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Mr. Alan Duncan (Rutland and Melton): I have never been a smoker and, personally, I dislike it. The Opposition welcome any sensible measures that reduce smoking, especially among the young. However, I have concerns and suspicions about some of the methods that the Secretary of State has outlined in today's much delayed White Paper.

The heavy emphasis on advertising is questionable. We have always known that the White Paper would not be a matter of principle, because the Labour party was prepared to sell its principles for £1 million. The Government believe that advertising is all right so long as it appears at speeds in excess of 150 mph.

The White Paper is largely about implementing a European Union directive. However, if Germany's challenge to the directive's validity is successful, the Government will be in a frightful mess.

Mr. Dobson: It is a German Government now.

Mr. Duncan: The Secretary of State may say that, but the way things are going with his party, it probably will be.

What is the latest position on that legal challenge, and when is a final decision likely to be made? Does the Secretary of State agree that, if brands are prevented from competing through advertising, they will instead compete more actively through price? The measures will also prevent advertising that encourages smokers to switch to less harmful brands, one hopes as a step towards giving up completely. Can the Secretary of State reassure the House that that sort of detrimental effect has been considered, and explain how those fears will not prove justified? Will he reconfirm that the advertising measures will allow genuine brand diversification companies to continue to advertise their non-tobacco products?

The Opposition fully support a voluntary proof-of-age scheme. Such voluntary measures will have the greatest impact on reducing smoking with the minimum of bossiness. We note what the Secretary of Stage said about

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the practicalities of introducing a new criminal offence and we shall look at that very closely, to ensure that it does not accidentally give rise to injustice.

It is revealing that nicotine patches are to be made available to those on low incomes. We understand that the incidence of smoking-related diseases is particularly pernicious among those on low incomes, so we can see what the Government are trying to do. However, it goes against everything that the Labour party has ever said about the health service. The Government are introducing a two-tier system of health service provision. They are introducing more of the rationing which they say does not exist. Is it not the case that making a nicotine patch available only to those on low incomes amounts to introducing a means test for health care? What is the relationship between nicotine patch manufacturers that have given money to the Labour party and those who will supply patches under this scheme?

If the European Court finds the directive illegal, will the Government seek to reintroduce it in United Kingdom legislation? Will the Secretary of State define the targets by which we can judge this policy's success or failure? What do the Government estimate the level of consumption among adults will be following the implementation of the measures? By how much will the White Paper reduce smoking? What will be the cost of nicotine patches to our health service under the means-tested proposals? How will that be offset by the reduced cost of treating smoking-related diseases set against the loss of tax revenues should smokers give up smoking?

We have waited a long time for this White Paper. We know that the Government's principles on this issue were for sale. We welcome any sensible moves to reduce smoking, especially among the young. The Secretary of State has watered down his original commitments. We look forward to reducing smoking in this country by persuasion rather than by bossiness, and by concentrating our attention on the young.

Mr. Dobson: It takes the biscuit when members of the Tory party who supported the previous Government talk about delays in the introduction of measures to tackle smoking. For 18 years they did virtually nothing, and for eight years they did everything they could to get help in cash or kind from the tobacco companies, and to block the European directive. They tried to prevent it at every turn, and it was only when we got into power and withdrew from the blocking minority, and persuaded other members of that minority to join us, that we got the European directive.

The Tories should make up their minds. Are they in favour of the directive or against it? We are confident that the directive is valid. It is strange that the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan), who is one of the fanatical anti-marketeers, is now praying in aid--and no doubt in hope--the possibility that the German Government's challenge to the legality of the directive will be successful. We are satisfied about its legality. Most of the hon. Gentleman's comments bore a marked resemblance to the briefing drawn up over a long period by the Tobacco Manufacturers Association.

