Clause 18 - Transitional Provisions: Sponsorship

Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 5:45 pm on 6 February 2001.

Alert me about debates like this

The Chairman

: We have had a wide debate on sponsorship. I hope that the Committee will not indulge in repetition of the arguments, but will stick to the matter under discussion. Of course I will have to bear those matters in mind when I decide whether to allow a stand part debate.

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman Shadow Spokesperson (Health)

I beg to move amendment No. 44, in page 9, line 19, leave out `a' and insert `the'.

Photo of Humfrey Malins Humfrey Malins Conservative, Woking

With this it will be convenient to take amendment No. 45, in page 9, line 20, leave out `a sponsorship agreement' and insert `to all sponsorship agreements'.

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman Shadow Spokesperson (Health)

I listened carefully to your advice, Mr. Malins. I held back in our debate on clause 9 from talking about different time periods for the application of sponsorship because they seemed to relate most directly to this clause. I would certainly like to discuss that matter under a stand part debate, if possible. Our debate on the clause has been brought forward in the order of consideration to follow the general discussion of sponsorship.

The clause will enable regulations to be made to provide transitional arrangements and agreements for the phasing out of sponsorship. The Secretary of State said on Second Reading that the Government intended to implement a timetable for sponsorship that had previously been laid out in the European directive. Subsection (2) paves the way for that by saying that the date

``may not be later than 1st October 2006.''

That is an innocuous little phrase. We know that the debate that rages surrounds the differential hidden behind that between the different sports. I would entirely support my hon. Friend the Member for South Dorset in calling for a level playing field for these sports. I do not see why we should slavishly follow, as we were encouraged to do on Second Reading, the timetable laid out in the European directive. The whole logic behind having a differential agreement for different sports is shot through. To pay tribute to the hon. Member for Rother Valley, he convened a most interesting meeting of the all-party parliamentary group on smoking and health, and received a presentation from Simon Rines of International Marketing Reports, who made a strong case for a level playing field.

Photo of Kevin Barron Kevin Barron Labour, Rother Valley 6:00, 6 February 2001

The point that Simon Rines made to that Committee, if my memory serves me well, is that the deadline of 2006 should re-examined, not that everything should wait until 2006 to be finished. Is that correct?

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman Shadow Spokesperson (Health)

It may astonish the hon. Member to hear that I cannot see why that should not be possible. The preferential treatment given to Formula 1 under the transitional arrangements, made possible by the wording of the clause, is difficult to understand. Formula 1, of all sports, is clearly well placed to replace tobacco sponsorship. Indeed, that is already happening. So we are legislating for something that is happening quite naturally. Companies want to get out of tobacco sponsorship, and the ascendant companies that are starting to sponsor the sport are all from telecommunications, computers and the new emerging technologies.

The trouble starts with the logic behind the differential arrangements that the clause permits. On Second Reading, the case was made strongly for sports such as darts, which will have greater difficulty in getting replacement sponsorship. I should like to encourage all hon. Members to move towards a level playing field, for which strong arguments have been put forward. It is not necessary to differentiate under the transitional provisions between so-called global sports. Perhaps the Minister will clarify whether snooker is now regarded as a global sport. It enjoys an audience of 10 million adults and is watched in 150 countries. It may not have the same glamour as Formula 1, and is hence less sought after as a target for sports advertisements, but it is difficult to see why snooker should have preferential treatment but darts should not.

The amendments may not be worded in a way that would achieve that end, but they raise a strong objection with the Government for the lack of a level playing field. We are effectively free to legislate as we wish, since the European directive was brought forward on the wrong basis and annulled. Why must we pursue this preferential treatment for Formula 1? If I were in the Government's position, I would be embarrassed that preference has been given to that sport and about all the publicity concerning the donations that were received and then returned. That was doubtless effective from Formula 1's perspective, as it appears to have bought the preferential treatment without having to spend money. The situation is unsatisfactory, and the public and the advocates of different sports find it difficult to understand.

It appears, from the way that hon. Members on both sides of the Committee have articulated their surprise about those arrangements, that there may be a lot of cross-party support for changing the scope for those differential arrangements under clause 18. After seeing the strength of support in Committee for creating a level playing field, the Minister may want to give some thought to revising the Bill on that point on Report.

The point behind our second amendment is that there should be a decision to include all sponsorship agreements rather than a particular sponsorship agreement. That is perhaps an imperfect way to get to the point where all sponsorship agreements are treated fairly and in the same way. Preference should not be given to those best placed to seek alternative sources of funding.

