Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill [Lords]

– in a Public Bill Committee at on 7 May 2002.

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[Mr. David Amess in the Chair]

Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health 4:30, 7 May 2002

I beg to move,


(1) during proceedings on the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill [Lords] the Standing Committee, in addition to its first sitting on Tuesday 7th May at half-past Four o'clock, do meet on Thursday 9th May at Nine o'clock and at half-past Two o'clock, and on Tuesday 14th May at half-past Ten o'clock and at half-past Four o'clock;

(2) the proceedings shall be taken in the following order, namely Clauses 1 to 5, Clause 17, Clauses 6 to 10, Clause 20, Clauses 11 to 16, Clauses 18 and 19, Clauses 21 and 22, New Clauses and New Schedules;

(3) the proceedings on the Bill (so far as not previously concluded) shall be brought to a conclusion at Seven o'clock on Tuesday 14th May 2002.

I welcome you to the Chair, Mr. Amess. We look forward to your stewardship and that of Mr. Nicholas Winterton, who chaired the Programming Sub-Committee.

I shall not take up the Committee's time, as the matter was discussed in the Programming Sub-Committee. We propose five Committee sittings. The Bill has been through the Commons before and has been scrutinised in great detail. There are some changes and things have moved on, so it is right that the Bill should be scrutinised in detail again. We believe that five sittings will be sufficient. No knives are in place, because we believe it right that the Opposition should have maximum flexibility in deciding on which clauses they want to focus in most detail.

Photo of Tim Loughton Tim Loughton Shadow Spokesperson (Health)

First, I welcome you to the Chair, Mr. Amess, and I also welcome Mr. Winterton, who chaired last week's Programming Sub-Committee—for rather longer than we are used, as such Committees usually last about two minutes.

A few points are worth making about the sittings motion. We were unhappy that the Committee had been curtailed from what we were originally led to believe would be eight sittings, which became seven, six, and finally five, and that we would have to report to the House shortly, leaving little time to produce meaningful amendments for discussion.

We also argued the toss in the Programming Sub-Committee over the time that we should start on Thursday morning. Labour Members seem happy to start halfway through the day, at 9.30 am, whereas we wanted to start at 8.55 am, as is the normal procedure for a Committee on a Thursday morning. Ultimately, we had to concede that extra and probably crucial five

minutes and we shall start at 9 o'clock on Thursday morning. Such is the sloth of Government these days that we shall have to go along with that.

We oppose programming in principle. As Opposition Members did not vote against the Bill but tabled a reasoned amendment, an agreement could have been reached to make the Committee rather more open-ended. We have a lot to debate.

The Minister will say, as she did on Second Reading and in the Programming Sub-Committee, that it is not a new Bill. As I said, it has been round the houses. It appeared in the last Parliament, but did not go beyond the Commons because of the election, and it has been scrutinised in the Lords, too. As a result of how our parliamentary processes work, however, what happened in the last Parliament is irrelevant and we must start again. It is especially important to do so because we need to test the Government's resolve in promoting the Bill, which was not in the Queen's Speech following the general election and was dragged back to the Floor of the House of Lords by a private Member speaking for the Liberal Democrats. The Government have now adopted it and belatedly given it their support.

Secondly, we have a bicameral Parliament and, although the Bill has been scrutinised in the upper House, it is absolutely right that it should be scrutinised fully and exhaustively in this place.

Photo of Evan Harris Evan Harris Liberal Democrat, Oxford West and Abingdon

The hon. Gentleman said that the scrutiny that the measure received in the previous Parliament was irrelevant. Does he believe that anything of relevance can be gleaned from deliberations on what are in many cases the same words in the same order in the same clauses? I understand his constitutional point about the need to go through all the stages again, but is he suggesting that nothing of relevance can be learned from discussions on the same words just over a year ago?

Photo of Tim Loughton Tim Loughton Shadow Spokesperson (Health)

No, that is not what I am saying. My remarks were directed purely at the constitutional position. I am sure that, like me, the hon. Gentleman will have read the report of the proceedings in Standing Committee in the previous Parliament to glean the essence of those debates and the amendments that were tabled, some of which were adopted and some of which may be echoed during our discussions. It was irrelevant not that a useful debate took place, but that it had no parliamentary power when the general election was called and the Bill fell. I am sure that the spokesman for the Liberal Democrat party is well aware of that.

