A row has broken out between the National Federation of Retail Newsagents and the government after it emerged the NFRN had been excluded from a working group set up to thrash out regulations around the tobacco display ban.

The NFRN, which represents 16,500 newsagents, blasted the Department of Health over its decision to "suddenly" drop it from the Tobacco Display Ban Working Group this week. NFRN national president Parminder Singh warned that thousands of independent newsagents would have no say in the regulations.

The DH defended the decision on legal grounds and said the "active involvement" of the NFRN in the ongoing judicial review cases, which are challenging the legislation, meant it would be "inappropriate" for it to be involved in drafting guidance on implementing the legislation.

The NFRN claimed the government's legal argument was flawed since it had provided its witness statements for the judicial review last November and January this year, and had still been taking part in the working group talks up to 15 March. "It is outrageous that the DH has excluded the only organisation representing independent newsagents," Singh said. "We have asked for the 'legal advice' it has referred to in excluding us. None has been forthcoming."

A DH spokeswoman said small shops' interests would be well represented by the participation of the ACS in the preliminary work. "NFRN, and other retail representatives, will have ample opportunity to comment on the draft guidance before it is finalised."