Confederation of British Industry

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In its own words, the Confederation for British Industry (CBI) is the “UK’s premier business lobbying organisation, providing a voice for employers at a national and international level.”1

It represents more than 240,000 companies including many in the FTSE 100 and FTSE 350.

In addition to its offices in the UK, the CBI has offices in Brussels, Washington, Beijing and Delhi, ensuring that British businesses are represented worldwide.
In its “What we do” section of its website the CBI states:

“Our lobbying and campaigning helps keep business interests at the heart of policy in Westminster, the devolved administrations, across the UK regions and internationally. Our senior team ensure your voice is heard around the world by regularly engaging with policymakers legislators and regulators – supported by an advisory team of 90 economic and policy specialists.”2

Benefits associated with CBI membership includes access to decision makers (CBI Membership page)

Links with the Tobacco Industry

The current CBI website lists a small number of corporate members; as of Sept 2014, this list does not include any tobacco companies. However, in its EU Transparency register entry, British American Tobacco declares that it is a member.3

Furthermore, internal tobacco company documents published in 2010 showed that during the 1990s British American Tobacco (BAT) was a paying member of the CBI and that BAT staff held key CBI posts, such as sitting on and chairing various CBI committees.4

Between 1995 and 1999, Martin Broughton simultaneously held the position of CEO of BAT and Chairman of the Companies Committee at CBI. He later went on to become the President of the CBI between 2007 and 2009.5

Minutes from a BAT board meeting in 1996 revealed how closely BAT was working with the CBI:

“Mr Broughton reported that on Thursday, 31st October, the Confederation of British Industry would publish its report on Unitary Boards and Stakeholders, which report had been prepared by the Companies Committee of the CBI, of which Mr Broughton was the Chairman. Mr Broughton would be launching the report at a press conference.”6

Lobbying for EU Better Regulation with British American Tobacco

The aforementioned tobacco company internal documents also revealed that BAT and other large business lobby organisations, including the CBI, played a leading role in promoting regulatory reform in the EU, now known as Better Regulation (BR).

The explicit aim of BR is to “strengthen the effectiveness, efficiency, coherence, accountability and transparency of EU policies, whilst ensuring greater engagement of stakeholders and citizens in their development.”7 BR has been interpreted in a number of ways, but it is most commonly thought of as a way of simplifying regulation, where the emphasis is on ‘self-regulation’ rather than formal intervention. This commitment has been formalised by the EU goal to reduce regulatory costs to business by 25%.8

Despite its fundamental role in bringing about changes in how regulation is made, BAT was so successful in obfuscating their involvement that European Commission staff had no awareness that the tobacco industry was involved in the reforms, not even after they came into effect.4 David Byrne, Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection 1999-2004, said in an August 2008 interview:

“I would be absolutely astonished and would find it very difficult to believe if there was any information available which tended to indicate that the European Policy Centre was advocating on behalf of the tobacco industry – that would be shocking.”4

BAT’s influence occurred in three stages; CBI was involved in the second stage:

  1. BAT recruited allies and created front groups– BAT approached the European Policy Centre (EPC) to lobby for regulatory reform and recruit other corporations subject to regulation (i.e. those part of the pharmaceutical, chemical and petroleum industries). Using the EPC as a third party successfully concealed BAT’s involvement in the campaign. The number of organisations involved in the campaign gave the impression to EU member states that there was great and diverse pressure for regulatory reform in the EU.
  2. Secured changes to the Treaty of Amsterdam– Working with the EPC and other business lobby groups such as the Union of Industrial and Employers’ Confederations of Europe, UNICE (now Businesseurope), and the CBI, BAT established an 18 month lobbying campaign which led to changes to the Treaty of Amsterdam. These changes meant that the European Commission was obligated to consult widely in all future policy proposals and to reduce the burden of policy changes on “economic operators”, i.e. businesses.89
  3. Nurtured a supportive policy network– BAT also collaborated with the EPC to recruit more companies and create the EPC Risk Assessment Forum. In turn, this created another business pressure group called the Fair Regulation Campaign.8 Both groups successfully targeted policymakers promoting Business Impact Assessment and Risk Assessment.

Using Better Regulation Principles to Counter Regulation

BAT was very concerned about the draft European Tobacco Advertising Directive, and how tobacco companies were excluded to assess the impact of the Directive until after legislation had already been agreed. The company used the Better Regulation initiative to improve the industry’s position in the policy making process, and used a third party to echo its concern.