Apart from the facts that such a Bill was discussed in the previous Parliament, the Government did not bring it back of their own accord, we have a bicameral Parliament and it is right that the Bill should be scrutinised here, none of my hon. Friends who are here today were members of the previous Committee. We are new to the Bill. We come to it with a completely fresh approach and a clean sheet of paper and that may prove interesting and add something to it.

I wish to make two things clear to the Minister. Slightly mischievously, in the heated late-night debate on Second Reading, she made some suggestions that I want to dispel. We are here for two reasons. Primarily, we are here to make the Government justify why they consider that the Bill will be the most effective legislation to reduce smoking—we agree with that aim. Secondly, if the Bill is the right legislation, will it work in practice? Is it watertight and fair, given that we are looking to ban something that, until now, has been a perfectly legitimate practice in which individuals and businesses can engage?

The Minister put forward two misconceptions: first, that to oppose the Bill is to be pro-smoking and that by doing so Opposition Members will be, in some way, serving the interests of fat-cat, multinational, nicotine-pumping tobacco manufacturers—[Hon. Members: ''Yes!''] Obviously, that misconception is shared by her honourable colleagues. It is worth putting on the record that I and the rest of the health team of which I am a part are not pro-smoking. We are fully in favour of any measures that will legitimately, effectively and practically reduce the prevalence of smoking in this country, especially among younger people.

Secondly, I hold no torch for tobacco manufacturers. I have never smoked their products knowingly or soberly—there may have been a few isolated instances. I have been a vociferous complainant about the polluting effect of their products and I have been known to lecture friends and members of my family on the subject. I have no vested interest in tobacco manufacturers and I am sure that the same goes for my hon. Friends, whether or not they indulge in the foul weed.

Our debate on Second Reading was marked by everyone agreeing about the harmful effects of smoking, and the need to reduce consumption and the number of people who indulge in it, particularly the young. All Conservative Committee members would back this or a similar measure if it could be categorically proven that it would lead to the desired effect. It is a question of the means and the end as long as proper safeguards are taken. The Minister had to admit that the target of a reduction in smoking of 2.5 per cent., as outlined in the explanatory notes, is entirely arbitrary. We do not have scientific proof of it and the Government need to make such an argument watertight. We have yet to be convinced, but I hope that by the end of our proceedings we will be.

Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess Conservative, Southend West

Order. I remind the hon. Gentleman that we are discussing the programme resolution and that we are straying away from it. In fact, it seems that we are having the Second Reading debate again. He should comment more closely on the resolution.

Photo of Tim Loughton Tim Loughton Shadow Spokesperson (Health)

I am grateful, Mr. Amess, and I will, of course, follow your guidance. As the Second Reading was such an awesome event, we are hoping to repeat some of its highlights at the beginning of the Committee stage.

With regard to programming, we have concerns about the amount of time that has been allotted to the Committee in which to deal with certain areas: the

definition of what constitutes advertising and promotion, which was not properly resolved in another place and in earlier deliberations in this House; the effect on internet service providers and the implications for publishers of electronic information; the effect on specialist mail order retailers—and I think that many Committee members will have received letters in recent days from constituents who are involved in such businesses—which is new to the legislation; brand sharing, which is still a grey area, and which we would like to explore; and the notorious clause 7, with its blatant Henry VIII powers, that we wish the Government, and the Minister, to define more closely, because it gives enormous, sweeping, broad powers to the Secretary of State.

We also want to spend time examining the limitations on the rights of enforcement officers to enter premises and seize materials of commercial sensitivity and items of confidentiality. We need to look at a new clause that was added in the other place, which concerns the burden of proof and which will arise sooner rather than later in the order of batting. There is also the entire issue of the timing for sponsorship. Although there has been much talk about Formula 1 racing as a big beneficiary from tobacco advertising, I want to look in more detail at the effect on other sports, not least darts, which will suffer greatly from the implications of this Bill as things stand. Is enough being done to find alternative forms of sponsorship and is enough being given to help the sport?

I have read in detail earlier proceedings on the measure both in this House in the last Parliament and in the upper House in this Parliament and it is clear that the areas that I have listed remain unresolved. That is why my hon. Friends will be tabling amendments. Many of them are probing amendments that are intended to tease out of the Government definitions of exactly what they are about. In far too many of the previous deliberations the Minister seems to have been happy for a lot of what should be decided in a Standing Committee to be decided in the courts. That makes for bad legislation. It should be made as clear as possible what people involved in tobacco advertising and promotion in the tobacco industry—or smokers, or retailers generally—can and cannot expect as a result of the legislation.

