Clause 8 - Prohibition of free distributions

Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:00 pm on 6 February 2001.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman Shadow Spokesperson (Health) 12:00, 6 February 2001

I beg to move amendment No. 10, in page 3, line 38, leave out ``a'' and insert'' his''.

The amendments pertain to the common, historical provision of coupons. I should imagine that several members of the Committee can remember back to their childhood when football cards were issued with cigarettes. They never inspired me to smoke and I doubt that much of the coupon practice has an impact today. It was an historical part of British culture that coupons were issued with cigarettes; many people have valuable collections of football cards. Under the Bill as it is drafted, the issuing of cards will become a practice of the past and the cards themselves museum pieces. The amendments are designed to point out to the Government some of the consequences.

Amendment No. 10 has rightly been selected to stand on its own. It is separate from the issue of coupons per se, and relates to legitimate defences and what is or is not reasonable. I have never attended an event at which I witnessed tobacco products or coupons being given away, but I am not a smoker and would probably not have been aware of it.

Under the Bill

``A person is guilty of an offence if in the course of a business he—

(a) gives any product or coupon away to the public in the United Kingdom, or

(b) causes or permits that to happen''.

My anxiety in trying to change minutely the wording from ``a'' to ``his'' relates to the possibility that a person may attend an event over which he or she has little control and for which he or she has little responsibility. I thought that the proposed wording would be tighter and would make it clear that responsibility lay with the person carrying out the business. If the business or function were, for example, a big sports event, over which the individual found guilty of giving away coupons had no control, it would be difficult to prosecute if his instructions or the agreement on which the business was established contained a clause that made it clear that he could carry out his business at that event. The word ``a'' disconnects the person who will be found guilty of the offence from ownership or responsibility for that business.

Although I have never witnessed it, I understand that such products have traditionally been given out at sporting and even charitable events or large social gatherings and university balls. Sometimes students become involved in the distribution of such products as a way of augmenting their income to support themselves at university. Traditionally, it has been done in that way, but of course such a person would have no responsibility for that event and might walk into a bit of a hole if he did not realise that such activity was now illegal.

The amendment is a probing amendment designed to make it clear who has responsibility for the business. If the person found guilty of the offence had no responsibility for the business, he might innocently walk into committing an offence without realising what he was doing.

Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

The clause makes it clear that the person who is guilty of committing an offence in the course of a business is someone who gives out any product or coupons to the public or causes or permits that to happen. Such people have defences under clause 8(4) if they did not know, had no reason to suspect or could not have reasonably foreseen that that would be the effect. Appropriate defences are provided for people who were not aware that products or coupons were being distributed at an event that they had organised or were simply attending an event at which products or coupons were being given away. The people involved in giving away the products or coupons—those who had been paid to stand around and hand them out—are involved in the course of a business in giving away a product.

Under the amendment, the offence would relate to activity in the course not of ``a'' business but of ``his'' business. It would catch the owner of the company but no one else in the chain for devising and commissioning a free distribution to the person making the free distribution. That would unacceptably narrow the scope of the offence. There may be a case in which the owner of a business was overseas, and therefore, beyond United Kingdom jurisdiction. It would be unacceptable if the ban on free distributions did not apply to anyone else involved in the business who distributed free coupons or products and was clearly in breach of the intention behind the Bill. If that person did not own the business and the owner was abroad, we could do nothing to stop the free distribution. That would clearly be wrong and against the intentions of the Bill.

The defences are clearly set out and perfectly reasonable. They parallel defences set out earlier in the Bill. The amendment would narrow the scope of the offence too far and would rule out cases that we want to catch under the terms of the Bill.

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman Shadow Spokesperson (Health) 12:15, 6 February 2001

The Minister's answer was glib, and shows what is wrong with the Bill. Having heard her explanation, I can see that at events such as I have attended, the Bill would not work brilliantly. For example, in corporate entertainment, gifts are often given to those invited. ``His'' and ``her'' presents are wrapped up and placed on the tables. In our household there is usually a problem because my husband gets the bouquet of flowers, perfume or a feminine gift, and I end up with the hip flask—we are a role reversal couple. It is usually assumed that Members of Parliament are men at such events. The gifts are handed out by those taking the coats or waiting on tables—casual labour—who may be students.

