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July 17th, 2013:

No 10 faces questions over ‘tobacco lobby links’

No 10 faces questions over ‘tobacco lobby links’

Lynton Crosby was appointed to construct the next Tory election campaign

Times photographer Tom Pilston

  • Lynton Crosby

Lynton Crosby was appointed to construct the next Tory election campaign Times photographer Tom Pilston

Alex Ralph and Francis Elliott

Last updated at 12:01AM, July 13 2013

A lobbying consultancy run by David Cameron’s election guru helped the world’s biggest tobacco company to avoid moves to make cigarettes less attractive to young people.

Ministers effectively abandoned yesterday efforts to introduce plain packaging for tobacco products. But hours later it emerged that Lynton Crosby’s company, CTF, had been advising Philip Morris Ltd in Britain since November.

The Australian-born Mr Crosby was appointed as a strategy adviser to the Conservative Party late last year, based on his reputation for securing election victories for the former Australian Prime Minister John Howard, and Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London.

The U-turn

Tobacco industry told Government it was too early to tell if plain cigarette packaging would work – six months later ministers agreed–six-months-later-ministers-agreed-8711725.html

Tobacco industry told Government it was too early to tell if plain cigarette packaging would work – six months later ministers agreed

Nigel Morris Author Biography

Deputy Political Editor

Tuesday 16 July 2013


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A major tobacco firm told the Government it was too early to assess whether selling cigarettes in plain packets would deter smokers – six months before ministers deployed the same argument.

In a meeting with Department of Health officials, representatives of Philip Morris International (PMI) said there was “limited evidence” as yet on the success of a similar policy in Australia.

Last week the Government infuriated health campaigners by delaying a decision on whether to introduce plain packets in England. It explained it needed more time to assess the evidence from Australia, but Labour claimed its announcement followed pressure from the Tory election adviser, Lynton Crosby, whose lobbying firm is employed by Philip Morris.

Minutes of a meeting between company executives and civil servants were released yesterday by the Department of Health following a freedom-of-information request. They state: “PMI said that there is limited evidence from Australia as to what the effect of standardised packaging so far, largely due to the short period of time since its introduction.”

On BBC Radio 4’s PM programme, presenter Eddie Mair quoted the words back at Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, and asked if he agreed.

Mr Hunt said it was “correct” that he did not disagree with the assessment – before being told it was a direct quote from the tobacco firm during its discussions with his department.

Lobbyists puff and blow over new EU tobacco rules

Lobbyists puff and blow over new EU tobacco rules

By Jane Deith File on 4, Brussels

Olivier Hoedeman Olivier Hoedeman criticises the tobacco industry’s lobbying tactics in Brussels

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Olivier Hoedeman takes people on unusual tours of Brussels – he opens their eyes to the billions of euros that multinationals, unions and campaign groups spend trying to shape – even rewrite – the European laws made there.

The research and campaign coordinator of Corporate Europe Observatory – which monitors lobbying – pauses outside a smart office block, a few streets away from the European Parliament.

He points to the second floor and the offices of British American Tobacco. It has seven full-time lobbyists here and Mr Hoedeman says the tobacco industry as a whole employs around 100 in Brussels, spending more than 5m euros (£4.3m; $6.6m) a year.

Those numbers have grown as the industry fights proposed new regulation.

The European Commission is beefing up the Tobacco Products Directive, to try to dissuade young people from smoking.

So, for example, there would be a ban on menthol cigarettes and some other flavourings and bigger pictorial health warnings on packets.

Lobbying battlefield

Tobacco firms “directly lobby MEPs, trying to meet with him or her to talk them into tabling amendments, but also [organise] social events, like dinner parties for MEPs’ assistants,” Mr Hoedeman says.

“We have already seen in several of the votes of committees of parliament that the Commission’s proposals are being weakened. It shows they’re gaining ground and achieving that goal.”

