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”. 5

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. 6

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References

  1. R. Ross, Email from Ross to the Department of Health, dated 9 April 2013, subject: European Tobacco Products Directive & Plain Pack. Email released under Freedom of Information legislation, Ref: DE778784.
  2. Department of Health, Email from DoH  to R. Ross, dated 11 April 2013, subject: European Tobacco Products Directive & Plain Pack. Email released under Freedom of Information legislation, Ref: DE778784.
  3. R. Ross, Email from Ross to the Department of Health, dated 16 April 2013, subject: European Tobacco Products Directive & Plain Pack. Email released under Freedom of Information legislation, Ref: DE778784.
  4. Department of Health, Email from DoH  to R. Ross, dated 17 April 2013, subject: European Tobacco Products Directive & Plain Pack. Email released under Freedom of Information legislation, Ref: DE778784.
  5. Department of Health, Email from DoH to R. Ross, dated 17 April 2013, subject: European Tobacco Products Directive & Plain Pack. Email released under Freedom of Information legislation, Ref: DE778784.
  6. World Health Organisation, Guidelines for implementation of Article 5.3 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control , 2008, accessed January 2021.
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