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'After section 7(2) of the Children and Young Persons Act 1993 (c. 12) (sale of tobacco, etc. to persons under (eighteen)) insert-
"(2A) A person commits an offence if he buys or attempts to buy tobacco on behalf of an individual aged under 18.
(2B) Where a person is charged with an offence under subsection (2A) it is a defence that he had no reason to suspect that the individual was aged under 18.
(2C) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale.".'.- (Mike Penning.)
Brought up, and read the First time.
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With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: new clause 4- Purchase of tobacco on behalf of children-
'After section 7(2) of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 (c. 12) (sale of tobacco, etc, to persons under (eighteen)) insert-
"2A Purchase of tobacco on behalf of children
(1) A person commits an offence if-
(a) he buys or attempts to buy tobacco on behalf of an individual aged under 18, or
(b) where he is a member of a club, on behalf of an individual aged under 18 he-
(i) makes arrangements whereby tobacco is supplied to him or to his order by or on behalf of the club, or
(ii) attempts to make such arrangements.
(2) A person ("the relevant person") commits an offence if-
(a) he buys or attempts to buy tobacco for consumption on relevant premises by an individual aged under 18, or
(b) where he is a member of a club-
(i) by some act or default of his, tobacco is supplied to him, or to his order, by or on behalf of the club for consumption on relevant premises by an individual aged under 18, or
(ii) he attempts to have tobacco so supplied for such consumption.
(3) Where a person is charged with an offence under paragraph (1) or (2) it is a defence that he had no reason to suspect that the individual was aged under 18.
(4) A person guilty of an offence under this subsection is liable on summary conviction-
(a) in the case of an offence under paragraph (1), to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale, and
(b) in the case of an offence under paragraph (2), to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale."'.
New clause 6- Disclosure of tobacco industry promotional and research activity-
'(1) The Secretary of State shall make regulations to require a business which in the course of its activity sells a tobacco product or causes one to be sold to disclose details of its marketing and research activities.
(2) Disclosure shall consist of but is not limited to-
(a) the total amount spent on distribution, advertising and selling costs deducted from corporation tax;
(b) distribution costs;
(c) promotional allowances at retail;
(d) competition prizes at retail;
(e) tobacco display gantries at retail;
(f) speciality item distribution;
(g) brand development;
(h) packaging design;
(i) online marketing activity;
(j) advertising in specialist trade press;
(k) corporate social responsibility activities;
(l) market research;
(m) product research; and
(n) any other marketing and research activity which represents more than 5 per cent. of the total spending by the business.
(3) The Secretary of State shall make regulations to require disclosure of information and results from all market research and scientific research conducted by the businesses specified in subsection (1) in relation to tobacco products by type of product.
(4) The Secretary of State shall require all information required by subsections (1) and (3) to be submitted on a quarterly basis by businesses specified in subsection (1) and shall, within three months, publish a report aggregating the data.
(5) A person who does not comply with regulations under this section shall be guilty of an offence.
(6) The provisions of section 13 (Enforcement), 14 (Powers of entry, etc), 15 (Obstruction, etc of officers) and 16 (Penalties) of the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act 2002 shall apply to this section.'.
New clause 7- Restrictions on tobacco packaging-
'Within six months of the passing of this Act, the Secretary of State shall set out guidance for consultation with appropriate stakeholders on regulations prohibiting or restricting the use of logos, colours, brand images or promotional information on tobacco packaging other than brand names and product names displayed in a standard colour and font style.'.
Amendment 1, page 23, line 31, leave out clause 21.
Amendment 16, clause 21, page 24, line 15, at end insert-
'(2) No offence is committed under section 7A if-
(a) the products are displayed at a place where tobacco products are offered for sale,
(b) the display is of one packet only of each tobacco product which is offered for sale,
(c) the display is no greater than 1.5 square metres in size, and
(d) the display complies with such requirements as may be specified in regulations.'.
Amendment 2, clause 22, page 26, line 3, leave out 'may' and insert 'shall'.
Amendment 4, page 26, line 4, after 'prohibiting', insert 'in certain circumstances'.
Amendment 5, page 26, line 4, leave out 'or imposing requirements in relation to'.
Amendment 6, page 26, leave out lines 6 to 10.
Amendment 17, page 26, leave out lines 7 to 10 and insert-
'requirements as to the location of any automatic machine for the sale of tobacco which would prevent access to, or purchase of, tobacco by any person aged under 18.'.
Amendment 7, page 26, line 12, leave out 'or requirement'.
Amendment 8, page 26, line 13, leave out 'or requirement'.
Amendment 9, clause 23, page 27, line 12, leave out 'may' and insert 'shall'.
Amendment 10, page 27, line 12, after 'prohibiting', insert ' in certain circumstances'.
Amendment 11, page 27, line 12, leave out 'or imposing requirements in relation to'.
Amendment 12, page 27, leave out lines 15 to 19.
Amendment 18, page 27, leave out lines 16 to 19 and insert-
'requirements as to the location of any automatic machine for the sale of tobacco which would prevent access to, or purchase of, tobacco by any person aged under 18.'.
Amendment 13, page 27, line 21, leave out 'or requirement'.
Amendment 14, page 27, line 22, leave out 'or requirement'.
It is a pleasure to take this element of the Bill through its final stages.
I was a proud member of the Select Committee on Health that pushed the Government from a partial ban on smoking in public places to a full ban. I did not think that anyone should be protected under the legislation on a cherry-picking principle. It should be one rule for all or not at all. I was therefore pleased that the Select Committee, after taking a lot of evidence, reached conclusions that meant that an amendment was tabled and, on a free vote, the House came to a sensible decision.
Unless things have changed since the debate began, I am sad that the two main Opposition parties have a free vote this evening, while the Government party does not. That is a shame. It is an issue of conscience- [Interruption.] No, the Government party does not have a free vote-Labour Members can ask the Minister. Some selective voting by Labour Members may happen, but the Government will oppose the amendments and that is a shame.
It is all the sadder because the evidence is ambiguous. There is no decisive evidence to compel Ministers and Labour Members to vote the same way.
That is a sensible point. We did not force any votes in Committee because we wanted the House to have the opportunity to express a view and did not want to constrain the House. I said to the Minister in Committee that the evidence appeared to be selective. I understand where it came from; I have nothing but admiration for Cancer Research UK and Action on Smoking and Health-ASH. I have worked with them in the past and will continue to do that. However, it is a Minister's job to examine all the evidence so that legislation is evidence-based.
I am sure that my hon. Friend is also particularly sad because the group of amendments affects businesses in all our constituencies and it would therefore be good to see Labour Members standing up for their local companies, especially in difficult economic times.
The important point is that the businesses to which my hon. Friend refers are operating legally. We are considering a legal product. I am sure that many hon. Members would like it to be illegal, but it is not. While it is sold by businesses legitimately, fairly and legally, they should not be persecuted. That is my view and my reason for tabling the amendments.
There are four new clauses and a raft of amendments and I shall try to speak about as many as possible, but without taking up too much of the House's time because it is important that hon. Members vote on as many as possible. The Opposition are looking to press new clause 1 and amendments 1 and 2 in particular to a vote.
I find it strange that the Government have not accepted the substance of new clause 1 and tabled such an amendment themselves. Raising the smoking age from 16 to 18 had broad support throughout the country, levelled up our legislation with that of many of our European colleagues and friends, and made it similar to that for alcohol. Yet while it is understandably illegal for someone to proxy-purchase alcohol and pass it on to a minor, it is not illegal to proxy-purchase cigarettes and pass them on to a minor. I do not understand that. If the measure is to protect young people, and I genuinely broadly support it, I do not understand why new clause 1 is not accepted, especially given the evidence from the manufacturers themselves that 89 per cent. of young people who smoke buy cigarettes from or are given them by another person outside a legal shop premises.
I have no truck with tobacco manufacturers. They know-I have said it publicly-that I would be happy if they went bust tomorrow morning. I do not like tobacco products, but while they are legal, legal businesses, which do not break the law, should have every opportunity to sell them and not be penalised.
The hon. Gentleman refers to outlawing proxy purchases of tobacco. However, we have a parallel regime for outlawing proxy purchases of alcohol, which has proved extremely difficult and costly to enforce and has not been especially successful. Why does he think that tobacco would be different?