The hon. Gentleman was concerned about brand diversification. That practice was invented by the tobacco industry when it first contemplated the prospect of an

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advertising ban. It is all right if they diversify their brands, but we will not allow advertising that, in effect, uses a shirt or a pair of shoes to promote cigarette sales. The hon. Gentleman talked about injustice and about the sleazy people who, for profit, sell cigarettes time and again to children who are too young to smoke. The biggest injustice is the injustice done to children. Those people sell cigarettes to children knowing that half of them will die from smoking those cigarettes.

The hon. Gentleman is apparently as ignorant about nicotine patches as he is about everything else. Nicotine patches are available over the counter, not on prescription. We intend to provide patches in limited circumstances to the most deprived people in the most deprived areas as part of a course of treatment to help them cure their addiction.

The hon. Gentleman has been spreading slurs about the Novartis company, which is a reputable, international drug company. He has suggested that, because it sponsored an event at a Labour party conference, it has bought the Labour party. We also received money from Tate and Lyle, so presumably he thinks that that is why patients in hospitals get sugar in their tea. Perhaps he thinks that we should withdraw the use of the Novartis drug, cyclosporin, which is given to people who have had organ transplants, or Voltarol, which is used extensively for people suffering from arthritis. The hon. Gentleman's charge is absurd--as absurd as everything else that he has done.

Our hope and intention is that, by 2010--for it will take a long time--1.5 million fewer people will be smoking. I hope that our proposed measures will be even more successful, but that is an ambitious target, given that the number of adults who smoke has begun to rise, and has been seriously augmented by the large number of children who took up smoking while an idle, feckless Government did nothing about it.

Mr. Kevin Barron (Rother Valley): Many organisations that are concerned about public health will welcome both the statement and the White Paper, as will the many thousands of people who work in the health service and must deal every day with the victims of tobacco addiction. I especially welcome the plan of action to cure nicotine addiction, which has been known about for 40 years but whose existence has been consistently denied. At long last, we have a Government who will act in this regard.

In view of what was said by the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan), may I ask whether the White Paper contains any measures that could cure the Tory party of its addiction to the tobacco companies?

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover): I doubt it.

Mr. Dobson: I agree with my hon. Friend.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Barron) on all that he has done over the years to promote efforts to reduce the number of smokers in this country. It should be remembered--this needs to be repeated whenever we hear propaganda from the tobacco companies, either directly or through their hired hands--that, until very recently, those companies denied that

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tobacco smoking caused lung cancer, and that evenmore recently they have denied that it is addictive. Both assertions were plain, downright lies. The tobacco companies knew that they were lies when they uttered and publicised them.

Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark, North and Bermondsey): The Liberal Democrats approve of the direction of Government policy. It makes a welcome change from the 18 years of hypocrisy during which the Tory party was persistently on the side of the tobacco industry, as a result of which hundreds of thousands of people paid the ultimate price.

We agree with the Government that smoking must be deglamourised. Given that his Department said this morning that those who sell cigarettes are effectively child killers, does the Secretary of State not think it inconsistent, if we are to have secondary legislation this year to ban billboard and other advertising, not to ensure that it comes into effect this year? According to the White Paper, it will come into effect as soon as is practicable, but five years is far too long. If we are to have legislation this year--given the formula one fiasco last year, and the lesson that the Government have learnt from it--can we not have legislation at the same time to ban tobacco sponsorship?

If we are really keen to stop young people smoking, will the Secretary of State revise the targets for reducing smoking among young people? A reduction from 13 per cent. to 9 per cent. over 12 years is hardly a tough target; the right hon. Gentleman really ought to go further and faster.

If the Government share the view that every citizen should have the right to be free from smoke in every public place, will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that, if the leisure industry does not agree to such arrangements, it too will be told that legislation may be introduced to require it to provide non-smoking alternative venues?

At home, the Government are committed to stopping 120,000 deaths a year from smoking. Will there be the same commitment abroad to combating the activities of the international tobacco companies, which are determined to recruit many people to lifelong addiction by using what is, in fact, the ultimate weapon of personal self-destruction?


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