We have seen plenty of U-turns over the past three years, but only a Government as shambolic as this one could U-turn on a U-turn. It is not so much that they have lost their way on public health—they are running around in circles.
Will the Minister answer a straight question: does she support standardised packaging for cigarettes—yes or no? In the week running up to this being debated in the other place, does she honestly expect us to believe that this has nothing to do with the fact that the Government are on the brink of a humiliating defeat?
The Minister says that we need another review, but the Government have already had a review and the evidence is clear for all to see. Did that not already find that standardised packaging made cigarettes less attractive to young people and health warnings more effective, and did it not refute the utter falsehood that some brands are safer than others? All the royal colleges and health experts are united behind the case for standardised packaging—I commend everyone who has campaigned for this measure—but is it not the case that if the lobbying Bill goes through in its current form, it will prevent charities such as Cancer Research UK from ever raising such issues in an election year?
Is not the Prime Minister more interested in listening to Lynton Crosby and the vested interests of big tobacco than cancer charities and health experts? What further evidence does the Minister need? What do Ministers know now that they did not already know when they U-turned on this before the summer recess? Why are the Government delaying this still further? Some 79,230 children will have taken up smoking in the 139 days since the Government U-turned on standardised packaging in July, and about 70,000 more will have had their first cigarette by the time the review reports next March. We should be legislating now, not delaying.