I do apologise-it is being enforced in Cambridge, where partnerships have worked together and driven down the amount of alcohol being drunk on the streets, particularly by young people. It can be done, if there is a will. I know David Taylor very well. We do not want young kids to buy tobacco from, or to be given tobacco by, an adult who is making an illicit earning by doing so.
The shops, of course, are doing their best. They are asking whether people are 18 years old, and when someone proves that they are, they can buy the tobacco and sell it on. That cannot be acceptable, and we do not accept it with alcohol. If the hon. Gentleman is right, the Government need to get a grip on alcohol legislation. The key point is that the Government did the right thing by raising the age to 18, but they have not done the right thing in their proposals. That is the reason for new clause 1.
The crux of amendment 1 is the evidence that the measure in the Bill would massively affect businesses in this country at this very difficult time-that was raised by my hon. Friend Christopher Fraser. Is there sufficient evidence to ban displays at the point of sale, which will affect people's businesses? I have looked long and hard for evidence from around the world that the Government's proposals are sufficiently evidence-based, but I do not think that they are. I am sure that the Minister will refer to the experiment in Canada. When the measure was introduced in one state, there was a drop, but in states where it was not introduced, there was also a drop. What is the evidence base from that?
The other thing that worries me about the evidence base, particularly Professor Hastings's evidence, is that it is based on what people are likely to do rather than on what they have done. I am sure that we have all been canvassing quite a lot lately and knocking on doors. If every single person who said, "Yes, I will vote for you Mike-that is my intention," did so, my majority would be about 10 times greater than it is. We all know about people stating their intent, but surely the evidence base for the Bill should be what people have done. We do not have such evidence.
My hon. Friend is typically making a powerful case. I was a retailer for 12 years before entering Parliament, and I can tell him that tobacco is not an impulse purchase in the way that cream cakes are, yet the Government are treating them the same way. People walk past cream cakes and think, "Oh, I might try one of them, they look quite nice," but they do not do the same with tobacco. Tobacco is not an impulse purchase, so does he agree that it should not be treated as such?
I completely agree with my hon. Friend, as does the evidence from across the spectrum. At the moment, we do not have the recommendations from the Government, or know what they are likely to do or how they will interpret the measure. They are as yet unavailable, so we are going to be voting this evening on measures in the Bill the impact of which we do not directly know. We were promised those details early in Committee and last week. Will the Minister tell us where they are?
The hon. Gentleman may be aware that the regulations were published earlier today, before the debate commenced. Indeed, they were e-mailed to all Members of Parliament and are available in the Library and the Vote Office.
Does that not tell us everything about the Government? It is like lastminute.com, but this is such an important issue. Businesses and Members of Parliament needed to know about the regulations weeks ago, not on the day when we are debating the Bill. We will be voting this evening on the future of the local stores and businesses in our constituencies, and I am disappointed in the Minister. I think she had every opportunity to bring that information forward.
I hope that hon. Members are aware that we have involved many retail organisations in the development of the draft regulations. It is not always the case that regulations are produced before a Bill is debated-far from it. Ideally, I would have liked to see them earlier, but we are ahead of time on many other provisions.
Does the hon. Gentleman find it astounding that the Minister thinks that publishing the regulations this afternoon is acceptable when, as Christopher Fraser rightly observed, the retailers are going to suffer? They needed to see the regulations before we started the debate, but they were published merely hours before it began.
Let us have an argument about process because there is no substance. I am listening to the hon. Gentleman. If he is right that there is no argument about tobacco being an impulse purchase, why is he so bothered about display at point of sale being banned? The evidence is that the tobacco companies take great comfort from the displays and the advertising they do at point of sale, and in the fact that it influences young people. If he believes that the measure would damage the retail trade, why does he not address that point?
I am concerned about having good law-a law that we can enforce and one that does not have a disproportionate impact on people who are going about their law-abiding trades. That is my point.
Looking carefully at and reading the evidence will show us that what the hon. Gentleman just said is fundamentally wrong. The evidence tells us that most children-we are talking about under-18s-do not purchase cigarettes in a shop. There is evidence of vending machine use, which I will come to in a moment, but most people are given tobacco or purchase it from an adult. There would be no impact from the measures. That is the evidence.
Further to the point made by Lembit Öpik, the Association of Convenience Stores has said that the display ban could cost each store a minimum of £1,800, or even as much as £5,000. That is far too high for a store to bear in these economic times. I am sure that my hon. Friend will agree that those same store owners are scrupulous about how they sell such products, because they would not be in trade if they did not do it properly.
My hon. Friend's point is absolutely crucial. Those store owners do not know exactly how much the measure will cost them, because until this morning we had no idea what was going on. If a shop sells cigarettes to an under-age child, it should be warned, then it should receive a written warning, then it should be three strikes and out. Local government already has those powers. That process happens in some parts of the country, but it should be enforced throughout the country.
My hon. Friend makes a very powerful case, and I share his abhorrence at the prevalence of smoking. However, the Government's proposal would have implications not only on the capital cost to retailers, as was outlined by my hon. Friend Christopher Fraser, but on their revenue. The measure would enforce continuing annual losses of trade. Many of the small confectioners, tobacconists and newsagents rely on tobacco sales for something approaching 30 per cent. of their turnover. The significant loss of turnover resulting from the display ban would put many of those shops out of business when the economy least needs to lose local community shops.
My second, related point, is that making tobacco an under-the-counter product will increase the propensity of illegal products being sold through other outlets, which will lead to a substantial reduction in Government revenue.
If the hon. Gentleman will bear with me, I need to make some progress, and I want my Back-Bench colleagues to speak on this matter, because it is very important.
The amount that such retailers take in revenue is not the only important thing: the footfall is also important. I would have thought that the Government, who are trying to find extra income and who are today selling off some of the nation's assets-we would agree with some of their measures, but they are having a one-off sale-would have considered why they are losing more than £3 billion in duty on black market and counterfeit cigarettes, and white imports.
I am extremely grateful that my hon. Friend touched on that point. As Chairman of the Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs, I know what a terrible impact such activity has had on Northern Ireland. It is not only a question of revenue lost. The illicit cigarettes that are sold are frequently highly toxic-far more toxic than the orthodox product.
Three aspects of illicit tobacco worry me. The first is the duty that is not paid and the loss of income. Secondly, we have no idea what counterfeit cigarettes contain. I support the amendment on the contents of cigarettes, but we know nothing about those that are made in some dodgy shed in a field and then imported into this country. The third aspect-and I saw how prevalent it is when I went to a football match at Watford the other day and saw the discarded packets-is the so-called white products, which look like legitimate products, but are made in the eastern bloc and are brought into this country for about 25p a packet and sold on. The people who sell those cigarettes do not care who buys them. One in five cigarettes sold in this country is sold on the black market. Why do we not attack that market? Why is it not a criminal offence to sell such cigarettes? It is an offence under customs legislation, but the police are not interested because it is not a recordable offence. Why not? We should drive this practice out of the pubs, clubs and markets of this country.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Earlier, the Minister assured the House that the draft regulations were now available in the Library and the Vote Office. I have just been to both, seeking copies, and they are not available. It is in any event extraordinary that the Minister did not have the courtesy to distribute the draft regulations to the shadow Minister. I request an adjournment of this debate, pending the production of these regulations.
I am afraid that I cannot acquiesce to the hon. Gentleman's final request. It is important that the necessary papers are available before a debate takes place. I am sure that Ministers will have heard what the hon. Gentleman has said and will instigate inquiries-as will I-into the exact position.
I was slightly surprised when the Minister said earlier that the regulations were available in the Library and the Vote Office, because such documents would usually be laid on the Table. In this case, they were not laid on the Table, which is why I mentioned that to the Minister. She should be embarrassed, because this debate is about people's livelihoods, and the impact assessments would allow Members to take a view on how this legislation would affect businesses in their constituency.
I would also have thought that the Government would have had some comment on nicotine replacement therapy, its cost and how we can make it more available. Once people are addicted to nicotine, it is difficult to give up. The Government have myriad different programmes for smoking cessation, most of which I support, but the best approach is to address nicotine addiction. There must be ways to put nicotine replacement therapy closer to the consumer-perhaps in the stores that would be damaged by this ban. If nicotine replacements were put next to cigarettes in shops, they would be available if people decided that they wanted to break their addiction and give up cigarettes. I am told by retailers that they are not allowed to put nicotine replacements next to cigarettes because the tobacco manufacturers say that that is not acceptable. That is wrong. Nicotine replacements should be available next to tobacco products, at a comparable price.