Tobacco sponsorship accounts for only 5 per cent. of all European sports sponsorship. It is not as big a player as we have all been led to believe. Significant sums are involved in the sponsorships—£177 million for Formula 1 compared with £9 million for snooker. Darts and some lesser sports do not reach even £1 million.

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

Is it not extraordinary that, where sponsorship has a real impact on tobacco consumption, the Government are granting further time before a ban, yet where it does not much affect people's consumption, the ban is to be instant? That is so illogical.

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman Shadow Spokesperson (Health)

My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. I simply cannot understand such illogicality, and it leads me strongly to oppose the Bill. To treat particular sport sponsors preferentially and single out one sponsorship agreement to be dealt with transitionally in a different way is to conform ourselves to what might have been in Europe. Perhaps we should start conforming to what is happening in the marketplace now.

Some of the big players in Formula 1 no longer want tobacco sponsorship. The Williams Formula 1 team refused the Rothmans sponsorship and turned to Compaq. Ford also said no to Formula 1 sponsorship. The beginning of an important trend is happening in the real world, which is different from a notional European directive reappearing in a different guise at some indeterminate point in future. It is difficult to accept preferential treatment for one particular sport.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway) made a perceptive point. The main purpose of the Bill, with which we entirely agree, is to reduce the prevalence of smoking, but how effective will it be? As my hon. Friend said, it is difficult to understand how the increased prevalence of smoking among young women will be affected by the sponsorship of darts, for example. There is a disconnect, which makes one wonder why darts should be treated more severely than more glamorous sports with a wider appeal across the sexes such as Formula 1. The argument is tenuous and creating a level playing field for all sponsorship agreements would improve the Bill. It would be easier to understand and would more effectively address the Government's declared objective of removing from advertising those elements shown by market research to have a significant impact on smoking prevalence.

At a meeting of the all-party group, the market research was spelt out clearly—there is image transfer from glamorous sports to tobacco products. As a result of advertising in Formula 1, tobacco is seen as glamorous, exciting, making one ``youthful'', ``adventurous'' and ``sophisticated''—words used by consumers affected by that advertising. That is a factual description of the impact of sponsorship agreements and it makes it difficult to understand why Formula 1 should be accorded preferential treatment.

I hope that I have made a strong case and that Labour Back Benchers, who are susceptible to calls for a level playing field, might consider supporting us over this matter. Maybe together we could persuade the Minister to revisit this on Report.

I find it difficult to see the justification for treating one sport—or if snooker is caught into it, two—in a preferential way, given the impact that those sports have, as established by market research, on advertising of tobacco products.

Photo of Kevin Barron Kevin Barron Labour, Rother Valley

The hon. Member for Meriden said that we have to recognise what is happening in the marketplace. She also quite rightly said that the all-party group saw in graphic detail that Formula 1 is shedding tobacco sponsorship and that telecommunications and computers were the highest growth areas. That is not happening because they want to do it; it is happening because there has been an international debate for many years about the effect of tobacco sponsorship on Formula 1, the growth of sponsorship and the amount of time that it is on our television screens. Nobody sits down for a few minutes of a Formula 1 event. Although people rarely watch it all, we are not talking about the 90 minutes of a football match. The viewer is there for a long time. There are a lot of images flying around on the trackside and on the cars; there is a massive exposure of images.

Many years ago, when we were in opposition, I was involved in some of the negotiations about how to overcome the problem, not of sports sponsorship here at home but of sports sponsorship of international events. There is one example, possibly two, of what could be called international events. The obvious one, because of the amount of money that the tobacco companies put into it, is Formula 1 racing. I do not think anything would have changed in the marketplace with Formula 1 racing if it were not for the intention, initially of the EU, and after we were elected in 1997, of the Government, to remove the block on the EU directive that the governing Conservative party had had on for many years.

Mrs. Spelman indicated dissent.

Photo of Kevin Barron Kevin Barron Labour, Rother Valley

It is well documented—I have the lead Cabinet minutes in front of me if we want to debate that issue—and it was clear that the Conservatives were not going to lift that block. In turn, during the 1992 general election campaign, the Conservative party made a successful deal to rent bill poster sites—again, I have the evidence, which was well documented in debates—because they had the block on the European directive aimed at tackling this issue from the public health angle.