The rates of pay at such events for cloakroom assistants or waitresses are not fantastic. The young person hands out beautifully wrapped gifts, and the first person on the table who opens one ruins the surprise for everyone else, because then we all know what is inside the orange packet. The gift item may be a cigar case or a cigar. Perhaps the organisers think that the gentlemen on the table will want to smoke them after the meal.

At the point at which the present is opened, the casual employee suddenly discovers that the gift is a tobacco product, and being well versed in the law on tobacco advertising may become anxious. Should that person collect up the presents again lest they be found guilty of distributing them? The problem is not as easy and glib as the Minister thinks and will cause difficulty in practice. It is reasonable to trace the ultimate responsibility to the owner of the business. The owner may be abroad, as the Minister described, but if he is good at his job he will know what a business should and should not do. He is far more likely than the casual employee to know the minutiae of the Bill. Someone such as a managing director could be expected to be perfectly versed in the offences and defences set out in the Bill. The problem is not as easy as the Minister thinks, but I will not press the amendment.

Photo of Mr Ian Bruce Mr Ian Bruce Conservative, South Dorset

It is normal practice when inviting people to dinner in the course of any business, not only tobacco businesses, that at the end of the meal, someone comes round and asks whether one would like a brandy. At the same time, free cigars are offered. Although it can be argued that the individual is not attempting to promote the tobacco industry generally, he is promoting the smoking of cigars. The first time that the majority of people smoke a cigar is when they are given a free one. I thought that the clause was simply in place to catch the tobacco industry, but it will catch every business man who offers cigars to a group of people around a table.

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman Shadow Spokesperson (Health)

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I had not thought of such an example. In those circumstances, business men could be thought of as promoting a tobacco product to their clients. Will the Minister clarify the position? I was about to withdraw the amendment, but I shall hold back from doing so until I have heard what she has to say. Such a serious problem illustrates our difficulty, in that we are talking in practical terms about changing the habits of a lifetime. Hitherto, it has been customary for people, particularly in the business community, to hand out tobacco products. Given that they may not be intimately versed in the details of the Bill, they may need considerable warning about what they may or may not do in respect of corporate entertainment and the provision of tobacco products. Will the Minister give us some guidance on that?

Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

The hon. Member for Meriden cited the example of someone who handed out a wrapped product and did not know what was inside the wrapping. That person clearly has a defence under clause 8(4). A person engaged in one-off helping at an event, even if he or she were paid, would be covered by the phrase ``in the course of a business''. It has a repetitive element to it and would involve an on-going process. However, I shall be happy to return to the matter later in our proceedings.

The hon. Member for South Dorset referred to the handing out of cigars at the end of a meal or as part of an entertainment. We want to stop the giving away of products or coupons for the purpose of promoting a tobacco product. We want to stop free gifts being handed out for the purpose of promoting tobacco products and encouraging people to buy them. Let us suppose that such a strategy includes making a big fuss about a particular cigar or cigarette; mention is made of how wonderful they are and details are given about where such products can be obtained—such as at the shop down the road for half price. That is a promotion strategy. However, if cigars are handed out at the end of a meal to those who want to smoke them, that process is not about the promotion or sale of tobacco products.

The purpose of the clause is clear. It is about stopping the promotion of tobacco products through free distribution, which will be undertaken unless we ensure that it cannot be. We know of many instances of free distribution in pubs, clubs and student union bars; they are about the promotion of tobacco products and trying to persuade students, for example, to smoke particular brands. There was a promotion of tobacco products at Hull university soon after no smoking day. We want to create an offence under the Bill and we are right to do so.

Photo of Mr Ian Bruce Mr Ian Bruce Conservative, South Dorset

The clause is badly worded. We know what the Minister is going for; she is trying to say that it is an offence for a tobacco company to give away free tobacco products or anything to promote them. We understand that that is the purpose of the Bill, but the clause clearly catches someone providing free tobacco at the end of a meal, or indeed during the meal, in the pursuit of his business, to make the guests feel good about him. It may not be part of that individual's business to promote tobacco, but the activity does have the effect of promoting tobacco.