We want to improve the legislation by examining the areas that I have mentioned and by getting clarification from the Minister.

Photo of David Ruffley David Ruffley Conservative, Bury St Edmunds

I support my hon. Friend's opening comments, especially the necessity for the Bill to entrench proportionality into the potential sentencing sanctions to which anyone charged under this legislation may be subject. I also agree with his comments about Opposition Members not supporting any manufacturers. [Interruption.] I do not know what is being muttered from a sedentary position, but this discussion is supposed to be about the programme motion, Mr. Amess.

I draw attention to the necessity for adequate time to be given to the cases that have come to the attention of Conservative Committee members, especially the

European Court of Justice case and the case of the consumer ombudsman and Gourmet, to which the Committee may wish to pay particular attention.

Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess Conservative, Southend West

Order. Interventions must be brief.

Photo of Tim Loughton Tim Loughton Shadow Spokesperson (Health)

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Ruffley). He has made some valid points. I have no doubt that he will make them again as the Committee's proceedings progress and I hope that we will have more reasonable debate from those on the Government Benches than merely sedentary muttering, because that is what Standing Committees should be about.

I have no doubt that the Minister and her muttering colleagues will accuse us—as they have in the past—of catching, hanging out or doing whatever it is one does to red herrings. However, Conservative Members, those involved in the industry and consumers have genuine concerns that the Bill could have a regressive effect. It could, for example, lead to an increase in smoking if a price war were to ensue. Those are the issues that we must spend some time debating in Committee.

There is also the problem of hardened smokers such as my father, who has smoked for 50 years and is not going to give up, despite pressure from me, various relatives and all sorts of other people who have tried and failed to get him to do so. We need to take measures for those people, too. We must wean them off harder weeds and on to less harmful ones. We need to spend some time debating that.

Also, the tobacco industry spends £130 million on advertising. All such advertisements must have very large health warnings on them. As I said on Second Reading, I am in favour of those health warnings occupying a substantially greater part of, and becoming the dominant aspect of posters, hoardings, and adverts. However, that free advertising for the Department of Health from the chief medical officer will disappear if no adverts are allowed. Those are all perfectly legitimate subjects for us to raise in Committee.

Some of my hon. Friends wish to raise the timing of the European Union notification process, which the Government have dismissed out of hand, although it has great relevance to the progress and timing of the Bill, which could be stopped in its tracks. There is also the topical ruling that affected Sweden last week. Those are all new developments that have not yet been discussed in the House or the other place.

I express my reservations about the time that we are being given to debate the Bill. I hope that we can have proper and detailed debate on the issues that are of great concern to us and I hope that we will not just dismiss the process and say, ''We have done it all before in another place, so we don't need to bother.'' We do need to bother. We must get the Bill right; if we do not, the implications will be harmful for everybody.

Photo of Evan Harris Evan Harris Liberal Democrat, Oxford West and Abingdon 4:45, 7 May 2002

It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Mr. Amess. It is safer for us that you are in the Chair and not doing damage from the Back Benches. I mean that as a compliment.

I support the programme resolution on a pragmatic basis. The hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton), who speaks for the Conservatives, knows that we share many of his concerns about the Government's approach to programming. However, when I am consulted about a programme resolution, which is not always the case—nor is it the case in the House generally, although I make an exception for the general practice of the Government Whip on health—and I agree with it outside Committee, I will say so on the record.

We certainly agree with the resolution. That is not because we take issue with the view of the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham that there are important matters to discuss in detail; clearly, there are. He mentioned several important issues that we will want to discuss. However, it is always a question of judgment and degree and we believe that five sittings of the Committee will be sufficient to cover the issues. I accept that the hon. Gentleman has, with the best will in the world, come to a different opinion and would have liked more sittings. I shall frequently be in his shoes in future, arguing against the Government for more time.

I put it on the record, however, that five sittings are enough for the Bill. That is not because there are no important issues of detail to discuss, but for several reasons. Extended scrutiny has already taken place in the other place and we expect that that scrutiny can be replicated in Committee in five sittings. Many, but not all, the issues that must be considered have to be tackled in Committee because we are in a new Parliament. The hon. Gentleman does not have to restate all the arguments that his hon. Friends made in a previous Parliament. He can merely refer us to the speeches that they made in Committee then. As he said, they are available for us to read. As a studious and well-prepared Committee member, he will have read them, as I have. It is the least that we can expect members of the Committee to do.

