Clause 10 - Prohibition of sponsorship

Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 5:45 pm on 14 May 2002.

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Photo of David Wilshire David Wilshire Conservative, Spelthorne 5:45, 14 May 2002

I beg to move amendment No. 45, in page 5, line 35, after 'services', insert

', support for a political party,'.

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

With this it will be convenient to take the following amendments: No. 46, in page 5, line 43, at end insert—

'(c) these defences shall not be available to a political party.'.

No. 47, in page 5, line 46, at end insert—

'(5) The defence referred to in subsection (4) shall not be available to a political party'.

No. 71, in clause 20, page 11, line 2, at end insert

', provided that no party to such a sponsorship agreement has made a donation to a political party within the last 10 years.'.

Photo of David Wilshire David Wilshire Conservative, Spelthorne

We come now to sponsorship. It gives me no pleasure to speak to the amendments. They would not have been necessary had it not been for the fact that, within a matter of weeks—or, at most,

months—after the Government came into power in 1997, their first outbreak of sleaze came to light. It concerned a £1 million donation from the Formula 1 racing boss to the Labour Government and the promise of a further £1 million that occurred—surprise, surprise—at that moment of discussions between Mr. Ecclestone and Mr. Blair, which resulted in Formula 1 motor racing being exempted from the then proposals to ban tobacco advertising.

From the very earliest moments of the Government, sleaze of that sort has surrounded the debate on tobacco advertising. It is extraordinary that they have made no attempt to redeem themselves and to live up to the promise that they made before the election of being whiter than white and having nothing to do with sleaze. They could so easily have taken the opportunity to put into the clause proof that they were at least contrite for the bribes that they were prepared to take and the actions that would follow.

Given that the Government are not willing to clean up their act, Conservative Members will try to do it for them. If they resist any one of the amendments, we will have more proof that they are not willing to clean up their act. If they have nothing to hide and no intentions of taking backhanders and sleazy money from Formula 1 people, for example, they will support us. The amendments are attempts to prevent such action from happening again. However, they were a sleazy Government from the beginning; they are a sleazy Government now and my guess is that they will continue to be so until they are thrown out of office.

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

The hon. Gentleman has extensive knowledge of recent parliamentary history. Will he remind the Committee which Government introduced the great openness that we are now experiencing in respect of political donations for the funding of political parties?

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

Order. I hope that the hon. Member for Spelthorne will resist temptation and not respond to such a question. It has nothing to do with the debate.

Photo of David Wilshire David Wilshire Conservative, Spelthorne

I may well be found in the Stranger's bar later on, where perhaps we could continue the discussion. I would be happy to do that. However, at present, I accept your ruling, Mr. Amess, because the only allegations of sleaze and nastiness that are before the Committee relate to tobacco advertising. I shall confine myself to speaking about the amendments.

Amendment No. 45 is necessary. It refers to subsection (2), which tries to define a sponsorship agreement. I find it interesting that sometimes the Bill tries to define something, and on other occasions it does not, and I cannot help wondering why it should wish to do so in this instance. Perhaps the Government are trying to create loopholes for their friends, so that more money can roll into their coffers. The Bill specifies that a sponsorship agreement involves the making of a contribution, but it does not say to whom that contribution must be made. That is curious.

It is possible that someone who would benefit from a loophole with regard to the ability to advertise

tobacco does not make a contribution, either in money or in kind, to—for instance—the racing cars carrying cigarette advertisements that drive around the Formula 1 circuits, because the Bill simply states, ''makes a contribution''. On the exemption for motor racing, it could be argued that the £1 million bung that was given to the Labour party was not given to anybody. That money was not directly handed over as a sponsorship agreement, but was given to a third party. So the argument goes thus: ''I—whoever I am—sponsor Formula 1 racing. Formula 1 cars carry my adverts. The Government exempt Formula 1 racing, and then I give the Government £1 million. Therefore, I have not paid anything by way of sponsorship, but the Labour party's coffers contain an extra £1 million, and it has a promise of another £1 million.''

Unless this part of this clause is tidied up, the Labour party might have a nice little loophole that would enable such activities to go on happily for forever and a day. How many more £1 million are lurking around somewhere? How many more little bits of legislation that have come before this House since 1997 have been passed in such a way as to allow nice loopholes for more money to sail into Millbank towers to fund the Labour party?

Photo of David Ruffley David Ruffley Conservative, Bury St Edmunds

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for ventilating the ambiguity in line 33 of page 5. Has he ever before come across draftsmanship that uses phrases such as,

''makes a contribution towards something''?

That is strange language. It jars with me, as a Parliamentarian. Does it jar with him? Has he seen anything as sloppily drafted as that, during his time in the House of Commons?

Photo of David Wilshire David Wilshire Conservative, Spelthorne

No, I have not. However, it strikes me as quite an accurate description of a contribution of £1 million being made to the coffers of the Labour party—which, I gather, is what happened. What appears to be sloppy drafting is, in fact, an accurate description of the sorts of sleaze and corruption that have come to light since 1997.