We have been talking about the regulations, which are not yet available, but that may be an academic exercise. Am I right in thinking that after the general election, if the Conservatives form the next Government, those regulations will never be implemented?
We have said that nobody with any sense thinks that squeezing this important debate into a tiny section of the Report stage gives it the importance it deserves. We want to see a free vote across the House and proper time given to debating this important issue of how we stop youngsters starting to smoke without completely destroying the corner shop.
My hon. Friend refers to the free vote that we expect later this evening-certainly on this side of the House-but that does not address the issue of what will happen if the Bill becomes law in this Parliament. Will an incoming Conservative Government implement those regulations or will they accept the will of Conservative Members and reject them?
We will always accept the will of the House. The draft regulations are not due to come into force until 2011, and the election will take place long before that. This House will take a view before the regulations come into force. It is as plain and simple as that.
Evidence shows that one way in which young people gain access to cigarettes is from vending machines-although I do not know how they afford the cigarettes, because they are hugely expensive. I was in a local pub and a young guy came in during a quiz night and bought a packet of cigarettes from the vending machine-16 for £7.20-and scuttled out of the door before anyone could stop him, and we have all seen the DVD on the issue produced by ASH and Cancer Research UK. However, there are simple ways to stop young people using cigarette vending machines without destroying the income that pubs get from vending machines or restricting access to a legal product for people aged over 18.
Last week, I stayed in the Jury Inn hotel in Manchester and a little sign on the vending machine said, "If you wish to purchase these products, please come to the bar and prove that you are 18". Once that has been proved, the bar staff zap the machine and it works once. The Government should make proposals to address the vending machine problem without destroying a legal way to purchase cigarettes. That would make a dramatic difference. The biggest difference would be made by addressing the black market, rather than by picking on shopkeepers who are running legitimate businesses but happen to sell a product that some people do not like.
No, I am about to conclude my remarks.
If the Government were serious, they would have waited for the evidence on point of sale. They would also support new clause 1, which would make it a criminal offence to act as a proxy in the purchase of tobacco, and amendment 2, which would protect more children by closing the vending machine loophole.
New clause 6 would require the public disclosure by tobacco companies of details of their marketing activity and research, and their scientific research. We must bear in mind the fact that everything that tobacco companies do is designed to maximise the sale of cigarettes. In the case of scientific research, they have a long track record of denying the conclusions of other people's scientific research, trying to introduce uncertainty about that research and trying to mislead the public.
When, after the seminal research by Sir Richard Doll, it became clear to anybody who cared to listen that smoking kills, the immediate response by the tobacco industry was to say, "Oh no, it doesn't." Then the tobacco industry did its own scientific research, which concluded: "Yes it does," but it still continued to deny it.
Then when people outside the tobacco industry proved scientifically that nicotine was addictive, the tobacco industry said, "Oh no it isn't." Then the industry did its own research, which proved that nicotine was indeed addictive, but at that point the industry did not just continue to deny it. Rather, being the evil people that they are, those in the tobacco industry increased the proportion of the addictive part of nicotine in their cigarettes, so that they became more addictive than they were beforehand.
Then the tobacco industry started promoting low-tar cigarettes, but when people outside said, "No, they aren't better for the health of people who smoke," those in the industry said, "Yes they are." Then it did its own internal scientific research, which proved yet again that the people outside the industry were right: low-tar cigarettes were no more healthy or good for smokers than the worst of them.
Since then, the industry has been promoting all sorts of allegedly scientific surveys and pseudo-research. It has paid its way into scientific publications, hiring scientists and doctors who, for the money it has paid them, have been willing to perjure themselves and say that cigarettes are not dangerous. As far as the scientific side of things is concerned, one of the tobacco industry's objects has always been just to create as much controversy as it can and to cast doubt on the plain and simple fact that smoking kills roughly half the people who take it up.
When we come to promotional activity-the industry's scientific research is of course related to this-one cannot fault the tobacco industry for not having long-term thinking. There is evidence from tobacco companies' internal documents going as far back as the 1970s that they were asking themselves, "How do we fight off the evidence of harm that tobacco does to people?" and, "How do we promote cigarette sales when advertising is banned?" There are legions of documents-generally speaking, they were revealed as a result of legal cases in the United States-that show what the tobacco companies have been up to.
There has not been so much evidence here in the United Kingdom, but the situation is probably best summarised by Mr. Geoff Good, which is an odd name under the circumstances, of Imperial Tobacco, who, referring to the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act 2002, told a meeting in London in 2006:
"In this challenging environment, the marketing team have to become more creative."
He would have been more accurate if he had said "even more creative," because the industry has been getting more and more creative over the decades. The industry has promoted point-of-sale displays and sales through vending machines, and it has moved into massive promotional activity in music venues that are attended by young people.
No, I will not give way. Other people want to speak.
Hardly anybody takes up smoking as an adult. Smoking is taken up by children or those in their late teens. Recently at the O2 Centre in Greenwich-as I understand it, O2 is not one of the oxygens, but it ought to be some chemical reference-there was a tented area that was dedicated exclusively to the promotion of cigarettes. People have been going round bars in the north-east of England with illuminated trays and illuminated young women carrying them, and a similar approach has been taken on the beaches in Brighton. Those involved have been dishing out free cigarettes to British holidaymakers in Spain to ensure that they remain addicted.
People say, "Oh, these visible displays have no impact," but let me quote from a Philip Morris official who said fairly recently:
"The more visible our products are to consumers, the more sales we make."
It is no good Opposition Members saying, "Oh, there would be a damaging revenue cost if the displays were banned." If there were a revenue cost, it would mean that the ban was working. However, the industry claims that the ban would not work, but if it would not work, why is it going on about it?
The other point is this. I have every sympathy with the small shopkeeper, but we are not talking about small shopkeepers; we are talking about some of the biggest multinational corporations in the world. Mike Penning said that he would like to see them go bankrupt, but they are a long way short of being bankrupt. They are rolling in money. If the small shopkeepers need help to pay to get rid of displays, they should ask the big bosses-the tobacco barons-to pay up the money and help them to conceal those displays.
The right hon. Gentleman is making some excellent points. He mentioned that half the people who take up smoking will eventually die from it, but has he made any estimate of the number of children, who are now taking up smoking in far too great a number because of the availability of cigarettes, vending machines and suchlike, who will eventually die from this filthy habit? He is making some superb points.
Roughly speaking, around half the people who smoke die, one way or another, as a result of being smokers.
Then we have had the effort by the tobacco industry to get into what might be described as tobacco-branded accessories, which involves selling something that looks like Marlboro or Lucky Strike, which promotes the image and the brand. All I can do is quote probably the last ever words that Robert Kennedy said that were worth recording before he was assassinated. He was visiting the cardiothoracic unit at a hospital and he said, "I guess this is real Marlboro country." And it is: that is what the tobacco industry does.
Just to help my right hon. Friend with the figures, 120,000 people die each year from smoking-related diseases, which is about 400 a day-the equivalent of the number on a jumbo jet falling out of the sky. That is the number of young people whom the tobacco companies need to recruit just to maintain the level of smokers in our society.
I think that I was the first ever person in the House to point out that the tobacco industry needs to recruit 120,000 new smokers a year to make up for the ones it kills in that year. We have to remember that, because the tobacco companies will be standing still if they only get an extra 120,000 new smokers.
Interestingly enough, when the right hon. Gentleman became the Secretary of State for Health in 1997, sitting on his desk would have been a report by Goddard, as well as a separate one by Smee, commissioned by the Department of Health into the effects of advertising and display bands. They said that it seemed clear that tobacco advertising and retail displays had no effect on youth smoking initiation in the late 1980s. That was what was sitting on the right hon. Gentleman's desk. Why do we not have that evidence before us, so that we can have a balanced debate?
The Smee report did say what Mike Penning said, but it also said that people smoke or not depending on whether they have positive or negative attitudes to cigarettes. Surely advertising gives them positive ones.
I thank my right hon. Friend.
