I found this out yesterday when receiving a response to a Cabinet Office request that I'd forgotten about. In my defence, it arrived nearly two weeks after the mandated 21 days response time. Why the delay for an uncomplicated three line query? I don't know.
It was regarding this parliamentary question in July.
Luciana Berger (Liverpool, Wavertree, Labour)I thought Maude was rather coy about the 'academic' in question, so asked his identity.
To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what progress the Behavioural Insight Team has made in relation to reductions in levels of smoking.
Francis Maude (Minister for the Cabinet Office; Horsham, Conservative)
The Behavioural Insights Team and the Department of Health are working in partnership with Boots and a leading UK academic in the field of smoking cessation to trial ways to encourage more smokers to successfully quit smoking. Results are expected in 2012.
It turns out that he was talking about Professor Robert West, the justification for his appointment being described thus - "details of Professor West’s provenance are already easily available to the public"
Indeed they are, as are details of why he is entirely unsuitable for such a role due to very transparent vested interests.
Declaration of interest: Robert West undertakes research and consultancy and receives fees for speaking from companies that develop and manufacture smoking cessation medications. He also has a share of a patent for a novel nicotine delivery device.And that's without mentioning his Department of Health funding.
I can just imagine the e-mail.
"Hi RobBut at least Boots are a fine upstanding intermediary. Nothing awry with them, is there?
Could you just pop into Whitehall a few days a week, expenses fully paid, of course. We need to discuss how to fill your pockets with lots of lovely lolly.
Former health secretary Patricia Hewitt takes lucrative job with BootsIs this the same Patricia Hewitt who voted for a last minute amendment to the Health Bill - thereby going against her own party's policy and the manifesto that Labour were elected on in 2005 - which transformed the smoking ban into the hideous, dictatorial monstrosity that it is now? I think it is, you know.
During her time in office Miss Hewitt was accused of "back-door" privatisation of primary care services by paving the way for NHS GPs and consultants to be available in branches of Boots.
Now she has been appointed "special consultant" to the company, one of the biggest chemist chains in the world.
She will fulfil the role for about three weeks of the year.
Nice and cosy up at Westminster's top table, isn't it? Trebles all round.
In other news, the Department of Health will soon be inviting the CEO of British American Tobacco to advise on the dangers of Champix. Not.