Continue reading the main story

“Start Quote

Linda McAvan MEP

Why don’t they just operate like every other company that lobbies the European Parliament? ”

End Quote Linda McAvan MEP

The lobbying appears to be having an impact. Almost 1,500 amendments to the tobacco directive have been tabled.

The EU’s health ministers, for example, voted to drop a ban on slim cigarettes, and reduce the size of the graphic health warnings, from the 75% the European Commission wanted, to 65%.

But last week the parliament’s public health committee voted to keep that ban, as well as a ban on cigarette flavourings, and backed the 75% target. So more hard bargaining lies ahead, and the full parliament will vote on 10 September.

The EU has an online database of lobbyists called the Transparency Register. But it does not tell the whole story: the register is voluntary and hundreds of lobbyists simply choose not to reveal themselves. There is no information about whom they have lobbied.

Special rules are supposed to apply to the tobacco industry. The EU has signed up to a World Health Organization treaty which says politicians should avoid meeting tobacco companies; if they must, the meeting has to be transparent.

But the British MEP piloting the tobacco legislation through parliament, Linda McAvan, says that away from the main lobbying battlefield the tobacco companies have been firing salvoes below the radar.

She accuses one of ringing her constituency office, posing as a representative of small retailers to demand an urgent meeting.

‘Legal company’

EU Commissioner Tonio Borg with cigarette pack, 19 Dec 12Tonio Borg from Malta is now negotiating for the EU Commission on the revised directive

Other tobacco lobbyists, she said, have been handing out anonymous amendments to MEPs, in the hope they will be put forward.

“If they think it’s legitimate, why are doing it like that? Why don’t they just operate like every other company that lobbies the European Parliament and just send it out in a normal email? I think they know that if people know they’re from the tobacco industry, they’ll be suspicious of the arguments they make,” said Ms McAvan.

Ronan Barry describes himself as a corporate affairs professional for British American Tobacco and heads their Brussels lobbying operation, which cost nearly 1m euros to run last year.

He says his company is always open and honest, and he does not recognise the tactics described by the MEP.

He believes tobacco companies have as much right to meet MEPs as any other business and says the scale of the tobacco lobby is often exaggerated.

“We sell a legal product and are a legal company and therefore have a role to play in communicating our point of view to people who make decisions that impact upon us.

There are certainly at least as many lobbyists arguing against our positions as there are arguing for them, so it’s not true to say there are armies of us here lobbying,” said Mr Barry.

A British Conservative MEP, Martin Callanan, echoed that view. “This idea they put across that it’s a sort of David and Goliath – these industrial giants with thousands of well-paid, suited lobbyists and only one or two little NGOs representing the oppressed common man is very, very far from the truth – it’s the other way round if anything.”

On average, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Brussels get 43% of their funding from EU institutions.

‘Billions of euros’

In the past year the lobbying debate on both sides has been overshadowed by a scandal involving the former commissioner who was supposed to be driving the tobacco directive, John Dalli.

At the centre of so-called “Dalligate” is an allegation that a friend of Mr Dalli asked for 60m euros to overturn a ban on snus – a moist chewing tobacco which you put under your lip.

Mr Dalli and his friend both strenuously deny the allegation.

An investigation by Europe’s anti-fraud office Olaf says that although it has circumstantial evidence linking Mr Dalli to the bribe request, that evidence is not conclusive.

Speaking from his home in Malta, Mr Dalli claims he is the victim of a conspiracy: “I was considered as a person who was very hard on the tobacco industry and they didn’t want that during their campaign.

“I’m already hearing about a lot of dilution that is being made to the directive because of the tobacco lobbies that have been very active.

“I’m afraid that what’s going to go through, if it goes through, is not as effective as one would like and what is the gain? The gain is billions of euros.”

