the vote in the European Parliament anticipated for the week commencing 11 December, and political groups meeting on 5 and 6 December to decide their positions, the EU Directive Task Force has decided to target ALL MEPs with a personal letter from Martin Broughton on Monday 4 December. The letter will be faxed to each of them, in English. As a matter of effectiveness and courtesy, we have also decided to attach to the letter a translation in the native language of each of the recipients ... As the letter will go out on Monday, I would be very grateful if you could send your translated documents via lotus notes to Priti Patel by no later than opening of business Monday morning, 4 December - earlier if possible. (Priti will be handling the logistics of getting the letters faxed to each of the MEPs)" [Emphasis in the original]
- A letter from Weber Shandwick to BAT in January 2001 outlined Patel’s role, including interacting with the Conservative Party: "Priti will be responsible for day-to-day activity on the account, including drafting advice notes and assisting you in preparing briefings, mailshots or the like. She will also provide strategic advice on the account, with a particular focus on the Conservative Party." The document added that Patel would work for “15 hours in total” each month for BAT, “including principal responsibility for execution on day-to-day account activity, drafting documents, and attendance at monthly client meetings".
- A memo from March 2001 shows Patel “working with BAT External Communications Team” and also responsible for “social reporting” and a “global events calendar”.
Seconded to BAT's Press Office
Four documents suggest that Patel may have been seconded to BAT's press office in 2000:
- On 30 October 2000, the Department for Trade and Industry announced an investigation into BAT’s involvement in tobacco smuggling. Patel’s name appeared in a BAT media release about the investigation as a contact at the company's press office. For more information, see our page on BAT Involvement in Tobacco Smuggling.
- On 6 December 2000, her name appeared again as a media contact on a BAT press release about the Government’s Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill.
- On 20 December 2000, a fax to Patel suggests that she was working for BAT in the company’s London headquarters, Globe House.
- On 13 March 2001, Colin Byrne from Weber Shandwick wrote: "Priti is now working with the communications team as an integral part of the team ... working on developing communications ideas for projects such as the Marketing Standards and the Nigerian announcement and also sharing information/insights with the team on overall issues that come up while also dealing with press office requests when based in the press office."
Supporting Tobacco Industry Positions and Arguments
Since she was elected MP, Patel has publicly supported tobacco industry positions in Parliament on various occasions.
In October 2010, Patel voted for the smoking ban to be overturned.
Point of sales display ban
In December 2010, Patel signed a letter demanding the tobacco display ban be reconsidered.
Patel is on record calling Plain Packaging a “completely mad” policy which is “a blunt instrument which will have a disproportionate impact on independent retailers.” She argues that “plain packaging will serve to harm the very businesses that are best-placed to prevent underage sales and fight back against illegal and illicit supplies.” Patel also believes that “new plain packaging rules that go further than this would only serve to be another nail in the coffin for many newsagents.”
After the Chantler review into plain packaging was published, Patel wrote to the chair of the Petrol Retailers Association (PRA), appealing for its members to lobby their MPs to object to the proposals. Patel wrote that she was concerned about the implications of plain packs for small shops, tax revenues and smuggling. For more on this, visit our Petrol Retailers Association page.
The Free Enterprise Group
On its website the Group reveals that "Administrative support for the group is supplied by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA)". The IEA receives financial support from the tobacco industry.
In the week following the announcement that the UK Government would reconsider plain packaging in November 2013, the Free Enterprise Group published a report, 'The Business of Small Enterprise'. In the report the Group recommends that the Government "drop proposals for plain packaging".
- R. Syal, A. Asthana, Patel forced to resign over unofficial meetings with Israelis, The Guardian, 8 November 2017, accessed November 2017
- R. Mason, Tory rightwinger Priti Patel promoted to Treasury,The Guardian, 15 July 2014, accessed July 2014
- Priti Patel, TheyWorkForYou website, undated, accessed January 2017
- J. Wood, New chair for All Party Parliamentary Small Shops Group, http://forecourttrader.co.uk, 25 July 2014, accessed January 2017
- Weber Shandwick, What we are up to, http://www.webershandwick.co.uk, undated, accessed 19 December 2011
- Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, Operational Planning Meeting - 30th August 2000 Main Points and Actions, 30 August 2000, accessed December 2011
- Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, Operational Planning Meeting 27th September 2000: Agenda, 27 September 2000, accessed December 2011
- P. Patel, Wire/On Line Media Coverage So Far, Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, 30 October 2000, accessed December 2011
- Shandwick International, Shandwick and BAT: Project Sunrise, 11 October 2000, accessed December 2011
- Shandwick and BAT, Project Sunrise, 11 October 2000, accessed December 2011
- Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, Project Sunrise, undated, accessed December 2011
- Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, ‘Philip Morris's Project Sunrise: Weakening tobacco control by working with it’, 2006, accessed December 2011
- A. Vecchiet, WHO-FCTC - Outcomes of First INB Session, Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, 10 November 2000, accessed December 2011
- A. Vecchiet, WHO: Outcomes of First FCTC Intergovernmental Negotiating Body, Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, 10 November 2000, accessed December 2011
- A. Vecchiet, Letter to MEPs, Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, 30 November 2000, accessed December 2011
- S. Doherty, UK Public Affairs Support, Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, 22 January 2001, accessed December 2011
- C. Byrne, BAT, Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, 15 March 2001, accessed 19 December 2011
- The Guardian, ‘DTI to investigate BAT smuggling claims’, 30 October 2000, accessed December 2011
- British American Tobacco, ‘Response to Today's DTI Announcement’, News Release, 30 October 2000, accessed December 2011
- Legacy Tobacco Documents Library,Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill, 20 December 2000, accessed December 2011
- P. Decam, Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill, Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, 20 December 2000, accessed December 2011
- C. Byrne, Memorandum to James Blakelock and Adrian Marshal Weber Shandwick Public Affairs, 13 March 2001, accessed December 2011
- J. Isaby, David Nuttall's attempt to relax the smoking ban falls at the first hurdle - but 77 Tory MPs vote for his Bill (with 38 opposing it), http://conservativehome.com, blog post 14 October 2010, accessed December 2011
- P. Goodman, Fifty Conservative MPs demand a free vote on shop tobacco display ban, http://conservativehome.com, blog post 18 December 2010, accessed December 2011
- D. Martin, Now Tories revolt over cigarettes in plain packets: Dozens of MPs set to oppose Cameron by voting against proposals, Daily Mail, 1 May 2014, accessed January 2017
- J. Wood, PRA members urged to lobby MPs over plain packs, 16 April 2014
- Free Enterprise Group, Supporters, https://www.freeenterprise.org.uk, undated, accessed January 2017
- Free Enterprise Group, FEG Homepage, accessed December 2013
- J. Doward, Health groups dismayed by news 'big tobacco' funded rightwing thinktanks, The Observer, 1 June 2013, accessed June 2013
- S. Millson, Group Head of Corporate Affairs for BAT, Letter to Deborah Arnott, Action on Smoking, 20 May 2013
- Free Enterprise Group, Free Enterprise Group manifesto working paper: The business of small enterprise. Supporting the growth of Britain’s small businesses, http://www.freeenterprise.org.uk, November 2013, accessed December 2013