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DUP's Paisley calls on Jim Wells to apologise over cigarette packaging tweet

'The morning 500 people walked out of the factory for the last time - not the day to do it,' says MP

By Jonny Bell

Published 20/05/2016

Burning issue: Jim Wells introduced the measure, which Mr Paisley says has cost jobs.
Burning issue: Jim Wells introduced the measure, which Mr Paisley says has cost jobs.
Ian Paisley
Northern Ireland health minister Jim Wells has backed plans to introduce plain packaging on tobacco products across the UK
The JTI Gallaher plant in Ballymena
Ian Paisley's tweet.
Computer-generated image showing a plain cigarette package set to be introduced by the Australian government

The DUP's Ian Paisley has called for his party colleague Jim Wells to apologise over his approval of plain tobacco packaging - which the North Antrim MP claims has cost almost 1,000 Ballymena jobs.

Legislation comes into force on Friday, stripping brightly-coloured branding from tobacco packs with standardised, or plain packaging.

Boxes of 10 cigarettes have also been banned.

It follows after tobacco companies lost a legal challenge over the introduction of the laws.

Government hopes the new packaging - which will also feature health warnings  - will deter people from starting and encourage others to kick the habit.

After the introduction of similar laws in Australia, there was a 15% reduction in the number of people smoking.

Senior DUP members Jim Wells and Ian Paisley have clashed over the new law.

Former health minister Wells welcomed the introduction of the law on Twitter, which he approved as minster.

The North Antrim MP Ian Paisley hit back saying 980 people lost their jobs in his constituency over the measure - in reference to the JTI Gallagher closure.

Ian Paisley's tweet.
Ian Paisley's tweet.

The majority of workers at the Ballymena factory are to finish their final shift on Friday.

"Daft policy that will not save one life," he tweeted.

He also called on Mr Wells to apologise over the move.

Speaking on the BBC Nolan show, Mr Paisley said his first responsibility was to his constituency despite his "close personal friendship" with the South Down MLA.

He said Mr Wells tweet was "ill-timed".

"The very morning 500 people walked out of the factory for the last time - not the day to do it," he said.

While Jim Wells said the new policy was not solely responsible for the factory's closure.

The DUP has been asked for a comment.

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