I ask the Minister to consider the situation of the Commons and Lords pipe and cigar smokers club. We assume that promotional activity within that club, which I think is done by the Tobacco Manufacturers Association will be illegal. The association provides free tobacco. Has the Minister considered the implications to freedom of access to Members of Parliament, and will she undertake to go away and consider that point to ensure that she is not catching people whom she does not intend to catch?

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman Shadow Spokesperson (Health)

I am glad that we extended this debate a little, and I am grateful to the Minister for saying that she will go away and consider the wording ``in the course of a business'', because we raised genuine concerns. I am still not completely satisfied that the position of the casual employee, who may do waitressing and coat-taking plus distribution of corporate hospitality gifts on a weekly basis, is clear. As I explained, if wrapped gifts started to be distributed, it might be that a certain number of guests start unwrapping them and the employee would at that point realise, ``God forbid, it contains a tobacco product.'' If he is well versed in the law, he has to go to his supervisor and say, ``I'm really sorry, you know. I can't carry on doing what you've asked me to do this evening. I can't do this job and I'll have to pass up my earnings unless you can find me another task, because it's an offence for me to distribute this tobacco product.'' So we are not clear that we are protecting those who need properly to be protected while catching those who need properly to be called to account. The business community needs a warning. It is a very grey area.

If we asked some cigar lovers how they first started smoking cigars, we just might find people who said, ``I was offered a cigar at a corporate dinner and I didn't think it was the kind of thing I would enjoy smoking, but it has become one of my favourite habits.'' That is not beyond the realms of imagination. As to particular brands, businesses doing corporate entertaining are usually anxious to give guests a top-quality product, so quite possibly the gift would bear the brand name of one of the very best cigars. It remains a very grey area.

I said earlier that I would be willing to withdraw the amendment, and I am willing to do so if the Minister is willing to have another look at this. However, we must also keep repeating that, although Labour Members may try to raise themselves up as the champions of public health and put the Opposition down as not being so, that is factually not true. We share exactly the same objective of reducing smoking prevalence in this country, and that has been said on numerous occasions. Our objective is perfectly clear, but we try also to bring a degree of fairness and common sense to the Bill's drafting. It is certainly part of the Opposition's role to protect innocent people who are caught by the definition of an offence under the Bill. I still think that the clause is unclear, but I am willing to withdraw the amendment if the Minister will look again at its wording.

12.30 pm

Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

I welcome the hon. Lady's decision to withdraw the amendment. I want to add two quick points of clarification. It is not my understanding that the situations that she has described would be caught by the Bill, but I will look again at the phrasing. However, the wording in her amendment is not acceptable, because it would not allow the foreign owner to be prosecuted or anyone else to be held responsible for what we have described.

As for the Lords and Commons pipe and cigar smokers club, the idea that anything in the Bill would prevent access to Members of Parliament is nonsense. Any tobacco company can gain access to Members of Parliament, talk to them as much as individual Members will let them, and can make their points as they have always been able to. I was not sure whether the hon. Member for South Dorset was suggesting that there should be a special exemption for hon. Members so that companies could offer them free products and coupons that were not available to other members of the public. That would probably be a little unacceptable.

Photo of Kevin Barron Kevin Barron Labour, Rother Valley

I remind my hon. Friend that the Lords and Commons pipe and cigar smokers club is not an all-party group. [Hon. Members: ``It is!''] It is not; it is denied to most hon. Members. It is a front for the Tobacco Manufacturers' Association, set up to influence legislators.

Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

I was not aware of that. I hope that, if the tobacco companies engage heavily in providing free promotional goods and coupons, that is declared in the Register of Members' Interests, as appropriate. There can be no justification for treating Members of Parliament differently. Clearly, the Government do not want to permit the promotion of tobacco by means of free products and coupons.

The hon. Member for Meriden said that Conservative Members were just as concerned as the Government are about public health. I accept that many of her amendments have been constructive, and that we have had a helpful discussion on many of the issues. I remind her, however, that the Conservative party voted against Second Reading of the Bill and rejected a ban on tobacco advertising on principle. So to get on her high horse about public health is not appropriate. [Interruption.]

