BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in: UK Politics
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Thursday, 23 August, 2001, 00:11 GMT 01:11 UK
Labour rebuts Clarke spin claim
Ken Clarke
Ken Clarke: "BAT does not organise smuggling"
The Labour Party has denied Conservative leadership contender Ken Clarke's claim that it was behind renewed allegations of tobacco smuggling by a firm linked to him.

Mr Clarke has dismissed reports in the Times and the Guardian that suggested British American Tobacco (BAT), of which he is non-executive deputy chairman, misled Parliament over cigarette smuggling.

We do not smuggle, we do not condone smuggling and we do not collude with smugglers

Speaking during BBC 2's Newsnight leadership debate, Mr Clarke laid the blame for the re-emergence of the allegations, which BAT denies, squarely at the door of government communications director Alastair Campbell.

But on Thursday, a Labour Party spokesman denied Mr Clarke's spin accusation.

'Completely untrue'

"For the record, Kenneth Clarke's claims that the Labour Party or Alastair Campbell were somehow responsible for the latest stories in the press about his links to the tobacco industry are completely untrue - as any of the journalists who wrote these stories would be able to point out," he said.

The Guardian reported on Wednesday that new evidence from a whistleblower suggested the firm has been using a Swiss subsidiary and bank account secretly to control a worldwide smuggling network.

Iain Duncan Smith
Iain Duncan Smith will not use the allegations in his campaign
The paper said this had been happening during Mr Clarke's tenure as deputy chairman.

As Mr Clarke went head-to-head against leadership rival Iain Duncan Smith on Wednesday's programme, he said: "These stories come from Millbank."

"I don't think Iain's people have anything to do with this rubbish."

Mr Clarke, who is not personally implicated in the claims, defended BAT's integrity when he gave evidence to a Commons health select committee last year.

Committee chairman David Hinchcliffe told the Times on Wednesday he was concerned BAT may have misled the committee's inquiry and said a further inquiry could be merited.

I am flattered the Labour Party want to stop me winning this election

Ken Clarke

Later, Howard Stoate, a Labour member of the committee said its investigation into smuggling allegations should be reopened.

But Mr Clarke told Newsnight: "Alastair Campbell has produced a left-wing MP who is prepared to hint he will recall the [Commons health] select committee.

"I am flattered the Labour Party want to stop me winning this election."

Allegations denied

BAT spokesman Scott Hailstone told BBC News Online that the newspaper articles were politically driven and contained no new information from allegations raised 18 months ago.

"We do not smuggle, we do not condone smuggling and we do not collude with smugglers," he said.

Mr Duncan Smith, said his supporters had nothing to do with the allegations and they would not be part of his leadership campaign.

BAT and Mr Clarke were called to give evidence to the Commons health select committee in February 2000, after The Guardian published allegations that BAT had benefited from the smuggling of billions of cigarettes.

The Times says there is no evidence Mr Clarke had set out to mislead the inquiry, or had any knowledge of the alleged smuggling.

'Reputable company'

Earlier on Wednesday Mr Clarke said the timing blamed the allegations on the "more fanatic end of the anti-tobacco lobby who think that the leadership election is a good opportunity to give it a whirl".

"The more fanatic of Iain Duncan Smith's supporters in the press were also likely suspects, he said.

He repeated his select committee testimony that BAT was a "reputable company".

"There is nothing wrong with my continued assurance that BAT does not organise smuggling."

Mr Clarke, who believes adults have a right to choose whether they smoke, said he would be happy to forego the 100,000 a year from his BAT directorship if he won the leadership contest.

Recent stories

The final two


See also:

27 Jun 01 | UK Politics
Clarke rejects tobacco charges
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more UK Politics stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK Politics stories