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Ex-Cameron aide in tobacco firm lobbying row

Kate Marley, a member of David Cameron’s inner circle, is now working for Philip Morris International.
Kate Marley, a member of David Cameron’s inner circle, is now working for Philip Morris International. Photograph: Steve Back

One of David Cameron’s closest advisers has been caught up in a tobacco lobbying row after it emerged that she promoted a new product from the Marlboro manufacturer, Philip Morris, at this year’s Tory party conference.

Labour has questioned whether Kate Marley, who quit as Cameron’s special adviser last year, breached parliamentary rules barring ministers and government officials from lobbying the government for a period after they leave office – a charge her new employer rejects.

The row has once again focused attention on the “revolving door” between Whitehall insiders and the business sector, which is keen to hire former government advisers for their knowledge and high-level contacts.

Marley’s role as head of government affairs at Philip Morris International, which she took up in July, was approved by the Cabinet Office on two conditions: first, she should not draw on privileged information, and second, she should “not lobby the UK government on behalf of Philip Morris” for two years.

Marley attended this year’s Tory party conference to promote Philip Morris’s IQOS product, which it claims reduces harmful chemical emissions by heating, not burning, tobacco. The product is the cornerstone of the company’s fightback against smoking restrictions and a move away from conventional cigarettes.

The company has sought to harness itself to the government’s recently unveiled tobacco strategy, promoting a smoke-free future, in the belief that it will help boost IQOS sales. Peter Nixon, its managing director, has claimed that it shows the government is on a “similar path” to Philip Morris.

Marley, who was made an MBE and given a 20% pay rise while serving under Cameron, was a member of staff promoting the product during the conference, according to an article in PRWeek magazine. It reported: “Conference delegates cannot avoid seeing tobacco giant Philip Morris International’s large and prominently positioned stand.”

Jon Trickett, shadow Cabinet Office minister, says parliamentary rules ‘are not fit for purpose’.
Jon Trickett, shadow Cabinet Office minister, says parliamentary rules ‘are not fit for purpose’. Photograph: Rex/Shutterstock

Jon Trickett, the shadow minister for the Cabinet Office, said he would write to Cabinet Office minister, Damian Green, who has responsibility for government ethics, to express concern that a former government insider could be seen to be exploiting her previous position in potential violation of parliamentary rules. “Trust in politics and politicians is at rock bottom,” Trickett said. “The public wisely believe there is often no smoke without fire. The rules are not fit for purpose, but there is no sign the government is going to make them tougher any time soon.”

Trickett said he would press Green on whether Marley had met ministers since starting her new post and whether she had met with anyone from government while at the conference.

Philip Morris said Marley had sought permission from the Cabinet Office prior to her appointment. In a statement it said: “The conditions set out by the Cabinet Office specifically permit Kate Marley to have “routine contact” with the UK government on “matters aligned with government policy”. Philip Morris Limited, as part of the company’s ambitions to create a smoke-free world, has strongly supported the government’s tobacco control plan: “Towards a smoke-free generation”.Kate Marley’s role is to offer our company’s support for the government’s plan in its aim to encourage smokers to switch to less harmful alternative products.”

The tobacco industry’s march on Africa

However Deborah Arnott, chief executive of the anti-smoking charity Ash, described Philip Morris’s claim to be following a “similar path” to the government as “breathtaking”.

“After decades of deception by the tobacco industry, it will take more than the launch of single product to rescue such a tarnished reputation,” Arnott said. “While Philip Morris uses a former adviser to David Cameron to vaunt its harm-reduction credentials at Conservative party conference, it continues to aggressively market its traditional lethal products in developing countries.”

Concerns about the revolving door between Whitehall and business have grown since Cameron’s government was dismantled. Last week it emerged that his former energy minister Lord Barker is now chairman of a Russian oligarch’s aluminium firm. And former chancellor George Osborne now works four days a month for investment giant BlackRock, for which he is paid £650,000 a year.

At least 170 Whitehall officials were approved for outside jobs between February 2016 to this March, according to the National Audit Office

This article titled "Ex-Cameron aide in tobacco firm lobbying row" was written by Jamie Doward, for The Observer on Saturday 21 October 2017 09.02pm

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