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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.

Mr. Milburn: I know that the right hon. Gentleman is a long-standing campaigner on these issues, particularly

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through his association with the National Asthma Campaign, and I know that he is concerned about the impact of the consumption of cigarettes, and tobacco products more generally, on young people and adults. I should like to set the right hon. Gentleman's mind at rest.

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.

As long ago as 1989, the US surgeon general concluded that


Two years later, research found that a 10 per cent. increase in advertising expenditure would lead to a 0.6 per cent. increase in consumption.

More recently, in its report entitled "Curbing the Epidemic", the World Bank noted that


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It predicted that a European Union-wide ban on tobacco advertising would reduce tobacco consumption by about 7 per cent.

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:


The evidence is overwhelming. It all points one way, and it pointed in that direction when the Tories were in office and did precisely nothing about it. A ban on tobacco advertising and sponsorship is a sensible public health measure which will reduce the burden on the health service, protect children and save lives.

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.

Dr. Fox: That is a matter for debate.

Mr. Milburn: Yes, the hon. Gentleman is allowed to debate. As he knows, policy making should always be

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based on the facts. The facts help the case: they were overwhelming and were made clear by officials in the Department of Health. They were made clear time after time, but sadly, the Conservative Government chose to ignore them.

Mr. Swayne rose--

Mr. Milburn: I have given way once to the hon. Gentleman, and I am not going to give way again.

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


I know that it is difficult to find a policy on which all members agree in today's Conservative party. I know also that even a month is an eon in Tory party policy-making terms. However, even the hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox) seemed to be moving in the same direction as his Scottish colleague when, only last month, he told The Times that


The Conservative party's priority is plain for all to see. The hon. Gentleman's words were all spin and no delivery. Rather than learning from their mistakes, the Conservatives are about to repeat them. Their opposition to this Bill shows once again that, for them, the interests of public health always come a poor second to those of the tobacco industry. They claim that they want evidence, but the evidence is overwhelming. Smoking kills. Advertising and promotion of tobacco products imposes enormous costs on our health service and does enormous harm to the health of our nation. Its effects are felt most acutely in the poorest parts of our country.

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.

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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.


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