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9 pm

Mr. Andrew Hunter (Basingstoke): As membership of the Lords and Commons pipe and cigar smokers club is a declarable non-pecuniary interest, I emphasise the fact that I am an enthusiastic member. In view of the lack of time, I must inevitably be selective, so what I say may be a little disjointed.

My first point is addressed to the Minister, and it relates to the amendment that appears on the Order Paper in the name of three Conservative Members, including me. I ask her for clarification. During its proceedings in the other place, the Government insisted that the Bill was not notifiable under the technical standards and regulations directive of 1998. The Conservative Opposition emphasised the fact that they had a different opinion, but that was disregarded. However, on 28 March, a month or so ago, the Government acknowledged that the Bill was notifiable and duly made a notification.

My understanding of article 8 of the directive is that there must be a standstill period of three months from the date of notification. I tried to understand what would happen—indeed, I asked my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Garnier), but even he was not quite able to answer with authority. According to the schedule, the Bill must complete its course through Committee within weeks—certainly well within three months. However, article 8 states that the measure to be adopted must remain amendable for the three-month period. How do the Government reconcile article 8 with their programme for the Bill?

My next point is a general one, and I make it in answer to the argument put sincerely and eloquently by the many Labour Members who expressed incredulity that there could still be some of us on the Conservative Benches who opposed the Bill as a matter of principle. I put myself

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in that category, and I wish to explain to hon. Members that I do so because their arguments fail to convince. If they will bear with me for a few moments, I shall point to some of the "paragraph headings", as it were—things that I would say more about if I had a little more time to explain my position.

With some reluctance, I shall first make a somewhat personal point: I do not need any lessons about the horrors of cancer. This year my wife has had two operations for cancer, and she is currently embarking on her second course of chemotherapy. I would not wish that experience on anyone. My wife's cancer is unrelated to smoking, but we all know that smoking causes cancer, and if I were really convinced that banning advertising would irrefutably and demonstrably result in a decrease in smoking, I would not hold the position that I do.

In my view, this Bill, although well intentioned, is misguided and unnecessary. I have done my reading, and I do not believe that there is any conclusive, irrefutable evidence linking a ban on tobacco advertising with a decrease in tobacco consumption.

The Bill is also unnecessary because the previous Government found a formula for decreasing smoking that worked. Goodness knows how many studies have considered whether tobacco advertising affects consumption, and whether the tobacco market has been affected by the introduction of an advertising ban. Indeed, there have been studies reviewing those studies. Is not the essential point that all those studies are inconclusive? None has reached a conclusion that has not been contradicted by another; nor am I aware of any study that has attempted to predict, rather than to analyse after the event, the consequences of an advertising ban.

The considerable emphasis placed on the Smee report during the debate exemplifies the problem that we face. We approach such reports selectively. Labour Members have selected those statements from Smee that suggest that an advertising ban would be effective, but that is not the whole story. I am sure that, like me, they have read the report, so they will know that a central feature of Smee is that it is a somewhat superficial review of other studies. As Smee himself acknowledges in the report, its use of evidence is selective. Interestingly, it is precisely because some people imposed on the report an interpretation that suited their preconceived conclusions that Smee went public post-publication. He felt obliged to say that people were overlooking the fact that conflicting evidence exists, and that the report makes no estimate of the impact on the United Kingdom of an advertising ban.

We should look more closely at the experiences of other countries. According to my reading, the truth of those experiences is that they provide no evidence that a ban on tobacco advertising reduces consumption. In some countries, the introduction of a ban has been followed by a reduction in consumption, but in others it has been followed by an increase. In fact, a closer inspection reveals that, although a ban has in some cases accentuated an existing trend, in others it has had a different impact. The instances of Italy and Norway come to mind. In both cases, consumption increased after the introduction of a ban.

Labour Members choose the Smee report as their text of almost divine authority, but a KPMG report of 1996 paints a very different picture. The point is that the various reports offer no conclusive evidence; for every

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conclusion reached, a different one can be found in a different report. However, what I find most unacceptable and unpersuasive about the argument of Labour Members is the way in which they skate over the reality of what happened in this country between 1971 and 1996. As they know, the first agreement was reached in 1971. For the next 25 years, we had one of the best records in the world for reduction of tobacco consumption.

