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The Minister says, "Trust us. We will get this right and send out some regulations", and we have had to accept a debate on Report that is truncated and disgracefully short; but brand sharing is a key problem for the industry to face, and the regulations have not even been written. The House is having to decide crucial issues when we know nothing about the Government's proposals.
Mr. Bruce: Surely the point is that no one has been able to produce a sensible response to the problem of brand sharing. The Government have not provided draft regulations because that is an almost impossible task, but the House is being asked to agree the Bill tonight.
Mr. Atkinson: My hon. Friend makes my point for me. The problem is that a key piece of the Bill is missing, yet we are asked to nod it through tonight on the basis that the Government have said, "Trust us, we don't want to stop companies brand sharing."
The Bill is to be enforced by the weights and measures authorities. Are we to trust the same people who prosecuted a market trader in Sunderland for selling goods in pounds and ounces? Hon. Members have raised several problems related to brand sharing. I am concerned about the illegal rolling tobacco, Drum, which is available in this country. What would happen if a perfectly legal company in this country had the same name? Would the weights and measures people arrest its proprietors? A European brand of cigarettes, called Olympia or Olympic--I cannot remember which--is available in this country. What would happen if a business in this country shared that name? Those will be concerns for large companies, and we are making decisions without even knowing what the regulations will say.
Earlier, I mentioned to my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman) a point about newspapers and other publications that are printed simultaneously in different countries. The International Herald Tribune is printed in a number of centres in Europe at the same time, and the Financial Times is printed simultaneously in Frankfurt and London. A newspaper's editorial office in Paris might insert an advertisement for a brand of Camel boot or the "Silk Cut" trousers to which the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) referred. Pages are sent from one country to another, and there may be no editorial interference in the printing process in this country. Presumably, then, international newspapers that sell copies in the United Kingdom will have to refuse all such advertisements. A French newspaper might have refuse advertisements from a French business.
Mr. Bercow: This is a thorny area. Would it not be helpful if the Under-Secretary were to indicate, if she has not already done so, that she intends to provide a minimum of three months for consultation on the
I want to pursue the question of publications. It is very easy to buy foreign language magazines in this country. I think of French and German magazines that are printed abroad and shipped here, which will of course carry tobacco advertisements. I did not attend the Committee, but from a brief reading of the Bill I can see nothing that would protect those companies. A German company could be prosecuted in this country because it sold a magazine containing a cigarette advert in the UK.
Does that mean that special UK editions of those magazines would have to be printed, which would hardly be economic, or would they have to be withdrawn from sale in this country? That question demonstrates the idiocy of proceeding with the Bill without the consent of fellow members of the European Union, who are moving towards a ban on tobacco advertising. It would be helpful if the ban were imposed Europe wide, instead of the Government going it alone.
I hope that by the end of the debate this difficult issue will have been clarified. Even if the Minister for Public Health will not produce the regulations or give us any idea of their contents, perhaps she will address our concerns when she winds up.
Mr. Ian Bruce: In Committee, I was prevented from making the speech that I am about to make because the Opposition were trying to help the Government to get the Bill through Committee in the limited time available in a way that allowed the maximum discussion of items on which we had to make a decision. The issue that we are debating, brand sharing, is important because it might affect companies that have nothing to do with tobacco. We can all argue about whether we want to reduce tobacco consumption--although everyone on the Committee was in favour of that--but no one intends to damage companies that have never been involved in tobacco.
Throughout the Committee proceedings, I trailed the fact that I intended to speak about the brand that is in front of you, Mr. Deputy Speaker: the portcullis. It appears on my cufflinks, and Members of Parliament are proud of the fact that it appears on our letterhead. You might not realise this, but in the House of Commons bars and the Gift Shop it is possible to buy House of Commons branded cigarettes, which carry the portcullis logo. Cigarettes are not the only product that the House of Commons sells: we sell water, teddy bears and whisky and we provide services through our Banqueting Department. The House of Commons is engaged in a commercial business, and I suppose that we should all declare an interest in that respect. We might all be prosecuted when the Bill is passed.
The example I give, however silly it might appear, illustrates the fact that people brand share. The Houses of Parliament or House of Commons brand is a brand share. Were I advising the House authorities, I should immediately tell them that they must stop selling cigarettes carrying the House of Commons brand; either that, or Members of Parliament should stop using the portcullis or even the name of this place to ensure that we do not break the law as it will be when the Bill is passed.
Mr. Peter Atkinson: My hon. Friend raises an interesting question of parliamentary sovereignty. Would parliamentary sovereignty apply and thus enable us to ignore the legislation and continue to sell the cigarettes?
Mr. Bruce: When my hon. Friend and I became Members of Parliament, parliamentary sovereignty existed, but new Labour does not care about such things. The current Government continually undermine the rights and privileges of the House of Commons--[Interruption.] Does the hon. Member for North-West Leicestershire (Mr. Taylor) wish to intervene? He is always chuntering--oh, he has risen to his feet, just to show that he is here. I give way to him.
Mr. David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire): The hon. Gentleman refers, tangentially, to the loss of parliamentary sovereignty in terms that suggest that most of that loss has occurred since 1997. However, I do not believe that Labour was in government when the Maastricht treaty was signed. Will he confirm that?
Mr. Bruce: I had not left that subject, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and, as you rightly say, I could not possibly respond to that intervention. I was foolish and over-generous to give way to the hon. Member for North-West Leicestershire.
In tabling the new clause, my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman) is attempting to help the Government not to fall into a gaping hole. One might say that it does not matter if House of Commons branded cigarettes cease to be. I should prefer that we did not have such cigarettes--indeed, under the previous Government, the Refreshment Department announced that it had decided not to have the cigarettes any more and that it would phase them out by selling whatever stocks it held. There must have been about 10 years of stock because packets are still being sold. It may be nice to have them, but why do we not set an example and say that we shall not share our brands with tobacco? [Hon. Members: "Hear, hear.] I am glad that I have some support for that.
I hope that the House will listen to what I have to say about brand sharing. We are all aware of Imperial Tobacco. The word "imperial" is a brand share with many other companies. For example, there is Imperial Chemical