My new clause 6 would force the tobacco industry to disclose all the information about its scientific and market research. At present, the people with a duty to promote public health, which includes the Government-and, one would hope, the Opposition-as well as Parliament, are continually playing catch-up with the latest scam that the tobacco industry has come up with.
Tonight, we have measures to try to cope with vending machines and displays, which are increasingly used for promotion. I propose that we allow people and organisations with a duty to promote public health to get ahead of the game. If we are to do that, we have to recognise what the tobacco companies really are. It is no good pretending that they are anything else-they are merchants of death. That is not an exaggeration.
No, I shall not.
I am concerned for the little corner shop, but I am also concerned for the lungs of everybody who goes into it and of those who do not go into it. That is why, although my proposal is not popular with some people, I hope that it will have the Government's support. Someone has mentioned my time as Health Secretary, and I proposed to the then Prime Minister that we introduce a similar measure, but he refused to do so. However, I am still sticking with it and I hope that the House will stick with it. I hope that we will continually expose just what the tobacco industry is up to in its efforts to make profits at the expense of the health of the people who use its products.
The Liberal Democrats have tabled new clauses 4 and 7, but I want to start by talking about new clauses 1 and 4. Before I do, however, it might be worth clarifying one point. The Minister said that all Members of Parliament had been e-mailed the tobacco regulations. I have just checked my e-mail, and they were sent at 4.15 pm. Bearing in mind the fact that we all thought that the debate would start at 3.30 pm, it really is unacceptable that the e-mail was sent out after the planned time for the start of the debate. That gave us no chance to incorporate any comments that we might have had on the regulations. I do not know whether that was a result of the Minister's direction, or lacklustre behaviour on the part of Department of Health officials. Perhaps the Minister can clarify whether that was when the e-mail was supposed to go out.
Order. I am reluctant to intervene on the hon. Lady, who is talking about e-mails, and they are of course important in this day and age, but the key places for these regulations to be, I am afraid, are in the Library and the Vote Office, and they are still not there at the moment.
New clauses 1 and 4 have the same ends-to bolster this rather feeble legislation and to make it into something a bit more meaningful. We are used to eye-catching initiatives from the Government, but the tobacco display ban is probably the first example of a non-eye-catching gimmick. The ban is a gimmick, and I speak as someone who regards themselves as a bit of a tobacco health fascist. I do not like the tobacco industry. I do not like anything it stands for. I have seen at first hand what tobacco has done to close relatives. One has only to go out the back door of any hospital to see people who can hardly walk but who have managed to stagger outside for their life-destroying cigarette. There is a problem.
Ultimately, however, I am also a scientist and a Liberal, and we are talking about an adult product. The ban has been touted as a means of reducing smoking among the under-aged. If I felt for one moment that it would do that, I would support it, but it does not, so I will be supporting provisions to remove it. As I said, we are talking about an adult product that is sold to adults.
It is rather disappointing, therefore, that the Government resisted attempts to introduce amendments in Committee to ban proxy sales of tobacco. A variation on new clause 1 was tabled in Committee, but the Minister rejected it. She outlined some interesting statistics from a tobacco smoking survey carried out in 2006-before the age for smoking was increased. She referred to 11 to 15-year-olds, 34 per cent. of whom bought from a shop, a fifth of whom were given cigarettes by friends, a tenth of whom were given them by family members and 18 per cent. of whom often bought them from other people. She claimed that the Conservative provision we were speaking to would not solve the problem, and she cited a number of incidences in which the proposed law could not be used.
I therefore drafted new clause 4, which is based on the legislation that the Government use to prevent proxy sales of alcohol. This may be naive of me, but I assumed that the alcohol legislation is fit for purpose and that the Government would want to support a provision based on their legislation on another issue. The only reason not to support new clause 4 would be a lack of Government will to tackle the problem of proxy sales. I am told that even the tobacco retailers would not object to a provision along the lines that I propose. Whatever we might think of the product, a vast majority of retailers want to be responsible retailers. On this occasion, therefore, I hope that the Minister will not reject my proposals, because there would seem to be no reason to do so.
New clause 6 is an interesting provision, which would ensure disclosure of tobacco industry promotional research activity. We have just heard an impassioned speech by Frank Dobson, which clearly explained the reason behind the new clause. In 2000, the Health Committee produced a report that set out in great detail some of the methods used to promote and increase tobacco sales. The current Committee, in its inquiry on alcohol, has uncovered similar devices and actions, which are quite shocking. Other supporters of the new clause will probably regale us with more detail, and I shall leave that to them so that more people have time to speak.
I hope that commercial confidentiality is not thrown at us as a reason for not introducing my proposal. Unless information has to be provided in a very short time span, commercial confidentiality is simply not an issue. There is no detail about time scales in the legislation, so they will presumably be left to regulations. It might be helpful if any Members who are still to speak in support of the provisions could set out a time line for how they perceive the proposed openness working in practice.
New clause 7 is an attempt to go further into the issue of plain packs. In Committee, I introduced an amendment that would require all cigarettes to be sold in plain packs. That may have been a little bold for some, and I would probably be a little inconsistent if I demanded an evidence base for a display ban when there is little evidence base as yet for plain packs. However, I instinctively feel that they must be a good idea because the tobacco manufacturers seem to hate the idea with a passion.
New clause 7 requires the Secretary of State to consult stakeholders within six months of Royal Assent on regulations for the restriction or prohibition of branding on all tobacco products, thus potentially providing the first opportunity to introduce plain packaging for tobacco products anywhere in the world. It is now recommended as an issue for consideration under guidelines for the World Health Organisation's framework convention on tobacco control-and I am sure that hon. Members will be aware that the UK is a signatory to that accord.
We need to put the new clause into the context of the health arguments and how the tobacco industry has systematically utilised and evolved the tobacco packet with the very intention-deliberate or otherwise-of undermining the regulations that sought to inform people and protect them from tobacco. We know that smoking kills one in every two of its long-term users and that smoking is an addiction of childhood, with 80 per cent. of smokers having started by the age of 19. There is also a crucial health inequalities aspect to smoking that cannot be ignored. We know that smoking is the single most important factor in health inequalities and accounts for half the difference in life expectancy between social classes 1 and 5, which is very disheartening. I shall return a little later to the role of tobacco packaging in exacerbating health inequalities. First, I would like to address the tobacco control context surrounding the new clause.
The Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act 2002 prohibited the vast majority of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, which meant that the rules of the game had changed. The tobacco industry was forced into thinking how it could be a little cleverer and refine how it interacted with its users and potential consumers. One of the prime mechanisms for interacting with consumers is now through the cigarette packet itself, which is effectively used as a badge product. Although smokers may not be familiar with the concept of cigarette packets as badge products, they will be more familiar with the notion that the tobacco industry is seeking to evoke-that their brand of cigarettes reflects their identity, personality and character.
Given such priming to personalise a smoker's relationship with the brand they smoke, it is not surprising that most adults exhibit strong brand loyalty. More than 90 per cent. of smokers have already decided which brand to buy before they walk into a shop. The tobacco industry is aware of what it is doing. A Brown & Williamson employee stated in 1995 that
"if you smoke, a cigarette pack is one of the few things you use regularly that makes a statement about you. A cigarette pack is the only thing you take out of your pocket 20 times a day and lay out for everyone to see. That's a lot different than buying your soap powder in generic packaging."
That may well have been before mobile phones became the accessory to have, but this issue is worrying from a health inequalities perspective. Roper and Shah found that children, particularly those from deprived backgrounds, are especially attracted to tobacco brands. Once again, the supposedly glamorous issue of smoking is being supported through a branding infrastructure.
Since 1998, the tobacco industry has sought to increase the number of brands, with the dual purpose of increasing their impact through taking up more space on the shelves while also increasing their share of the market. Benson & Hedges, for example, has increased its brand family from four in 1998 to 12 in 2008. Another function of branding is to distract from the health warnings on cigarette packets. Since January 2003, all cigarette packets have had to include a written health warning and, by
It is of course illegal for tobacco manufacturers to say that their cigarettes are "low tar" or "light" or imply that they are less harmful than other brands. The fact remains that cigarettes contain more than 80 cancer-causing substances. Now the manufacturers use the branding and colour scheme of the pack to imply distinctions, through colours such as silver and white. For example, research by Ann McNeill at Nottingham university and other partners found that
"products bearing the word 'smooth' or using lighter coloured branding mislead people into thinking that these products are less harmful to their health".
