Nigel Evans is the MP for Ribble Valley.
I am one of the biggest supporters of the Government’s desire to renegotiate our position within the European Union. I am also keen that this renegotiation is put to the people in an “in out” referendum. This will be the first time since 1975 that the British people have been consulted on anything to do with our governance by the EU.
Whether our PM will be successful I do not know, but I wish him well. Things outside his control will need the agreement of others and this will be tricky. One thing that he can do which is within his power is to ensure that any directive or legislation coming out of Brussels is not gold plated by his own Government. It is simple, and he has the power to do this.
I understand that one area where the Government will gold plate is so-called plain packaging of tobacco products. I am alarmed at this on several levels.
The independent regulatory policy committee looked at this and has stated they believe the Government’s proposals go beyond what the EU want via their European Tobacco Products Directive. This is therefore blatant gold plating.
I thought that gold plating had been consigned to the dustbin via Government diktat and indeed supported by our coalition partners. A Government minister, Michael Fallon, stated that Gold Plating had effectively ended. It would not appear to be so.
I used to sell tobacco products for over ten years in my own business and I fear this meddling will only result in other equally stupid legislation coming forward at a later stage with other products.
I also disagree with the tampering in such a brutal way with intellectual property, which is what the brands of tobacco products are. I also suspect it will not work. As a Conservative I despise the nanny state attitude exemplified by this crass policy.
I am a non-smoker and I am pleased that the Government has been so effective in reducing tobacco consumption. As an aside, I think they will get themselves into a bugger’s muddle over e cigarettes as they cannot cope with accepting that this product is effectively safer than normal cigarettes. The over-reaction and barmy attitude towards them is as predictable as it is sad.
A number of measures to reduce the consumption of tobacco have been introduced by this and previous Governments: the banning of vending machines, the banning of smoking in cars carrying children, and preventing over 18s buying for under 18s. Even raising the age of buying cigarettes has displayed the Government’s zeal in this area. Even packs of ten, and menthol cigarettes, are being consigned to the tobacco museum.
So let’s get a grip here and recognize that the Government should control its appetite to go even further than Europe wants on this matter. Let us take control over our own legislation and ensure that our Conservative philosophy sets the direction in which we travel, not gusts of wind from either Brussels or Whitehall. If we want to win hearts and minds in the next eight months, in order to win the general election victory we need in order to have the referendum on the EU, then the fight back must start at Westminster, not Brussels.