Photo of David Ruffley David Ruffley Conservative, Bury St Edmunds

Is my hon. Friend suggesting that this is not incompetent draftsmanship, but a deliberate attempt to create a loophole that might be exploited by the Labour party?

Photo of David Wilshire David Wilshire Conservative, Spelthorne

I cannot claim to be able to see inside the minds of the people who drafted this legislation. I am merely suggesting that the sloppy drafting could be interpreted in that way. The Minister might wish to answer my hon. Friend's question, but I cannot do that, because I am not a clairvoyant. I can only say that the drafting is sloppy, and that that invites the explanation that it is deliberately sloppy for the reason that I have suggested. One of the two possible answers to my hon. Friend's question is correct and, in due course, the Minister will no doubt tell us which is the right one.

Amendment No. 46 refers to subsection (3) and says that there will be defences against the allegations in the Bill. We have been round this course before, and are not surprised to learn that those defences relate to not knowing the purpose of the payment or what its effects will be. That invites us to get into a discussion of the

purpose of bungs to political parties. The explanation offered by Mr. Ecclestone as to why none of this has anything to do with tobacco advertising in Formula 1was that he made his donation to the Labour party because he was impressed by its decision to spare high earners massive tax increases. Well, he would say that, would he not? He had to say something, but he did not deal with the fact that he and the Prime Minister discussed tobacco advertising when they met. The two things do not add up.

People may be able to deny that donations are intended to influence sponsorship or tobacco advertising, and it would make great sense to clear up all reasonable doubts about whether we are creating another loophole through which Labour party donors can wriggle. We should exempt from subsection (3) those who make political donations, to prevent them from taking advantage of the defences in it. We should also exempt political parties and say that they cannot use those defences. If the provisions are meant to plug the loophole for other people, that is fine, but the Government must come clean. They should tell us whether they intend to use the defences in the clause and to say, ''Ah well, the odd £1 million that has come into our coffers has nothing to do with buying influence—it's just a matter of someone's high-mindedness and gratitude.'' I am not sure quite how anyone could be grateful to the Government, but I am doing my best to get my mind around what the Government are saying.

To avoid doubt, let us make it clear that stopping off the defences in the clause for political parties and those who make political donations would deliver the Government from temptation once and for all—they certainly cannot resist it without our help—and enable them to be as honest, decent and upright as they promised to be, because they have clearly failed in that regard.

Amendment No. 47 relates to subsection (4), which states that an agreement must be made

''in the course of a business.''

If £1 million is popped into a brown envelope and put in the Labour party's pocket, the agreement must be entered into in the course of a business to fall foul of the Bill. That explains why I and, I assume, other members of the Committee received a copy of a letter from the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile on or about 15 April. The FIA thought that I would be riveted by the letter, which is from Max Mosley to the Secretary of State for Health. The letter does not say who Max Mosley is, although he seems to figure somewhere in the story of the £1 million bung. Page 2 of his letter states: ''We''—presumably the FIA—

''are not seeking, and have never sought, any exclusive exemption for Formula One from UK or EU efforts to ban tobacco advertising and sponsorship.''

There we have it. The Bill says that, to qualify, an agreement must be in the course of a business, and the business interest in the £1 million bung to the Labour party in 1997 is represented by the FIA and Formula 1 racing. Yet, those bodies are saying, ''It was nowt to do with the course of business. Someone who got rich on the back of F1 just happened, in a private capacity, to give the Labour party £1 million.'' Lo and behold,

they are exempt from the ban on tobacco advertising. The agreement was not in the course of business, however, because the FIA says so.

When one reads that letter in conjunction with the Bill, one understands that the Labour party has learned nothing. It is even prepared to use the Bill to help it wriggle, wriggle, wriggle, so that people can slip it millions of pounds in return for favours if they subsequently write a letter such as the one that I quoted. The whole things stinks, and we must do something about it.

In your wisdom, Mr. Amess, you have decided that we should debate amendment No. 71 to clause 20 now. I hope that, when we come to consider clause 20, we shall be able to vote on the amendment as well. Clause 20 deals with the transitional arrangements. If ever an amendment was needed it is this one, because in the first instance £1 million bought a total exemption for Formula 1 from this legislation. Unfortunately for the sleazy members of this Government, they were found out, so they had to give it back. That cost them not only the first £1 million but the promise of the second £1 million.

The Government could not, after that, come up with a complete exemption. I am sure that that was what they wanted—it is what Mr. Ecclestone and the Prime Minister discussed in Downing street—but having been rumbled, that was no longer possible. What was the second-best option? Under the circumstances, it was a transitional period. If one cannot wriggle out of the ban altogether, let the status quo go on a bit longer—let more money be made. Who knows whether any money changed hands for this clause? Perhaps £500,000 instead of £1 million buys a later date, even if it cannot buy an exemption? I would like to hear from the Minister whether more money has changed hands for this measure.

