Big Brother Watch

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Background

Big Brother Watch describes itself as a “cross-party, non-party, independent non-profit organisation leading the protection of privacy and civil liberties in the UK”. It states that it uses both advocacy and campaigns and independent research and investigations to “inform policy and public debate”.1 It was founded in 2009 by Matthew Elliot, who also founded The TaxPayers’ Alliance.2

Pro-Tobacco Activities

Against the Point of Sale Display Ban

In November 2010, Mahendra Jadeja, the former president of the Federation of Independent Retailers (NFRN) (formerly known as National Federation of Retail Newsagents), attacked the Point of Sale Display Ban on the Big Brother Website, arguing it would “bring about a growth in the illicit cigarette market” and would force “many shops” to the wall “simply because the excessive cost of changing the shop gantries.” 3

Risks of Second-Hand Smoke “A Complete Fabrication”

In January 2011, the chair of Freedom2Choose, Dave Atherton wrote a guest blog for Big Brother Watch. He argued that his “area of expertise are the restrictions of smoking”. He then argued that The Tobacco Display Ban would have “no impact on youth smoking.” With regard to the “supposed harm of passive smoking (PS)”, he argued that “best it is exaggerated and at worst is a Labour Party dossier of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, complete fabrication.”4

The Letter to the Daily Telegraph

On 9 March 2011, Daniel Hamilton, then the Director of Big Brother Watch was one of 11 signatories of a Letter to the Editor to the Daily Telegraph attacking the Government’s position on tobacco control and arguing against further restrictions.

“Tax Doesn’t Reduce Consumption”

Two weeks later, in response to the 2011 Budget, Daniel Hamilton attacked the increase on cigarettes and tobacco. “Drinking beer and smoking cigarettes is a matter of basic personal choice. People should have a right to enjoy these perfectly legal products without the nanny state seeking to tax their personal preferences out of existence. “People’s response to ‘sin taxes’ is, generally, to sigh and pay them – the result isn’t to drive down consumption, but to increase the government’s tax take.”5

No Longer Involved in the Tobacco Debate

In May 2012, when asked to clarify whether Big Brother Watch was or previously had received tobacco industry funding, Nick Pickles replied: “We’re not involved in the tobacco/health/plain packaging debate and have not made any public statements on the issue for at least six months. I joined as Director in September 2011. We do not intend to do so for the foreseeable future.6
In January 2018, Big Brother Watch published a press release in response to the news that medical records were given to US firms connected to the tobacco industry by Public Health England. Silkie Carlo, Director of Big Brother Watch, was quoted in the release as saying that it was “appalling” and “unacceptable” that sensitive patient data was given to “a non-medical, corporate outfit paid by the tobacco industry – the very cause of many of those patients’ disease”. Big Brother Watch also supported calls for an inquiry into the issue by the Health Select Committee.7

Personnel

As of January 2020, the Big Brother Watch website lists two staff and five board members.1

  • Silkie Carlo – Director
  • Griff Ferris – Legal and Policy Officer
  • Lord Paul Strasburger – Chair of Board
  • Al Ghaff – Board Member
  • Dinah Rose QC – Board Member
  • Mark Littlewood – Board Member
  • Tim Knox – Board Member

Former Staff

References

  1. abBig Brother Watch, About Us, Big Brother Watch website, undated, accessed January 2020
  2. Matthew Elliot, Important news from Matthew Elliott, Founder of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, TaxPayers’ Alliance website, 27 July 2012, accessed January 2020
  3. Mahendra Jadeja, Guest post: Smoking and the nanny State, 12 November 2010, accessed January 2020
  4. Dave Atherton, Smoking and the Big Brother Society, 4 January 2011, accessed January 2020
  5. Big Brother Watch, Budget 2011 – another attack on smokers and drinkers, Big Brother Watch website, 23 March 2011, accessed January 2020
  6. Nick Pickles, Email to Tobacco Control Research Group, 11 May 2012
  7. Big Brother Watch, Big Brother Watch’s Comment on Handover of 180,000 Cancer Patient Records to Tobacco Industry-Linked Firm, 15 January 2018, accessed January 2020