Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill

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Mr. Bruce: I have been so impressed by the hon. Gentleman that I make him a pledge that when he calls for a vote against clause 18, which allows Formula 1 advertising to continue until 2006, I will support him—as he supported my early-day motion when I arrived in the House. I hope that I can rely on him to call for such a vote.

Mr. Barron: That is tempting, but I will leave clause 18 until we get to it. The only thing that I have to say to the hon. Gentleman is that the organisers of Formula 1 have said that they could bring an end to sponsorship more quickly. No amendments seem to have been tabled on that, otherwise we could have debated it. However, we will cross that bridge when we come to it.

Mr. Bruce: Can I help?

Mr. Barron: No, I think that the hon. Gentleman has helped me enough.

A few years ago, litigation against tobacco companies started to be successful, initially in the United States. We have become more concerned about tobacco promotion. Parliamentarians on the Select Committee considered a mass of evidence before producing the report last year. We can now see that people have for years been getting round the voluntary codes because they do not want to be restricted. If we were talking about food or some other product, people might say, ``There's no harm done, is there?'' However, we have to keep remembering that—difficult though it is for many people to accept—every day, 300 of our fellow citizens in this tiny country die early as a result of tobacco-related diseases. If we had been at war for the past 20 years and losing 300 people every day, there would be a lobby in this place and many others against it. By including sponsorship in the legislation, the Government are going some way towards stopping the promotion of tobacco products and preventing people getting round voluntary codes, as they have been doing for decades.

Yvette Cooper: The clause is extremely important. My hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley is right that sponsorship has been a way of increasing what is effectively advertising and promotion of tobacco products through what the tobacco companies clearly regard as a powerful way of communicating their message to smokers and potential smokers. Subsection (1) sets out that

    ``A person who is party to a sponsorship agreement is guilty of an offence if the purpose or effect of anything done as a result of the agreement is to promote a tobacco product''

and subsection (2) sets out a clear definition of a sponsorship agreement. The clause does not ban companies from making donations. It does not ban them from being good corporate citizens and donating money to charity or to events. It simply bans them from promoting tobacco products as a result.

The hon. Member for South Dorset gave the example of a tobacco company that wanted to donate to a charity in order to fund some health research. If a company wants to donate to a charity to promote health research, let it. However, we must be slightly cynical about its interest in research into, for example, a cure for lung cancer if the price of its donation towards research is the promotion of its tobacco products, which cause the disease. Such promotion and sponsorship should not be permitted under the Bill.

It is true that we cannot ban international sponsorship. However, we can and should work with our European partners to achieve a Europe-wide ban. We can also work with the World Health Organisation to try to reduce world-wide sponsorship, particularly of events. I think that we will have some opportunity to work with international partners and colleagues on that. It is reasonable to require UK sporting, artistic and other events to find other sources of sponsorship.

The Government set out their intention from the beginning in order to allow time for sports to find alternative sources of sponsorship. The bottom line remains that sponsorship of events for the sake of promoting tobacco products must stop because it is a powerful way of promoting tobacco products and smoking. My hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley is right. When the health consequences are 120,000 deaths each year, such a major form of advertising should be prevented.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 9 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 18

Transitional Provisions: Sponsorship

The Chairman

: We have had a wide debate on sponsorship. I hope that the Committee will not indulge in repetition of the arguments, but will stick to the matter under discussion. Of course I will have to bear those matters in mind when I decide whether to allow a stand part debate.

Mrs. Spelman: I beg to move amendment No. 44, in page 9, line 19, leave out `a' and insert `the'.

The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to take amendment No. 45, in page 9, line 20, leave out `a sponsorship agreement' and insert `to all sponsorship agreements'.

Mrs. Spelman: I listened carefully to your advice, Mr. Malins. I held back in our debate on clause 9 from talking about different time periods for the application of sponsorship because they seemed to relate most directly to this clause. I would certainly like to discuss that matter under a stand part debate, if possible. Our debate on the clause has been brought forward in the order of consideration to follow the general discussion of sponsorship.

The clause will enable regulations to be made to provide transitional arrangements and agreements for the phasing out of sponsorship. The Secretary of State said on Second Reading that the Government intended to implement a timetable for sponsorship that had previously been laid out in the European directive. Subsection (2) paves the way for that by saying that the date

    ``may not be later than 1st October 2006.''

That is an innocuous little phrase. We know that the debate that rages surrounds the differential hidden behind that between the different sports. I would entirely support my hon. Friend the Member for South Dorset in calling for a level playing field for these sports. I do not see why we should slavishly follow, as we were encouraged to do on Second Reading, the timetable laid out in the European directive. The whole logic behind having a differential agreement for different sports is shot through. To pay tribute to the hon. Member for Rother Valley, he convened a most interesting meeting of the all-party parliamentary group on smoking and health, and received a presentation from Simon Rines of International Marketing Reports, who made a strong case for a level playing field.

6 pm

Mr. Barron: The point that Simon Rines made to that Committee, if my memory serves me well, is that the deadline of 2006 should re-examined, not that everything should wait until 2006 to be finished. Is that correct?

Mrs. Spelman: It may astonish the hon. Member to hear that I cannot see why that should not be possible. The preferential treatment given to Formula 1 under the transitional arrangements, made possible by the wording of the clause, is difficult to understand. Formula 1, of all sports, is clearly well placed to replace tobacco sponsorship. Indeed, that is already happening. So we are legislating for something that is happening quite naturally. Companies want to get out of tobacco sponsorship, and the ascendant companies that are starting to sponsor the sport are all from telecommunications, computers and the new emerging technologies.

The trouble starts with the logic behind the differential arrangements that the clause permits. On Second Reading, the case was made strongly for sports such as darts, which will have greater difficulty in getting replacement sponsorship. I should like to encourage all hon. Members to move towards a level playing field, for which strong arguments have been put forward. It is not necessary to differentiate under the transitional provisions between so-called global sports. Perhaps the Minister will clarify whether snooker is now regarded as a global sport. It enjoys an audience of 10 million adults and is watched in 150 countries. It may not have the same glamour as Formula 1, and is hence less sought after as a target for sports advertisements, but it is difficult to see why snooker should have preferential treatment but darts should not.

The amendments may not be worded in a way that would achieve that end, but they raise a strong objection with the Government for the lack of a level playing field. We are effectively free to legislate as we wish, since the European directive was brought forward on the wrong basis and annulled. Why must we pursue this preferential treatment for Formula 1? If I were in the Government's position, I would be embarrassed that preference has been given to that sport and about all the publicity concerning the donations that were received and then returned. That was doubtless effective from Formula 1's perspective, as it appears to have bought the preferential treatment without having to spend money. The situation is unsatisfactory, and the public and the advocates of different sports find it difficult to understand.

It appears, from the way that hon. Members on both sides of the Committee have articulated their surprise about those arrangements, that there may be a lot of cross-party support for changing the scope for those differential arrangements under clause 18. After seeing the strength of support in Committee for creating a level playing field, the Minister may want to give some thought to revising the Bill on that point on Report.

The point behind our second amendment is that there should be a decision to include all sponsorship agreements rather than a particular sponsorship agreement. That is perhaps an imperfect way to get to the point where all sponsorship agreements are treated fairly and in the same way. Preference should not be given to those best placed to seek alternative sources of funding.

Tobacco sponsorship accounts for only 5 per cent. of all European sports sponsorship. It is not as big a player as we have all been led to believe. Significant sums are involved in the sponsorships—£177 million for Formula 1 compared with £9 million for snooker. Darts and some lesser sports do not reach even £1 million.

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