If there is a good argument for a transitional arrangement for sponsorship, one way for the Government to clean up their act would be for them to accept amendment No. 71, which would make it quite clear that no one could take advantage of the transition if they or their company or organisation or anybody involved with them had made a political donation within the past 10 years—whether they had to give it back is another matter. Anybody involved in sleaze and backhanders could not take advantage of the transition. That would enable the Government to argue that there are good, sound practical reasons for a transition period. They could allay my suspicion that the real reason for the transition is to put more money into the back pockets of the Labour party's treasurer.

Photo of Evan Harris Evan Harris Liberal Democrat, Oxford West and Abingdon 6:00, 14 May 2002

Generally, my rule and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West (John Barrett) is not to support amendments to the Bill for reasons that I gave at the outset and on Second Reading—that although it is based on a Government Bill, the legislation was forged by my Liberal Democrat colleague Lord Clement-Jones in the House of Lords. However, the hon. Member for Spelthorne is to be congratulated on the amendments and the way he spoke about them. It

is tempting to add full support to the moral argument that he so eloquently made.

How my hon. Friend and I vote on such matters is based on the merits of each case, with the presumption that we would prefer the Bill to remain unamended. However, the hon. Gentleman made some powerful points. He might have gone on to ask whether, if the sponsored body gave the money back, that should be some form of defence for engaging in this form of sponsorship, which we rightly seek to ban. I do not think that it should be. However, some have argued that if one is found out and gives the money back, that somehow absolves one of the implications of the original sponsorship deal. That is a wholly redundant argument and I am sure that one of the hon. Gentleman's Conservative colleagues was about to make that point.

I know that we cannot go too far down this road, Mr. Amess, but if we want to be clear, it is about time that we ended sponsorship of political parties. There is an overlap between the issue of tobacco sponsorship and sponsorship of political parties. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will give serious consideration to the idea that because of the difficulty of separating out payments that appear to be for political favours, for example those related to gaining exemption from bans on tobacco advertising, there is a strong argument that we should not allow companies to make such donations at all and that sponsorship of political parties should be restricted to small individual donations and state support.

He might also have made the point—perhaps one of his hon. Friends was about to—that it should not be a defence for a sponsoring party of tobacco advertising to say that something is okay if made public. Such sponsorship deals need to be banned, regardless of whether they are made public or done in secret. For a sport simply to say that it will publish sponsorship deals and sums of money for the first time does not seem right to the public, who are the victims of the advertising. It does not seem adequate for someone to say that they are at least letting the public know that they are the victims.

I am spiritually with the thrust of the amendment. Depending on what the Minister says, I think that it would be difficult for us to vote in favour of it, because it would dilute the effect of the Bill. However, I repeat my congratulations to the hon. Member for Spelthorne on the effective way in which the amendment was introduced. It makes an important point about tobacco sponsorship of political parties.

Photo of David Ruffley David Ruffley Conservative, Bury St Edmunds

I support the amendment. It is worth reminding the Committee that the Opposition have brought clear minds to the consideration of the drafting of the Bill. The more I have considered the drafting at various points, the more I have realised that some of it is not as clear as it should be. I have in mind our earlier exchanges about the failure of the draftsmen and draftswomen to spell out clearly in sufficient detail what a tobacco advertisement means. Subsection (2) provides yet another example of drafting that would benefit from improvements.

Luckily, we have means whereby it can be improved, as the amendment would insert the words

''support for a political party''.

We have heard about the lack of clarity that underlies the drafting. The words ''sponsorship agreement'' do not make it immediately clear who the parties might be, nor is it clear what the ''something'' referred to in line 33 of page 5 is. Let me venture a simple example that might be covered by the clause as drafted. A tobacco company or an associate might seek to promote its product against the thrust and purport of the Bill by sponsoring a political party.

Far be it from me to point fingers at the Labour party, but I believe that it has a bit of previous on receiving sponsorship at party conferences from businesses. The clause refers to businesses, using the words,

''in the course of a business''.

I could be wrong, but I think that the late, lamented retail chain Somerfield sponsored the passes that hung round the necks of various delegates at a Labour party conference some time ago. That is clear precedent of sponsorship. I could go on to list many examples of private enterprises and companies that sought to sponsor events held by the Labour party, before it went into—[Interruption.] Due to the chuntering from a sedentary position on the Labour Benches, I would suggest that the comments from those on our side of the Committee are very much to the point. We are on to something.

Photo of David Wilshire David Wilshire Conservative, Spelthorne

I am interested in the example given by my hon. Friend. Does he think it significant that the company concerned sells tobacco?

Photo of David Ruffley David Ruffley Conservative, Bury St Edmunds

I had not thought of that, but my hon. Friend has a point.

