New clause 1 - Review of effect of this act

Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:15 pm on 8 February 2001.

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``(1) The Secretary of State shall commission a reputable and appropriately qualified body to carry out a rolling study of the effects of this Act on—

(a) the prevalence of smoking in the United Kingdom population, with particular reference to the uptake of smoking by persons under the age of 18; and

(b) the effect of this Act on market shares of different participants in the tobacco market.

(2) The Secretary of State shall arrange for an annual report of the findings of the study commissioned in accordance with (1) above to be presented to the Health Select Committee of the House of Commons for evaluation.''. —[Mrs. Spelman.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman Shadow Spokesperson (Health)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Photo of Mrs Irene Adams Mrs Irene Adams Labour, Paisley North

With this we will consider new clause 2—Tobacco promotion regulatory authority.

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman Shadow Spokesperson (Health)

The hon. Member for Rother Valley may find that there is an overlap between some of the aims that I have set out to achieve in new clause 1 and some of what he sets out to achieve in new clause 2, so I look forward to hearing what he has to say. Obviously the legislation has imposed some significant restrictions on the way in which legitimate business has been carried out in this country for a long time.

The justification given for the ban on tobacco advertising is the reduction in the prevalence of smoking, and the Government have set a target of reducing that by 2.5 per cent. It is important that we test the proposition properly and require the Government to evaluate the effect of what they are doing. Parliament should head the scrutiny of the legislation.

The UK has taken a significant unilateral decision as part of a significant trading block to ban tobacco advertising for public health reasons in order to meet the target of a 2.5 per cent. reduction in smoking prevalence. We owe it to those who will have to comply with the ban on advertising to demonstrate whether the target has been achieved because of the investment that they will have to make.

Our purpose will be made clear by this debate on our reasoned amendment. We share the Government's aim of reducing smoking prevalence, but the relatively modest target of reducing prevalence by 2.5 per cent. will be difficult to achieve unless we do something far more effective about the volume of illegal tobacco coming in to this country, which we see as fuelling the incidence of smoking.

It is quite reasonable to ask the Secretary of State to commission a qualified body to carry out a rolling study of the effect of the Bill. There is little difference between the hon. Member for Rother Valley and me on the concept of a qualified authority. I have read the Health Committee Report with care, and I understand his reasons for wanting a body to be introduced called the tobacco promotion regulatory authority. The Health Committee's report promoted such a body, and the Bill introduces new instruments that will carry out the role for which the Health Committee envisaged a tobacco regulatory authority.

It is a semantic difference, but under my new clause the Secretary of State would select a reputable and appropriately qualified body. Such a body might already be in existence. I am no great fan of setting up quangos and authorities all over the place, we have enough of them--I wonder about the effectiveness of some of them sometimes. An existing authority may be able to perform this role for the Secretary of State.

Commercial regulation is outside the sphere of my brief on health, so I am not sufficiently conversant with the constraints on the Advertising Standards Authority, for example. Existing regulatory authorities and bodies may be perfectly well-qualified—

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman Shadow Spokesperson (Health)

My hon. Friend mentions a university. The Secretary of State often commissions a university to carry out such a report. It is possible within existing structures to charge a body with the responsibility for evaluating the effectiveness of the Bill. We owe it to those who will be affected by it. It would also inform the public about the success or our legislative efforts in reducing smoking prevalence, and how much that is attributable to the ban on tobacco advertising.

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

My hon. Friend will remember that the Prime Minister made a big thing about producing an annual report on Government measures. We saw it in one format one year, and then the format was changed completely so we could not follow it the second year. Her clause would merely put into statutory form what the Government promised us with all that spin when they first came into power. They said that they would report back on the measures that they had taken and on the effects that they had had.