Cigarette packaging: the corporate smokescreen

Noble sentiments about individual liberty are being used to bend democracy to the will of the tobacco industry

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‘Lynton Crosby personifies the new ­dispensation, in which men and women glide between corporations and ­politics, and appear to act as agents for big ­business within government.’ Photograph: David Hartley / Rex Features

It’s a victory for the hidden persuaders, the astroturfers, sock puppets, purchased scholars and corporate moles. On Friday the government announced that it will not oblige tobacco companies to sell cigarettes in plain packaging. How did it happen? The public was overwhelmingly in favour. The evidence that plain packets will discourage young people from smoking is powerful. But it fell victim to a lobbying campaign that was anything but plainly packaged.

Tobacco companies are not allowed to advertise their products. Nor, as they are so unpopular, can they appeal directly to the public. So they spend their cash on astroturfing (fake grassroots campaigns) and front groups. There is plenty of money to be made by people unscrupulous enough to take it.

Much of the anger about this decision has been focused on Lynton Crosby. Crosby is David Cameron’s election co-ordinator. He also runs a lobbying company that works for the cigarette firms Philip Morris and British American Tobacco. He personifies the new dispensation, in which men and women glide between corporations and politics, and appear to act as agents for big business within government. The purpose of today’s technocratic politics is to make democracy safe for corporations: to go through the motions of democratic consent while reshaping the nation at their behest.

But even if Crosby is sacked, the infrastructure of hidden persuasion will remain intact. Nor will it be affected by the register of lobbyists that David Cameron will announce on Tuesday, antiquated before it is launched.

Nanny state, health police, red tape, big government: these terms have been devised or popularised by corporate front groups. The companies who fund them are often ones that cause serious harm to human welfare. The front groups campaign not only against specific regulations, but also against the very principle of the democratic restraint of business.

I see the “free market thinktanks” as the most useful of these groups. Their purpose, I believe, is to invest corporate lobbying with authority. Mark Littlewood, the head of one of these thinktanks – the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) – has described plain packaging as “the latest ludicrous move in the unending, ceaseless, bullying war against those who choose to produce and consume tobacco”. Over the past few days he’s been in the media repeatedly, railing against the policy. So do the IEA’s obsessions just happen to coincide with those of the cigarette firms? The IEA refuses to say who its sponsors are and how much they pay. But as a result of persistent digging, we now know that British American Tobacco, Philip Morris and Japan Tobacco International have been funding the institute – in BAT’s case since 1963. British American Tobacco has admitted that it gave the institute £20,000 last year and that it’s “planning to increase our contribution in 2013 and 2014“.

Otherwise it’s a void. The IEA tells me, “We do not accept any earmarked money for commissioned research work from any company.” Really? But whether companies pay for specific publications or whether they continue to fund a body that – by the purest serendipity – publishes books and pamphlets that concur with the desires of its sponsors, surely makes no difference.

The institute has almost unrivalled access to the BBC and other media, where it promotes the corporate agenda without ever being asked to disclose its interests. Because they remain hidden, it retains a credibility its corporate funders lack. Amazingly, since 2011 Mark Littlewood has also been the government’s adviser on cutting the regulations that business doesn’t like. Corporate conflicts of interest intrude into the heart of this country’s political life.

In 2002, a letter sent by the philosopher Roger Scruton to Japan Tobacco International (which manufactures Camel, Winston and Silk Cut) was leaked. In the letter, Professor Scruton complained that the £4,500 a month JTI was secretly paying him to place pro-tobacco articles in newspapers was insufficient: could they please raise it to £5,500?

Scruton was also working for the Institute of Economic Affairs, through which he published a major report attacking the World Health Organisation for trying to regulate tobacco. When his secret sponsorship was revealed, the IEA pronounced itself shocked: shocked to find that tobacco funding is going on in here. It claimed that “in the past we have relied on our authors to come forward with any competing interests, but that is going to change … we are developing a policy to ensure it doesn’t happen again.” Oh yes? Eleven years later I have yet to find a declaration in any IEA publication that the institute (let alone the author) has been taking money from companies with an interest in its contents.