I do not want to stray out of order, Mr. Amess. My point is that political parties clearly receive sponsorship from businesses in this country. If the Bill is not to be defective, those who want it to be approved should give serious consideration to the means by which its defective drafting can be improved. It may be argued that that sort of thing does not really happen, that the chances of a tobacco company seeking to sponsor a political party are slim or negligible, and that BP's position is the norm among British companies. Lord Browne, chief executive of BP, has said,

''we won't fund any political activity or any political party.''

However, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that companies and organisations are already finding alternatives to clear political donations—cash for influence—and are being more crafty. As the Financial Times reported, those alternatives include influencing Government policy through

''sponsoring think-tanks, co-opting former government advisers or employees, and by placing company directors on to public bodies, particularly task forces.''

The reason why the issue needs to be aired in Committee is because The Times reported last week that best estimates suggest that the Labour party has a debt of almost £10 million at the same time as several

trade unions are reconsidering their contributions from political funds to the Labour party, allegedly in protest at policies affecting their industries. Clearly, if there is a shortfall in the coffers of the Labour party—the governing party of the moment—it is not beyond the realm of probability that the Labour party might seek to make up that shortfall by getting donations or sponsorship money from private companies, including tobacco firms. That logic is powerfully supported by the list of unions that are reconsidering their position on donating money to the Labour party. It includes the Transport and General Workers Union, the General, Municipal, Boilermakers and Allied Trades Union, the Communication Workers Union, the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers and Unison. They have either decided to reduce their donations or are, allegedly, considering doing so after consultation with their members.

That was reported in The Guardian on 9 March 2002, in The Sunday Times on 31 March, in The Independent on 30 March, in The Times on 25 March, and in the Daily Express on 29 March. Those reports are not idle speculations, but go to the heart of the point that we want the Government to clear up by accepting amendment No. 45. The list continues of companies or individuals whom the Labour party decides to court assiduously in many ways. It knows almost no shame in the way that it sucks up and gets around those who might donate to its cause. We know of the £32 million contract to supply smallpox vaccine—

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

Order. I have been listening very carefully to what the hon. Gentleman has been saying, but I must ask him to return to the matter under consideration, which is tobacco sponsorship. Will he please leave aside those wider matters on which he seems to be concentrating?

Photo of David Ruffley David Ruffley Conservative, Bury St Edmunds

I am most grateful, Mr. Amess, for that guidance. I shall confine my remarks to the possibility created by the drafting of subsection (2), to which amendment No. 45 relates, that a tobacco company could—rather like the companies to which I referred and which I mentioned merely as examples of precedent—decide that it was worth while sponsoring a political party.

My scenario was that a company might want to sponsor the Labour party because it is currently the governing party and might, therefore, be one of the parties to a sponsorship agreement with a tobacco company. It is also possible that the other party to the sponsorship agreement could be the Labour party. Without amendment No. 45, sponsorship of the sort that I have described could be made by a tobacco company to a political party, which would defeat the purpose of the clause and thus fatally subvert the purported aim of the Bill, which the Minister invites us to support.

I draw my comments to a conclusion by saying that, in my judgment and that of my hon. Friends and of the hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Dr. Harris), the defective drafting would cause a loophole. We believe that it should be closed in the

interests of good law-making and good legislation. If we are not here to ensure that, I venture to ask what are we here for. It is a sensible amendment, which would clean up and make clearer the drafting of subsection (2).

Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health 6:15, 14 May 2002

The four amendments are not serious; they were tabled so that Opposition Members could indulge in the usual nonsense, which we have heard many times before. Sponsorship already includes contributions, either in money or in any other form. It does not matter who is involved, and it does not matter what form it takes; if it has the purpose or effect of promoting tobacco products, it is covered by the Bill. The Bill treats political parties in the same way as everyone else. It sets out transitional arrangements, which must be made on the merits of the case and not on the basis of donations or anything else.

The clause allows tobacco companies and everyone else to donate to charities and good causes, or to give money to the arts or the opera—they can make donations to anything as long as it does not promote a tobacco product. If it has the purpose or effect of promoting a tobacco product, it is covered by clause 10(2), subject to the defences set out in clause 10(3).

The hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon expressed the concern that it would not be sufficient simply to publish sponsorship agreements, but that the sponsorship agreements themselves should be banned. I agree. That is the effect of clause 10. Transitional arrangements are set out in clause 20, but the conclusion is clear. Any sponsorship agreement that promotes tobacco products will be covered.

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

I take the Minister's first point about the knock-about; to a certain extent, I contributed to it. I suggest a scenario in which a tobacco company makes a donation to the Conservative party with the aim of influencing its policy on the banning of advertising of tobacco products. Albeit indirectly, that could promote tobacco products generally. Is it the Minister's understanding that such sponsorship of a political party would be covered by the Bill, regardless of whether it was given back later?

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

The facts would have to be established, but the clause is clear. If the purpose of, or anything done as a result of, a sponsorship agreement has the effect of promoting a tobacco product in the United Kingdom, it would be covered by the prohibition of sponsorship.

