North East MPs declare opera and flower festival tickets paid for by tobacco company

Labour MPs had a night at the opera and tickets to the Chelsea Flower Show paid for by a tobacco company.

Senior party figure and opera fan Nick Brown MP, went to a show courtesy of Japan International Tobacco which make Silk Cut and Benson & Hedges cigarettes.

Stephen Hepburn, MP for Jarrow, accepted tickets worth £700 from the same company for the internationally famous flower festival in May.

Both declared accepting donations of tickets as part of the MPs register of financial interests.

Nick Brown, who represents the Newcastle East constituency, said he had taken up JTI’s offer of hospitality on July 24 to find out more about the work of the Glyndebourne Opera.

Mr Brown voted in favour of the smoking ban in pubs and nightclubs in 2006.

Mr Brown, said:

“The event was hosted by Glyndbourne Opera and sponsored by JTI. The invitation was to see behind the scenes of the Opera Company, to learn something of their work and in the evening attend Glyndbourne’s new production of La Traviata.”

“The event took place during the Parliamentary recess. For the avoidance of doubt I declared this in the Register of Members Financial Interests.”

Tickets for the Chelsea Flower Show were also handed to Stephen Hepburn from the same company, which he accepted despite smoking rates in South Tyneside continuing to soar.

Earlier this year it was reported that a quarter of women in South Tyneside are still smoking at the time they give birth – more than twice the national average and the highest proportion of any local authority in the country.

Like Mr Brown, Mr Hepburn also voted in favour of the smoking ban back in 2006.

Jeremy Blackburn, Head of Communications for JTI UK, said:

Like many other businesses we host at events throughout the year to update stakeholders on developments at JTI, as well as exchange views and opinions informally with our guests on issues affecting our Company.

“We are strongly of the opinion that engagement results in better and more informed regulation and is therefore in the best interests of all relevant parties.

“We are able to share our views and opinions with independently minded MPs who are interested by the issues that impact on our business and MPs will judge for themselves the merits of our views.”

The Sunday Sun contacted Stephen Hepburn several times but he declined to comment.

Source –  Sunday Sun,  16 Nov 2014

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