Photo of Mr Andrew Hunter Mr Andrew Hunter Conservative, Basingstoke

I am curious to know what act of penance the hon. Gentleman will perform if, at the end of the five sittings, we find that many amendments have not been debated properly?

Photo of Evan Harris Evan Harris Liberal Democrat, Oxford West and Abingdon

If that failure to reach all the amendments is due to extended interventions from Liberal Democrat Committee members, I would be happy to subscribe—within reason—to any act of penance that the hon. Gentleman suggests. However, he must be careful of creating petards on which he may be hoist because it is often—not always and I am sure not in his case—noted that people have made their points in an overlong way. On that note, I will sit down, in support of the programme resolution.

Photo of Mr Andrew Hunter Mr Andrew Hunter Conservative, Basingstoke

I endorse the previous comments welcoming you to the Chair, Mr. Amess. I am sure that your chairmanship can only enhance the quality of our deliberations. On Second Reading, I discovered that I

have a non-pecuniary interest to declare: I am a very enthusiastic member of the all-party Lords and Commons Pipe and Cigar Smokers Club. Unlike my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham, I am a keen smoker. I find few pleasures greater than savouring a Havana cigar, or smoking Gold Block tobacco in my pipe. [Interruption.] If that is advertising, I wonder which clause of the Bill I am falling foul of.

My hon. Friend referred to our headline objections to the programme resolution and I endorse those. I feel strongly that five sittings are insufficient to deal with the serious and important amendments that have been tabled and the others that no doubt will be. As you remind us, Mr. Amess, this is not a repeat of the Second Reading debate, but the essential contention of the Opposition is that the Government have not answered the case, or demonstrated why a successful voluntary code should be replaced by a total advertising ban. My fear is that the five sittings will be inadequate to pursue fully that extremely important central issue.

The Minister invites us to support the programme resolution. The composition of the Committee ensures that it will meet with approval. There is little that my party can do other than to present an argument, which we hope the Minister will address. One important issue should be raised—I hope that the hon. Lady will address it—and was raised on Second Reading, a little by me, and much more by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Garnier). There is a school of thought that argues that the passage of the Bill should be subject to a European Union three-month standstill period. The Committee's deliberations, therefore, should not advance and the resolution is inappropriate.

To add to the genuine confusion that prevails on that point, the Government have changed their position. They did so at the end of March, almost a month before Second Reading. The Government appear to be unaware of all the implications and ramifications of the change of policy that they made on 28 March. I regret that that situation was not clarified on Second Reading. My perception and reaction then—I think that they were shared by others—was that the Government peremptorily rejected concerns that we expressed without offering any explanation. This resolution provides an opportunity for the Government to explain.

My central argument is that the programme resolution should be seen in the wider context of the European Union's technical standards and regulations directive of 1998, in particular, article 8 of that directive, which applies to all industrially manufactured products and to agricultural produce. Its purpose, as the Minister will be aware, is to promote the single market and to prevent member states, through their national legislatures, creating technical barriers to a single market.

I listened carefully to the comments of the Secretary of State and the Minister under that heading, on Second Reading. I seriously wonder whether the Government have fully grasped the relevance of the

technical standards directive to the Bill. I also wonder, therefore, whether the Minister has grasped its relevance to this programme resolution. On one hand, the Bill aims to disadvantage UK tobacco manufacturers, because they are not being similarly disadvantaged in every other EU state—only in some, where national legislation has advanced. On the other, the Bill penalises tobacco advertisers in other EU member states that advertise in the UK. For example, I am told that several magazines sold in the UK are printed and/or published in Germany. Under the Bill, German publishers and printers will no longer be able to gain income from advertising tobacco in the journals that they produce in the UK. For them, and for others, the Bill, in the wider EU context, introduces a technical barrier to trade.

Article 8 of the directive is particularly relevant to the resolution. It requires member states to notify the Commission of proposed technical regulations or legislation. A three-month standstill period follows before the regulations or legislation can conclude their passage through the national legislatures, so that other states can make representations. If necessary, other states can ensure, through the Commission, that no harmful provisions exist in the legislation or regulations. During those three months, regulation or legislation has to remain potentially open to substantial amendment. That is the substance of article 8. Its relevance to this resolution is, therefore, self-evident.

