7) ALLEGATIONS RELATING TO
NON-DECLARATION OF INTERESTS (Contd.)
b) The Campaign relating to
680. Skoal Bandits was the
trade name of a product consisting of small pouches of moistened,
powdered chewing tobacco manufactured by US Tobacco Inc. Skoal
Bandits were first introduced in the United States in 1983. In
1985 the company received a Scottish Office grant of just under
£200,000 to build a European distribution centre at East
Kilbride. Pressure on the Government grew for a ban on the sale
of Skoal Bandits, which was initially resisted on the grounds
that this would be anomalous whilst other tobacco products remained
legally available. In 1986, however, a Private Member's Bill
to prohibit the sale of Skoal Bandits to minors was passed. The
Government then began to give consideration to a complete ban.
681. In February 1988 the
junior Minister at the Department of Health (Mrs Edwina Currie)
announced the Government's intention to prohibit outright the
sale of Skoal Bandits in the United Kingdom, subject to a three
month consultation period (subsequently extended to four months).
682. Around May 1988, Ian
Greer Associates, whose name had been put forward by Mr Hamilton
and Mr Brown, were hired by US Tobacco to mount a campaign
against the Government's proposals.
683. In December 1989, the
Oral Snuff (Safety) Regulations 1989 were made by the Secretary
of State for Health. These set a timetable for the eventual total
prohibition of the sale of Skoal Bandits in the United Kingdom.
684. In December 1990, an
application by US Tobacco for judicial review of the Secretary
of State's decision was granted and the making of the Oral Snuff
(Safety) Regulations was quashed. The main ground for the judgement
was the Secretary of State's omission to disclose to US Tobacco
the scientific evidence on which the decision was based - in other
words his failure to consult and thereby adopt a fair procedure.
(The objectives of the regulations were, however, eventually
secured through European Community legislation).
685. Both Mr Hamilton
and Mr Brown had from the outset opposed, on libertarian
grounds, the pressure for a complete ban on the sale of Skoal
Bandits (though Mr Brown had supported restrictions on
their availability to minors). They also argued that the proposed
ban was discriminatory in that products similar in effect to Skoal
Bandits would not be caught.
686. In addition to their
Parliamentary interventions, Mr Hamilton and Mr Brown
had a number of contacts with Ministers and officials as part
of their campaign to influence Government policy on Skoal Bandits.
The departmental papers suggest the following pattern of activity
between May 1988 and July 1989 (the period covered by the staged
commission payments from Mr Greer for the introduction of US Tobacco):
meeting between the junior Health Minister (Mrs Currie) and
Mr Hamilton, Mr Brown and other Members;
letter from Mr Hamilton to the Department of Health;
meeting between the junior Health Minister (Mr David Mellor)
and Mr Hamilton;
meeting between the Secretary of State for Health (Mr Kenneth
Clarke), Mr Hamilton and Mr Brown;
from Mr Hamilton to the Department of Health;
letters from Mr Hamilton and Mr Brown to the
Department of Health.
687. The grounds for asserting
that Mr Hamilton and Mr Brown should have declared
relevant interests in their dealings with the Department of Health
from July 1988 onwards are twofold:
they had received, were in the process of receiving, or expected
to receive, a staged commission payment of £6,000 each from
Mr Greer for introducing US Tobacco to IGA;
so far as Mr Brown was concerned, he had enjoyed hospitality
at US Tobacco's expense, in the form of flights to the USA and
free accommodation in September 1986. (Mr Brown registered
688. There is no evidence
in the departmental papers that any appropriate declaration was
made and, in any case, neither Member claims to have done so.
689. Mr Hamilton
in oral evidence that he had not been paid an introduction fee
by Mr Greer in order that he should advance the interests of US
Tobacco. Nevertheless, he accepted in retrospect that he had
been wrong to make no reference to the payment "when I went
on those meetings with Ministers".
690. Mr Brown acknowledged
that he probably had not treated the issue of registration and
declaration as carefully in the 1980s as he did now. He regretted
his failure to make a declaration but denied any deliberate intention
to conceal his interest in relation to US Tobacco.
691. I also sought the evidence
of the relevant Ministers at the Department of Health in 1988
and 1989 (Mrs Currie, Mr Mellor and Mr Clarke) as to their then
perception of the motives behind the lobbying carried out by Mr
Hamilton and Mr Brown on the Skoal Bandits issue.
692. Mrs Currie said that
the relationship between a number of Members, including Mr
Hamilton and Mr Brown, and the tobacco lobby "was
well known and understood" and it was no secret that "these
MPs were being paid by tobacco lobbyists". She added that
whilst Ministers regarded this as legitimate they "did not
have a high opinion of those who functioned in this way".
693. Mr Hamilton
and Mr Brown both strongly rejected Mrs Currie's remarks
about their alleged relationship with the tobacco industry.
694. Mr Mellor expressed
his anger at the libertarian thrust of the representations from
Mr Hamilton and Mr Brown, given the medical advice
available to the Department of Health about the harmful effects
of Skoal Bandits.
He said that whilst he had been prepared "with an ill-concealed
bad grace" to see them and to allow them to argue their case,
he would not have done so if he had had any reason to think that
"they were acting as they did for commercial reasons".
695. Mr Hamilton
claimed that Mr Mellor's letter, like Mrs Currie's, contained
factual inaccuracies. Referring to Mr Mellor's remark that he
had received Mr Hamilton and Mr Brown only with
an "ill-concealed bad grace", Mr Hamilton observed
that he had not, at the time, noticed that Mr Mellor's attitude
towards them "was uncharacteristic of him in any way".
696. Mr Clarke's main recollection
was of the vigour of the lobbying.
Mr Hamilton and Mr Brown had certainly been "very
ferocious in their private representations". But he did
not think he had ever been aware that either Member "had
financial connections with the companies involved".
Guardian alleged in Sleaze
(pp 121-3) that Mr Hamilton had enjoyed similar hospitality
in October 1988, but in fact, as separate enquiries have confirmed,
this trip took place in October 1989, as stated by Mr
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