Top news reaches The Blogger from his friends with their fingers on the fading pulse of South Bristol’s schools. It seems the next business sponsor to be announced for Withywood’s brand new Merchants Academy, run by our old friends The Merchant Venturers, is none other than one of their old friends, Imperial Tobacco, manufacturers of Lambert & Butler cigarettes and now the largest tobacco company in Europe.
Excellent news then. Former slave traders now flush with Enron cash hook up with tobacco smugglers to bring improved educational opportunities to the south Bristolian masses…
Even leaving aside Imperial’s Hanson-inspired downsizing/asset stripping exercise of the late 1980s, which in the city council’s words “devastated the community” of South Bristol when they pulled out of the city and closed the largest cigarette factory in Europe, there’s got to be some serious misgivings regarding the fitness of Imperial as a partner in the city’s education. Hasn’t there?
The Chief Executive of Imperial is none other than Gareth Davis, one of the country’s most notorious businessmen. Taking home a cool £2.5m a year the man staggers from scandal to scandal with insouciance.
A few years back Davis had to reject accusations from the House of Commons’ Public Accounts Committee that he had failed to co-operate with customs officials to prevent tobacco smuggling after the committee reported that Imperial had stepped up exports to “unusual markets” such as Afghanistan, Andorra and Moldova, even though there was no market for their cigarettes there. The committee were also told that customs officers who asked “legitimate questions” of Imperial about an increase in their products being smuggled back into the UK were “fobbed off”.
Some MPs finally concluded that Davis was a “liar” and a “crook”.
Then there was the time Davis appeared before a Commons Select Committee for Health where his promises to co-operate into their investigations into the health effects of smoking were described as “worthless” and his attitude “defensive” and “reactionary”.
This committee concluded:
“[Imperial’s] refusal to place in the public domain documents which may have a real bearing on the public health community’s knowledge of the health risks of smoking seems to us lamentable.”
The documents related to Imperial’s copious research into the effects of smoking and “were indexed in a fairly meaningless way. The text was not searchable, and the documents concerned ran to hundreds of thousands of pages.”
The Committee also found, “one of the other rather disturbing things is that somebody who came into Imperial in the late 1980s destroyed a lot of documents…”
And when Imperial became embroiled in Britain’s first court case relating to the death of a heavy smoker from lung cancer in 2003, Davis brazenly declared to a Scottish court there was no definite proof that smoking causes lung cancer!
“Crook”, “liar”, ““worthless”, “defensive”, “reactionary”, “lamentable”; just the sort of people we need to get behind South Bristol’s schools then. Mind you the science lessons might prove interesting along with those special criminology classes…
Further information on Imperial’s relationship to tobacco smuggling can be found here: http://www.ash.org.uk/html/smuggling/html/imperial1.html