Whitehall leak details row on drugs deregulation

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LEAKED Whitehall documents last night disclosed a ministerial row over tobacco advertising and fears about drug safety on the eve of the launch of the deregulation campaign by the Prime Minister, writes Colin Brown.

John Major will host a seminar today with 20 ministers and the leaders of eight task forces before unveiling the plans to cut red tape on business, which the Prime Minister has made one of the showpieces of his term of office.

Leaked policy papers from one of the task forces preparing the plans for deregulation show ministers were urged to cut the size of the health warning on tobacco products. Virginia Bottomley, Secretary of State for Health, rejected that. But she bowed to pressure to abolish some legislative controls on the production of medicines. She was also under pressure to cut food safety and hygiene regulations applying to temperature controls on food, according to the documents, obtained by the Independent.

David Blunkett, Labour's health spokesman, accused the Government of reducing safeguards on the drugs industry.

The Department of Trade and Industry is braced for protests. The task forces also covered retailing, tourism, construction, financial services, the voluntary sector, engineering, communications, transport and agriculture.