Photo of Humfrey Malins Humfrey Malins Conservative, Woking

Order. The Committee is becoming just a little too noisy for my taste.

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman Shadow Spokesperson (Health)

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman Shadow Spokesperson (Health)

I beg to move amendment No. 11, in page 3, line 39, after `any', insert `tobacco'.

Photo of Humfrey Malins Humfrey Malins Conservative, Woking

With this it will be convenient to take the following amendments: No. 12, in page 4, line 15, leave out from `a' to end of line 16 and insert `tobacco product'.

No. 13, in page 4, line 18, after `making', insert `tobacco'.

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman Shadow Spokesperson (Health)

The amendments deal with the main body of the subject of coupons, but I cannot let the Minister get away with her last remarks. She knows well how reasoned amendments work on Second Reading and there was an objection in principle to a ban on tobacco advertising. We said at the start of our deliberations that none of the measures would be effective while smuggled tobacco products came in through the floodgates.

The amendments focus on the coupon system in relation to the supply of tobacco products. They pick up on an issue that was raised legitimately on Second Reading by my hon. Friend the Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway) and are designed to warn the Government of the potential adverse consequences of the Bill as it is crafted at the moment. I hope that the Government have thought them through.

In our view, tobacco companies that give away products that are not tobacco products or coupons for non-tobacco products should not necessarily be penalised. Many tobacco companies give away coupons to existing customers when they buy tobacco products, which they can then collect and exchange for high-quality items such as limited edition prints, photographs or tobacco accessories. Coupons can be used for silver cigar boxes, which may or may not bear the name of a cigarette or other tobacco product.

I related earlier the historical practice of children collecting football coupons. That did not give rise to children smoking tobacco; usually an adult gave the football coupons to children, or sometimes kept them themselves, because cards about successful footballers of the day became desirable to collect. It is not common sense to say that non-smokers, especially children, are encouraged to take up smoking because when they buy a packet of cigarettes they get a coupon for a bone china mug or a set of free wine glasses. That is not realistic. It is not what happens in practice.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Ryedale pointed out, the loss of coupons for non-tobacco products will have an impact on the industries that produce those non-tobacco products. It seems to me that the Government have a remarkably deaf ear to manufacturing. That is certainly the view in my constituency in the west midlands. The Government seem to believe that if one cannot make a profit in manufacturing one must get out of it and into something else. However, that is a difficult transition to make if one is a bone china manufacturer in the Potteries. The clause will have an impact on manufacturers of non-tobacco products, which are already suffering significant difficulties.

Photo of Kevin Barron Kevin Barron Labour, Rother Valley

Does the hon. Lady think that the promotion of other products through coupons in cigarette packets should not be covered by the Bill at all?

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman Shadow Spokesperson (Health)

I question whether the Bill is going too far. It will cover a range of non-tobacco items that do not promote tobacco smoking directly. The motivation for younger people to smoke is that they like to look cool. They give in to peer pressure; everyone is doing it, and they like to have a branded product that looks fashionable. That has nothing whatever to do with collecting a bone china mug.

Mr. Barron rose—

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman Shadow Spokesperson (Health)

I think that the hon. Gentleman has made his point.

The purpose of the amendment is to distinguish between coupons for tobacco products and non-tobacco products.

Amendments Nos. 12 and 13 would make the distinction between coupons for tobacco products—about which we agree with the Government, although we want to discuss the value of those products later—and other products that have nothing whatever to do with tobacco, which it is unnecessarily draconian to include in the remit of the Bill.

Mr. Barron indicated dissent.

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman Shadow Spokesperson (Health)

The hon. Gentleman obviously does not agree. He thinks that it is perfectly acceptable to shut down an outlet for manufacturers' products. He is happy to see that happen. He will make his own speech on the matter if he feels strongly about it.

Photo of Kevin Barron Kevin Barron Labour, Rother Valley

I shall speak against the amendments. I wanted to intervene to say that the coupons that the hon. Lady describes are covered by the voluntary codes. Indeed, there is a lot of restriction on what can and cannot be advertised via coupons. They are a form of direct mail that promotes cigarettes in many homes up and down this country. That is well evidenced by companies having their activities restricted by the appropriate authority. Clearly, the amendments would be a way of circumventing the intention behind the Bill.