Let me provide a practical example in case anyone does not believe me. This research found that
"compared to Marlboro packs with a red logo, cigarettes in packs with a gold logo were rated as lower health risk by 53 per cent. and easier to quit by 31 per cent. of adult smokers".
Consumers are deliberately being led to make distinctions between products that are essentially identical and, crucially, do not have any differential health benefit or impact.
What could be the impact of plain packaging on tobacco products? Well, it would deglamorise them. Studies by Wakefield et al have found that plainer tobacco packaging can make the product seem "dull and boring". Indeed, without all the branding, what do these packets become? They become simply containers of tobacco products, rather than a brand for a smoker to build a relationship with. Such a move would be seriously fought by the tobacco industry, and it is already on their radar.
The hon. Lady is talking persuasively about the effect of packaging and how it influences people. Ann McNeill and others have said that it is precisely the "power wall" of display that influences people, yet the hon. Lady is against doing anything about that.
The difference is that tobacco is an adult product, so there is no reason not to display it. I shall come on to that issue later. There would not necessarily have to be a display ban here, as the new clause might make the display much less attractive by making the package less attractive. There are examples of packages designed to attract women, who may like the package because it is sparkly and attractive, so they want to get their hands on it. This links in with addiction, as these types of packet are attractive in a way that the plain packets are not.
I am going to carry on as I have almost concluded my remarks.
The argument against plain packs is that they make it easier to counterfeit tobacco products, but it is difficult to distinguish between counterfeits and existing packs in any case, and there are covert markings on most packs, which could be incorporated into the plain type. The new clause is designed to ask the Government only to consult on the matter and properly to investigate it. It does not force them to adopt the proposal; it only asks them to give serious consideration to it. If we truly want to address the problem, we need to look at a range of solutions.
Amendment 1 would leave out clause 21, which introduces the display ban. I have already commented that tobacco is an adult product. I have seen no convincing evidence that this provision will reduce under-age smoking. Under-age smokers get their cigarettes mainly from other sources. If the Government were serious about cutting off supply to younger people, they would support one of the proxy sales amending provisions.
The impact on retailers was mentioned as an important consideration, but many retailers I have spoken to view it as almost inevitable that with stronger and stronger smoking control measures, their sales will drop. They fear that the drop will be sudden, although I am not entirely convinced of that. Not all retailers feel the same way, however. It was interesting to receive an e-mail from someone who had recently visited Ireland, where he saw the impact of legislation. He felt that the legislation had forced small retailers to think creatively about other products they could sell to increase footfall.
In some cases the costs are borne by the tobacco manufacturers. I think there is some evidence that the figures we were given originally showing the impact on small retailers were lower than the real figures. There is a fair amount of disinformation.
Let me read out what the gentleman to whom I referred said. Members can make up their own minds about it, but I thought he made an interesting point. He said, "There are very small margins on tobacco products in the UK and Ireland, yet they currently take up a lot of display space in most shops. Banning displays would create a level playing field and mean that I could use that display space for healthier products which will give me a healthier profit." I thought that a very enlightened attitude, but it brings me back to the cream cakes. Sadly, healthy products are not necessarily that "must have" purchase. They may not be an impulse purchase, but people do not go out of their way to acquire them.
Amendment 16 seems to make a compromise by allowing a smaller display. I find that an interesting proposal. It treats the product as an adult product that people can still buy without restriction, but it minimises the impact of the display from the manufacturer's point of view.
I am grateful for my hon. Friend's provisional support for the amendment. Does she agree that it resolves the issue raised earlier about "power walls"? If the allocation is 1.5 square metres and that is it, the power wall argument is dissolved, with no loss of the civil liberties and the economic potential that newsagents are still worried about losing.
None of us has any problem with indications that tobacco is available as a lawful product. What we are all against are indications that it is an attractive product, and amendment 16 goes some way towards addressing that. Does that not go to the heart of the matter?
I hope the House will excuse me if I say a little about vending machines. I have tried to be brief in dealing with matters raised in other amendments. A significant proportion of children buy their cigarettes from vending machines, and here the Government have again been very timid. No other age-related products can be sold in the same way. I shall leave it to those who tabled the amendment to present their arguments, but there is widespread support for the banning of such vending machines, and I feel that the Government are behind the curve in this respect.
Amendment 17 supports a sentiment first expressed by my hon. Friend Greg Mulholland, who suggested on Second Reading that a compromise might be to restrict vending machines to premises to which only those over 18 had access. I am not sure how practical that is-I do not know whether clubs for over-18s can employ 16-year-old cleaners-but it is an interesting attempt.
The Government have chosen a single eye-catching initiative in an attempt to show that they are doing something about tobacco control. They have chosen the wrong measures, however, and I hope they will listen seriously to what is said about some of the amendments tabled by both Opposition and Labour Members, which in my view would do much more to control tobacco use than the path they have chosen to pursue.
I owe the House an explanation. Because of the complexity of some of the new clauses and amendments that we are discussing and the overlap in what we are attempting to achieve, I shall pursue amendments 5 to 8, relating to clause 22 and England and Wales, and amendments 11 to 14, relating to clause 23, which deals with Northern Ireland. I am assured by my ministerial colleagues that if the amendments that I am pursuing are accepted, that will ensure that cigarette vending machines are put out of order for good to help to protect the future health of our children. I ask all Members not to find a way of frustrating the will of the House, but to find a way of ensuring that future generations of children do not die unnecessarily as a result of cigarettes purchased from vending machines.
"to be brave and not to take heed of those who claim that this would be a regulation too far."-[ Hansard, 8 June 2009; Vol. 493, c. 604.]
I hope that that is exactly what he and his colleagues will do in the Lobby tonight.
My amendments test the resolve of the House in attempting to close an outrageous loophole in safeguards intended to prevent tens of thousands of children from illness and premature deaths in the years to come. We require the Secretary of State to regulate to prohibit the sale of tobacco from vending machines. Why do we need to do more? Smoking is an addiction of childhood, not an adult choice. Members may come here tonight and argue that it is to do with adult choice, but it is no such thing. More than 80 per cent. of people who start smoking before the age of 19 are hooked by then, and each year in this country people start smoking when they are as young as 10 or 11. Each year, 340,000 children in Britain start smoking, and are addicted well before they reached the age of 19.
However, it is not just a question of addiction. Members spoke earlier about the human carnage. Each year, the industry secures more than 100,000 new recruits who are not adults but children as young as 10. If the industry is to survive, it must replace the adults whom it kills-and it can do that only by replacing them with children. Tragically, year after year in my constituency and in the north-west of England as a whole, 14,000 of my fellow adult citizens die prematurely. People my age and younger will never see their children leave school, and will never see their grandchildren grow up. Why? Because they became addicted to smoking as children, and lose their lives because of it.
Tobacco is still the only product in Britain that can be sold legally which routinely, as a matter of course-daily and recurrently-kills and injures its consumers. Do not tell me that we cannot have choices! For too long the choices have been left in the hands of the tobacco industry, and they all end up as one choice: for families to watch debilitating diseases overcome their loved ones. My friend John Tiernan, who was diagnosed with cancer of both lungs at the age of 30, started smoking at 11. By the age of 31 he was dead, leaving a widow and two young children. John is not unique as a friend. We all have friends and family members to whom similar things have happened.
Smoking is the biggest health inequality indicator, accounting for 50 per cent. of the difference in life expectancy between working-class and middle-class citizens. Why? Because of its deleterious effects on our constituents.
I am well aware that there is no problem that the right hon. Gentleman does not think can be solved by the nanny state, but if he is so passionate about the issue, why has he not tabled an amendment to ban smoking altogether rather than using the guise of restriction? Why does he not have the courage of his convictions, if that is what he really believes?
If the hon. Gentleman is such an apologist for the tobacco industry, perhaps he would like to apologise to the House for the most distasteful remarks I have heard in the Chamber in 23 years. When we are trying seriously to defend the interests of young children from the effects of tobacco smoking, all that the hon. Gentleman can produce is a quip which is not worthy of response other than this: I have given you 100,000-plus reasons why every year we should ensure that this product does not get into the hands of our children. I will give you 340,000 reasons-
I realise that I should not use the word "you". I could call the hon. Gentleman "comrade"; I could call him "the best of mates". I could call him a host of things, but I thought "you" was as neutral a word as I could use in the moment. I do apologise, however. I am making this point to the hon. Gentleman: learn and grow up. He should realise that today in his constituency he has constituents who are dying prematurely because of the tobacco industry.
