Up to 80 Conservative MPs may vote again the government’s proposals to plaster cigarette packets with health warnings, a policy known as ‘plain packaging’. The MPs will be given a free vote, but are expected to be defeated by a combination of left-wing Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats.
The Spectator reports a source who put the figure as high as eighty, which is over a quarter of the Parliamentary Conservative Party. Some of the refuseniks are expected to change their minds as voting against the measure would still be seen as a rebellion against the government line.
Isabel Hardman suggested the reasons for so many Conservative MPs voting against the government: “Some are absolutely opposed to the idea on principle. Others are really annoyed at the sneaky way ministers brought it out.
“Others still are annoyed that this is the sort of distraction that the party, which is supposed to be saying ‘long term economic plan’ over and over again until the whole country is blue in the face, is supposed to be avoiding yet ministers have chosen to strike up a distracting row with just 100 days to go till the election.”
News of the opposition came on the day smokers’ rights campaigners demanded the government publish the responses to their 2014 consultation on plain packaging. It is widely believed the consultation responses were overwhelmingly opposed to the proposal and have not been made public as a result.
Simon Clark, director of Forest which runs the Hands Off Our Packs campaign, said: “We submitted 53,000 letters and 97,000 petition responses to the consultation. That was almost six months ago. The closing date was in August yet the government still hasn’t published a report, nor has it revealed how many consultation responses were received in total.
“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.”
One of the Conservative MPs who has campaigned against plain packaging, Nick De Bois, said: “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.”
As previously reported on Breitbart London the tobacco companies consider the banning of their packaging as theft of Intellectual Property. They are widely expected to sue the government that introduces it for around £11bn.