To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action is being taken to ensure that they implement their obligations under Article 5.3 of the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control when consulting on cigarette packaging.
My Lords, the Government take very seriously their obligations as a party to the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. This treaty places obligations on parties to protect public health policy from the vested interests of the tobacco industry. Our tobacco control plan has a chapter dedicated to how we are going about protecting tobacco control from vested interests. Our approach is consistent with guidelines that have been agreed to assist parties to implement Article 5.3 of the treaty.
I thank the Minister for that Answer but, for the information of the House, the guidelines for the implementation of Article 5.3 state that parties to the convention,
“should require rules for the disclosure or registration of the tobacco industry entities, affiliated organizations and individuals acting on their behalf, including lobbyists”.
The guidelines specify that that covers meetings, receptions and all conversations which should be a matter of public record. Will the Minister ask his right honourable colleague the Secretary of State for Health to write forthwith to all his colleagues across government, reminding them what HMG’s long-standing commitments to the World Health Organisation’s convention are and how they should be enacted? Can he assure the House that Article 5.3 has been complied with in every particular in the past year while leading up to the disappointing announcement that plain packaging has been delayed?
I can give the noble Baroness that assurance. She will know from her time in government how seriously the Department of Health takes its obligations in this area, not least around transparency but also minimising the extent to which officials meet representatives of the tobacco industry. I am sure that my colleagues in other departments need no reminding of their obligations as well. We do of course interact with the tobacco industry, as the framework agreement allows, but we encourage those representations to be in writing and minimise face-to-face contact.
I am sure that we could get into an interesting conceptual discussion about the difference between strategy and policy. The key point is that Mr Crosby has been very clear in his public statement. He has said:
That is very clear.
What assessment do the Government intend to make in the coming year of the appeal of current packaging, given that some of the slimline packaging is particularly attractive and enticing to young women and that some of the chunky packaging is particularly enticing to the macho side of young men?
The noble Baroness gives me the opportunity to make clear that plain packaging of tobacco is very much still in our sights; we have not decided to reject that option. I am sure that the psychology of marketing is one very important area that we will continue to focus on.
My Lords, what better adviser is there for the Department of Health or indeed the Prime Minister than Cancer Research UK, whose only interest is preventing children starting to smoke? When did my noble friend’s department last speak to that organisation about tobacco packaging?
My Lords, I cannot tell my noble friend about the dates on which the department spoke to Cancer Research UK; I can tell her that we have very regular dealings with Cancer Research UK. CRUK
made a submission to the consultation on the plain packaging of tobacco. I can feed back to my noble friend with specific details.
My Lords, given that the Government clearly wanted to make the distinction between strategy and policy, would the Minister have another shot at answering the question raised by my noble friend Lord Foulkes? If he is unable to do so, perhaps he could consult with his colleagues who made such a distinction and write to my noble friend to explain why that distinction was made and what it meant.
I answered as I did because it is important for us not to get too bogged down in semantics. Did Mr Crosby speak to the Prime Minister about tobacco issues or did he not? The answer is that he did not.
My Lords, I am aware that officials in my department—not Ministers, I emphasise—had face-to-face meetings with certain tobacco companies in the context of the consultation on plain packaging. That was done to clarify certain aspects of their written submissions and is as far as it went. I am not aware of which companies those were, but if I can enlighten the noble Lord I will write to him.
My Lords, does my noble friend agree that it is harmful to public health in the United Kingdom for Mr Crosby to have any dealings whatever with government departments while exercising a malign influence in the background, and that he should be got rid of and sent back to Australia?
The latter matter is not one on which I will have any influence, nor do I wish to. However, on my noble friend’s point, I cannot say more than I have already: Mr Crosby has had no dealings with Ministers or the Department of Health on the issue of tobacco.