Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill

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Mrs. Spelman: I was in the throes of saying that it is important that we define what we mean by ``display''. In a previous debate we discussed the existing channels by which an airline might communicate information about tobacco products that are sold to passengers. If, after the change is introduced, airlines have to resort to using a display as a way of conveying information, they would need to know what displays are. That applies not only to airlines but across the board—from specialist tobacconists to supermarkets—so the clarification of what is a display will become important. I understand the Government's intent in trying to make that clearer.

The purpose of our amendment was to probe the Government on what they mean by ``display''. The Government amendment clarifies what is meant by ``place'', which is important in exactly the same way. Everybody who will be affected by the Bill should be clear about what the Government intend.

My only general concern about that route of clarification is addressed by amendment No. 25. I remain uneasy about relying on regulations alone, and about the fact that the Committee cannot discuss as many examples as it might, given the shortage of time. In relation to the procedure for clarification, it may be restrictive on those who have to implement the Bill if the courts will ultimately decide what is an advertisement or a display. If we do not make it clear what we mean by those terms, we run the risk of forcing innocent people to go to court and confront criminal charges in order to determine the nature of the regulations. That is why it is important to draw out of the Government exactly what is meant. We failed to do so clearly in relation to the meaning of ``advertisement''.

Our amendment draws attention to the problem of ``display'' not being fully defined. We are trying to emphasise to the Government that saying that regulations will clarify matters is not the complete answer to the problem. Many people will have to work with concepts that are not properly defined in the Bill. I accept, however, that the Government amendment was intended to provide clarification of the meaning of ``place''.

There is only one other aspect of the Government amendment that gives me cause for concern. Given our long and detailed debate on clause 2 in relation to internet service providers, I am concerned that it might create the kind of massive loophole to which the Minister referred as a reason why she was rejecting an Opposition amendment. I believe in giving credit where it is due, and it was my hon. Friend the Member for South Dorset, who has a great interest in internet matters, who drew my attention to the possibility of a problem in the Government amendment. It is therefore fair to give him the opportunity to explain it to the Minister, because I am sure that he will do so far better than I would.

Mr. McFall: I support Government amendment No. 17 and oppose amendment No. 25. The Opposition want to strike out

    ``by the appropriate Minister in regulations''

and insert ``the Secretary of State'', because they think that it is not important to recognise the effects of devolution.

Particular circumstances apply in Scotland that do not apply elsewhere. As the Minister said, that has been recognised by what is known as the Sewel amendment, which was proposed in the other place. The Sewel amendment is a simple undertaking that legislation will be undertaken here only with the permission of the devolved Assemblies. The Minister for Environment, Sport and Culture in the Scottish Parliament, the hon. Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden (Mr. Galbraith), described it on Second Reading as

    ``a splendid, courteous and decent way to deal with such matters''—[Official Report, 22 January 2001; Vol. 361, c. 679.]

I agree. The co-operative spirit of devolution must be maintained.

I recognise that it is sensible to leave some matters, such as stem cell research, to Westminster, but discussion must precede that to achieve a satisfactory outcome. As we know, advertising does not respect boundaries. Scotland has advertising near schools, in many cases in deprived areas. It is important for the devolved Assemblies to be able to undertake fine tuning in such matters. I have an interest as a former schoolteacher who knows the pernicious effects of smoking on young people, many of whom take it up at an early age. One of my duties, especially when I was in charge of guidance in a secondary school in Glasgow in the early 1980s, was to ensure that at interval time and lunch time we minimised smoking by young people. Billboards and adverts make them believe that smoking is a good thing for them to do, and, sadly, in today's society, many young females smoke.

Statistics vary throughout the country, which is why it is important to place the matter in a Scottish context. In Scotland, 10,000 people die a year—1 million in the United Kingdom—because of the effects of smoking. That has a big effect on the budget of the Scottish Parliament and it is important to refine that budget according to the priorities that we identify. I want the Scottish Parliament, working with the Westminster Government, to ensure that we have appropriate UK policies and that we tackle the pernicious effects of smoking.

On Government amendment No. 17—

Mr. Ian Bruce: The hon. Gentleman has introduced the devolved aspect, which is a factor that I had not considered in relation to the Bill. As he will have heard me say, I thought that it was a DTI Bill, not a health Bill. Health is a devolved matter. According to his interpretation, when the Bill is enacted in this place will it mandate the Scottish Parliament to have the same laws?