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman Shadow Spokesperson (Health)

I recall that the first glossy annual report did not exactly sell like hot cakes at Tesco. I am not in favour of glossy reports, but I am very much in favour of an effective report that has a statutory basis to it, so that we can properly evaluate whether or not the Bill has been successful in meeting the Government's target of reducing smoking prevalence by 2.5 per cent. The target does not appear in the Bill. The rationale for this measure would not be apparent to any lay person reading the Bill, who would not make that connection. It is important to make that connection, and for the Government to establish just how effective or not this ban on tobacco advertising has been, and to put that information in the public domain.

Photo of Kevin Barron Kevin Barron Labour, Rother Valley

May I ask for guidance, Mrs. Adams. We are debating these clauses, but the clock is ticking and we have only 25 minutes left of this sitting. I have been invited by the hon. Member for Meriden to comment on her clause, which I am quite prepared to do. Clearly, I have to move my new clause formally, but I do not know which to deal with first.

Photo of Mrs Irene Adams Mrs Irene Adams Labour, Paisley North

You do not have to move your new clause at this stage.

Photo of Kevin Barron Kevin Barron Labour, Rother Valley

Thank you, Mrs. Adams. I shall comment on the other new clause first and then move on to mine. The Committee is running out of time, so I may table it again, so that the House can consider it in more detail on Report next Tuesday.

The hon. Members for Meriden and for Mid-Worcestershire may be surprised to hear me say that new clause 1 has some merit. Two important issues arise from clause 1: what happens to under-18 smokers, and what the impact of clause 1(b) on market share will be. We know that clause 1(b) has been the tobacco industry's defence for years—that advertising and promotion are simply about market share and brand switches. If the market did not move when advertising and promotion were banned in this country, we would know that the industry was right for all these years—that people keep smoking the same cigarettes because they want to, not because they have been enticed by advertising and promotion to switch to another brand.

Under-18 smoking is an important issue. It would be good to examine the problem and assess the impact of the ban on advertising and promotion. I agree with the hon. Lady that the Health Committee would be the most appropriate body to conduct such a study. I referred earlier to the Health Committee's evidence on the health risks of smoking, which was published in its report last year. Both written and oral evidence of the incidence of under-age smoking was examined carefully. It showed that advertising designed to encourage people over 18 to switch cigarettes had no effect whatever on young people's smoking habits. The Health Committee put various questions to the advertising agencies giving evidence.

The hon. Member for South Dorset said in his filibuster on integration [Hon. Members: ``Oh''.] I shall point out that his speech was not well-focused on clause 19, and leave it at that. Commenting on raising issues with the Secretary of State, the hon. Gentleman said that if people keep asking the same questions, they receive different answers. He is absolutely right. Advertising agencies were giving evidence about how they pitched their adverts to different age groups and claimed that they affected only adults, not children. I thought that that was a fascinating example of a Select Committee really doing its job.

I shall refer to the late Member for Preston, Audrey Wise. Irrespective of whether we agree with her politics, few could deny that she was assiduous in her Committee work. I recall sitting with Audrey on the Committee considering the Food Standards Bill in 1999. Whenever she elicited evidence from witnesses she would always get to the heart of the matter. I have the report of the evidence taken by that Committee. Audrey Wise took evidence from a Mr. Paul Bainsfair. Please do not ask me to explain in detail, but he was the chairman of TBWA GCT Simons Palmer Ltd. On page 318 of the report, she asked questions about the targeting of young adults. She referred to some written evidence that had been given to the Committee by the company and Mr. Bainsfair, and said:

``The client is Rothmans and the target `Primary: 18-24 males'. I should just like to know what you think characterises an 18-year-old male, their aspirations and things that appeal to them which would not also appeal to 14 and 15-year-old males?''

Crucially, under the voluntary code, tobacco advertising was not supposed to be aimed at people aged between 12 and 15. The age of 18 is used in new clause 1 because advertisers are not supposed to target below that age. It would seem relevant for a study to consider the effect of an advertising ban on people below the age of 18.

Mr. Bainsfair said, when he was answering questions in relation to what he called the piece of paper that had been given to the Committee:

``It is a fact that Marlboro is a brand which is smoked by younger men; they tend to be more upscale.''