Everyone thinks that such provisions are not well thought out. However, coupons have an important impact, especially in areas where there is a high incidence of smoking. The Committee should consider what the tobacco industry itself says. I have in front of me an analysis of internal documents from the tobacco industry's main UK advertising agencies. Evidence submitted to the Health Committee by CDP, one of the five main advertisers in this country, on the Kensitas club gift scheme included a Gallaher creative brief dated 5 November 1999. It states:

``Who are we talking to:

Glasgow's smokers—they smoke because they enjoy it. They also love the gift scheme with over 50 per cent of the Club franchise unemployed this probably explains its popularity.''

They deliberately target the high incidence of smokers among poor people in this country. They know that they get people hooked on tobacco and coupons. It is unbelievable that that is not a part of the culture of the homes to which such material is sent. That culture affects not only adults who smoke. Such material lies around for children and everyone else in the household to read.

Photo of David Taylor David Taylor Labour/Co-operative, North West Leicestershire

Does my hon. Friend agree that after hearing today's debate it would be a good idea to announce the formation of a parliamentary group called ``Conservatives for carcinogens''?

Photo of Kevin Barron Kevin Barron Labour, Rother Valley

Perhaps I am not the person to answer that question. As I said on Second Reading, I have always felt that there has been a link between the purveyors of such products and the Conservative party for far too long—an unhealthy link in terms of the public's health. The amendments designed by Opposition Members could easily have been designed by people who use such coupons to promote tobacco in this country, and I hope that the Committee will have none of them.

Photo of Mr Ian Bruce Mr Ian Bruce Conservative, South Dorset

I shall speak later on clause stand part, as I do not want to speak incorrectly to the amendments. However, now is the appropriate time to tell the Minister that I understand where she and the hon. Member for Rother Valley are coming from. Coupons relating to cigarette products are designed to get people hooked on collecting coupons as well as to continue smoking. I have no argument with the Government on that. Those are my bona fides on the matter. However, the clause is, like all the rest of the clauses, incredibly badly worded.

Under the clause, buying petrol and a pack of 20 cigarettes at a Fina petrol station will make the Fina loyalty card that I have here illegal. That card allows people to save up and receive a token from the promoter of petrol, although that promoter also sells tobacco and no doubt makes a great deal of profit from the tobacco sold through its garages. That coupon can be spent in other shops such as W.H. Smith and Woolworths, among others. The clause will catch such activity.

People who go to Tesco to buy their groceries and cigarettes receive a discount coupon that eventually allows them to buy anything. It would be fairly simple for the Government to approach the matter again on a voluntary basis or, perhaps, through legislation to make it clear to such people that a coupon given out under such loyalty schemes could not be used to buy tobacco products. That might be a simple way to deal with the matter. However, under the Bill as it stands, by not specifying tobacco products, we leave such loyalty schemes open to being dealt with in that way.

I have an Egg card. If I buy anything on line, I receive a 2 per cent. discount. I could be buying tobacco on line, not that Egg has anything to do with the tobacco industry, but people can receive, for example, 1 per cent. discount on items because they have used their credit card. The catch-all clause will catch ordinary loyalty schemes. I see some extraordinary looks on the faces of the advisers to the hon. Lady. After 1 o'clock, she should have a firm word with them because she has been led down the garden path into doing things that she did not intend to do.

Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health 12:45, 6 February 2001

The purpose of the clause is to stop the giving away of products or coupons when the effect of such action is to promote tobacco products. The hon. Member for South Dorset expressed his worry about loyalty cards such as Egg. Such cards are promoting his spending. Companies want him to spend money. If they do not specifically promote tobacco products, they are not covered under the Bill. The Bill will catch the giving away of products or coupons, the purpose or effect of which is to promote a tobacco product.

The Opposition's amendments would focus the clause on the giving away of tobacco products or coupons that are redeemable for tobacco. A packet of cigarettes may contain a coupon that can be redeemed for petrol, watches or a pop-up toaster. The current Marlboro offer states:

``Just send us three Marlboro Menthol Lights pack tops and we'll send you this lighter—absolutely free!''.