I have to say to the hon. Lady that the marketplace has been shaped over many years by discussion and debate. It was thoroughly shaped on 1 May 1997 when we came into office with such a large majority. Eventually it moved and the only way around that was to scurry off into the European courts, as tobacco companies did, looking for another way to try to stop this move. That is the true marketplace. It is true that Formula 1 is an international sport and hon. Lady said earlier—[Interruption.]

Photo of Kevin Barron Kevin Barron Labour, Rother Valley

He would not be on my pager. The hon. Lady said earlier that we were going to take this action independently. I must tell her that some, but not all, countries limit tobacco promotions when there is Formula 1 racing in their countries. With the aim of getting international agreement, it was suggested that names would be taken off, and just the logos and colours used. On that basis, it was always going to be treated differently to our own indigenous sponsorship agreements. No matter what people think about when this is going to end, it is going to end and that ending is in sight. When I was promoting a Bill under the private Bill procedure in the 1993-94 Session, that seemed decades away, especially given the amount of opposition that we had.

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman Shadow Spokesperson (Health)

I am grateful that the hon. Gentleman has given way because I want to return to the blocking minority on the directive. As I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is aware, the mechanics of European voting mean that one member state cannot unilaterally pull off a blocking minority vote. There has to have been an alliance and, for the record, the German Government at that time was also part of that blocking minority. I should like to know whether the hon. Gentleman would be prepared to press his Government to seek an alliance in Europe for a level playing field on these sponsorship agreement, quite possibly bringing forward the date, as I believe that he is in favour of that. Alliances have to be struck to bring about change.

Photo of Kevin Barron Kevin Barron Labour, Rother Valley

The only thing wrong with that is that one of the reasons why the European directive failed in the European Court was that it was said that some tobacco advertising issues were distinctly to do with the member state and not with a wider European issue. Public health is a wider European issue. I did not see the full judgement but I have seen it in different parts and one of the points was that, in most instances, tobacco advertising is peculiar to member states and therefore the directive could not be introduced. We have to recognise that.

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

I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman giving the example of the Conservative party unilaterally stopping tobacco advertising on all those hoardings during the election campaign by putting up Conservative posters. That was a good idea.

The hon. Gentleman is an honest man, and I am sure that he will give us an honest answer to this question. What did he think of the decisions by the Government—the Chancellor, the Prime Minister and all those people who were in with Bernie Ecclestone—announcing that they would give Formula 1 many years of continuing sponsorship?

Photo of Kevin Barron Kevin Barron Labour, Rother Valley

I shall not go into detail, but I was a shadow public health spokesman when we were in opposition and I spoke in Strasbourg in 1996. I was effectively looking after tobacco policy for the Labour party at that time and that question was asked of me then. It was an inter-group forum in Strasbourg. My immediate reaction, which was minuted, was that it would have to be dealt with differently because of the nature of Formula 1 racing.

At one level, the issue before us is whether Formula 1 should be allowed to go to the year 2006 while other sports are not. In part, the answer to the Conservative Members is that it might be up to them. They have tabled an amendment that seeks to take everything up to 2006. They may be sad to hear it, but I tell them I cannot support an amendment that would take everything up to 2006. The hon. Member for Meriden heard the debate in the all-party group when it discussed that matter, and has not tabled an amendment that might have tempted me. I only say ``might have tempted me'' because I do not look at any one thing in isolation. When I look at legislation, I look at the full picture.

Without question, Formula 1 gets a lot of money from the tobacco companies and is getting that replaced quite quickly. Then we dive down in terms of annual figures. Although I do not have them in front of me, the hon. Lady read them out. I think the next one was snooker at £9 million, then a lot of others at a lot less. I am tempted to ask my hon. Friend the Minister whether she agrees with this. Perhaps she will not, but I will try when she has finished talking to the Whip.

The banning of sponsorship is not unknown in other countries. Indeed it was banned it, I think, Western Australia. However, at the same time, the state government came up with something that I thought very innovative. Perhaps my hon. Friend the Minister will comment on this. They decided to convert the tobacco taxes in that state and give them to an arm's-length agency that could sponsor, or re-sponsor, sports and other events. Instead of young children being involved in sports sponsored by tobacco companies, they were involved is sports sponsored by public health lobbying organisations, such as ``Healthy Eating''.

