The government has missed its own deadline to launch a second plain packaging consultation, as pressure to reconsider the legislation mounts.
Health minister Jane Ellison had planned to publish draft regulations and a “final, short consultation” by the end of April.
However a spokesman for the Department of Health’s public health team told C-Store today that there was “no imminent announcement”.
Asked when the consultation might be published by Labour MP Alex Cunningham at Prime Minister’s Questions last week, David Cameron said he “could not pre-judge the Queen’s Speech,” which is set to take place on Wednesday 4 June 2014.
BAT’s corporate communications manager for the UK & Ireland Catherine Humphreys-Scott said she hoped the delay “indicated that the government was giving the policy more thought”.
The delay came in the same week that the EU finalised new tobacco legislation that will require graphic health warnings to cover 65% of the front and back of cigarette packs as-well as 50% of the sides.
The new law, which will be enforced from 2016, will effectively bring plain packaging in by the back door, negating the need for further legislation, JTI managing director Daniel Torras added.
Plain packaging is also said to be dividing Tory MPs, with dozens threatening to defy the prime minister by voting against plans, according to The Daily Mail.
Fifty MPs, most of them Tory, have signed a Commons motion against plain packaging - an indication of the scale of backbench anger, the paper said.
The government is also likely to be paying close attention to proceedings in Australia, where after almost two years of procedural wrangling, plain packaging laws are about to be tested in court.
The case will now be settled by the World Trade Organisation after the tobacco producing countries of Cuba, Ukraine, Indonesia, Honduras and Dominican Republic brought action against Australia, arguing that the law hampered their intellectual property rights.
The case will commence within weeks and the ruling will set an important precedent.