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Sir Peter Emery (East Devon): I thank the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. I was sorry to hear him say that he was not anti-smoking. I hope that many of those who speak in the debate are anti-smoking. Given how difficult it is to get legislation into the Government's schedule, is it not a pity that the Bill does not deal with passive smoking? There is no mention of that in the Bill or in the right hon. Gentleman's speech. Equally, I have heard nothing about increasing the size of the warning on the tobacco pack. That should have been increased to 50 per cent. a long time ago.
First, we are taking action through Europe on advertising. We want to ensure that there is appropriate advertising to warn smokers of the health hazards that they face when they smoke cigarettes or other tobacco products. The right hon. Gentleman is aware that negotiations are going on between the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament about the new directive that has been proposed.
Secondly, on passive smoking, the right hon. Gentleman is aware of the initiatives that we have taken forward with the hospitality sector--with pubs, clubs and restaurants, through their public places charter. Providing that we can make the necessary inroads, I believe that that will make a real difference to passive smoking.
Finally, the right hon. Gentleman is aware that the Health and Safety Executive has just finished consulting on an approved code of practice dealing with the issues associated with passive smoking and its impact not just on consumers in pubs, clubs and restaurants, but on workers in those environments, who do not have the option of ducking out after an hour or so--they must remain there permanently. I hope that those measures will help to assure the right hon. Gentleman that we take extremely seriously the issues associated with passive smoking.
Given the impact of smoking on public health, the Government have a responsibility to act. We have a duty to inform, so that if people want to smoke, they do so on an informed basis, not on the basis of advertising hype. The Government also owe a duty to the wider community, to help smokers give up and to protect children from ever starting up. That is precisely what the Bill seeks to do.
The Opposition state in their amendment that there is insufficient evidence that the ban would reduce tobacco consumption. Surely even the Conservatives, with all their links with the tobacco industry, do not believe that tobacco firms spend £100 million a year on advertising and sponsorship out of the goodness of their hearts.
Surely even the Conservatives accept that if tobacco advertising increases consumption, as everyone but the industry acknowledges that it does, less advertising should reduce it. That is supported by precisely the evidence for which they ask.
The most compelling evidence comes not from abroad, however, but from research undertaken in this country. The most compelling evidence comes from the research commissioned and published by the Department of Health when the Conservative party was in government. In 1992, the chief economic adviser to the Department of Health, Professor Clive Smee, examined evidence from Norway, Finland, Canada and New Zealand--countries where tobacco advertising had been banned--about the impact on consumption levels. The fact that consumption fell by between 4 and 9 per cent. in those countries led Smee to conclude:
Mr. Nick Harvey (North Devon): Did the Secretary of State note that the 1992 report to which he referred was found to be convincing by the right hon. Member for South-West Surrey (Mrs. Bottomley), who was Health Secretary at the time? She sent a memo to the then Prime Minister, stating that those findings had been made and that she believed them. Does the Secretary of State note the contrast between that and the stance that the Conservative party is taking today?
Mr. Milburn: The right hon. Member for South-West Surrey (Mrs. Bottomley) will have to speak for herself. Sadly, she is not here today, although her proxy is. I believe that voices in the Conservative Government wanted to ban tobacco advertising and that there were arguments in that Government. However, those voices lost the argument not just once but on a succession of occasions.
Mr. Kevin Barron (Rother Valley): May I warn my right hon. Friend against the little bit of disinformation that has just been given by the Liberal Democrat party? In 1993, the Secretary of State for Health was not in favour of banning tobacco on the grounds of the information in the Smee report. However, three members of the Cabinet were, including a very senior member, the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine), who was then Deputy Prime Minister and believed that tobacco advertising should have been banned as early as that date.
Mr. Milburn: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that information. He has campaigned long and hard on these issues and he is clearly privy to information that I do not have before me. I should be grateful to see it; perhaps he will allude to it in the speech which, I am sure, he will seek to make in a moment or two, should he catch your eye, Mr. Speaker. There is no doubt that there was an argument at the time in the Conservative Government and the Conservative party.
The Conservative Government failed to act on the evidence then, and the Opposition refuse even to acknowledge the evidence now. The Conservatives failed to ban advertising and sponsorship in this country. What is more, they blocked a ban in other European countries too, and blocked it consistently between 1989 and 1997. It was not until the election of a new Labour Government that the block was removed.
I was hopeful that the Conservative party would use the Bill to change its policy: to learn some lessons from its history--rather than simply living in it--by supporting the Bill today. Indeed, that is what the Conservative spokesman on health in the Scottish Parliament, Mary Scanlon, said would happen. She told the Scottish Parliament's Health and Community Care Committee on 10 January 2001
We estimate that, in this country alone, a reduction in smoking following an advertising ban such as that proposed could save the NHS up to £40 million a year on treating smoking-related diseases. More importantly, we estimate that 3,000 lives a year will be saved in the UK in the longer term.
A ban on tobacco advertising is backed by a majority of the public. It is backed also by the British Medical Association, the Royal College of Nursing, the Royal College of Physicians, the Cancer Research Campaign, Diabetes UK, the National Consumer Council and the Consumers Association.
Overwhelmingly, however, it is the evidence that commands support for the Bill. That evidence comes from the industry itself, in the scale and strategy of their advertising campaigns. It comes from across the globe, where bans have already served to significantly reduce smoking. It comes also from medicine and science, which have shown the damage done by smoking and nicotine addiction, as well as the contribution to starting smoking that is made by advertising.
The Opposition ask for evidence. It is all around them, but they simply choose not to see it. It screams out to them from billboards across the country. Advertising works; smoking kills. Advertising smoking both works and kills. Today, we can begin to break that link. Where the previous Government failed to act, this Government will now do so. We will act to protect children; we will act to reduce smoking; we will act to save lives. I commend the Bill to the House.