There are many other smaller sponsorship deals, when we go below the line of snooker. For a tiny fraction of the amount that tobacco taxes bring into the Exchequer, the Government could consider replacing some of these smaller sponsorships to support, for example, fishing or dancing, with pro-health sponsorship —as opposed to anti-health sponsorship, in terms of tobacco. I realise that my hon. Friend the Minister cannot commit herself, or the Government, to such a thing, but it is an issue that we need to look at. It is not necessarily the case that sports, or other activities that are being sponsored by tobacco companies, would lose out.

I know my last point may be going a bit wide, Mr. Malins, but I will not participate in the clause stand part debate. I cannot tell the Committee what my wife calls me, so I shall just call myself local football supporter. I have been going mainly to my own club—Millmoor, Rotherham United football ground—for 40 years now. I have also been to most other grounds, including quite a few Premier league grounds, and the one thing that has struck me about sport sponsorship in the past decade is the massive change that there has been in football—our national sport—in terms of bringing in the Premier league, of salaries, and of everything else. Yet in no area of football can advertising by cigarette companies be seen.

Football is on our televisions on Saturday nights, Sunday mornings, it is on Sky most days of the week—which my wife hates. Here is a prime example of how tobacco companies could have had sports coverage—possibly even better than Formula 1—but the Football Association decided that tobacco products were not the right image that they wanted. Unannounced, without making a big deal of it, the Football Association decided not to get involved in that side of sponsorship.

Many other organisations, especially ones that take care of amateur sports, have nothing to do with tobacco advertising, because the industry is anti what most sports and activities are about. That is the truth of the matter, because no matter how they are defined, they are ill-health products. Under those circumstances, the Government ought to be considering other alternatives. When the legislation is in force, and sports organisations are under pressure because they cannot get the odd £1,000 or £500,000 in sponsorship, we—as parliamentarians—should be arguing that some of the billions of pounds of tobacco taxes earned by the Exchequer annually should be used to promote pro-health sponsorship among organisations for young children and others.

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

We are hearing interesting points on both sides of the debate. The clause is unsatisfactory, and that is why my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden tabled the amendments. It would be difficult for everyone on the Committee to agree with her on achieving an even playing field, as some might feel that doing so would simply prolong the time in which sponsorship could continue. If we did intend to prolong censorship, it would be sensible for each case to be considered by the Minister, but I do not think that my hon. Friend will win support for that premise, and I encourage her to withdraw her amendment so that the Committee can simply vote on whether clause 18 should stand part.

The Government have heard many opinions, particularly those of the hon. Member for Rother Valley, who makes such a strong case. He declares in the Member's Register of interests that he has been to Formula 1. He was sponsored by a drinks company and was obviously affected by seeing ``buzzing hornets'' and British American Racing pretending not to be tobacco companies. The hon. Gentleman will have been surprised by the switch in Labour party policy, and if he joins us to vote down clause and to give us cross-party support—the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives are on board—we could make the Government write another clause that could receive universal support from all parts of the Labour party.

Photo of Kevin Barron Kevin Barron Labour, Rother Valley

The hon. Gentleman has very observant in spotting my attendance at Formula 1. A friend of mine was running the brewery that won the contract for Foster's lager in this country, and some people were coming from Australia to Silverstone. Bernie Ecclestone was supposed to be having lunch in our tent, but he did not turn up, which was a great disappointment to me, as we had arranged a photo-shoot.

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

For once, I am glad that I gave way to the hon. Gentleman. I was not suggesting for one moment that I would not take up the invitation if Foster's invited me to visit Formula 1. Members of Parliament have to understand what is going on, and we cannot do that without visiting events.

I would like the Minister to respond on one point. Voluntary agreements exist on what can appear on Formula 1 cars, and, in the United Kingdom, all the cars are painted with buzzing hornets. Since I am not a tobacco smoker, it took me a long time to work out that that meant Benson and Hedges. Apparently, that was the brand that Benson and Hedges put on the side of the vehicle. Will the Minister say what sort of thing might be allowed, and whether the clause would give companies an open season for the six years in which they may still advertise their products when they sponsor Formula 1 and other such sports?

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

It is already 6.30 pm, and we had hoped to make considerable progress this afternoon. We still have half an hour, and may still make considerable progress, but Labour Members are happy to continue beyond 7 pm, or to return later this evening if the Opposition agree. I know that the hon. Member for Meriden has an engagement, and we would be happy to recognise that, as she was very understanding about my earlier engagement.

I want to respond to some of the issues that have been raised during this debate and want to turn to some stand part issues too.

