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Mr. Milburn: Of course I have seen the letter, not least because it was addressed to me. Believe it or not, I do read my letters.

I believe that those who run Formula 1 are saying that they will happily remove tobacco advertising or tobacco sponsorship from the British grand prix with immediate effect. If that is indeed their plan, nobody will be more delighted than me, and I applaud and encourage them. However, in terms of global sports, we are not talking about specific exemptions for Formula 1. Indeed, as I said earlier, the issue that we have always had in mind is the impact on global sports—which might include Formula 1 —that have relied excessively on tobacco sponsorship for many years. In those cases, it seems only reasonable and fair that we should give them an opportunity to wean themselves off the habit of tobacco sponsorship.

As I said, we will consult on regulations. In broad terms, our intention is to follow the formula that we intended to follow before, had the Bill been able to

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proceed further: a deadline of July 2003 for sports, and of October 2006 for global sports. That is an end-date, however. If we and the sports in question can move more quickly than that, we will do so. As far as the FIA letter is concerned, if that organisation wishes to make the British—or any other—grand prix free from tobacco sponsorship, that is a matter for it. I urge it to do so if it can, and I hope that I do so with the support of the hon. Member for Croydon, South (Richard Ottaway).

As for evidence of tobacco advertising leading to increases in consumption, as long ago as 1989, the US surgeon-general concluded that

Two years later, research found that a 10 per cent. increase in advertising expenditure would lead to a 0.6 per cent. increase in consumption. More recently, in a report entitled "Curbing the Epidemic", the World Bank noted that

It predicted that a European Union-wide ban on tobacco advertising would reduce tobacco consumption by about 7 per cent across the continent. Further research by American researchers Saffer and Chaloupka, who studied data from 22 countries, concluded starkly that

The most compelling evidence however comes not from abroad, but from research undertaken in this country. It comes from the research commissioned and published by the Department of Health under—to their credit—the then Conservative Government in 1992–93. In 1992, the chief economic adviser to the Department of Health, Professor Clive Smee, examined evidence from Norway, Finland, Canada and New Zealand—countries in which tobacco advertising had been banned—about the impact on consumption levels. The fact that consumption fell by between 4 per cent. and 9 per cent. in those countries led Smee to conclude:

The problem was that having commissioned and published the evidence, the then Government—now the Opposition—did precisely nothing about it. They failed to ban advertising and sponsorship in this country. What is more, they blocked a ban in other European countries, and blocked it consistently between 1989 and 1997. It was not until the election of a new Labour Government that the block was removed.

Even today, I am sad to say, the Opposition in their amendment apparently refuse to back this Bill. The hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox), who speaks for the Opposition on these matters, told The Times before the general election—in December 2000, I think—that

I hoped that in the light of those remarks the Opposition would make the right choice today and put the wider health of the nation before the narrow interests of the tobacco industry. Indeed, my hopes were raised still further when I read the comments of the Conservative spokesman on health in the Scottish Parliament,

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Mary Scanlon, before the general election. She told the Scottish Parliament's Health and Social Care Committee on 10 January 2001:

When the hon. Gentleman replies, he might care to tell the House what happened between 2000–01 and 2002, because somehow there has been a change of heart. I do not know whether he was overturned and outvoted in the shadow Cabinet or whether, once again, the interests of the tobacco industry have come before the interests of public health in our country.

The Opposition ask for evidence in favour of a ban on tobacco advertising and sponsorship. The weight of evidence is overwhelming and it points in one direction. Advertising and promotion of tobacco products imposes enormous costs on our health service and does enormous damage to the health of our nation. Its effects are felt most acutely in the poorest parts of our country. We estimate that, in this country alone, a reduction in smoking following an advertising ban such as that proposed in the Bill could save the NHS up to £40 million a year on treating smoking-related disease. More importantly, we estimate that 3,000 lives a year will be saved in the UK in the longer term.

A ban on tobacco advertising is backed not only by a majority of the public but by a phalanx of medical charities and professional organisations, including the British Medical Association, the Royal College of Nursing, the Royal College of Physicians, the Cancer Research Campaign, Diabetes UK, the National Consumer Council and the Consumers Association.

Overwhelmingly, however, it is the evidence that commands support for the Bill. That evidence comes from the scale of the tobacco industry's advertising, not only in this country but throughout the world. It comes from countries where bans have already served to reduce smoking significantly. It comes also from medicine and science, which have shown the damage done by smoking and nicotine addiction.

The Opposition's amendment asks for evidence. That evidence is all around them, but they choose not to see it. It screams out to them from billboards across the country. Advertising works—smoking kills. Today we can begin to break that link. The Bill will protect children, reduce smoking and so save lives. For those reasons, I believe that it deserves the support of Members on both sides of the House.

5 pm

Dr. Liam Fox (Woodspring): I beg to move, To leave out from "House" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:

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Here we are again, debating this Bill in exactly the same terms as before, in what seems like a political version of "Groundhog Day": we have seen and heard it all before.

The debate is not about whether we think smoking is a bad thing. Certainly, those of us with first-hand experience of dealing with the consequences of smoking can testify all too readily to its evils. As one of the 15 per cent. of people who suffer from asthma, I can happily testify to the perils and torments of passive smoking that so many of us have to endure. I confirm that I have no affection for the tobacco industry and would not be upset were it to cease its trade immediately.

It is worth starting with the points on which we are in agreement, which fall into five categories. First, there are serious risks to health associated with smoking. That is well known and understood by smokers and the public generally, and increasing awareness of the health risks is likely to persuade people not to smoke.

Secondly, it is an objective of public health policy to reduce total tobacco consumption and the prevalence of smoking among the population.

Thirdly, children should not smoke and should not be allowed access to tobacco products.

Fourthly, adults should be free to make an informed choice about whether or not to smoke.

Fifthly, although it is not against the law to manufacture, sell, buy and smoke tobacco products, it is appropriate that the advertising and promotion of tobacco products should be regulated.

Today's debate is about means; there is not a difference between us about ends. The debate needs to occur at two different levels. Not only does the House need to consider the philosophical arguments about the balance between individual liberty and state intervention; it must examine the practical aspects of this measure.

The questions concerning the restrictions of individual freedom are profound. Under what conditions, and with what safeguards, should a tolerant society ban things because the results of informed personal choice are disapproved of by the majority? What alternative means might be available to achieve the same ends? In other words, what is the value in our society of personal liberty and what is the appropriate level of intervention by the state, since the state has been increasing its interference in our lives for some time?

I do not expect the Secretary of State to have read the Macmillan report into how Parliament operates, but it makes interesting reading. It refers to

It also says

It is interesting that that report was commissioned in 1931. It is a long-standing trend in British politics that Governments have been increasingly willing to intervene in the affairs of individuals.

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As the Prime Minister—I mean, the Secretary of State—

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