Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill

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Yvette Cooper: It is in clause 19.

Mr. Bruce: Is it the Secretary of State for Health?

Yvette Cooper: Yes.

Mr. Bruce: I am shocked by the situation that will now exist. Every morning, officials in the Department of Health will have to check what is happening in consumer affairs, which are already monitored by the Department of Trade and Industry. An extra department or section of the Department of Health will have to be set up specifically to deal with tobacco advertising. That seems extraordinary. If that is joined-up government, give me silo government.

Mrs. Spelman: The example of the Food Standards Agency has already been evoked. My hon. Friend did not serve on the Committee that considered the Food Standards Bill. It may help him to know that a piggyback arrangement, under which someone looks over the shoulder of the people who are carrying out the enforcement role, operates under that legislation. Initially, health enforcement officers from the local authority carry out an investigation, and the FSA enforcement officers look over their shoulders. It is quite a heavy structure.

Mr. Bruce: I am grateful for that intervention. I apologise to the Committee for not having read sufficiently through the Bill, but I am even more concerned now that we have identified who will be responsible. I thought that the appropriate Minister would simply refer to an appropriate Minister in a Department that had monitoring arrangements in place, rather than to the Secretary of State for Health, who is a pretty busy man already.

Mr. David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire): The hon. Gentleman seems concerned about the possible appointment of extra staff in the Department of Health or elsewhere to monitor the compliance of advertising agencies and others with the proposed legislation. The Government estimate that about 2.5 per cent. of the 120,000 premature smoking-related deaths a year—about 3,000 lives—could be prevented. Does the hon. Gentleman not agree that it is worth appointing a few civil servants to achieve that?

Mr. Bruce: If a single life can be saved, that must be done. Clearly, we want to spend the money saving lives, but I am not dealing with that point. I thought that the hon. Gentleman would accept that I was asking who would be responsible for enforcement. I discovered that the Department of Health would be responsible, but it does not have the necessary mechanisms. It has controls in that it looks at what the British Medical Association does and various other matters. The Secretary of State for Health is constantly bombarded with various important issues relating to people's health—such as drugs, the Alder Hey problem and so on—and of course he is a very suitable person to deal with such matters.

We are trying to determine who would be an appropriate Minister to keep an eye on what happens. There is a consumer affairs department within the DTI. I thought that it would be perfectly normal for that department to consider matters involving weights and measures—but apparently not. If I were a weights and measures or trading standards officer at a district council and I was concerned about what my duties were, I should be able to look to a single Department within Government. That is what joined-up government is about. I should be able to say, ``That is the lead Minister for me in my job.'' I should not have to go round with all the individual Acts of Parliament under my arm to ensure that what I did complied with those Acts, policed by individual Secretaries of State.

Mr. Taylor: I understand the hon. Gentleman's point, which is reasonable. On a point of correction, trading standards functions are carried out by county authorities and city authorities, not by district councils. Therefore, they probably will have the resources to undertake the role in a satisfactory fashion. I hope that, when my hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Barron) speaks to his new clause 2, he will see the merits of making that authority responsible for tackling the weaknesses that he flags up. I am sympathetic to that.

Mr. Bruce: I would certainly be pleased to take advice. I have asked my colleagues which authorities deal with such matters. I have seen confusion in the past about whether it is the district or county authority, but we are still talking about a large number of authorities. In Dorset there are in effect three county authorities. There are two metropolitan councils, one in Poole and one in Bournemouth and there is a third council for rural Dorset, which includes my constituency.

It is interesting that a group of us in the Committee are struggling to work out whether the relevant authority is still called the weights and measures authority or the trading standards authority and which is responsible for enforcement. Imagine what the public will think when they want to know whom to contact about a problem with tobacco advertising.

Getting back to the point about which Minister is the ``appropriate Minister'', I rather suspect that people who feel that some terrible tobacco company is trying to get round the advertising ban will contact the DTI because it deals with trade and industry, consumer affairs and so on. That would be incorrect.

One of the problems that arises when one says that the funding is with the local authority is how it gets that funding. The money going to local authorities generally comes from the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions; not much money comes from the Department of Health. The mechanisms are getting confused because social services are funded partly by the health budget. Those are complications that we should understand when we discuss the clause. We must ensure that we get clarity.

I know that Labour Members are keen to ensure that this is a workable Bill. What will happen when an officer from their trading authorities contacts them to say, ``You were on that Committee. I've just realised that we've got to have an extra body to deal with this. Can you contact the Government and get the funding?'' I am sure that they will have to ask to whom they should write to get the additional funding. The appropriate Minister is at the Department of Health, but I do not think that the Department of Health has a budget to send down to the trading standards people in whatever local authority it is. The clause is creating further confusion about the way in which these things should be funded.

Subsection (5) enables the Secretary of State to take over proceedings. When a local authority is faced with activities that are clearly not only local, but of a wider nature, we should not just have the Secretary of State saying, ``Well, I have plenty of money at the Department of Health and I do not need to buy any new cancer drugs so I will come and take over the prosecution and spend £200,000 on the activities of that tobacconist.'' We should tell the Department of the Health that if that is what it wants, it should take over prosecutions in specified circumstances, not that it may do so. Passing the buck is not the right way to proceed here.

Subsection (7) brings us to the magistrates courts. I am sure that hon. Members can tell me the sort of penalties that could be imposed. I assume that offences will be triable within a magistrates court and that the fines and penalties should be fairly minimal. If a major tobacco company has spent a lot of money on an advert that we think is caught by the Bill and a local authority says that it is aware of its duty to act, it is strange that the case is simply triable within a magistrates court with no jury.


I am not an expert in what happens when cases move up from magistrates courts to the Crown court, but the Minister owes it to the Committee to explain how a major multi-million pound campaign—£100 million is spent on promoting tobacco products in this country—will be affected by the legislation. There will be attempts to find loopholes. Local authorities may be prepared to carry out their duty and spend ratepayers' money on taking a case to court, but the magistrates will be able to inflict only three months in jail or whatever maximum penalty such a court can apply. Will the Minister explain exactly how the provisions will operate? Will the hundreds of thousands of pounds that a local authority might have to pay to bring cases to court be commensurate with the penalties that could be imposed?

Yvette Cooper: I am surprised that we have taken up so much time debating this clause, which is pretty standard stuff. It sets out which bodies and which Ministers are responsible. If the hon. Member for South Dorset had bothered to read the Bill, his comments might have been substantially shorter. The clause reflects the work of local trading standards officers who enforce consumer protection or under-age sales provisions. Nothing weird is going on. The clause is completely in tune with the work of trading standards officers, who are properly defined and know exactly who they are.

Mr. Ian Bruce: The hon. Lady adopts the terminology of trading standards, but it is not in the Bill. What explains the switch from her terminology to what is in the Bill?

Yvette Cooper: The language in the Bill is perfectly appropriate to identify the precise organisations and agencies that will be responsible for carrying out the provisions. ``Trading standards officers'' is a broad term to encompass the relevant authorities. It is sensible. There is no confusion. As I said, trading standards officers know exactly who they are and exactly what they will have to enforce. It is set out in the Bill. Opposition Members are wasting time over straightforward matters. If they had bothered to talk to local trading standards officers, they would realise that the provisions are no big deal.

Mr. Bruce: The Minister continues to talk about trading standards officers, but they are not specified in the Bill. Trading standards officers are simply not described. The clause refers to the weights and measures authority, which is not the same terminology. A local authority worried about having to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds might well say, ``We are not a weights and measures authority. That is fine. We can shrug our shoulders; there is nobody to enforce the Act.''

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Prepared 8 February 2001