Members of UK Parliament Opposed to Plain Packaging

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In February 2014, 453 MPs voted in favour of, and only 24 MPs voted against, tabled amendments to the Children and Families Bill which would enable the UK government to, among other things, introduce regulations requiring plain packaging for tobacco products.123

Nevertheless, following the January 2015 announcement, the British press reported that 100 Conservative MPs would vote against plain packaging legislation in March 20154 and a number of MPs have been vocal in their opposition.

MPs Against Plain Packaging

The following MPs have spoken out against plain packaging regulation. The majority of the following quotes were cited in the media following the Government’s 2015 announcement.

Some of those who spoke out are known to have taken tobacco company hospitality previously, although there is no evidence to suggest that there is a connection between the two or that the hospitality has influenced their opinion in any way.

For more background go to Tobacco Industry Hospitality for UK Politicians.

Gerald Howarth

“It is completely unnecessary to introduce these divisive measures. There is absolutely no evidence that it has worked in Australia. There is a risk to the public. It will throw people to the lowest priced tobacco.”4

Mark Field

Warned of a huge rebellion in Parliament.5

Nigel Evans

“Plain packaging for cigarettes is plain bonkers and simply will not work, costing jobs and hampering the smaller newsagents around the country.”6

Angela Watkinson

“It will not work and I will oppose it.”7

Christopher Chope

The proposals are “very disappointing” and the “wrong decision”, which “does not reflect the evidence.”8

Gerry Sutcliffe (Labour Party)

“I do not want to see young people smoking, but I have concerns about standardised packaging, for two reasons. One is illicit trade, and I will give evidence on that and perhaps meet the minister and her colleagues about that illicit trade and its impact on our constituencies.”

Simon Hart

On 3 April 2014, the Chantler review of the evidence for plain packaging was published.9 Jane Ellison announced that there would be another short consultation in the UK but that the government was minded to proceed with plain packaging legislation. During the House of Commons debate on 3 April 2014, Ellison received questions from a number of MPs. Hart stated:

“The Minister will be aware that it is already an offence to smoke in public under the age of 16 and to purchase tobacco under the age of 18. Would it be a good start to ensure that the current laws work before we start imposing new ones?”10

Glyn Davies

Glyn Davies posts on Twitter following Government’s 21 January 2015 announcement that it intends to proceed with plain packaging legislation subject to another vote

MPs Speak Out

Both Nigel Evans and Brian Binley have spoken publicly about accepting JTI hospitality and have emphasised that they accepted this hospitality in good faith, no lobbying took place and that their attendance at events such as the Chelsea Flower Show or a Paul McCartney concert (Evans only) in 2011 has in no way influenced their tobacco control policy opinions.1112

MPs Against Plain Packaging: Other Relationship with Tobacco Industry

Ian Paisley

Paisley’s constituency North Antrim is home to a JTI-owned tobacco factory in Ballymena, until it closes its doors in 2016. Paisley has been a vocal opponent of plain packaging, instigating the 2012 letter to then Health Secretary Andrew Lansley signed by 50MPs and the February 2013 letter to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt signed by 73 MPs.

Paisley has consistently argued that plain packaging will lead to an increase in illicit tobacco and has met with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to voice his opinion.13 In February 2015 he published a piece against the legislation in the Irish Independent stating:14

“Whenever possible, I have sought to engage with the governments in Dublin and London to discuss my concerns about the proposed laws. Foremost among these is the potential to worsen the already serious problem of cross-Border tobacco smuggling by making counterfeiting a far easier process.”

As well as counterfeit plain packs, Paisley also argued there would be increased demand for counterfeit branded packs.

“I believe we will also see a rise in illegal branded packs masquerading as legitimate duty free cigarettes, as criminals exploit the opportunities presented by plain packaging.”

Paisley cites an industry commissioned report by KPMG stating that Australia witnessed “a dramatic increase in tobacco smuggling since the introduction of plain packaging in late 2012.”14

However, the Australian government has refuted KPMG’s findings, arguing the “tobacco industry‘s estimates of the size of the illicit market are not considered to be accurate…Like previous illicit trade reports commissioned by the tobacco industry, the KPMG report appears to substantially exaggerate the size of the illicit tobacco market in Australia and the consequent loss of excise and duty revenue.”15

The government’s comments were based, in part, on analysis and critique of KPMG’s methodology by Quit Victoria and the Cancer Council Victoria.16

Nick de Bois

On 27 January 2015, in an article published in The Telegraph, de Bois wrote:17

“the Government has announced its support for standardised packaging of cigarettes, arguing this will be a significant further step to reducing smoking rates and protect public health. No mention was made of the assessment of the growth in illicit, contraband and counterfeit products that will follow as a direct result of plain packaging.”

“The lack of attention to the growth of illicit cigarettes is irresponsible. Bringing forward plain packaging legislation – rather than waiting for comprehensive data from Australia about impact on smoking rates, tax revenues and crucially assessing the growth of illicit cigarettes – is the result of “feel good” politics as opposed to rational, evidenced-based policy. If standardised packaging does go ahead, that feel good feeling will soon be replaced by the realisation that we’ve got this badly, badly wrong.”

