Tory and DUP MPs have been criticized for hosting events for tobacco companies over the past 18 months.
A string of lunches and dinners have been hosted by MPs including John Whittingdale and Nigel Evans for companies such as Philip Morris International (NYSE: PM).
“Members of parliament ought to be setting a lead on public health issues and, with such a well-established link between tobacco and poor health, it seems incongruous and unsettling for so many tobacco companies to be hosting events here in parliament,” said Justin Madders, the Labour party’s health spokesman.
“Of course it’s important that businesses are engaged in implementing a health policy that works for patients, but there inevitably will be questions from the public about whether events like this are appropriate in the modern day. We need to be certain that political parties are setting their health policies according to what’s best for patients, not under the influence of big business.”
It is not just tobacco companies that Tory and DUP MPs have been hosting events for. Other private companies include defence and arms exhibition, gambling and drink companies.
“Big corporations in the arms, gambling and tobacco industries are already perceived as having an undue sway over public policy. When they are allowed to roam free in the corridors of power it is hardly surprising that the public loses faith in our democracy,” said the director of Unlock Democracy, a grassroots campaign for democratic reform, Alexandra Runswick.
“Most voters would find it hard to imagine being wined and dined in parliament, but for many corporations this kind of access is commonplace. To tackle public distrust in politics MPs should consider spending less time being courted by corporations, and more time serving their constituents.”
British American Tobacco UK (LON: BATS) has said that the events held by the government are essential to tackle the growing issue of black market tobacco in the UK.