It is often a standard approach to give away coupons that are redeemable for products other than tobacco. I accept that some coupons are aimed at those who do not smoke because they are available only in packets of cigarettes, but they are clearly an incentive for people to carry on smoking and buying that particular brand.

Part of the Bill is aimed at new smokers, young people and those who may not otherwise start smoking. It is aimed also at those who want to give up smoking. We know that 70 per cent. of smokers say that they want to give up. They may be trying to give up, but being bombarded with advertising that provides an incentive for them not to give up. That is why we are worried about the giving away of other products, whatever they may be. If coupons or products—even if they are not tobacco products—provide an incentive to keep smoking and buying tobacco products—it is right that they are covered under the Bill.

Photo of Mr Ian Bruce Mr Ian Bruce Conservative, South Dorset

I direct the Minister's attention to subsection (2), which states:

``It does not matter whether the product or coupon accompanies something else, or is given away separately.''

Subsection (5) states:

```Coupon' means a document or other thing which (whether by itself or not) can be redeemed for a product or service or for cash or any other benefit.''

Such measures clearly catch people who purchase their tobacco products, use a loyalty card and receive a benefit in kind later. For the Minister to say that using a loyalty card is not helping the tobacco industry to promote its products, as all products have been promoted by loyalty cards, ignores the advice that she gave to the Committee about how people use such schemes. What is wrong in a person having 20 extra points on his card as a result of the purchase of a packet of cigarettes if that is not covered by the clause?

Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

The clause makes it perfectly clear. If the purpose or effect is to promote a tobacco product, then it is covered. If something promotes spending on anything at all, then it promotes spending. Our concern is schemes the purpose or effect of which is to promote a tobacco product or to promote smoking. The clause seems to me to be relatively clear. I am happy to take further legal advice on the issue and get it clarified, but I struggle to understand why there should be a problem.

There is a legitimate issue here that we should be concerned about, which is the promotion of free non-tobacco products to promote tobacco products. That is what the amendments address, and that is what we are right to reject, because it would be wrong to create a loophole that would allow free products or gifts to be used to promote tobacco products, and to narrow the Bill to promotional tobacco products alone. That is why we reject the amendments.

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman Shadow Spokesperson (Health)

I give credit to my hon. Friend the Member for South Dorset; I had not spotted the potential problem. Loyalty cards could be caught under subsection (5) because ``document or other thing'' is a wide definition. I am pleased that the Minister will have another look at that; it is important that we get it right, since loyalty cards are on the increase, people use them and there is no question but that people do redeem them for, among other things, tobacco products.

I listened carefully to the Minister, and to make it perfectly clear, of course we are interested in helping those who want to give up smoking. The majority of smokers in some parts of the country—I think that it is as high as 60 per cent.—have tried to give up, and the amendments are in no way intended to undermine their resolve. It is a moot point whether the provision of non-tobacco products really increases smoking prevalence; sometimes there is a limit, quite frankly, to how many bone china mugs or other such products people actually want cluttering up their cupboard. I have never in my life heard anybody say to me or to a fellow smoker, ``Oh, please smoke a few more, because I am trying to get another one of those bone china mugs.'' We have to bring a degree of common sense—

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman Shadow Spokesperson (Health)

No, I am not prepared to way to the hon. Gentleman, who rudely described my party as interested in favouring carcinogens. That has not disposed me towards taking interventions that I might otherwise have considered. The hon. Gentleman's comment was outrageous, and he will just have to wait until I feel better about it. It is wrong and quite unnecessary to lower the tone of the Committee in that way.

In the interests of protecting those who are trying to give up, if there is any question that non-tobacco products make it more difficult to give up, I am prepared to be sympathetic to that argument. That is an important point, but common sense tells me that that is not the way in which smoking appeals to younger children. It is unlikely that a child will get sufficiently organised to fill out the sort of Marlboro coupon that the Minister described, find the stamp and send it off. I know too well from my own children that filling in forms and posting them off usually falls to me.