On 28 January 1998, BAT CEO Martin Broughton wrote a letter to the Director General of the CBI, Adair Turner, laying out his concerns and a practical proposal (see Image below).10

Broughton asked CBI’s Turner to pen a letter to the government’s Cabinet Secretary Sir Richard Wilson, suggesting:

“The letter could make it clear that business expects a full appraisal to be produced for all regulatory proposals, that the assessment should be carried out with a full and open discussion with business, and that all risk and compliance cost assessments should be made public before Ministers agree to impose or support legislation.”10

CBI Cited in Imperial’s Submission to the UK Consultation on Standardised Packaging

In its submission to the UK Consultation on plain packaging, Imperial Tobacco argued, amongst other things, that the policy was anti-business, anti-competitive and anti-consumer.
Imperial continued that plain packaging would have an adverse impact on the UK economy in terms of consumer choice, competition and innovation and would have a “huge” impact on the illicit market.11

In making such arguments, Imperial cited the support of “leading business groups such as the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), the International Chamber of Commerce UK (ICC), the British Brands Group (BBG) and many others” who “have expressed significant concerns about the precedent that standardised packaging would set, its potential impact on markets and the message it would send to companies looking to invest in the UK”.11

For more information on these industry arguments and the efficacy of them, see:

Identified as a Potential Third Party Lobby Group for PMI

In mid-2013, new leaked documents authored by Philip Morris International (PMI) in early 2012 revealed that the company planned a multi-faceted campaign to oppose the British government’s plans to introduce plain packaging.1213

CBI identified by Philip Morris International as an “Influencer”

In the leaked presentations, PMI identified all those whom it considered to be major players in the UK legislative decision-making process.

PMI named “key committees” such as the Cabinet Office Behavioural Insight Unit, the Regulatory Policy Committee and the Government’s Department for Business Innovation & Skills (BIS) Reducing Regulation Committee (p15) which, among other things, strives to reduce the burden of regulation in accordance with the principles of Better Regulation.

PMI also detailed a model centred around UK Prime Minister David Cameron, the “decision maker” (see Image). Cameron, depicted at the epicentre, is surrounded by nine “formal/informal advisors” who in turn were surrounded by a large number of “influencers” including MPs, Lords, Government departments and a series of non-governmental organisations, charities and lobby groups (see Image). Included amongst the lobby groups identified by PMI as influencers was the CBI.

For more information, see:

CBI Lobbies MPs Prior to House of Commons Vote

On 11 March 2015, Director General of the CBI John Cridland urged MPs to vote against plain packaging in the UK. He said:

“There is a sound business case for voting against the proposals in parliament.”

“We have concerns about the impact of introducing a plain packaging policy for cigarettes on the UK’s global reputation for IP Property.”14

TobaccoTactis Resources

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  1. Confederation of British Industry, About the CBI, accessed September 2013
  2. CBI, What we do, accessed September 2013
  3. European Transparency Register, British American Tobacco,European Commission, accessed July 2016
  4. abcK. E. Smith, G. Fooks, J. Collin, H. Weishaar, S. Mandal, A. Gilmore, “‘Working the system’ British American Tobacco’s influence on the European Union Treaty and its implications for policy: an analysis of internal tobacco industry documents”, PLoS Medicine, 2010, 7(1), e1000202
  5. NNDB, Martin Broughton, profile, accessed March 2013
  6. BAT,  BAT board meeting minutes 29/10/96, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no: 800653848-800653851, 29 October 1996, Accessed March 2013
  7. Institute for European Environmental Policy, Governance: Our Work, accessed June 2013
  8. abcSmokefree Partnership, The Origin of EU Better Regulation – The Disturbing Truth, 2010
  9. European Communities, Treaty of Amsterdam amending the Treaty on European Union, the Treaties establishing the European Communities and Certain Related Acts. Brussels: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities and Europa, accessed June 2013
  10. abMartin Broughton, Letter from Martin Broughton CEO British American Tobacco to Adair Turner Director-General CBI, 28 January 1998, accessed September 2013
  11. abImperial Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco’s Submission to the UK Consultation on standardised packaging, 6 August 2012
  12. Philip Morris International, UK Corporate Affairs Update February 2012, Leaked in 2013
  13. Philip Morris International, UK Corporate Affairs Update March 2012, Leaked in 2013
  14. C. Henry, CBI: Plain cigarette packaging vote is bad for the UK, “City AM”, 11 March 2015, accessed March 2015