Thursday, 23 June 2011

National Federation of Retail Newsagents complains at extent of ASH influence: Liberal Vision

Good for Liberal Vision for reporting this letter from the NFRN to the Prime Minister complaining about the close relationship between the Health Minister and Action on Smoking and Health:
This statement and public acceptance and deliverance of awards to an organisation that has been lobbying her department, MPs and other government departments (and indeed is granted government funding on the basis that it not be used for lobbying purposes) has called into question the manner in which recent tobacco display ban legislation has been made; and the ability of the Minister to be considered unbiased on the issue.
I attach a copy of the event report from an independent parliamentary reporting service and would ask that you formally conduct an investigation into the conduct of your minister in the light of her public admission that she had worked with an officer of an ASH funded parliamentary lobby group on recent legislation “behind the scenes”. Moreover, this inappropriate conduct necessitates a review of the legitimacy of the legislation itself. [emphasis added]
In light of these recent statements, I regrettably now see proof of these suspicions which is deeply offensive to our members who have campaigned so hard to see the government fulfil its pre-election commitments to bring the debate back to the House of Commons for a free vote and which the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats publically opposed in opposition. 
Writer Angela Harbutt also has hard words to say about ASH and its aims and working methods:
ASH receives huge amounts of money from the taxpayer  and sadly, like so many publicly funded bodies with too much money and too little scrutiny it has NOT gone about its task well. ASH has now become a fat, over-staffed, political, and single-minded organisation hell bent on eradicating smoking from the face of the earth, by whatever means necessary.  Where it could have worked with the industry to find solutions to the issues, it has set itself up against the manufacturers, the retailers and the consumers. And much of its so-called advice has been at best ineffective, and all too often counter-productive, with huge financial and social unintended consequences.
ASH's destructive behaviour is of course in line with the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. It does not sit well with ASH's original remit, as Angela Harbutt points out in the comments below:
As I understood it ASH was set up in 1971 as a campaigning health charity to work towards eliminating THE HARM caused by tobacco – not created to work towards eliminating tobacco. If that remains their public aim then working with the industry is surely a pretty sensible thing to do?
 Angela ... come to Scotland!

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