Yesterday, I attended a conference of 100 young people in Chester, many of them smokers. They took a vote and they asked me to tell the House tonight. Nine out of 10 of them voted to have a strict ban on vending machines. Young people are speaking up and speaking out, and two thirds of smokers argue that there should be a ban on vending machines. Why? Because vending machines are almost exclusively used by children.
Vending machines are a danger; they are a loophole. This country rightly took the decision to secure a rise from 16 to 18 years for the age at which children and young adults can buy cigarettes. There is a reason for that: by the age of 19 more than 80 per cent. of young people who have started smoking are addicted to smoking. Yet that ban has been undermined by the industry through the use of vending machines. Children use these machines on a daily basis in disproportionately high numbers; tens of thousands of children, some as young as 10 and 11, are using vending machines, when the overwhelming majority of this country's citizens say young people should not be able to buy cigarettes until the age of 18. Vending machines are not just a loophole; they are a death trap to the next generation of young people, who will be captured by an industry that needs them to replace the adults it is already killing on a daily basis.
I ask my colleagues to support the amendments. I could say much more, but other Members wish to speak so I will let later contributors add to my remarks. The evidence is overwhelming: if we do not get rid of vending machines some people will consistently undermine the 18-years-of-age ban. We know from all the professional surveys done so far that in pubs, clubs and wherever else vending machines are located, people as young as 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15 can access those machines with impunity. Therefore, the only safe way of dealing with this issue is to ban vending machines once and for all, and with this ban we will take another step down the road of making Britain a smoke-free nation. With that, tens of thousands of our fellow citizens will be able to grow up, see their children and grandchildren grow up, and see their grandchildren's children be the best they can be. If that is all we can do in this House tonight, please let us do that; let us save the next generation of children from diseases of the heart and cancers. We owe that to them; let us vote for this measure.
I intend to speak only briefly as I know that other Members want to contribute and time is limited. There are a few points I want to make however, largely in response to the points made by the right hon. Members for Holborn and St. Pancras (Frank Dobson) and for Makerfield (Mr. McCartney) who were basically prime advocates of the nanny state, which has done so much damage in this country over many years.
The sanctimonious tone of the right hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras was rather hard to swallow as he was part of a Cabinet that decided to make an exemption on tobacco advertising for Bernie Ecclestone. There was the right hon. Gentleman saying he was speaking up for the poor and that he has something against all these big, nasty, wicked rich people, when in the past he languished in the Cabinet having defended the interests of one of the richest people in the world. So we do not need to take any lectures from him about rich people benefiting from tobacco marketing.
Well, I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman is happy with his position at the time on that issue.
The point here is twofold. The right hon. Gentleman's argument about the misery of tobacco contained one fatal flaw, which is that tobacco is bought by adults. It is a product for adults; that is the law in this country. He does not seem to agree with the concept of choice. Many Labour Members seem basically to have the mindset that they have come into Parliament to do one thing and one thing only: to ban everybody else from doing what they themselves happen not to like, rather than to allow people a free choice and to make up their own minds.
Does the hon. Gentleman not accept that one person's choice to smoke affects other people's choice not to smoke? One person's freedom stops at my nose when it comes to smoking. Although in this instance we are concerned particularly about young people, does he not accept that one person's choice affects others' freedoms?
No, I do not. We are getting slightly off the mark here, but the hon. Lady has the freedom to take her nose somewhere else if she does not like what she is smelling. That is the whole point of freedom and choice.
We have heard from the right hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras that he is the friend of the small retailer, and that he thought that the only people who would suffer from banning the display of tobacco at point of sale would be those in some of the biggest companies in the world. As somebody who worked for one of those big, nasty supermarket chains for 12 years before entering Parliament, I can tell him that cigarette sales are a very small proportion of their income and certainly a very small part of their profit margins. The proposal will not have any major impact on Tesco, Asda or any of the other companies that he seems to have in his firing line. The people who will be fundamentally affected are small retailers. The big supermarkets can afford to change their displays and the way that they display products. It is the small retailer who cannot. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman does not go around pontificating to his small businesses on how he is so supportive of them and wants everybody to shop at their local shops, when he is trying to introduce a measure that would do more damage to small newsagents than anything else he could imagine.
Adding to that observant point, does the hon. Gentleman agree that, as the large retailers can afford to change their displays and small retailers cannot, those who are addicted to tobacco will be driven to larger shops not just for their cigarettes but for other things as well, therefore achieving exactly the opposite of the intention of Frank Dobson?
Further to that point, such small shops are very often in villages in constituencies such as mine, where the local services such as post offices have gone and they are therefore the last port of call for villagers to buy what they require. If they go out of business as well, the villages will die.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right.
The main point is that this should not be billed as the tobacco display restriction or ban. The Government should be promoting this measure as, "We think the public are thick" because in effect they are saying that people will buy cigarettes only if they are on display and that they will not buy them otherwise-that if they are on display people will think they therefore must be an attractive product and will buy them. That is a completely false premise. People have a choice as to whether they want to buy them. I am perfectly prepared to trust my constituents to make these decisions for themselves. I trust them to be able to decide for themselves whether they want to buy a packet of cigarettes. They do not need the Government telling them what they can and cannot do, and what they can and cannot see when they go shopping.
This is the nanny state gone mad. Everything that the Government do always has at the back of it this: that they know better than the public who elected them. I do not see why they have such little faith in the public when they stand for election hoping that people will choose who to vote for, yet they cannot even allow them to make a choice as to how they buy a particular brand of product. On every conceivable level this proposed ban is wrong, because it goes against the principle of individual responsibility, free choice and people making their own decisions, and it will have a very bad effect on small shops.
The hon. Gentleman began his remarks by saying that he accepted that smoking should be an adult pastime. Does he accept that banning cigarette machines may push consumers from that unsupervised sale towards a supervised sale in small shops, and that therefore the only people who would be deprived of the chance of buying them would be the under-age children who should not be buying them in the first place?
No, I do not accept that because, again, the premise is wrong. That basically presumes that everybody who buys cigarettes from a vending machine is a child, but that is clearly palpably ridiculous.
I might add that we were talking about the future of local shops, but one other serious issue we ought to face up to is the problem of local pubs. Many local pubs have gone out of business over the last few years, not least because of the ban on smoking supported by so many Labour Members who have helped the small pubs in their local communities go to the wall. About 50 pubs a week are closing down. Lots of Labour Members doubtless argue that they want their local pubs to thrive, but taking the vending machines out of pubs-places that, again, are largely inhabited by adults-will not make a blind bit of difference to under-age smoking and will have a huge impact on local pubs.
The purpose of these bans might be to deter under-age smoking, but does my hon. Friend agree that the main responsibility for ensuring that children do not smoke lies with their parents? They should know where their children are, what they are doing and how much money they have to spend unsupervised.
I have great respect for my hon. Friend's opinions and on that, as on so many other things, I agree with her entirely. The whole principle of the nanny state is wrong, but even if one were to think that it is a good thing, one would find that in other countries such a ban has been shown not to have the effect that the Government would like it to have. For example, after years of decline in the level of under-age smoking in Canada, among 15 to 19-year-olds smoking has remained the same or has increased in five of Canada's eight provinces since the ban was implemented. Whereas there had been a fall in the number of young people smoking in Canada before the ban, in five of the eight provinces there has since been either no reduction or an increase. This measure has been shown not to work.
In Ireland, the introduction of a ban has only made the black market worse; for the first time in Ireland, illegal products have been found in traditional retail outlets. That evidence from so close to home surely shows that these concerns are justified and should be taken seriously. Even if one accepts that telling everybody what they can and cannot do, where they can and cannot shop and what they can and cannot see is a good thing, this ban has been shown in other countries to be a complete waste of time. This measure is a perfect example of the Government thrashing around to try to do something-to look as if they are doing something-even if what they do will make no difference or do great damage to local businesses and shops.