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

I am a little concerned about the Minister's repetition of the words ''a tobacco product''. It may have been covered elsewhere in the Bill, but I presume that that includes tobacco products generally, so that a company that wanted its advertisement to say ''Smoke cigarettes'' without mentioning its product by name would still be covered. What the Minister says is important, not least for purposes of interpretation. Is it her understanding that if a company promotes tobacco generally it will be presumed to be promoting a tobacco product specifically?

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

The Bill does not define particular tobacco products but speaks of promoting ''a tobacco

product''. To promote many tobacco products will be to promote ''a tobacco product''.

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

Further to the point made by the hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon, I believe that several Opposition Members who spoke on Second Reading have registered interests in relation to the Tobacco Manufacturers Association. Is it the Minister's understanding that that could constitute promotion under the Bill?

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

My hon. Friend raises an interesting point. Hon. Members who speak in the House have parliamentary privilege, which is why they have to declare interests. A question mark hangs over those who are party to a sponsorship agreement; however; if they promote a tobacco product as a result of that agreement outside the House of Commons, it remains to be established whether they are covered by the Bill.

Clause 20 sets out the long-standing Government policy as agreed with European partners that transitional arrangements should be in place to ensure that sports have time to wean themselves off tobacco sponsorship. It states that the last possible date is 1 October 2006. The long-standing Government position is shared by the European directive, which gives a deadline of July 2003 for some sports and October 2006 for global sports. That is an end date, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said on Second Reading. If we and those sports can make the change more quickly than that, we shall do so, but we shall consult on the regulations in due course.

The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Ruffley) spoke about contributions to ''something,'' and asked whether the wording was too broad. I think not, because the wording allows for sponsorship of tourist events, arts events, sports and many other kinds of event. The danger of trying to define the object more closely is that the clause might then exclude a particular event sponsored to promote a tobacco product.

I am interested by what Opposition Members say in their attempts to close loopholes in the tobacco advertising ban. However, we should remain clear in our minds about which parties have been proposing to ban the promotion of tobacco products through advertising, free distribution, coupons, brand sharing and sponsorship. The Labour party is responsible for that effort, with the support of the Liberal Democrats. Which party, on the other hand, has consistently supported the continued promotion of tobacco through advertising, sponsorship, coupons, brand sharing and so on? The Conservative party has done that. I hope that we shall be preserved from any more of the nonsense that has surrounded the politics of the debate.

Photo of David Wilshire David Wilshire Conservative, Spelthorne

That last remark came as no surprise. However, I have heard not one word from the Minister condemning the sleaze surrounding the issue up to now. She made no condemnation of bungs and the buying of favours—slipping a million pounds here and a million pounds there. In addition, she refused to

contemplate amendments designed to shut off that possibility in future.

Photo of David Ruffley David Ruffley Conservative, Bury St Edmunds

I think that the Minister said, in response to the sleaze allegations, that she had heard it all before. Does my hon. Friend agree that she has indeed heard it all before, from not simply Opposition Members but many investigative reporters, mainly from organs such as The Guardian and The Observer, which are fairly objective commentators, I should have thought?

Photo of David Wilshire David Wilshire Conservative, Spelthorne

Exactly. I was coming to that.

The Minister said that the amendments were not serious, which suggests that I was not being serious. Rarely have I been as serious as I have been in the debate on the clause, for the simple reason that the easiest way in which to undermine public confidence in politicians and the political process is through corruption, which is what the amendments are designed to stamp out.

It is blindingly clear that corruption has surrounded the debate. The best that the Minister can do is say, ''Look who proposed a ban.'' I am merely saying, ''Look who proposed a ban but who, in return for £1 million and the promise of another £1 million, said, 'We are proposing a ban except for the people who are giving us millions of pounds.''' If that is something to be proud of, I am glad that I am not associated with it.

Some people in my party may actively promote tobacco; I have no idea. I have at no time in the course of the Committee or knowingly in my life set out to encourage people to smoke. I merely speak on behalf of legitimate business doing a legal activity being allowed to carry on its business. I do not consider that to be picking on anyone. I defend people's right to continue doing things within the law, regardless of who they are, whom they voted for and what product they make. If the Government had any courage or principle in the matter, they would try to ban smoking, not go round this course pretending that they are noble while taking £1 million here and there.

I was and am being serious, and I resent the matter being dismissed as going round the course again. Of course the Minister has heard the argument many times, for one simple reason. Time and again, the Government take bungs from people, so we have only to mention each example once for her to hear it many times. If she wants to stop hearing the case, she must simply go to her Prime Minister and colleagues in Government and turn them into decent, honest and honourable people who do not take bungs.

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

Order. The hon. Gentleman must relate his remarks more closely to the amendment.

Photo of David Wilshire David Wilshire Conservative, Spelthorne

I was trying to, but I was responding to the Minister, who was tempting me to expose sleaze wherever I see it, which was, I believe, a phrase that was used at one stage.