Also relevant to the resolution and the argument that I am developing is the fact that, almost immediately after proceedings on the Bill began in another place, the Conservative Opposition raised with the Government whether the Bill was notifiable. That was raised on Second Reading and in Committee in the other place. The Government were adamant that nothing could change their opinion. They said that the Bill was not notifiable and they would not consider an alternative point of view.

Had that remained the situation, I would not have tried to catch your eye this afternoon, Mr. Amess, and make such points. However, extraordinary to relate in the light of their previous refusal to entertain the prospect that the Bill was notifiable, on 28 March 2002, the Government conceded that the Bill was notifiable and duly notified the Commission. Meanwhile, the Government's advisers had not delved as deeply as they might or should have into the intricacies of European Union product law. They were taken by surprise shortly after Second Reading in another place when both Denmark and the Netherlands notified primary legislation that was virtually identical to the Bill in content and purpose.

Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess Conservative, Southend West 5:00, 7 May 2002

Order. Under the terms of Sessional Order C, I now have to put the Question.

Photo of David Wilshire David Wilshire Conservative, Spelthorne

On a point of order, Mr. Amess. Some of us have not had an opportunity to speak to the motion and I believe that we should be entitled to do so.

Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess Conservative, Southend West

Under the terms of the order, the debate can take only 30 minutes.

Photo of Mr Andrew Hunter Mr Andrew Hunter Conservative, Basingstoke

Further to that point of order, Mr. Amess. I was making a serious argument that has been accepted in two other European Union member states. I seek your guidance on whether you will, perhaps, exercise a degree of leniency at a later stage in our deliberations so that I can pursue my argument, because the Government have not answered it. It is essential to the democratic process that the Government answer it and I seek your guidance as to whether there will be an opportunity to pursue that argument.

Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess Conservative, Southend West

The hon. Gentleman has made a fair point. If he seeks to catch my eye on an amendment, I am sure that, with his experience and ingenuity, he will be able to bring his remarks to order.

Photo of David Wilshire David Wilshire Conservative, Spelthorne

Further to that point of order, Mr. Amess. I would be grateful if you would explain to the Committee how we will get answers to our arguments as to why we need more time when the very attempt to get the information is being guillotined. What opportunity will there be for us to hold the Government to account on this very important issue?

Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess Conservative, Southend West

I am afraid that the problem that the hon. Gentleman has articulated is entirely the effect of the terms of the order and there is nothing that I can do about it.

Photo of Mr Andrew Hunter Mr Andrew Hunter Conservative, Basingstoke

Further to that point of order, Mr. Amess.

Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess Conservative, Southend West

There are no further points of order.

It being half an hour after the commencement of proceedings on the motion, The Chairman, put the Question, pursuant to paragraph (9) of the Order of the House of 28 June 2001 relating to Programming Sub-Committees.

The Committee divided: Ayes 11, Noes 5.

Division number 1 Adults Abused in Childhood — Clause 15 - Support for destitute asylum-seeker

Aye: 11 MPs

No: 5 MPs

Aye: A-Z by last name

No: A-Z by last name

Question accordingly agreed to.

Photo of David Wilshire David Wilshire Conservative, Spelthorne

On a point of order, Mr. Amess. I would have raised this matter if I had had a chance to speak on the programme resolution. I spent 39 sittings in a Committee Room similar to this one in November, December and January dealing with the Proceeds of Crime Bill. We had two Chairmen on those 39

occasions—I welcome you and your co-Chairman, when he gets here, to the Chair—one did not mind us taking our jackets off, but the other got very stroppy if we did. Could we have some clarification as to what is permissible in this Committee? I will put my jacket on, if necessary.

Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess Conservative, Southend West

I have not discussed this point with my co-Chairman. As far as I am concerned, if hon. Members wish to remove their jackets, that is entirely acceptable. Please be as comfortable as possible. I am sure that we shall draw to my co-Chairman's attention the remarks that have just been made.

I want to make a few preliminary announcements. Copies of the financial resolution relating to the Bill are available in the Room. I remind hon. Members that adequate notice should be given of amendments. As a general rule, my co-Chairman and I do not intend to call starred amendments. Finally, all Chairmen of Committees have been asked to remind members of Committees to switch off all electronic devices or, alternatively, throw them in the river Thames.