QUESTIONS ASKED
OVER LABOUR'S `SECRET’ MEETINGS WITH BIG BUSINESS LEADERS
Details of high-level meetings between the prime Minister and top executives of
Britain's most powerful companies will remain secret, the government has ruled,
despite widespread concern about big business' privileged access to senior
politicians.....The documents released reveal that Blair has met with the MCG every year since
he was elected in 1997. Participants at the last meeting, in October 2004,
included top executives from HSBC, Vodafone, Unilever, BP, the drinks giant
Diageo, cigarette manufacturer British American Tobacco, and mining company Rio
.....Last year, The Guardian newspaper revealed that the head of one of the world's largest tobacco companies, British American Tobacco, used an MCG meeting in March 2000 to put private pressure on the Prime Minister and the then trade secretary Stephen Byers.
BAT stood accused of facilitating large-scale tobacco smuggling, costing UK taxpayers hundreds of millions of pounds, and faced a possible public inquiry by the Department for Trade and Industry. But after the MCG meeting with Tony Blair and a second private meeting with Byers, plans for the inquiry were dropped and a DTI investigation was conducted in secret instead. The findings of that investigation have never been published, and the government turned down a second FOIA request from The Big Issue in the North for its release.