I have spared the Liberal Democrats much comment, for which they are probably grateful. Had they been present to listen to the debate, they would be better informed, rather than not attending regularly.

I must take comfort from the odd gesture whenever it comes. The hon. Member for Oxford, West and

Abingdon says that he is with me in spirit. How I wish that he had the courage of his convictions. As well as being with me in spirit, why does he not break the habit of the Liberal Democrat party and vote for something?

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

I was present for the entire discussion on the amendments, because they interested me. The Minister has made it clear that it is her view that the Bill already stops tobacco company sponsorship of political parties for the purpose, through policy changes—that is, indirectly—of promoting a tobacco product. That is why I do not believe that the amendments are strictly necessary. However, the hon. Gentleman was right to probe the matter to flush out the fact that the Labour party, too, runs the risk of being seen to be too close to the industry at a time when it purports to be introducing a ban.

Photo of David Wilshire David Wilshire Conservative, Spelthorne 6:30, 14 May 2002

I am interested in that intervention. One of the most revealing things that I have heard in the course of today's debate was that the hon. Gentleman was present because the amendments interested him, from which I conclude that he could not care less about the rest of the Bill.

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

Order. I again ask the hon. Member to address his remarks closely to the amendment under discussion.

Photo of David Wilshire David Wilshire Conservative, Spelthorne

I am trying to do so, Mr. Amess, but my difficulty is that in the earlier debate, which you allowed because it was in order, issues were raised that needed a response. I am a little challenged to know why, if the original comment was in order, my response to it is not. However, I will not try your patience other than by making one more point.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds drew the Committee's attention to the size of the Labour party's overdraft. I shall not discuss that, but I will talk about what that means for the amendments under discussion. The amendments were made necessary by Formula 1's donation of £1 million and offer of another £1 million. That subject attaches directly to that of excluding Formula 1 from the provisions of a Bill such as the one before us.

Given what my hon. Friend says about the £10 million overdraft, the enormity of what happened with Formula 1 is clear. The £2 million that we know about is 20 per cent. of the Labour party's overdraft. That is not small beer, but a 20 per cent. slice of the value to which it is in hock. I am sure that the Co-op bank will be grateful—[Interruption.] I will not stray any further; I shall return exclusively to my amendments. I believe that they are important, and I am being serious about them.

I shall end my speech as I started it: if the Labour party has nothing to hide, if there are no more donations that we do not know about and if the Government do not intend to take money in exchange for exemptions from the Bill, why will the Government not accept the amendments? If the Government have nothing to hide, they have nothing to fear. The

amendments are trying to save the Government from themselves, and heaven only knows that they need some saving. I have no intention of withdrawing the amendment, and I commend it to the Committee.

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

Will the hon. Gentleman clarify whether he wishes to press only amendment No. 45 to a Division, or whether he intends that the Committee should vote also on amendments Nos. 46, 47 and 71 when we come to them?

Photo of David Wilshire David Wilshire Conservative, Spelthorne

I wish to vote on the amendments that attach to clause 10, and if the procedures of the Committee allow us to vote on amendment No. 70 as well, I shall seek to do so.

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

Yes, they certainly do.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 4, Noes 11.

Division number 7 Adults Abused in Childhood — Clause 10 - Prohibition of sponsorship

Aye: 4 MPs

No: 11 MPs

Aye: A-Z by last name

No: A-Z by last name

Question accordingly negatived.

Photo of Tim Loughton Tim Loughton Shadow Spokesperson (Health)

I beg to move amendment No. 30, in page 5, line 35, at end insert—

'(2A) No offence is committed under subsection (1) if—

(a) the business referred to in subsection (2) is part of the tobacco trade,

(b) the sponsorship agreement is for the purposes of that trade,

(c) the purpose or effect of anything done under the agreement is to promote a tobacco product solely to persons who—

(i) are engaged in, or employed by, a business which is also part of that trade, and

(ii) fall within subsection (2AA).

(2AA) A person falls within this subsection if—

(a) he is responsible for making decisions on behalf of the business referred to in subsection (2A)(c)(i) about the purchase of tobacco products which are to be sold in the course of that business,

(b) he occupies a position in the management structure of the business in question which is equivalent in seniority to, or of greater seniority than, that of any such person, or

(c) he is the person who, or is a member of the board of directors or other body of persons (however described) which, is responsible for the conduct of the business in question.'.

The amendment would make a substantial addition after line 35, and deals with the issue of internal trade sponsorship schemes. I understand that it is not intended to exclude or penalise such schemes, but I fear that, as currently framed, the Bill would do so. We seek to make it explicit that such promotions and business should be exempted if within the trade. The Government have said that if tobacco advertising and promotion are confined within the trade they would not be offences. Therefore, I hope that the Minister will look favourably on the amendment—it is not too late in the day for her to concede something. Such tobacco advertisements are specifically permitted by

clause 4(1)(a), and free distributions are specifically permitted under clause 9(3). However, clause 10 as does not permit sponsorship agreements when

''the purpose or effect of anything done as a result of the agreement is to promote a tobacco product''

within the trade. That is counter to what the Government intended.

