Labour has pounced on the Conservative leadership for reportedly failing to win backing from rebels against standardised cigarette packs.
The tobacco industry was left reeling after the government confirmed on 21 January it would set regulations for the non-branded, standardised packs before the General Election.
Luciana Berger MP, Labour’s shadow minister for public health, said: “The shambles of tobacco packaging reveals how weak David Cameron is, with reports that 100 of his MPs are prepared to rebel against him on this vital measure. Almost a year ago, Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favour of standardised packaging with just 24 MPs voting against it yet David Cameron has still not been able to deliver, unable to command the support of his own party.”
Berger said standardised packaging of tobacco was backed by the conclusions of the government’s own reviews and had the support of public health experts, public and Parliament, yet the government had taken almost a year to take the next step and in that time 200,000 children would have taken up smoking. She urged the prime minister to “get a grip and introduce this vital measure as soon as possible”.
Nick de Bois, Conservative MP for Enfield North, slammed the fact that his own party had failed to publish the report on its 2014 consultation on the introduction of the regulations. “If the consultation process is not to be dismissed as a sham, then the government must publish the responses promptly. Now that ministers have confirmed they wish to press ahead with standardised packaging it’s frankly ludicrous not to publish their own report on the consultation, however inconvenient that may be for them,” he said.
Simon Clark, director of the smokers’ group Forest, which runs the Hands Off Our Packs campaign, said: “It’s incomprehensible that the government would press ahead with legislation without allowing Parliament, the public and other interested parties see the responses. For the sake of transparency we urge the government to publish that information without further delay.”
A Department of Health spokeswoman told The Grocer that the consultation responses would be published “very soon…in the next week or so”.