The then hon. Member for Preston said:

``Yes, I understand that but what I am asking is how you gear the advertising to be attractive at 18, which is your target beginning and not include things which would also appeal to 14 and 15-year-olds.''

He replied:

``I shall try to answer your question, although...you do not really fully understand the way we work'', to which Audrey Wise admitted:

``I am sure I do not, or what motivates you.''

Mr. Bainsfair then went into a rather long answer, saying:

``The advertising we are trying to develop, and remember that we have to stick very much within the bounds of the code which prevents us anyway doing anything which might be seen to be deliberately attractive to children—not that we would want to—means that it is pretty unlikely that the kind of advertising we come up with would particularly appeal to a 15-year-old.''

The debate carries on for several columns—I emphasise its relevance to new clause 1(1)(a)—and Audrey Wise says:

``All I am asking, since you are expert communicators, is what steps you take to make your adverts attractive to young males 18 and up and to not have them attractive to males of 14 and 15.''

Mr. Bainsfair replied:

``What I have tried to explain is that there is a very detailed code to which we have to submit all our ideas to make sure that we are not straying into an area which could be seen to do the very thing you are suggesting we might accidentally do.''

He was then challenged by Audrey Wise, who said:

``So you are supposed not to do it. What I am asking is how you carry out that remit, that is all.''

Mr. Bainsfair answered:

``I do not quite understand your question. We are aiming at 18 to 24-year-olds.''

The exchange went on for another column.

Photo of David Taylor David Taylor Labour/Co-operative, North West Leicestershire 4:45, 8 February 2001

Has my hon. Friend had the opportunity to read the report of the tobacco advisory group of the Royal College of Physicians? It notes that the real issue is the management of nicotine addiction. One would infer that the companies concerned are trying to establish nicotine addiction at an early age. In the most recent surveys, the data of which were compiled in 1998, as high a proportion of 15-year-olds as 30 per cent. regularly smokes.

Photo of Kevin Barron Kevin Barron Labour, Rother Valley

My hon. Friend is right. I do not want to go down that avenue now, although it may be relevant to new clause 2. The regulatory authority was requested by the Royal College of Physicians in that study. It is an excellent study, showing people how addictive nicotine is, how it is delivered in different ways to people in society and the effect of the delivery.

Let me return to the evidence taken by the Select Committee. It shows how the Committee chased round the houses and attempted to find out why advertising would affect only the 18 to 24 age group, and whether we could depend on the voluntary code to ensure that the same advertising did not affect people below the age of 18. Audrey Wise asked someone who was paid by a tobacco company to run its advertising how a distinction could be made under the voluntary code between someone who was under 18, or under 15, and an 18 to 24-year-old. She said:

``So you are supposed not to do it. What I am asking is how you carry out that remit, that is all.''

The witness replied:

``I do not quite understand your question. We are aiming at 18 to 24-year-olds.''

Audrey Wise went on:

``The question is how you engage aspirations in the first place and stay within the CAP''.

She was referring to the code of advertising practice. All these matters are examined under the voluntary code, which the Bill would abolish. She went on:

``I thought that adverts had not to be aspirational. How do you distinguish between the aspirations of the bottom end of your adult smokers and the young teenager? There must be something you do, some sorts of things you do or refrain from doing in order to keep within the CAP. I am just asking you to explain.''

The proceedings continued. The witness could not explain. Audrey Wise then said:

``What guides your judgement? ...You have rock, cult, bikes, cars as sorts of things.''

We have all seen the images used in tobacco advertising over the years by Rothmans and many others. She went on:

``Fourteen and 15-year-old males seem to me to be just as interested as 18-year-olds. How do your adverts differ?''

The whole matter shows how parliamentarians' expertise can be used to examine reports and to take evidence on them. After about three columns, Mr. Bainsfair eventually made an admission. He said:

``Perhaps if I say that it is common sense that there is going to be an overlap. Some 15-year-olds are going to be more sophisticated than others. It is impossible to say that something which appeals to an 18-year-old will not appeal to a 15-year-old. If that is what you are getting at, obviously you are right.''