In the same article, de Bois described an illicit tobacco test purchasing trip that he had been invited on so that he could “witness first-hand just how prolific the sale of contraband and illicit cigarettes is” in London. The invite came from an unnamed “former Detective Chief Inspector with the Metropolitan Police.”17

Will O’Reilly, a former Detective Chief Inspector with the Metropolitan Police has been publicising his involvement in similar operations in different regions of the country. Since 2011, O’Reilly has been employed by tobacco company PMI as a consultant and spokesperson on the illicit tobacco trade.9 However, it is not known whether the former policeman mentioned by de Bois is O’Reilly as the senior officer’s name is not disclosed in the article.

De Bois suggested that illicit trade is on the increase in the UK, however over time there has been a downward trend, according to Government figures.18

Furthermore, de Bois stated that the illicit tobacco trade costs the UK Exchequer £2.9 billion in lost revenue annually. This is the same figure often used by the tobacco industry itself.

In a ruling by the Advertising Standards Agency in 2013, JTI was told it was not allowed to use this figure in advertisements against plain packaging proposals because this figure was the uppermost estimate of revenue loss by HMRC and that in reality the figure was likely to be far lower.19

On 11th February 2015, de Bois fronted a protest in Parliament against the introduction of plain packaging alongside the National Federation of Retail Newsagents and urged retailers to involve their customers in opposition by getting them to sign petitions.20

De Bois is a member of the Free Enterprise Group which receives administrative support from the Institute of Economic Affairs21 which in turn receives tobacco company funding.2223

Philip Davies

Davies is a member of The Freedom Association which has a close working relationship with tobacco industry front group Forest. The Freedom Association does not disclose its sponsors. Following the January announcement, Davies commented that plain packaging legislation is “what you’d expect from a socialist government”5

On 27 February 2015, Davies asked the Health Minister in a written question whether the Government would consider waiting 12 months to allow time for legal cases to conclude in Australia.24
Jane Ellison responded that the Government would keep a close eye on the outcomes of all relevant legal challenges but did not suggest that it would delay proceedings at this time.

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  1. Hansard, Children and Families Bill (Programme No. 3), House of Commons Debates, 10 February 2014, accessed February 2015
  2. S. MacGuill, House of Enablers – Does anything now go for tobacco control in the UK? Euromonitor International, 11 February 2014
  3. Smokefree Action Coalition. SFAC welcomes Parliament’s support for a package of measures to reduce smoking and protect children. Smokefree Action Coalition News, 10 February 2014
  4. abC. Hope, 100 Tory MPs to fight plain packaging on cigarettes, The Telegraph, 27 January 2015, accessed February 2015
  5. abC. Henry, Jane Ellison and Tessa Munt: Meet the female MPs fighting against fracking and tobacco, City AM, 2 February 2015, accessed February 2015
  6. N. Evans, Plain packaging for cigarettes is deeply un-conservative, Breibart, 23 January 2015, accessed February 2015
  7. Hansard, House of Commons Debates 21 January 2015: Standardised Packaging (Tobacco Products), Volume no:591, Part no:96, 21 January 2015, accessed February 2015
  8. C. Henry, David Cameron facing Tory backlash over plain cigarette packs, City Am, 23 January 2015, accessed February 2015
  9. abSir Cyril Chantler, Standardised packaging of tobacco: Report of the independent review undertaken by Sir Cyril Chantler, Kings College London, 3 April 2014, accessed April 2014
  10. House of Commons Debates 3 April 2014: Tobacco Products (standardised packaging), Volume no:578, Part No:148, 3 April 2014, accessed February 2015
  11. Selby Times, ‘Lobbying’ claim vehemently denied by MP after Chelsea trip, no date, accessed March 2015
  12. Northampton Herald & Post, Northampton South MP Brian Binley hits out at allegations he received £2,300 donation from tobacco company, 21 January 2014, accessed March 2015
  13. News Letter, Paisley presses Government to drop tobacco packaging plans, 14 November 2014, accessed March 2015
  14. abI. Paisley Jnr, Over-regulation of cigarettes threatens rule of law and Good Friday Agreement, Irish Independent, 12th February 2015, accessed March 2015
  15. The Parliament Of The Commonwealth Of Australia, House of Representatives. Excise Tariff Amendment (Tobacco) Bill 2014 – Customs Tariff Amendment (Tobacco) Bill 2014 – Explanatory Memorandum – Circulated by the authority of the Treasurer, the Hon J B. Hockey MP and the Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash, undated
  16. Quit Victoria, Cancer Council Victoria, Analysis of KPMG LLP report on use of illicit tobacco in Australia 2013 Full year report, 12 April 2014, accessed August 2014
  17. abN. de Bois, Nick de Bois: Introducing plain cigarette packaging could go ‘badly, badly wrong’, The Telegraph, 27 January 2015, accessed February 2015
  18. A. Rowell, K. A. Evans-Reeves, A. Gilmore, Tobacco industry manipulation of data on and press coverage of the illicit tobacco trade in the UK, Tobacco Control, 2014,23:e35-43
  19. Cancer Research UK, Further adverts from Japan Tobacco International ruled misleading, Press release, 17 April 2013, accessed May 2013
  20. Independent Retail News, Battle over plain packs heats up, 20 February 2015, accessed March 2015
  21. Free Enterprise Group Homepage, accessed March 2015
  22. J. Doward, Health groups dismayed by news ‘big tobacco’ funded rightwing thinktanks, The Observer, 1 June 2013, accessed June 2013
  23. Simon Millson, Group Head of Corporate Affairs for BAT, Letter to Deborah Arnott, ASH, 20 May 2013
  24. Hansard, Tobacco: Packaging Department of Health written question – 224396 from Philip Davies, answered 27 February by Jane Ellison, accessed March 2015