Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Mr. Atkinson: Now that I have read the Bill a little more thoroughly, I appreciate why the Minister did not answer what I said about publishers and publications, because they are better debated on this second group of amendments. Having looked at the Government's amendments, I can see what they are trying to do, but I still have concerns about how the Bill will operate with regard to publishers and printers.

My hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman) has dealt with printers who print a newspaper or magazine for export. However, I still do not understand how satellite printing of international publications will be affected. I have no idea whether publications such as the International Herald Tribune, USA Today and the Financial Times carry tobacco advertising--I suspect that they do not. Even so, what is the position? What is the principal market? Is the United Kingdom the principal market of USA Today, which is printed here as well as in other centres in Europe? If USA Today decided to carry cigarette and tobacco advertisements, would it be prosecuted?

A more likely scenario would involve magazines printed here by satellite. Technology has made satellite printing increasingly popular. It saves moving large quantities of heavy newsprint around the world, so more magazines will be using that process.

I do not know whether right hon. and hon. Members read Hello!, but it is actually a Spanish magazine, with an English edition that circulates outside England, largely in Scandinavian countries whose readers have a good command of English. How do we define whether the UK is a principal market of the English language version of Hello! magazine? Would that be determined on the basis of circulation or revenue?

Mr. Ian Bruce: Is it not a worry for us, as British parliamentarians, that we will be setting up a competitive advantage for publishers in other countries? They can sell into the UK market simply by saying that their main market is still over there. The editions that they produce will not be printed here, thereby losing jobs and revenue. Such magazines would be greatly subsidised because the tobacco industry, as we have been told, will find ways of spending its promotional budget on subsidising them.

Mr. Atkinson: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his comments. Although I mentioned newspapers and magazines with a large circulation, such as Hello!, I think that the problem will lie with the specialist magazines with smaller circulations, such as 4x4 cross-country vehicle specialist magazines. There are a number of such titles. They feature the Camel trophy and other motor sports events, which may or may not be covered by the Bill. It would be simple for such magazines to print abroad and supply copies to the UK.

Such magazines are international; they circulate in other parts of Europe and the United States. It would be easy to move their base from the UK to Europe. The situation would be ludicrous: one 4x4 magazine on the newsagent's shelf would be stuffed full of advertisements for cigarettes and tobacco, while another, printed in the UK, did not carry such advertisements. That would give the magazine printed outside England a serious competitive advantage. We need to explore that possibility further, because I would hate to see yet more confusion attached to the Bill.

13 Feb 2001 : Column 213

Product placement in films is an extremely complex matter. We have talked about films made in the United States and distributed here, and films made on video in the United States and copied here. Then, of course, there are the old classic films. Will we have to stop showing Humphrey Bogart because a packet of Lucky Strike is in the background? There are still some fascinating alleyways to explore tonight.

Mr. Andrew Hunter (Basingstoke): I listened with great interest to my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman) speaking to amendment No. 2. I am glad that she described it as a probing amendment, as I could not fully support it. Indeed, I have grave reservations about it. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth), who, if I heard him correctly, suggested that it would be almost impossible to distinguish between product placement and what, for convenience, one could call a necessary theatrical prop. To make the distinction by means of regulations would be well nigh impossible.

I hold the view that there is nothing particularly wrong with product placement. I am not prepared to join the witch hunt. I believe that the Bill is fundamentally flawed because there is nothing essentially wrong with the existing voluntary code and the necessary measures taken to control smuggling.

Hidden in this large group of amendments is amendment No. 32, in the names of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst and myself. I was not a member of the Standing Committee, which I regret, but I have studied its proceedings in the Official Report. The Minister introduced a new clause in Committee that said that there should be regulations governing the display of tobacco products at the point of sale or elsewhere--regulations quite separate from those governing advertising at the point of sale or elsewhere. Previously, it had been envisaged that there would be a single set of regulations governing both advertising and the display of products at the point of sale or elsewhere.

My instinctive reaction was that this was regulation gone mad. Regulation gone mad is also well exemplified in clause 8(4), which amendment No. 32 seeks to leave out. Subsection (4) demands that the regulations that govern displays

It would be fascinating to analyse precisely what that subsection means. I suspect that it is simply that a display must be deemed either a display, which is subject to one set of regulations, or an advertisement, which is subject to another set of regulations.

The problem that we encounter, which has already been referred to, is that on Second Reading, throughout the Committee stage, and today, the Minister has consistently and constantly rebuffed suggestions to amend the definition in clause 1 so as to make it clear what counts as a tobacco advertisement. Subsection (4), which I argue should be deleted, refers to a display that "amounts to an advertisement". That begs the question: what precisely is

13 Feb 2001 : Column 214

an advertisement? Is there a difference between an advertisement and something that "amounts to an advertisement"? That subsection highlights the need for a clearer and much more explicit definition.

In Committee, the Minister made a point that took me unawares. She said that the Government accepted that there were reasons for permitting a certain amount of advertising at points of sale, to communicate price or product availability. That seems to undermine the Government's whole argument. However, if a display of tobacco products is a tobacco advertisement as defined by clause 1--an advertisement whose purpose or effect is

such a display is already banned under clause 2. There is thus no need to provide in clause 8(4) for regulation that has already been provided in clause 2.

The subsection poses a series of questions. Our amendment asks whether there is really a difference in kind between display and advertisement. Can that difference be expressed or defined in practicable or credible regulations? I am not remotely convinced that those questions can be answered positively. That is why it would be far wiser to leave out subsection (4).

Mr. Forth: I support and echo the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter), but I shall concentrate on some of the other amendments in the group. I share the reservations expressed by my hon. Friends about the concept of product placement. We can all recognise the phenomenon when we see it--or think we see it. That is one thing; it is quite another to provide a sufficiently viable framework within which to try to make such a distinction regularly and systematically and then to deal with it. The concept is difficult to define, and thus a difficult basis on which to implement measures successfully.

The problem is exacerbated because, as one of my hon. Friends pointed out, it commonly arises in old media presentations--be they films or whatever--rather than as a deliberate and subtle attempt, in the modern context, to promote a product. To try to use such a concept as has been suggested would require a much better working definition than has been offered thus far.

Amendment No. 1 is crucial. Were this ill begotten Bill ever to reach the statute book, we would risk losing the great expenditure and effort that has been put into warning people of the dangers of smoking. One of the paradoxes of our time is that the suppliers of tobacco products are obliged--although in many cases they do it voluntarily--to put health warnings about their product on its packaging.

A further paradox of our time is that the industry itself spends a great deal on issuing health warnings. If we are to go ahead with this ill conceived scheme, surely we must try to ensure--as far as we can--that when advertisements for the product are removed, proper health warnings are not eliminated at the same time. Although tobacco is a legal product and I believe that people should be absolutely free to use it, I accept that it is a proper responsibility of Government to warn people of the fact that it may endanger their health. However, having been properly informed of the dangers, adults should then be allowed to make up their own minds whether to use a substance--be it tobacco or alcohol.

13 Feb 2001 : Column 215

Next Section

IndexHome Page