Mr. McFall: It is good that the hon. Gentleman was in Kosovo doing such good work. He should read the Second Reading debate, when the matter was explained clearly. I repeat, for his sake, that the Sewel amendment proposed a convention whereby the devolved Assemblies deal with legislation. If they agree with the Westminster Government, legislation can be passed—which is a splendid arrangement, as the hon. Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden said. I am sure that, if the hon. Member for South Dorset wishes, the Minister will provide a private tutorial for him so that next time he is up to date.

Mr. Bruce: It was a genuine inquiry. I am glad to hear that, despite the fact that it does not say so on the Bill, the legislation applies to the whole of the United Kingdom. That is sensible.

I wish to speak to Government amendment No. 17. The Committee is in a strange position. The proceedings are happening in a matter of a few days. We discussed the Bill on Second Reading, and then the Minister has tabled amendments in Committee, which I understand that I cannot amend. I did not see amendment No. 17 early enough to table an amendment to it that you might have selected, Mr. Malins.

The Minister has tried to be helpful, and has, no doubt, listened to some advice and tried to come forward with a new amendment, but it is defective. On the one hand, the defects can be overcome because the Government are using a device whereby they do not tell us for certain what the regulations will say. They reserve the right to make up the regulations as they go along. In some ways, they can do that. The hon. Member for Rother Valley is nodding his head as though that is a good idea, but I know that he wants the regulations to be watertight, and wants to ensure that his Ministers manage that.

I direct colleagues to the word ``website'' and how the regulations will deal with a website in which tobacco is offered for sale. My understanding of a website is that yahoo.com or BT Internet could be one. The Conservative party could be a website. What is interesting about websites is that, by the nature of the world wide web, every web page is connected to every other web page throughout the world. What the Government are rightly trying to do is to deal with web pages that direct people to a website with advertisements for tobacco, displaying the price and so on. Any web page can effectively direct people to a site where they can purchase tobacco. It may be completely unrelated to tobacco. Someone may have asked about football, and the site will contain a little logo, with the appropriate regulations about how much information is allowed to be given, and that will direct people to the best deals on tobacco. I do not think that the Government want that to happen, but it is happening.

The Minister talks about websites, but she excludes e-mails, which are not the same thing as websites. We all receive e-mail on our computers, and read information sent to us. Those e-mails may be wholly legal by nature of the fact that someone has asked for information and it has been sent, but as everyone knows, when they log on in the morning, they find that hundreds of advertisements have been sent because a global address list is available. I do not know how many address lists are now available that feature Members of Parliament and their secretaries and anyone with anything to do with Parliament. It takes just one click of a button and we are all sent the same e-mail. How will the Government deal with that when they have defined the term ``website'' so narrowly? If people are interested in purchasing tobacco and get into the address where it is sold, it is ridiculous to say that the web page cannot advertise the product. The Minister needs to look at such matters extremely carefully.

I wish to cite a couple of examples. When there was a Conservative Government, I went to the Home Office to talk about the Computer Misuse Act 1990, which was often known as the anti-hacking Act. Those who wrote the legislation had not a clue about the nature of what they were writing about. I hate to say that, because we have some skilful draftsman here and the internet is something that people understand a great deal more about now, but the definition under the Bill will make it difficult for the Government to make regulations.

4.45 pm

I have introduced only one private Member's Bill. It was the Telecommunications (Fraud) Act 1977. We could not find an all-encompassing description of the wire or device, so it is described as a ``thing'' throughout the Act. That was the only way in which to ensure that the measure was technology proof. We must stop people finding a route to enable them to say, ``I can advertise, because I have used the appropriate criteria.'' Someone said to me, ``I'll tell you how to get billboards back in the United Kingdom. You publish them on the website, and project images on a huge screen by the roadside.'' That is a way around the regulations that the Government are attempting to introduce.

The Government are saying that they do not want published on an individual's computer an advertisement for tobacco without that person having said, ``I want to read about where I can buy tobacco.'' We must tackle the problem of people knowing how to click on the URL for a certain address in a lawful way when, in effect, clicking on the box labelled ``tobacco'' is illegal. That must be dealt with.

 
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