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Bob Spink (Castle Point): Surely it is disingenuous for anyone to argue that advertising does not entice young people into smoking. Of course it does. That is simple common sense. Does the hon. Lady agree that it would be irresponsible for parents to encourage their child to smoke? Does it not follow that all parents should welcome any measure that the House can take to help them stop their children smoking?

Judy Mallaber: I entirely agree. As we know, one of the major factors in whether people smoke is whether their parents smoke. I was lucky. For some reason, the people with whom I went round in my teens did not smoke very much. My mother did not smoke; my father did. He smoked a pipe most of the time and gave it up when he had his first stroke. Because I did not have the family pressure or the peer pressure, I probably was not as vulnerable to the advertising images that feed into those factors.

I agree that if the parents did not smoke, the children would be less likely to do so. If the parents discourage smoking, that may help, but there are other pressures on

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children that present smoking as fashionable and as something that they ought to try. The pressures on young people are maintained, despite what their parents say.

I do not want to overstay my time, but there is plenty of evidence of very young children's awareness of brands and of the tobacco companies' advertising. The Camel cartoon character is better known by four to six-year-olds in America than Mickey Mouse. It seems extraordinary, but that is what the evidence shows. We know that young children are susceptible, and that advertising can make a difference.

There are various studies of the effect of advertising but, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State pointed out, the overwhelming majority of surveys show that there is a substantial relationship with advertising. Seventy per cent. of smokers want to give it up. Surely we should help them not to get into that awful addiction in the first place and do everything that we can to stop it. We all have friends and relatives who have suffered from that terrible disease.

I have many constituents who are former miners, who have been struggling to get compensation for lung diseases. We get them their compensation, then it is dramatically reduced because of the liability arising from the fact that they have been smokers most of their lives. For members of that generation, it was normal to smoke. It would have been surprising if they had not smoked. For goodness' sake, let us do anything that we can which will help at all, even if not in a massive way, to stop the next generation of young people experiencing the same problems as people of our generation and previous generations. Let us support the Bill and try to stop that happening.

7.59 pm

Mr. Peter Atkinson (Hexham): I should like to begin by declaring an interest similar to the one mentioned by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Garnier), as I am a member of the Lords and Commons pipe and cigar smokers club, which is supported by hon. Members on both sides of the House. I have also accepted hospitality from the Tobacco Manufacturers Association, as declared in the Register of Members' Interests. Unlike my hon. and learned Friend, however, I was not invited to write an article for The Guardian on that subject.

I agreed with a considerable amount of what the hon. Member for Amber Valley (Judy Mallaber) said about why young people take up smoking. She had some very intelligent ideas about that, but she concluded by saying that young people could be influenced by advertising. That gets to the nub of what the Opposition are talking about. We do not believe—at least, I do not believe—that it is right to take away an important liberty on the basis of evidence as inconclusive as that which she gave about how people can be influenced.

I say to the House that it is very easy to nod a Bill through Parliament to ban an activity that is considered antisocial by many hon. Members. Indeed, that has often happened under the current Government, who like to interfere in people's lifestyles. However, once a freedom or liberty is taken away, it is extremely hard to get it back. That is why it is essential that the House examine in detail any move to restrict personal liberty and freedom. That is

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what we should be doing, and we should not be blinded by the prejudice and dislike that so many Labour Members have shown in this debate.

Judy Mallaber: Will the hon. Gentleman tell me— I have not yet had an answer to this question—which individual liberty is removed by the Bill, as opposed to the liberty of the tobacco manufacturers to influence the individual? Which individual liberty does the Bill take away?

Mr. Atkinson: The answer is simple and is summed up by freedom of speech. If the hon. Lady wants a better example, she might look at article 10 of the European convention on human rights, which states:

That is what the Bill proposes to limit.

Pete Wishart: Perhaps I can help the hon. Gentleman out. Is he referring to the individual liberty of tobacco manufacturers?

Mr. Atkinson: Tobacco manufacturers have precisely the same right to individual liberty as anyone else, including the hon. Gentleman and me. The Bill does indeed interfere with a legitimate business activity: the advertising and promotion of a lawfully available product. In that sense, it is an extremely serious measure. However, it also interferes with my right to receive information that tobacco companies might want to send me and with my right to privacy in my correspondence. My right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir George Young) spoke about legislation on motor cycle helmets and safety belts. Certainly, I can see that that legislation was necessary and ultimately sensible, but it interfered with personal liberty far less than this Bill seeks to do.

Dr. Evan Harris: I should like to ask the hon. Gentleman the same question as I asked the Conservative spokesman. Although I disagree with him on this issue, I agree with him and other Conservatives about people's right to go about their business with regard to foxhunting, for example. Can he explain his position on restricting the liberties of consenting adults on what they do in the bedroom, where no harm is caused? He could advance his arguments with far greater conviction if he at least recognised their inconsistency, or preferably spoke more consistently.

Mr. Atkinson: I welcome the hon. Gentleman's support for foxhunting. I hope that he will join me in the Lobby when the time comes. As a matter of interest, I say to him that what people do in their bedrooms is of no concern to me. If I am considered to be on the libertarian wing of my party, I am pleased about that; indeed, it explains why I object to the Bill.

There is a mystery about the Bill, as it was not announced in the Queen's Speech. A Bill of considerable significance in terms of the freedom of individuals has come to the House as a private Member's Bill promoted by a Liberal peer in the House of Lords. If the Government had wanted such a measure, they should have

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stated their aims and objectives in the Queen's Speech and introduced their own Bill, so we could have followed all the procedures in this House. When we had dealt with it, it could then have passed through the public Bill process in the House of Lords, and not been dealt with as a private Member's Bill on a Friday.

It would have been much more honest for the Government to have taken that approach. Of course, they had no intention of introducing such a Bill, but were suddenly put under pressure—perhaps in order to fulfil one of the manifesto promises that they made in 1997 but would rather have forgotten—as they realise that such a Bill could upset 15 million smokers in this country.

My hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Bob Spink) asked why people advertised. The answer is that tobacco consumption in this country is declining. It increased recently, for reasons that I shall mention later, but it has fallen considerably overall since 1971. The companies therefore need to advertise in order to maintain a share of a diminishing market. That is what drives them, not a desire to increase the market.

Bob Spink: Surely the market is not declining among young people. It should be our aim to stop young people taking up smoking, which is what advertising encourages them to do.

Mr. Atkinson: I agree that the recent problem is the increase in the number of young people who smoke. The increase in other parts of society, such as among manual workers and those on lower incomes, has also been referred to. Much of that increase, which was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Richard Ottaway) and others, relates to the smuggling of tobacco.

The right hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Barron) said how well the Government had done in controlling and reducing the amount of cigarettes smuggled into this country, but that is patent nonsense. Of course the number of confiscated cigarettes has increased, but that is because the country is being swamped—I hope hon. Members will forgive me for using that word—by an ever increasing amount of illegal tobacco. It is not being brought into the country by white van man at Dover, but is transported in containers through major ports. If people want to know whether the Government have been successful in their prosecution of smugglers, they should consider the price of cigarettes on the streets, which is about £2, whereas previously it was slightly more, at £2.50, which suggests that suppliers of bootleg cigarettes are plentiful. That probably explains to some extent why young people are smoking. They have to pay, not more than £4 a pack, but £2 or £2.50, which only encourages them to smoke.

The House will clearly nod the Bill through, but by doing so, it will do a considerable disservice to the freedom of individuals—not only tobacco companies, but all of us. If we continue with the measure, we will be failing as a Parliament to stand up for individual freedoms and rights. That is why I shall support the reasoned amendment.

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