The right hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras made the point that the tobacco companies would be able to pay for all the changes required by retailers in their shops, but I must tell him that in Ireland that is not the evidence from most retailers. Well over half the retailers there got zero help from the tobacco companies to pay for their displays and some 75 per cent. of the smallest shops of all-newsagents-had to pay the full cost themselves. There is no evidence that all these costs will be met by the tobacco companies.
The hon. Gentleman makes my point: the people running the tobacco companies, who are fabulously wealthy, both individually and corporately, are a set of greedy, grasping people who have no concern at all for the small retailers who sell their product. If they did care about them, they would be willing to make all the necessary changes.
It is not sensible, in the current climate, for any Member of Parliament to accuse anyone else of being greedy and grasping; I am not sure that there would be much public support for an MP calling anybody else that in the current climate. The right hon. Gentleman criticises tobacco companies for being wealthy, but they have lots of money only because they have sold legitimate-legal-products to people who have bought them as a result of their own choice. He might not agree with people's decision to smoke-I do not smoke and I do not particularly like going into smoky places, but I believe in freedom of choice-but they should be respected if they decide to spend their hard-earned money on cigarettes. If that is what people wish to do, they should be free to do so-they do not need him lecturing them.
The hon. Gentleman has said much about the nanny state and he has said that there is no problem with smoking, full stop, because it is legal. If he believes that, why does he not have the courage of his convictions? Why does he not start smoking and see where he gets to?
I knew it was a mistake to give way to the right hon. Gentleman and I shall treat that intervention with the contempt that it deserves. This issue is all about choice. I choose not to smoke but I perfectly respect people who choose to do so, because that is their choice. He has just proved to me what I said from the word go: that he comes into Parliament to try to ban everybody else from doing all the things that he does not like. That is not a good basis on which to pass laws.
I shall conclude my remarks, because I know that others wish to speak, but I urge the House not to allow yet another triumph for the nanny state and for intolerance. I have seen such triumphs time and again since I was elected. If Labour Members want to ban tobacco altogether-that seems to have been the basis of their argument-they should at least have the courage to come to this House to argue for what they really believe in and face the consequences. They do not do so because they are scared of public opinion on that issue and instead come along with weasel tactics in order to try to stop people from doing something that they do not like. To be perfectly honest, I have had enough of this nanny state and I hope that the House will show tonight that it has too.
I have listened closely to the debate and know that all hon. Members want to prevent young people from taking up smoking and to support smokers who want to quit. Clearly there are differing opinions about how we best do that, but the case for action, to which this Bill gives effect, is compelling. We know that smoking is the single biggest cause of preventable illness and premature death in England. Smoking kills more than 80,000 people each year-that is the equivalent of wiping out nearly the entire population of Durham, and it is more than the number who die from suicide, alcohol, road traffic accidents, illicit drugs and diabetes combined. Smoking is the primary reason for the gap in life expectancy between rich and poor. The Royal College of Physicians tells us that smoking is positively associated with more than 40 diseases, and the list continues to grow. We also know that in 2007, nearly 200,000 children between 11 and 15 were already regular smokers. Some two thirds of current and past smokers say that they started smoking regularly before they were 18.
The measures contained in the Bill are part of the wider fight against smoking. Since 1997, the Government have banned tobacco advertising, raised the age of sale to 18 and introduced hard-hitting picture warnings on cigarette packets. Research shows that the decision in 2007 to go smoke-free is now supported by more than 80 per cent. of the population. Since 1997, our actions on smoking have resulted in 2 million fewer smokers-that is a 25 per cent. reduction. In the past decade, more than 70,000 lives have been saved by local NHS stop smoking services, yet about one in five people still smoke, with the highest concentration in the most disadvantaged communities and groups.
Is my hon. Friend aware of the concerns of the NHS in Stoke-on-Trent, particularly in respect of the very high number-the figure is well above the national average-of 11 to 16-year-olds who classify themselves as regular smokers? Does she agree that it is right that this Government should do all they can to reduce smoking, including among young people, and that we must go even further than the measures in the Bill?
I agree with my hon. Friend that we should do all we can. A consultation that we undertook last year attracted almost 100,000 responses, and I shall be publishing the new national tobacco control strategy later this year. I am sure that my hon. Friend and her constituents will be interested to see what is in it.
Amendment 1, as tabled by the hon. Members for Hemel Hempstead (Mike Penning) and for Eddisbury (Mr. O'Brien), would prevent the prohibition of tobacco displays. Since clamping down on advertising and marketing, the tobacco industry has found other ways to recruit new smokers, including the promotion of tobacco at the point of sale. We have seen larger displays, illuminated cabinets, branded clocks and locked towers, which serve no practical purpose, other than promoting sales.
Evidence backs our focus on ending tobacco displays, as demonstrated by a letter in The Times today in support of the provisions in the Bill, backed by the British Lung Foundation, the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, the British Medical Association and Asthma UK. It states:
"There is strong evidence-backed by the World Health Organisation and other leading medical experts-that these measures will help to stop children smoking."
I will take some interventions, but perhaps it would be helpful if I set out a few more points that I think will help the debate.
This morning, I received a letter from my counterpart in the Irish Government, who wanted to make it clear that the introduction of similar measures on display in Ireland was successful: no prosecutions have been carried out, compliance has been good and there is no evidence of any increase in illicit cigarette sales. In fact, initial results from research on the impact of the Irish legislation are striking. They show that since the law came into effect in July, public support for tobacco control has grown from 56 to 68 per cent., far fewer young people recall seeing tobacco packs in shops, and the number of under-age people who thought they could successfully buy cigarettes decreased from a third to a quarter. Point-of-sale advertising directly affects young people's smoking. Studies show that tobacco marketing generates new smokers, that young people are receptive to tobacco advertising and that promotion undermines the efforts of those who want to quit.
I appreciate that there has been much debate about the evidence to justify removing displays, which is why I invited all hon. Members to the meeting I held earlier so that we could hear from experts what the peer-reviewed evidence shows. I am confident that there is convincing publicly available evidence-from Canada and Iceland as well as from Ireland-to justify removing tobacco displays. Cancer Research UK, in summarising much of the relevant publicly available evidence, tells us that there is clear evidence that
"tobacco point of sale has a direct impact on young people's smoking" and:
"Among established smokers, point of sale does not facilitate brand choice...it stimulates impulse purchases and undermines efforts of smokers to quit."
The hon. Lady has stated that the Government hope that they will deter young people from taking up smoking, the logic being that a young person will see a tobacco display and as a result will be encouraged to smoke. If that is the case, why has the Department of Health's recent consultation on this issue ensured that youth smoking and tobacco advertising are not linked? There is no mention of it.
I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman makes that point. Perhaps he will be interested in the tobacco control strategy, which will be published later this year. It will make great efforts in this regard.
The Government strongly believe that we have a responsibility to do everything we can to prevent young people from becoming addicted to smoking and to support those who quit. However, I understand the concerns that have been expressed about the impact on small businesses in particular, which have recognised that sales are declining and that they must prepare for a future where tobacco sales are severely limited. We have been working closely with retail bodies such as the Association of Convenience Stores and the British Retail Consortium to develop the draft regulations and cost-effective practical solutions. I have been glad to meet the National Federation of Retail Newsagents and the Association of Convenience Stores, and I have listened to their concerns so that we can work together.
I thank my hon. Friend for the presentation that she arranged at lunchtime where ample evidence was displayed. A number of my hon. Friends attended, but not one Opposition Member did. Their protestations about there being no evidence are rather lukewarm. I found it more persuasive when I visited a constituent of mine, an independent retailer called Mr. Mahesh Patel, yesterday. He says that he welcomes the ban. He does not believe that it is costly and believes that it gives opportunities. As an independent retailer, he fully supports the fact that the Government are taking these measures.
I thank my hon. Friend's constituent for his support. This measure provides some opportunities that we have perhaps not heard much about.
The regulations are flexible and light touch rather than proscriptive. Perhaps I can reassure colleagues. Indeed, something did go amiss and a box of the consultation documents is sitting in the Vote Office. Unfortunately, no one realised that that was what the box contained. It seems like we have had a bit of a day of things that should have arrived at a certain time not doing so. However, the documents are certainly there.
Let me make it clear that retailers will be free to cover tobacco products as they see fit, provided that they cover the tobacco they stock. Examples of possible solutions can be seen in the material that I have circulated to Members.
