My Lords, first I thank all noble Lords who have contributed to the debate this evening. It has been a fascinating and instructive debate. If nothing else, it has given me the opportunity to go into the Content Lobby for the first time in my parliamentary career in this House. I am normally quite a loyal government Back-Bencher. It has been an interesting debate. I do not agree with many of the conclusions given by the Minister that these regulations are proportionate and not over the top. They are totally disproportionate and totally over the top.
Let me clear up a couple of confusions that have arisen. First, I have no problem with the vast majority of these regulations. All of the regulations relating to the regulation of normal tobacco products I completely support. It is only the sections on e-cigarettes which I think are wrong. The clue is in the name. E-cigarettes are not tobacco products. They should not be in this directive in the first place. I argued this when it was originally proposed in Brussels. Of course, given the nature of regulations, it is not possible to amend them just to take out the electronic cigarette part without regretting the whole thing. In response to people who have made points about the main parts of the regulations, I agree. I support them, and as far as I know all of my colleagues who supported me also support those bits of the regulations.
Secondly, a number of arguments have been made about the big tobacco companies. I am entirely convinced that the big tobacco companies would support these regulations as they are for the simple reason that at the moment the e-cigarette vaping market is dominated by small and medium-sized enterprises. The costs of regulation that are going to be imposed by this directive are considerable. The big pharmaceutical companies and the big tobacco companies will be able to bear the costs of that regulation. They will buy up, as they are indeed starting to do, a lot of the little companies, and they will be able to bear the costs of regulation.
It was a great revelation to me when I first arrived in the European Parliament. I had naively assumed that business would be opposed to regulation. Actually, most big business thinks that regulation is a great thing. The chairman of a big pharmaceutical company once told me that it enables it to get rid of what he called “free riders”, in other words, small companies that were taking his market share, but did not have big corporate compliance departments and big lobbying and PR operations. I am entirely convinced that approving this regulation is to the benefit of big pharmaceutical and tobacco companies. Given all that, and given the indications from many Members of this House that they will not support the remainder of my Motion, I beg leave to withdraw it.