I gather that when a similar amendment was discussed in the other place, a short discussion centred on private events and the giving of tobacco products in gestures of hospitality, so the point of the amendment was missed by the Government. However, there are sponsorship agreements in which the ''something''—as the Bill calls it, and as my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds earlier highlighted—that is sponsored is within the trade and the sponsorship agreement has a restricted purpose. The amendment therefore maintains consistency in the Bill's approach to advertising and promotion confined within the tobacco trade.

The amendment has real and practical relevance. Sponsorship agreements exist. Events within the trade such as conferences, exhibitions and awards are sponsored and the agreements should be allowed to continue even when they have the purpose or effect of promoting a tobacco product, because they are conducted within the trade by people fully cognisant of that trade.

It has been suggested that such a provision is not necessary. The Bill would not prohibit sponsorship agreements within the trade in the name of a company rather than a tobacco brand, because they would not be promoting a brand. That is to miss the point of the amendment and to ignore the fact that some tobacco brands share the name of the company manufacturing the brand—Benson and Hedges, Rothmans and Lambert and Butler spring to mind, but there are others. It would be unacceptable for such brands to be afforded different treatment under the Bill.

We are told that the Government do not intend that the Bill should interfere with advertising and promotion within the trade. Sponsorship agreements that are confined within the trade, as the amendment provides, should be permitted. The amendment makes that clear. We seek to make more explicit what was intended but would not be permitted by the clause as currently drafted. It is a helpful amendment, and I trust that the Minister will deal with it accordingly.

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

The Government oppose the amendment because it excludes from the ban on sponsorship those sponsorship agreements that are directed at persons in the tobacco trade. The Bill as drafted enables companies to sponsor events and use their company name as long as the company's products are not given any promotion in return. A balance has been struck because the Bill permits commercial dealings between companies and for the tobacco trade to carry on its business. The Bill also enables companies to sponsor events or to make donations to good causes. That is their entitlement. However, the Bill does not permit the tobacco trade to

promote its products by means of sponsorship agreements.

The amendment would allow a tobacco company to sponsor a golf tournament or polo match to which those invited were commercial buyers of tobacco products. Such activities are not appropriate or necessary for the tobacco trade to carry on its lawful business and are not comparable with the exceptions under clauses 4 and 9. Exceptions from the general ban exist to permit the continuance of ordinary trade. It is not necessary to allow greater sponsorship than would ordinarily be needed. That would potentially open further loopholes.

The Bill bans the promotion of tobacco products through sponsorship. It is not about preventing organisations from discussing the merits of smoking. There should be a broader exemption for those in the tobacco trade.

Photo of Mr Andrew Hunter Mr Andrew Hunter Conservative, Basingstoke

Will the Minister deal with tobacco brand products that share the name of the company? There is an anomaly as some companies will be able to advertise a product because it has the same name.

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

That is why it is so important that the Bill includes ''effect'' and not simply ''purpose''. I take the hon. Gentleman's point seriously, but if the effect of a company promoting its name is also to promote a tobacco product, that falls within the scope of the Bill. The Government oppose the amendment.

Photo of Tim Loughton Tim Loughton Shadow Spokesperson (Health)

I am disappointed. The amendment is serious and detailed but I do not think that the Minister has dealt with my point. She seemed to say that it is not appropriate or necessary for a tobacco company to carry on its business by hosting or sponsoring a polo match or a golf event exclusively for members of the tobacco trade. I am not sure that that is for her to judge because it is an internal matter. The guests present at such an event would all be members of the trade, who make a living out of producing or selling cigarettes and know the implications of the products with which they deal.

Such people are not impressionable in terms of smoking more or taking up smoking in the first place. The Minister said that it is not appropriate or necessary for a tobacco company to host a trade event in the name of one of its products. On what basis does she make that claim? As I have said, such events—they are perfectly legitimate—already exist, but under the Bill, they would be curtailed. I am not sure whether the hon. Lady is admitting to that, because I was rather confused by her answer. I agree that various general exceptions have been made, but I am still unclear. Is she saying that a Benson and Hedges polo tournament, where all the invitees were involved in the tobacco trade, would no longer be allowed to take place? If so, that goes against the thrust of the notes to clauses and various parts of the Bill. I am unclear whether that is the case, so I wish the Minister to state whether such an event could happen.

Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health 6:45, 14 May 2002

Let us imagine that the players at that Benson and Hedges polo tournament wore white shirts with a flash across—or whatever form of brand

colouring—and that the local newspaper decided to report the tournament, and to include a photograph. It would be perfectly legitimate for such a newspaper to report a news event such as the victory of the local Benson and Hedges team over the Imperial team, or whomever else they might be playing. That report would not be an advertisement, but it could lead to what began as a sponsorship event within the course of trade, to have wider consequences with regard to the promotion of a tobacco product.