The IEA is one of several groups that appear to be used as a political battering ram by tobacco companies. On the TobaccoTactics website you can find similarly gruesome details about the financial interests and lobbying activities of, for example, the Adam Smith Institute and the Common Sense Alliance.

Even where tobacco funding is acknowledged, only half the story is told. Forest, a group that admits that “most of our money is donated by UK-based tobacco companies”, has spawned a campaign against plain packaging called Hands Off Our Packs. The Department of Health has published some remarkable documents, alleging the blatant rigging of signatures on a petition launched by this campaign. Hands Off Our Packs is run by Angela Harbutt. She lives with Mark Littlewood.

Libertarianism in the hands of these people is a racket. All those noble sentiments about individual liberty, limited government and economic freedom are nothing but a smokescreen, a disguised form of corporate advertising. Whether Mark Littlewood, Lynton Crosby or David Cameron articulate it, it means the same thing: ideological cover for the corporations and the very rich.

Arguing against plain packaging on the Today programme, Mark Field MP, who came across as the transcendental form of an amoral, bumbling Tory twit, recited the usual tobacco company talking points, with their usual disingenuous disclaimers. In doing so, he made a magnificent slip of the tongue. “We don’t want to encourage young people to take up advertising … er, er, to take up tobacco smoking.” He got it right the first time.

Twitter: @georgemonbiot

A fully referenced version of this article can be found at

David Cameron hits back over accusations he let ‘Big Tobacco’ into Downing Street

David Cameron hits back over accusations he let ‘Big Tobacco’ into Downing Street

David Cameron has never discussed plain cigarette packaging with Lynton Crosby, the Tory election strategist with links to the tobacco industry, senior Tories insisted today.


Rowena Mason

By Rowena Mason, Political Correspondent

1:51PM BST 17 Jul 2013

They hit back after Ed Milband accused the Prime Minister of letting ‘Big Tobacco’ into Downing Street.

In a fiery session of PMQs, Labour MPs taunted Mr Cameron over allegations he dropped plans to bring in plain packaging for cigarettes under the influence of Mr Crosby.

The row escalated as Labour urged a senior civil servant to investigate the Prime Minister’s relationship with Mr Crosby, whose company has worked for tobacco firm Philip Morris.

They made the radical decision to make a formal complaint about Mr Cameron to the Cabinet Secretary, after he dodged a question in parliament over whether he had ever discussed the issue his close adviser.

However, Grant Shapps, the Tory chairman, later told the BBC’s World at One that there had been no conversations about cigarette packaging between the two men

· Smokers are ‘drug addicts’, says public health minister Anna Soubry

19 Jun 2013

The Conservatives were forced to respond after Mr Miliband put the Prime Minister under sustained pressure over the issue in the House of Commons.

“The whole of the country will have heard those same weasel words that you are sticking to,” Mr Miliband said to the Prime Minister. “You can’t deny that he had a conversation with Lynton Crosby about this issue.

“Even by the standards of this Prime Minister, this is a disgraceful episode.

“You are the Prime Minister for Benson and Hedgefunds and you know it. Can’t you see that there is a devastating conflict of interest between having your key adviser raking it in from big tobacco and then advising you not to go ahead with plain packaging?

“The reality that you cannot admit is that, against the advice of every major public health organisation, you have caved in to big tobacco. That is the reality about you and you know it.

“It’s Andy Coulson all over again. You are a Prime Minister who doesn’t think the rules apply to you – dinners for donors, Andy Coulson and now big tobacco in Downing Street, you always stand up for the wrong people.”

But Mr Cameron lashed out at the opposition leader, saying Labour is in no position to give the Tories a lesson on sleaze.

“You are in no position to lecture anyone on standards in public life,” he said.

“The reason your leadership is in crisis is that you can’t talk about the big issues. We are getting to the end of a political session when the deficit is down, unemployment is falling, crime is down, welfare is capped and Abu Qatada is back in Jordan.

“Everyday this country is getting stronger and everyday you are getting weaker.”