Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill

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Mr. Barron: Given that electronic screens could replace billboards now, does the hon. Gentleman agree that it is sensible that the Government have the power to introduce regulations to cover such matters where people would try to promote the use of tobacco?

Mr. Bruce: I do not disagree with the hon. Gentleman's point.

Mr. Barron: So why are you criticising the regulations?

Mr. Bruce: I shall leave you, Mr. Malins, to deal with the hon. Gentleman. It is not my place to call him to order, and I shall not respond to his intervention.

One could say inadvertently, ``Here is a legal route by which an advertisement can be displayed''. Regulations may state that it can be displayed on an individual's computer, and regulate the way in which someone obtains the information from the computer. That would be similar to a point-of-sale system. The Government are saying that, instead of going to a shop to buy cigarettes, people could purchase them from the internet. We have not had a chance to amend the new subsection in the Minister's amendment. Will she please reconsider it in the light of my remarks?

Yvette Cooper: To answer the hon. Gentleman, it is not unusual for the Government to table amendments in Committee. It often happens. His understanding of the Government's intention differs from mine, so I will clarify it. E-mails containing advertisements and sent in the course of business—whether or not those advertisements are also on a website—are electronic communications and will be covered by the Bill. E-mails sent by individuals, but not in the course of a business, will not be covered by the Bill. A particular e-mail is not a ``place'' or a website where products are sold. E-mails would not be exempted, subject to regulations, under clause 17, and clearly are covered by the Bill.

The hon. Gentleman asks whether a website could be displayed on a massive computer screen where there used to be a billboard. Someone owns the computer screen and has paid for it to replace the billboard. That is publishing by electronic means in this country, and will be subject to this Bill. If it were not possible to prosecute the original person who had drawn up the website—for instance, if that person was in a foreign country—the person who owned the computer screen would, none the less, be publishing it for people driving past in their cars, and would therefore be liable for prosecution under the Bill.

To answer the hon. Gentleman's question about links between websites, clause 4(2) clearly states that the advertisement has to be on a website and not on some faraway link to that website. Regulations will clarify that. The internet is a complex area and that is why we will consult on the regulations. I do not accept, as the hon. Member for South Dorset says, that there are huge loopholes or problems in the amendment.

I support the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton (Mr. McFall). It is right for Scotland to make its own decisions. The level of support for the Sewel motion demonstrates the enthusiasm for working together on this issue from both Westminster and the Scottish Parliament.

Amendment agreed to.

Question proposed, That the clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.

Mrs. Spelman: Some important points have been made, but I wish to re-emphasise to the Government that an increasing number of matters are being left to regulations. In my short time in Parliament, I have discussed a sufficient number of Bills in Committee to know that that creates considerable disquiet in those who have to work with the Bill. Too much room is left for interpretation after the event, which results in an empty-box type of legislation. Only the framework is created, but in terms of the tools that people have subsequently to work with, it is what is inside the box that is important.

A number of terms could have been more clearly defined in the Bill. I accept that the Government are trying to do so by helping to clarify the definition of a ``place'', but that could have been extended to other terms. The general weakness of the clause is that much of it will be left to regulations. There is still a fundamental lack—there is no definition of an advertisement. There have been some helpful examples, but the whole of the Committee's time cannot be spent going through examples as a way of having on the record in Hansard clear guidance for those who have to work with it. That is my anxiety about clause 4.

Yvette Cooper: We have already had an extensive debate on many of the issues around clause 4, which sets out some of the exemptions under the Bill. Clearly, it is not the Government's intention to prevent those legally selling tobacco products within the tobacco trade from going about their business under subsection (1)(a). Nor is it our intention to allow a huge loophole for direct marketing under subsection 1(b). Under subsections (1)(c) and (1)(d) we recognise, in particular, the issues regarding foreign publications and in-flight magazines. Subsection (2) sets out the need for regulations on point-of-sale advertising and it is right that we consult on that in detail. Subsection (3) is purely a definition.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 4, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Further consideration adjourned.—(Mrs McGuire.)

Adjourned accordingly at four minutes to Five o'clock till Tuesday 6 February at half-past Ten o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:
Malins, Mr. Humfrey (Chairman)
Barron, Mr.
Bruce, Mr. Ian
Cooper, Yvette
Gidley, Sandra
Harvey. Mr.
Luff, Mr.
McFall, Mr.
McGuire, Mrs.
Robertson, John
Robertson, Mr. Laurence
Ross, Mr. Ernie
Ruddock, Joan
Spelman, Mrs.
Taylor, Mr. David

 
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