MPs accepted tickets to events including the men’s final at Wimbledon, Chelsea Flower Show and a Paul McCartney concert at the O2 Arena, all paid for by the powerful tobacco industry, an investigation has revealed.
A report in the BMJ found 38 MPs have accepted more than £60,000-worth of hospitality from the tobacco industry since 2010.
“It’s shocking that politicians continue to accept hospitality from the tobacco industry without questioning the industry’s motives”Hazel Cheeseman
Twenty of the MPs recently voted against plain packaging on tobacco products, while more than half of them are from constituencies where the number of smoking-related deaths exceeds the national average, the investigation found.
Writing in the BMJ, freelance journalist Jonathan Gornall said that while those against standardised packaging were out-voted, “what remains relevant, however, is the extent to which the tobacco industry remains able to reach out and influence parliamentarians”.
He said there was “nothing to stop companies inviting lords and MPs along to the occasional big-ticket event, offering hospitality and talking things over in the convivial atmosphere of a private box or lounge” and there was no evidence that they did discuss any of the issues confronting their hosts.
But he added: “The extraordinary thing, perhaps, is just how many MPs seem to think it is perfectly acceptable to accept such largesse from an industry whose products kill so many of their constituents every year.”
The MPs - 29 Conservatives, eight Labour, and one independent - also accepted tickets to Test matches at the Oval and the opera at Glyndebourne in East Sussex.
Hazel Cheeseman, director of policy at Action on Smoking and Health (Ash), said: “It’s shocking that politicians continue to accept hospitality from the tobacco industry without questioning the industry’s motives.
“Having the ear of a politician is clearly advantageous to companies seeking to influence Government.”