That has been the argument of people concerned about the health of young people and cigarettes for decades. It is nonsense to claim that certain advertising is for a set age group, whether or not it includes motorbikes. I do not have a problem with new clause 1 being added to the Bill, but we will hear what the Minister has to say about it. On new clause 1(a), it will be interesting to monitor the prevalence of smoking in the 11 to 15 age group. The vast majority of people start smoking between the ages of 11 and 15. It will be interesting to see what happens when advertising that is supposedly not aimed at them is taken out of our culture.

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman Shadow Spokesperson (Health)

I do not think that we are going to hear from the Minister. The discussions suggest that, because of the forthcoming Division in the House, my new clause will have to be decided quickly. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will be pleased to hear that there will be an opportunity to consider his new clause on Report. The matters are important and I interrupt only to remind him that there may not be time for us to hear the Government's reply.

Photo of Kevin Barron Kevin Barron Labour, Rother Valley

I realise that, if I were to sit down now, I could table new clause 2 again on Report. As I would be interested to hear the Minister talk about the new clause, I will do just that.

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

As this is probably the last time that I will speak in this Committee, may I thank you, Mrs. Adams and, through you, Mr. Malins for your chairmanship of the Committee? It has been good humoured and our discussions have progressed well.

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman Shadow Spokesperson (Health)

As there may be no other opportunity to intervene, I want to thank you, Mrs. Adams and, through you, Mr. Malins for the courteous way in which you have regulated our proceedings. The Committee has also conducted itself courteously most of the time.

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

I welcome the fact that, although the Opposition voted against Second Reading, they have tabled many constructive amendments and accepted many of the principles behind the Bill. That was helpful to our discussions.

I shall confine my comments to new clause 1, because I understand that my hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley does not intend to press new clause 2 now.

I have considerable sympathy with the aims of new clause 1. It is essential to have effective independent evaluation of the impact of the advertising ban and that information must be publicly available. The issue of market share is interesting, but the critical issue concerns the prevalence of smoking in the United Kingdom.

We are keen to have proper and effective evaluation of the legislation, but it would be a mistake to set out in the Bill the specific requirements for research. For example, it is not clear that the under-18 age group is the right one. We may want to consider the under-16s and the 16 to 19 age group.

Subsection (2) of the new clause states that there should be an annual report, but if that requirement were in the Bill, it might become burdensome after 10 years; we might have conclusive results during that period. We need flexibility not simply to respond to the ban and to ensure that the right sort of research is taking place, but to enable us to respond to new needs for research in other areas as they arise.

I confirm that issues concerning research and evaluation and the work of the Health Development Agency will be considered by the Department. It is important to maintain flexibility in the way in which research is commissioned, but our intention is to ensure that there is proper public evaluation of the impact of the Bill. We are keen to see the Bill on the statute book and to evaluate its effect in the light of the considerable health consequences of smoking and the impact of advertising not only on new smokers, but on those who want to give up. Seventy per cent. of smokers say that they want to give up smoking. It is an important part of our health policy to provide support and encouragement for those who want to give up and to break the addiction to a deadly product.

I ask the Committee to reject new clause 1 and look forward to further consideration of the Bill on Report.

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman Shadow Spokesperson (Health)

The Minister's comments are encouraging and I am pleased that the Government want to evaluate the Bill in a similar way to that suggested in the new clause. I may return to the matter on Report with some modifications in line with the objectives that we want to achieve.

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Mrs Irene Adams Mrs Irene Adams Labour, Paisley North

Order. I thank the Committee for behaving so well. I am disappointed that we did not have a vote, because I was interested to see if Little Ben would be allowed to vote. I thank hon. Members for their attendance and kind words.

Bill, as amended, to be reported.

Committee rose at six minutes to Five o'clock.