Photo of Humfrey Malins Humfrey Malins Conservative, Woking

Order. Perhaps I can indicate to the Minister and to the Committee that I think that we have had a very wide-ranging debate on the amendments, and I propose to put the clause stand part question without debate when the time arrives.

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

Thank you, Mr. Malins, for that extremely helpful guidance.

The clause sets out the power to make regulations to do with the time scale for implementing the ban on tobacco sponsorship. There will be time for consultation on those regulations, and for hon. Members, the organisers of sporting events or anyone involved in sponsorship to raise particular issues, concerns or interests about the regulations. We shall certainly listen to all representations, and that will provide an appropriate forum in which to discuss in great detail the appropriate time scale for introducing the sponsorship ban.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said on Second Reading that it remained our intention to implement the policy and the timetable on sponsorship that had been agreed with our European partners in 1998 and subject to consultation that means that UK sports and events will have until July 2003 to find alternative sponsorship and that global sporting events will have until October 2006 to do the same, provided first that they do not sign new contracts with tobacco companies and secondly, that they phase out the current sponsorship that they receive. My right hon. Friend also set out our intention to publish draft regulations for consultation during the course of the Bill, which we hope to do as soon as possible.

That policy was agreed with our European partners, and we are keen to consult them on the timing of the regulations and the ban. We are keen to work with them on proposals to reintroduce a Europe-wide ban on tobacco sponsorship and advertising. The distinction between global and UK sporting events was set out several years ago. The bottom line is that sponsorship will be banned, and that is right. In clause 18, we set out a final date—1 October 2006—by which sponsorship should be banned, which is exactly in line with the directive agreed with our European partners.

We want to go further and to draw up worldwide agreements on tobacco sponsorship. We want to agree Europe-wide bans on tobacco sponsorship. We are keen to do that in collaboration with our European partners and with WHO. I hope that there is scope to do that and to make considerable progress. It is worth noting that the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile has said that it is keen to introduce a worldwide ban on tobacco sponsorship from 2006. My hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley is absolutely right to say that would not have happened if it had not been for discussions at European level and through WHO and the extreme pressure now felt in many countries to get rid of tobacco sponsorship and tobacco advertising for the sake of public health.

This is an important clause. We need to set out a timetable. We will do so through proper consultation on the regulations, and will listen at that time to any representations that are made. It is right that we should have the flexibility to respond to the consultation process and to any issues that may be raised then. I urge the Committee to reject the amendment and to agree that the clause should stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman Shadow Spokesperson (Health)

Following the good advice of my hon. Friend the Member for South Dorset, I shall withdraw my amendment, but I should like to press the clause to a vote. I should like to gauge the support for seeking a level playing field and giving the Government a chance to reconsider.

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman Shadow Spokesperson (Health)

In the interests of time, I will not. The hon. Gentleman made a long and interesting speech on this subject. I have made my position clear.

Mr. Barron rose—

Photo of Humfrey Malins Humfrey Malins Conservative, Woking

Order. Has the hon. Lady given way?

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman Shadow Spokesperson (Health)

I had sat down. Could you guide me, Mr. Malins, on whether the hon. Gentleman can intervene?

Photo of Humfrey Malins Humfrey Malins Conservative, Woking

It is a matter of discretion for the Chair. It might be more convenient if the hon. Lady treated this is as an intervention.

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman Shadow Spokesperson (Health)

I accept that guidance and give way to the hon. Gentleman.

Photo of Kevin Barron Kevin Barron Labour, Rother Valley

In withdrawing the amendment, is the hon. Lady giving notice that she will table an amendment that includes a date earlier than 2006?

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman Shadow Spokesperson (Health)

There is still time to table amendments on Report. I would be guided in making such a decision by the level of support that an amendment might receive from the Committee. If the hon. Member for North Devon (Mr. Harvey) would return and reveal his voting intentions, there could be seven apiece. For once in this Parliament, we could produce a very interesting voting result, despite the Government's big majority. The level of support will guide my decision on what amendments to table on Report. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question put, That the clause stand part of the Bill:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 8, Noes 5.

Division number 2 Adults Abused in Childhood — Clause 18 - Transitional Provisions: Sponsorship

Aye: 8 MPs

No: 5 MPs

Aye: A-Z by last name

No: A-Z by last name

Question accordingly agreed to.

Clause 18 ordered to stand part of the Bill.