So I do not think that young smokers are drawn in by such activities. However, we are concerned for those who have been smoking for a long time and want to give up. In deference to them, if there is any doubt that such promotions could make it more difficult to give up—although I think that the fundamental addictive quality of the product is the reason why they find it so hard to give up—I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman Shadow Spokesperson (Health)

I beg to move amendment No. 37, in page 4, line 16, at end insert—

`(5A) For the avoidance of doubt a ``coupon'' within the meaning of this section does not include a voucher issued to a customer who has previously bought tobacco products which have been found to be defective or unsatisfactory in some way, where the coupon is issued to the customer by way of compensation to allow him to obtain further products of the same nature.'.

Photo of Humfrey Malins Humfrey Malins Conservative, Woking

With this, we may take amendment No. 38, in page 4, line 18, leave out `for a nominal sum' and insert

`for a sum less than their market value or, in the case of coupons, the market value of the products for which the coupons can be exchanged'.

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman Shadow Spokesperson (Health)

The amendments raise two separate issues in relation to coupons for use against the purchase of other tobacco products. There are two dimensions to the amendments. They are probing amendments, designed to make the Government think about some of the consequences of the way in which the clause is drafted. Amendment No. 37 would make it clear that the consumer has a degree of protection for a faulty product. The prohibition of coupons could place at risk the practice of sending out vouchers that are exchangeable for goods after a customer has returned a faulty product. It is not beyond the realms of imagination for a packet of cigarettes to be incomplete, wrongly wrapped, unusable or unpalatable; the consumer might find that they are wet or faulty and wish to return them. As phrased, the clause could deprive a consumer of a perfectly legitimate request. If the Government do not accept the amendment, they must confirm that our interpretation is not correct. At present, the practice takes place and we need to be sure that consumers have a fair degree of protection.

Amendment No. 38 is designed to probe the Government on the wording ``for a nominal sum''. It is designed to be helpful. Clause 8(6) is vague; the amendment would make it clearer by inserting:

``for a sum less than their market value or, in the case of coupons, the market value of the products for which the coupons can be exchanged''.

``Nominal'' suggests ``very small'', whereas the relevant criterion is whether the coupons allow purchase at less than market price. The amendment attempts to pre-empt the possibility of avoidance, by precluding coupons that allow the purchase of a packet of cigarettes for 1p. It is logical, however, to increase the coupon value to allow the purchase of a pack of 200 cigarettes for, say, £10. The Minister will agree that £10 is not a nominal sum. At present, we are concerned that there is a loophole in the vague phrase ``a nominal sum''.

Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

I am sympathetic to the intention behind amendment No. 37, but I feel that it is unnecessary. If the coupon represents full compensation for the faulty goods, it will not be caught by the Bill. Clause 8 deals only with coupons that promote tobacco products and although I am sympathetic to the aim of amendment No. 37, it is unnecessary. Clearly, there is no intention in the Bill—nor any powers—to affect consumers' statutory rights.

Amendment No. 38 is important and raises concern about the Bill as it is drafted. The problem with the phrase that Conservative Members have used to meet the concept of market value is that the phrase ``less than their market value'' raises difficult questions about how market value is defined. The Bill should not prevent legitimate competition by reducing prices. That would be an unfair restriction. ``Market value'' is probably drawn too tightly and would not allow the ordinary competitive practices within a market. I accept, however, the hon. Lady's concern about the definition of ``nominal sum'' and how to interpret it to include the example that she cited of a product that is dramatically discounted.

We are keen to reconsider the issue raised in amendment No. 38 to find a more appropriate wording than ``nominal sum'', although I caution the Committee that there is not necessarily an easy answer that would allow us to encompass all the abuses that cause us concern.

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman Shadow Spokesperson (Health)

I am encouraged by what the Minister has said. It is on the record that coupons that have the effect of making a product complimentary are not caught by the Bill.

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman Shadow Spokesperson (Health)

Yes, compensatory. That helps to clarify the matter, and we do not need to press the amendment to a vote.

I am delighted to hear that the Minister will reconsider amendment No. 38. Examples in the guidance may help to clarify it. The Minister understands the spirit in which it was tabled and we share the same objective. With that assurance, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

It being One o'clock, The Chairman adjourned the Committee without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned till this day at half-past Four o'clock.