Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the way in which the Government are encouraging tobacco manufacturers to spend about £4 million a year on television commercials to persuade people to smoke is being widely interpreted, particularly by young people, as casting disbelief on the medical evidence? Will he not now persuade his colleagues and the tobacco companies to take effective action before another Government do so by legislation?
I do not quite understand the hon. Gentleman's reference to another Government. Certainly this Government are not taking steps to encourage people to advertise cigarettes on television or any other media. The Government view on this is that the advertising of cigarettes on television is only one aspect of the general question, and that by far the most important point is that people should understand the dangers to health that may accrue from smoking.
Is the Postmaster-General aware that his refusal to take the action suggested in these Questions makes nonsense of the campaign—if one may use the word "campaign"—of his right hon. Friend the Minister of Health to try to discourage young people from contracting the habit of smoking? Is he further aware that fiddling around with the content of these advertisements or the timing of them is a wholy inadequate substitute for getting rid of them altogether?
I do not quite understand what the hon. Gentleman means by "fiddling around", because the steps which were taken by the Independent Television Authority to eliminate certain types of cigarette advertisements on television were, I thought, generally welcomed on both sides of the House. The present position is that the advertising of cigarettes is now not permitted before 9 o'clock in the evening. The suggestion that the Authority is idle in this matter is quite misleading. The Advertising Advisory Committee, which advises the I.T.A. on these matters, has recently had this subject under consideration. It has not yet come to a final conclusion but is still thinking over the possibilities of suggesting to the I.T.A. some further restrictions.
If the whole question of cigarette advertising, its nature, extent and so on is now being considered, will the Postmaster-General bring to the notice of the cigarette manufacturers the very good example followed by Scotch whisky manufacturers of not having any advertisements at all on television?
Would it not be a good thing if the Minister had discussions with this body since its decisions are mandatory? Further, does he realise that any proposals which are current for shortening or altering the hours of cigarette advertising are completely unsatisfactory to the 103 Members who have signed the Motion on the Order Paper?
The hon. Gentleman's second point is largely a matter of opinion. What I said in reply was that I have had no discussions with this Committee because I have no standing in relation to it; it advises the Authority, not me.
Would my right hon. Friend agree that the nation's health must come first in this matter? However, will he also bear in mind in coming to any conclusion that cigarette advertising removed from the smaller regional companies would bankrupt many of them and that we should not get the services which many hon. Members require from these companies?
We must keep the matter in perspective. The first point mentioned by my hon. Friend is the most important of all, but there are many other factors which affect the matter.
Whether the Postmaster-General has any standing on this Advisory Committee or not, does he not see something inconsistent in the fact that many millions of pounds are spent on cigarette advertising while the amount spent by the Government in drawing attention to the dangers involved in smoking is derisory?