Another government minister with double standards – now there’s a surprise!

Warning against accepting tobacco firms’ help to clean streets

The Sunday Telegraph reports that local authorities have warned against accepting help from tobacco companies to clean up the streets. An estimated 122 tons of daily UK street litter is from cigarette butts, cigarette packets and used matches. 

In January, Kris Hopkins, then a local government minister, said he wanted tobacco companies to “make a contribution to put right the wrongs as a consequence of their product”. The companies offered to fund measures to help clean the country’s streets last month, but the offer was rejected by Rory Stewart, a junior environment minister. 

In a letter to the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association, Mr Stewart said that a tie-up risked undermining councils’ work in promoting public health. Mr Stewart said it was “for local authorities to decide whether they wish to work with the tobacco industry”, but added that councils should take their own legal advice before accepting the support. He said: “Since April 1 2013, local authorities have had responsibility for improving the health of their local populations and for public health services. The Government’s view is that where a local authority enters into a partnership with a tobacco company, this fundamentally undermines the authority’s statutory duty to promote public health.” 

Clive Betts, the chairman of the Commons communities and local government committee, said: “Tobacco products are a major contribution to the litter problem. Councils have to be very careful in any arrangements which would enable them to improve their image. The best solution would be for the Treasury to give up a small amount of tobacco revenue to help councils clean up.”

The Sunday Telegraph, Page: 13 The Sun, Page: 18

Comment

This story appears to be a classic case of government talking out of both sides of its mouth again. It was not so long ago that some minister or other, was suggesting that the polluter should pay. From memory, this was suggestion was focussed on the fast food industry detritus that our roads and motorways were and are awash with, but both the principle and the issue are the same.  

Councils are now lumbered with the job of stopping us all from becoming 250lb burger eating, booze swilling chain smokers, whilst at the same time being told, by George Osbourne, to do it all with reduced funding.  
Taking ‘juniors’ message to its logical conclusion.  This means that all of the revenue the government receives from tobacco and alcohol taxes, along with various taxes received from the companies that produce the stuff and those that produce and peddle any form of fast food, is somehow tainted and should not be accepted by any government department charged with improving public health – well that’s the NHS screwed then!
Just as farcical, is the junior minister’s suggestion that councils should spend thousands of pounds of cash taking legal advice – I wonder if this particular Minster has any outside interests involving the legal profession? Parliament is of course full of lawyers and barristers.  

Personally, I don’t mind being ‘undermined’ a bit in the public health role – whatever that means in legal terms- if it helps me to get a bit more rubbish of of our streets!
 

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