Tory Mp Who Saw Bid To Stop Plain Cigarette Packaging Go Up In Smoke Has Links To Tobacco Firm
A top Tory who made a lone last-ditch bid to stop plain cigarette packaging has been treated to lavish trips by a tobacco firm.
Dame Angela Watkinson was given Chelsea Flower Show tickets worth almost £5,000 by industry giant JTI, makers of Benson & Hedges, Silk Cut and Camel.
The non-smoker was the only MP to speak in Wednesday’s Commons debateagainst the decision to strip fag packets of branding.
She argued: “The policy is well-intentioned but misguided. It will do more harm than good.”
Dame Angela, 73, who uses her website to boast of being a he alth campaigner for Diabetes UK, claimed the move “would be bad for exports, bad for retailers, bad for jobs and bad for the Treasury”.
Records show she has accepted two tickets for the Chelsea show every year since 2011 – worth a total £4,984.
Deborah Arnott, of Action on Smoking and He alth, said yesterday: “I am sure the tobacco industry thought Dame Angela was well worth a free invitation since she was the only MP prepared to stand up in the House of Commons to argue against standardised packaging.”
Criticism: Dame Angela Watkinson MP has been slammed by anti-smoking campaigners
The MP for Hornchurch and Upminster is among dozens of Tories treated to junkets by JTI.
Others include Christopher Chope (Chelsea show, Glyndebourne opera and England rugby match: Total £3,338) Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond (£700 Japanese embassy dinner) and ex-Solicitor General Sir Edward Garnier, (£1,200 flower show tickets).
All gifts were declared and within parliamentary rules.
Last night Dame Angela’s office said very many other MPs also accepted tickets to the flower show. She had made her interests quite clear in all the debates.
The surprise move to bring in plain packs by May 2016 was announced less than a week after Labour pledged to make today’s babies the first “smoke-free generation”.
And it came after fears last year that David Cameron’s top PR aide Lynton Crosby – whose lobbying firm Crosby Textor has had lucrative contracts with cigarette giants – could be behind delays to the plan.
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