According to his Linkedin profile, Ridgway worked in the packaging industry until 2010. Since April 2011, he has been listed as Director of M. R. Business Services, a “business consultancy particularly specialising on market development strategy, forward business direction and penetrating new and existing products into new market sectors.” When speaking of his role at M.R. Business Services, Ridgway said “Using my experience, M. R. Business Services has been established in order to be available to organisations requiring a management input or assistance at various stages of their development.”
As of 2014, the website http://mrbusiness-services.com/ mrbusiness-services.com was the homepage of the Consumer Packaging Manufacturers Alliance (CPMA), an organisation that describes itself as “an independent advisory body which works alongside the packaging industry and British and European governments. We strive to ensure that packaging legislation is fair to both the consumer and the industry as a whole.” Ridgway is the Director of CPMA. Prior to this, Ridgway had been referred to as a “former industry executive”, the “former managing director of Weidenhammer” and “spokesman for the UK Packaging Industry Group”. Speaking to the magazine Print Week in March 2014, Ridgway described his current role as evolving from his previous work in relation to tobacco packaging regulations on behalf of packaging companies Weidenhammer, Essentra Packaging, Parkside Flexibles and the API Group. He said of his role as Director of the CPMA: “I wanted to do this to protect the packaging industry primarily from the onslaught of regulation that we are facing so it is really for packaging producers and particularly for brand owners who are looking at increasing regulatory directives that are going to affect them, not just on tobacco but alcohol, foods and drinks.”
While working for Weidenhammer, Essentra Packaging, Parkside Flexibles and API Group, Ridgway has lobbied against the EU Tobacco Products Directive Revision and the introduction of Plain Packaging in the UK.
19 March 2013 - Ridgway met with representatives of stakeholders in the tobacco products supply chain including:
European Confederation of Tobacco Retailers (CEDT), Confederation of European Community Cigarette Manufacturers (CECCM), DCI, European Carton Makers Association (ECMA), European Smokeless Tobacco Council (ESTOC), European Smoking Tobacco Association, (ESTA), European Tobacco Wholesalers Association, Global Acetate Manufacturers’ Association (GAMA), Imperial Tobacco, Philip Morris International (PMI), Forest, Unitab, Syndicat National des Industries Aromatiques Alimentaires, and the EU TPD Ad hoc working group.
- Participant list of the tobacco products supply chain stakeholder meeting, which took place on 19 March 2013.
Meetings with Members of European Parliament
In the lobbying contacts report for MEPs between 1 January and 30 June 2013, Ridgway was listed as having met with four MEPs:
10 April 2013 – Julie Girling, MEP, South West of the UK and Gibraltar (UK Packaging Industry Group) -– Tobacco
4 June 2013 – Syed Kamall London (UK Packaging manufacturers) – Tobacco Packaging
5 June 2013 – Emma McClarkin, MEP East Midlands region (Weidenhammer Packaging Group) – EU TPD
6 June 2013 – Emma McClarkin, MEP East Midlands region – Tobacco Products Directive (meeting also attended by Simon Wildash from Paynes Security, Giltbrook Nottingham)
21 June 2013 & 27 June 2013 – Timothy Kirkhope, MEP, Yorkshire & The Humber (Weidenhammer) – Tobacco Products Directive
In addition, on 13 September 2013, Ridgway sent an email to MEPs from the European Conservatives and Reformists Group. The letter’s explicit aim was to communicate with MEPS prior to the “Plenary Voting session in Strasbourg during the week of 9th September 2013.” Ridgway asks for support for the following amendments to:
- Give the consumer a choice of pack size;
- Reduce the size of the proposed 75% health warning coverage
- Health warning to be moved from the proposed top of the pack to the bottom
- “The complete rejection of any form of ‘plain packaging’”
Ridgway concludes by stating that the aforementioned amendments will ensure “effective regulation rather than the excessive over-regulation as contained currently within the Directive…which will be to the detriment to UK manufacturing industry and also to the consumer upon which there is no evidence that it will have any influence on reducing smoking levels especially to the young and the vulnerable.”
Plain Packaging in the UK
Ridgway has been an active voice in opposition of proposals for plain packaging in the UK.
March 2013 - During a March 2013 visit to West Yorkshire, Prime Minister David Cameron was asked directly by Ridgway whether the legislation was to go ahead. “Can you confirm whether that decision has been taken yet? And the reason I ask is that we have three very successful businesses here Bradford area [sic], employing many hundreds of people, and they really want to know what the latest is on that, concerning their future.” When the UK Channel Four News FactCheck contacted Ridgway to ask how much money would be lost to the packaging industry should plain packaging be introduced for tobacco products, Ridgway claimed this was millions, yet acknowledged that he could not provide a source for his claim.
February 2014 – Ridgway gave evidence to the Chantler Review (a government commissioned review of the most recent evidence on the potential impacts of plain packaging since the 2012 UK Consultation concluded). As part of his evidence Ridgway stated: “The packaging industry questions a policy of plain packaging when there are alternative options which have been shown to be effective. For example, in Germany an extensive programme shows school children around hospitals to meet people and see first-hand the physical effects of smoking. This has resulted in a dramatic falling off of smoking take up by this group without excessive regulation.” The German Cancer Research Center refutes this claim, instead citing the evidence which attributes the main reasons for a reduction in youth smoking prevalence between 2001 and 2012 to tax increases and the introduction of smoke-free legislation.  Ridgway also argued that plain packaging would increase illicit trade as counterfeit cigarettes would be easier to produce, citing industry funded KPMG findings which suggested that illicit trade in Australia increased in the immediate aftermath of the 2012 plain packaging legislation. Visit Countering Industry Arguments Against Plain Packaging: It will Lead to Increased Smuggling for a critique of the KPMG report and the independent evidence on the status of the illicit trade post-implementation in Australia.
- C. Newman, Ifs and butts of fag packet argument, FactCheck, 2 May 2014, accessed February 2014
- Linkedin. Mike Ridgway profile, accessed February 2014
- M. R. Business Services, M.R. Business Services, Leeds University Business School e-Directory of alumni owned companies,nd, accessed July 2014
- Consumer Packaging Manufacturers Alliance, Plain & Simple – Packaging is important!, accessed July 2014
- L. Gyekye, Four pack companies lobby MEPs over Tobacco Products Directive, Packaging News', 25 April 2013, accessed July 2014
- Consumer Packaging Manufacturing Alliance, New Packaging Advisory Service Launched, March 2014, accessed July 2014
- Conservative Europe, Lobbying contacts report 1st January -30th June 2013, accessed February 2014
- Email from Mike Ridgway to Conservative Members of European Parliament, 2 September 2013, information received by Action for Smoking and Health
- Channel Four News Fact Check, Ifs and butts of the fag packet argument – FactCheck, 2 May 2013, accessed July 2014
- C.Holland, Bradford businessman tells Lords review blank cigarette packaging will lead to smuggling and lost taxes, The Telegraph & Argus, 14 February 2014, accessed July 2014
- German Cancer Research Center, http://www.dkfz.de/de/tabakkontrolle/download/Publikationen/AdWfP/AdWfP_Tobacco_prevention_in_Germany_what_works.pdf From Science to Politics: Tobacco prevention in Germany – what works?], accessed July 2014
- H.Jordan, Packaging industry warns of potential impact of plain tobacco packaging, PrintWeek, 14 February 2014, accessed July 2014