Such events might have an impact beyond that which is intended in the course of trade, even though that is not usually the case. Therefore, as has been said, the principle of proportionality arises. Given the potential for this kind of event to spill over and have wider effects than intended, is it so essential to the legitimate pursuit of trade that it should be given a special exception? We have allowed exceptions in earlier clauses, but there is not a sufficiently strong case to allow one here, given the potential for a wider impact.

Photo of Tim Loughton Tim Loughton Shadow Spokesperson (Health)

Again, the tobacco company should be able to decide how it wants to promote its product within the trade. The Bill still allows that.

To use the Minister's example, if cameras were banned from such an event, and the press reported it only in words—not in pictures—what possible detrimental effect could that have outside the trade? It is, effectively, a closed event.

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

If it were the Silk Cut team or the Marlboro team, it would be a way of promoting the product.

I accept that these are hypothetical examples. However, because it is possible to come up with hypothetical examples, there must be good reasons to permit exceptions, and there is not a sufficiently strong case to grant an exception in this instance.

We talked about communications between organisations in the course of trade when we discussed earlier clauses. For example, with regard to clause 4(1)(a), we talked about communication made in the course of a business, which clearly is an important part of continuing that trade, so we set out an exemption. It is not clear to me that the kind of sponsorship exemption that we are currently discussing is crucial with regard to the need of the industry to communicate and to continue its legitimate trade. Therefore, given the potential for some of these examples to have a wider impact, there is not sufficient reason to accept the amendment


Photo of Tim Loughton Tim Loughton Shadow Spokesperson (Health)

It appears that we shall make no further progress on this matter.

The Minister is encroaching on telling the tobacco companies what their internal business is. It is my understanding that that was not the Bill's intention. The events that she now judges not to be appropriate or necessary to the trade commonly take place, and there are easy ways of ensuring that any impressionable material—in photographic form, or whatever—does not leak out from such an event into the public domain, and thereby entice a 14-year-old youth to take up smoking.

We might wish to return to the matter later. It is yet another issue that has not been properly resolved in Committee, will lead to yet more confusion in the trade about what it can and cannot do, and may lead to legal challenge, too, if the Benson and Hedges polo tournament goes ahead and seems to overstep the mark as the Minister regards it. I do not believe that we can proceed any further by arguing at this stage, so I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment proposed: No. 46, in page 5, line 43, at end insert—

'(c) these defences shall not be available to a political party.'.—[Mr. Wilshire.]

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 4, Noes 11.

Division number 8 Adults Abused in Childhood — Clause 10 - Prohibition of sponsorship

Aye: 4 MPs

No: 11 MPs

Aye: A-Z by last name

No: A-Z by last name

Question accordingly negatived.

Amendment proposed: No. 47, in page 5, line 46, at end insert—

'(5) The defence referred to in subsection (4) shall not be available to a political party'.—[Mr. Wilshire].

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 4, Noes 11.

Division number 9 Adults Abused in Childhood — Clause 10 - Prohibition of sponsorship

Aye: 4 MPs

No: 11 MPs

Aye: A-Z by last name

No: A-Z by last name

Question accordingly negatived.

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

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

I have been reflecting on my exchange with the Minister—as, perhaps, has she. I wanted to give her the opportunity to make clear what is banned, rather than what might be legal. However much I deprecate the sponsorship of tobacco, it seems legitimate—as the Conservative party might agree—that under current law the tobacco industry might want to donate to the Conservative party in order to argue for policy change. That is in the nature of a democracy, as we have what I consider to be an unsatisfactory system in which political donations from big businesses are legitimate. However, I hope that it would not be legitimate for tobacco companies to pay money to effect a policy change that would

allow the advertising of a tobacco product. It would be useful if the Minister would make that clear.

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

The prohibition of sponsorship is about preventing the promotion of tobacco products, regardless of whether companies are party to a sponsorship agreement. It will not stop freedom of speech in this House or elsewhere on the subject of smoking, in general. It is right that the clause should stop the promotion of particular tobacco products or sponsorship agreements at a party conference, for example, that might promote a particular product. In any case, it would be a matter of fact to be determined whether a particular policy was promoting an individual tobacco product and was the result of a sponsorship agreement or whether individual Members of Parliament or politicians were exercising free speech about broader issues. The Bill is not about restricting free speech, but about stopping the promotion of tobacco products, whether through sponsorship, brand sharing, coupons or advertisements.

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

It is good news that the Bill will protect free speech but will ban the advertising of specific tobacco products. Now we just have to wait for provisions to be introduced that will remove the sponsorship of political parties by business interests to avoid not only sleaze, but the appearance of sleaze.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Clause 10 ordered to stand part of the Bill.