Labour Members fail to convince in their condemnation of the voluntary agreement, which demonstrably worked. Over that period, total consumption in this country fell by 37 per cent. and the prevalence of smoking by 40 per cent.

Since 1996, a new factor has entered the equation—the extraordinary increase in smuggled tobacco products. I know that the Government are, somewhat belatedly, trying to come to terms with that problem. Measures are being taken and credit must be given for that, but the increase in smoking, especially among young people, is significantly due not to advertising but to the fact that those smuggled products have been entering the country.

The Government have not made the case for the Bill. We have had a voluntary code of tobacco advertising and, while that was in place, tobacco consumption decreased dramatically. The Government dictate the terms of that voluntary agreement, as the Minister will know. She will also know that her predecessors and other Ministers have declined to discuss with the tobacco industry whether the voluntary agreement should be tightened. I remain firmly convinced that the way forward is not through legislation, but through pursuing the proven, successful course—a mixture of policies of education and voluntary agreement—that led to a decrease in tobacco consumption in this country. I support very strongly the reasoned amendment, because the Government have not made their case.

9.12 pm

Laura Moffatt (Crawley): I shall be very brief, because I know that some of my hon. Friends are keen to speak in this debate. The hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter) is right to say that we can use statistics in any way we wish, and we all garner the arguments that support our point of view. The reality is that the evidence firmly shows that a ban would have the positive effect of reducing smoking habits. However, I shall put that to one side, because one piece of evidence proves that preventing the advertising and promotion of smoking will reduce it: the tobacco industry actively opposes the Bill. The industry knows what effect it will have and understands that it will affect trade. Even if we leave aside all the statistics, we should keep that thought in mind.

I shall not use statistics; instead, I shall use one of the most powerful arguments in favour of the Bill. It is not just about reducing an irritation or interfering with the rights of others—as Opposition Members seem to suggest. Smoking is an addiction that kills 120,000 people a year. We are not talking about stopping the advertisement of Kellogg's Cornflakes because we do not want people to over-eat them. No, we are talking about something that is a disaster for our community in many ways.

I was a nurse in the NHS for 25 years and I had to care for people suffering from the effects of smoking. I was sad to hear from the hon. Member for Basingstoke about his wife, and I hope that she is making a good recovery, but out of the 120,000 who die every year only 46,500

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suffer from cancer. There are many more nasty ways to die from smoking-related diseases, most of which—sad to say—I have witnessed. It is for those people that I wish to make this argument.

Mr. Russell Brown (Dumfries): As a nurse, my hon. Friend will have witnessed much. I share her concern, and am sorry for the tragedy that has blighted the life of the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter) and that of his good lady.

My mother passed away six weeks ago today. She started smoking as a teenager, and continued for 56 years. It was not cancer that took her, but the tragedy of emphysema—her lungs were shot through. I support the Bill because if we can save one individual or one family from going through that tragedy, we should do so.

Laura Moffatt: I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. In the middle of all the intellectual debate about civil liberties, it is easy to forget why we are here today. It is for my hon. Friend's mother that we are here debating this important Bill. I have sat with people who are gasping their last and need oxygen when, unbelievably, they say, "Please take me to the day room so that I can have a cigarette." What informed choice is there for them? Where are their civil liberties when they know that they are addicted to something that is killing them? We need to be realistic about the real effects that smoking has on people.

I have sat with people whose circulation has died in their legs and who have had to have awful amputations. I make no apology for mentioning these matters, because we can forget that that is the result of smoking. That is where it leads many people. That is why the House is right in attempting to reduce the number of people who will take up smoking.

This is a difficult issue. The Government are assisting people to stop smoking in other ways, including the use of drugs and cessation classes. We have heard many examples this evening, and they are superb. However, we must not mix the message for young people. We tell them in school that smoking is dreadful, yet they walk out of school and see fabulous advertisements for smoking. I admit that I do not understand half of them—I am obviously far too old. We must not allow that to happen; the House must do everything that it can to reduce that effect.

Similarly, despite the message about having safe sex to avoid the risk of HIV, some people still do not have safe sex. We must not let people think that smoking is glamorous either.

I have seen the effects of smoking and the way in which people die, and it is not good. I firmly believe that the arguments of those who oppose the Bill tonight will be discredited. In 20 years' time, Members will be asking how anybody could try to prevent a ban on advertising. The Bill will be an important part of a programme to stop people from dying of smoking-related diseases.

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