Was the Minister as shocked as I was by the deliberate exaggeration of the costs that we heard from the Opposition early on in the debate? To put a few doors on displays and flaps on shelves surely costs only £100 or £200. We have heard estimates of £10,000 or £1,800. Those figures are designed to frighten newsagents and others. It cannot be true, and I hope that she will lance that particular lie.
I would always rather deal in facts. My hon. Friend is quite right about the reality of costs. The estimate from Canada that we are using is something in the order of £450, but that includes fitting and shipping. I would expect to see British innovation and I would also expect the solutions, which are completely flexible, to be used first by the larger shops, so that the smaller shops will be able to benefit from them.
The Minister says that she has consulted the National Federation of Retail Newsagents. She will know, therefore, that its national president, Suleman Khonat, has said that many international cases show that removal has no effect. He also said that it will have a damaging effect on business. Has she considered the proposals in amendment 16? It seeks a compromise of a maximum surface area of 1.5 square metres for the advertising of cigarettes and tobacco products, therefore overcoming the problem of the power wall while at the same time respecting the almost insuperable costs that have been associated with many small newsagents' shifting to the new regulations, which, I stress, none of them have seen, I have not seen and most Members of this House have not seen.
I have of course considered amendment 16, tabled by the hon. Gentleman, and I hope that he will not press it to a Division. Display, partial or full, constitutes promotion and allowing any display, as permitted by that amendment, would effectively allow tobacco promotion to continue.
Let me attend to more of the concerns-
I will give way if my hon. Friends give me a moment.
It has been suggested that removing the display of tobacco would impact on business by reducing footfall trade-that is, the sale of other items to customers who come to buy cigarettes. By definition, by the time that a customer is in the shop their foot has already fallen. Of course, the provisions in the Bill will apply equally to all tobacco retailers.
I was able to visit Ireland with Action on Smoking and Health just before the new law was introduced there. Does my hon. Friend agree that it has been introduced in a pain-free way, that most of the costs have been paid by the tobacco manufacturers and that businesses have not suffered?
I attended a meeting with the Porthcawl cancer research campaign. The group gave me a petition collected from across the town, which said very strongly that people wanted the removal of tobacco advertising displays from our shops. It felt very strongly-it consisted of a group of smokers, ex-smokers and non-smokers-that the temptation was there, especially for young people, and that is something that we must remove.
I am grateful for my hon. Friend's support on that point.
We are particularly aware of the way in which the economic climate has affected small business, which is why we will not commence this legislation until 2011 for larger stores, and 2013 for smaller shops. We understand, too, that smaller convenience stores replace their tobacco gantries every five years or so, and thus for many of them changes could be made in the normal cycle. I want to reassure the House, however, that we will keep implementation under close review, and we will monitor levels of compliance and the effect of the policy.
We are working hard to support the convenience store sector, recognising that local shops are at the heart of our communities and can support our public health aims. For example, the "Change 4 Life" scheme, which brings fresh fruit and vegetables to the fore in the most disadvantaged communities, has been so successful that some shops have chosen to fund themselves to join in. There is an opportunity for retailers to become an active part of a movement for better health, and I therefore urge Lembit Öpik not to press his amendment.
New clauses 1 and 4 deal with proxy purchasing. We all agree that reducing children's access to tobacco is a priority, and I very much appreciate the intent behind the new clauses. However, creating an offence for proxy purchasing of tobacco would be difficult to implement and enforce. The new clauses would require proof of intent at the point of purchase, and proof of a young person asking an adult to buy tobacco on their behalf.
Will the hon. Lady allow me to make the case?
That evidence would be needed to secure a conviction. While there has been a proxy purchasing offence for alcohol since November 2005, it is a difficult offence to prove, and the Home Office accepts that it is not being enforced as rigorously as we would like. I would also hesitate to place a new requirement on local authorities that would require them to observe shops and customers without significant benefits being achieved. Better enforcement of existing legislation is likely to be more effective than adding another offence that is difficult to enforce.
I would also like to make a technical point about the wording of new clause 4, which appears to have been lifted directly from the Licensing Act 2003, and speaks of members of clubs and tobacco consumption "on relevant premises". We know that smoking inside premises open to the public, including members' clubs, is no longer permitted under smoke-free legislation, so the wording will not work for the purpose for which it is intended.
Purchasing tobacco with intent to supply young people is only one small part of a wider, more complex problem. Children are given cigarettes that have not been specifically purchased for them, they pass them on to one another at school, and they get them from vending machines. Our new tobacco control strategy will set out our plans to tackle this complex problem. I can assure hon. Members that if it becomes clear that legislation would prove to be beneficial, I would indeed seek to make the case.
Is the Minister saying that the Government's legislation on alcohol proxy sales is ineffective? Perhaps she could tell us how many prosecutions there have been if she is indeed saying that the policy has been such a failure that she cannot introduce similar mechanisms for tobacco?
As I have said, the Home Office has acknowledged that the legislation has not been as easy to enforce as it would like.
The principle is exactly the same, and an identical piece of legislation has been proposed this evening. The 2003 Act is working, particularly in Cambridge, to which I alluded earlier. Where there is the will-people actually want to do it-it can be done. Running away from the fact that this is going on is not the answer.
We are not running away-we are saying that we are going to do better. I want to assure hon. Members that I very much understand the problem at hand. I urge them not to press their new clauses, and I look forward to the new tobacco control strategy, which will be far more comprehensive.
The provisions in the Bill seek to restrict or ban tobacco vending machines. The question before the House is how far it wants to go and how fast. These are finely balanced considerations which reflect the strength of feeling on this issue. To clarify, amendments 2 and 9 would compel the national authorities of England, Wales and Northern Ireland to make regulations on vending machines under clauses 22 and 23. It is not possible to accept amendments 2 and 9, which would change the wording from "may" to "shall", as the word "shall" would place a legal obligation on the appropriate national authority to regulate. The adoption of regulations would be subject to parliamentary approval. If Parliament or the relevant Assembly refused to approve any regulations that were laid, the appropriate national authority would be faced with a continuing obligation to try and make regulations, knowing that Parliament is unlikely to approve them. That would create legal uncertainty and the prospect of continuing legal challenge for not having made regulations.
Amendments 4 and 10, too, would create legal uncertainty, as the circumstances in which the powers could be used in those amendments are unclear. Amendments 17 and 18 seek to restrict the location of vending machines to areas used by over-18s. In practice, matters are not so straightforward, as places that are for over-18s in the evening may be open to young people during the day. The remaining amendments tabled by my right hon. Friend Mr. McCartney and by Bob Russell would seek an outright ban on vending machines in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Government remain seriously concerned about young people accessing tobacco from vending machines. Currently they are the usual source of cigarettes for 10 per cent. of 11 to 15-year-olds who say they smoke.
We have heard a range of arguments about how far we should go to control access to vending machines. We know one thing for sure: the evidence for action is clear. The Government believe that we can place requirements on vending machines that will be effective, proportionate and deliverable in preventing under-age sales and balance the views of all concerned. However, I ask right hon. and hon. Members not to press amendments 2, 4, 9, 10, 17 and 18. On the remaining amendments, I note that my right hon. Friend may wish to test the will of the House.
New clause 6, tabled by my right hon. Friend Frank Dobson, would compel the Secretary of State to require all tobacco companies to release information about their marketing and research activities. I appreciate the sentiment behind the amendment, but before the Government could implement such a measure, we would need to consider carefully the burdens placed on business and Government alike, confidentiality, proportionality and, most importantly, its effectiveness. On balance, we cannot accept the amendment, so I ask my right hon. Friend not to press new clause 6.
New clause 7 would compel the Secretary of State to consult on the introduction of plain packaging requirements or restrictions on the branding on packaging. I have sympathy with the aims of the amendment. We have already stated that the Government will continue to keep tobacco packaging under close review. There is emerging evidence that branding and design of tobacco packaging may increase brand awareness among young people. The new strategy on tobacco control will consider a range of options for protecting children and people who smoke from misleading or promotional messages and packaging, and we will ensure that the evidence, which is still wanting, on plain packaging is further developed. On that basis, I ask Sandra Gidley not to press new clause 7.
The Government remain committed to cutting preventable death and disease from smoking. I sincerely hope that the votes tonight will back us up in our efforts.