The Government’s own advisers have issued a veiled warning that
Labour ministers may have been wrong to rush ahead with plans to ban
The Better Regulation Task Force, set up to root out unnecessary red
tape, has urged ministers to avoid bans and to rely on self-regulation
Its call may help persuade the Government to resist European Union
pressure for curbs on alcohol and children’s advertising.
But it comes too late to stop ministers implementing the EU’s ban on
The upcoming ban is facing a legal challenge from four tobacco
manufacturers, which this week launched a move in the British courts to
British American Tobacco, Gallaher, Imperial and Rothmans are asking the
High Court to refer the EU’s directive to the European Court of Justice,
claiming it is illegal and violates several principles of European
The companies claim the EU has no power to introduce such legislation,
that it will restrict their ability to tell customers about their
products and could even prevent them providing information to adult
smokers who request it.
The task force, which reports to the Cabinet Office, said in its annual
review: ’When ministers, who are under pressure to react too quickly to
public safety concerns, seek scapegoats or introduce bans without proper
discussion, the consequence may be impractical regulation which earns
little public support in the longer term.’
The group, chaired by Lord Haskins, chairman of Northern Foods, said it
was right to give the public information about such things as safe
drinking levels and to put health warnings on cigarette packets. ’But
most people recognise that tobacco and alcohol, although dangerous
substances, cannot and should not be proscribed.’
While the state should protect vulnerable groups such as young people,
’for the rest of us, decisions affecting only ourselves should not be
subject to government regulation,’ the task force said.
The report will be seized on by Conservative MPs who have accused
ministers of rushing ahead without holding proper consultations with the
tobacco and ad industries.