Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill [Lords]

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Mr. David Ruffley (Bury St. Edmunds): I support my hon. Friend's opening comments, especially the necessity for the Bill to entrench proportionality into the potential sentencing sanctions to which anyone charged under this legislation may be subject. I also agree with his comments about Opposition Members not supporting any manufacturers. [Interruption.] I do not know what is being muttered from a sedentary position, but this discussion is supposed to be about the programme motion, Mr. Amess.

I draw attention to the necessity for adequate time to be given to the cases that have come to the attention of Conservative Committee members, especially the

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European Court of Justice case and the case of the consumer ombudsman and Gourmet, to which the Committee may wish to pay particular attention.

The Chairman: Order. Interventions must be brief.

Tim Loughton: I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Ruffley). He has made some valid points. I have no doubt that he will make them again as the Committee's proceedings progress and I hope that we will have more reasonable debate from those on the Government Benches than merely sedentary muttering, because that is what Standing Committees should be about.

I have no doubt that the Minister and her muttering colleagues will accuse us—as they have in the past—of catching, hanging out or doing whatever it is one does to red herrings. However, Conservative Members, those involved in the industry and consumers have genuine concerns that the Bill could have a regressive effect. It could, for example, lead to an increase in smoking if a price war were to ensue. Those are the issues that we must spend some time debating in Committee.

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There is also the problem of hardened smokers such as my father, who has smoked for 50 years and is not going to give up, despite pressure from me, various relatives and all sorts of other people who have tried and failed to get him to do so. We need to take measures for those people, too. We must wean them off harder weeds and on to less harmful ones. We need to spend some time debating that.

Also, the tobacco industry spends £130 million on advertising. All such advertisements must have very large health warnings on them. As I said on Second Reading, I am in favour of those health warnings occupying a substantially greater part of, and becoming the dominant aspect of posters, hoardings, and adverts. However, that free advertising for the Department of Health from the chief medical officer will disappear if no adverts are allowed. Those are all perfectly legitimate subjects for us to raise in Committee.

Some of my hon. Friends wish to raise the timing of the European Union notification process, which the Government have dismissed out of hand, although it has great relevance to the progress and timing of the Bill, which could be stopped in its tracks. There is also the topical ruling that affected Sweden last week. Those are all new developments that have not yet been discussed in the House or the other place.

I express my reservations about the time that we are being given to debate the Bill. I hope that we can have proper and detailed debate on the issues that are of great concern to us and I hope that we will not just dismiss the process and say, ''We have done it all before in another place, so we don't need to bother.'' We do need to bother. We must get the Bill right; if we do not, the implications will be harmful for everybody.

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Dr. Harris: It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Mr. Amess. It is safer for us that you are in the Chair and not doing damage from the Back Benches. I mean that as a compliment.

I support the programme resolution on a pragmatic basis. The hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton), who speaks for the Conservatives, knows that we share many of his concerns about the Government's approach to programming. However, when I am consulted about a programme resolution, which is not always the case—nor is it the case in the House generally, although I make an exception for the general practice of the Government Whip on health—and I agree with it outside Committee, I will say so on the record.

We certainly agree with the resolution. That is not because we take issue with the view of the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham that there are important matters to discuss in detail; clearly, there are. He mentioned several important issues that we will want to discuss. However, it is always a question of judgment and degree and we believe that five sittings of the Committee will be sufficient to cover the issues. I accept that the hon. Gentleman has, with the best will in the world, come to a different opinion and would have liked more sittings. I shall frequently be in his shoes in future, arguing against the Government for more time.

I put it on the record, however, that five sittings are enough for the Bill. That is not because there are no important issues of detail to discuss, but for several reasons. Extended scrutiny has already taken place in the other place and we expect that that scrutiny can be replicated in Committee in five sittings. Many, but not all, the issues that must be considered have to be tackled in Committee because we are in a new Parliament. The hon. Gentleman does not have to restate all the arguments that his hon. Friends made in a previous Parliament. He can merely refer us to the speeches that they made in Committee then. As he said, they are available for us to read. As a studious and well-prepared Committee member, he will have read them, as I have. It is the least that we can expect members of the Committee to do.

Mr. Andrew Hunter (Basingstoke): I am curious to know what act of penance the hon. Gentleman will perform if, at the end of the five sittings, we find that many amendments have not been debated properly?

Dr. Harris: If that failure to reach all the amendments is due to extended interventions from Liberal Democrat Committee members, I would be happy to subscribe—within reason—to any act of penance that the hon. Gentleman suggests. However, he must be careful of creating petards on which he may be hoist because it is often—not always and I am sure not in his case—noted that people have made their points in an overlong way. On that note, I will sit down, in support of the programme resolution.

Mr. Hunter: I endorse the previous comments welcoming you to the Chair, Mr. Amess. I am sure that your chairmanship can only enhance the quality of our deliberations. On Second Reading, I discovered that I

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have a non-pecuniary interest to declare: I am a very enthusiastic member of the all-party Lords and Commons Pipe and Cigar Smokers Club. Unlike my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham, I am a keen smoker. I find few pleasures greater than savouring a Havana cigar, or smoking Gold Block tobacco in my pipe. [Interruption.] If that is advertising, I wonder which clause of the Bill I am falling foul of.

My hon. Friend referred to our headline objections to the programme resolution and I endorse those. I feel strongly that five sittings are insufficient to deal with the serious and important amendments that have been tabled and the others that no doubt will be. As you remind us, Mr. Amess, this is not a repeat of the Second Reading debate, but the essential contention of the Opposition is that the Government have not answered the case, or demonstrated why a successful voluntary code should be replaced by a total advertising ban. My fear is that the five sittings will be inadequate to pursue fully that extremely important central issue.

The Minister invites us to support the programme resolution. The composition of the Committee ensures that it will meet with approval. There is little that my party can do other than to present an argument, which we hope the Minister will address. One important issue should be raised—I hope that the hon. Lady will address it—and was raised on Second Reading, a little by me, and much more by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Garnier). There is a school of thought that argues that the passage of the Bill should be subject to a European Union three-month standstill period. The Committee's deliberations, therefore, should not advance and the resolution is inappropriate.

To add to the genuine confusion that prevails on that point, the Government have changed their position. They did so at the end of March, almost a month before Second Reading. The Government appear to be unaware of all the implications and ramifications of the change of policy that they made on 28 March. I regret that that situation was not clarified on Second Reading. My perception and reaction then—I think that they were shared by others—was that the Government peremptorily rejected concerns that we expressed without offering any explanation. This resolution provides an opportunity for the Government to explain.

My central argument is that the programme resolution should be seen in the wider context of the European Union's technical standards and regulations directive of 1998, in particular, article 8 of that directive, which applies to all industrially manufactured products and to agricultural produce. Its purpose, as the Minister will be aware, is to promote the single market and to prevent member states, through their national legislatures, creating technical barriers to a single market.

I listened carefully to the comments of the Secretary of State and the Minister under that heading, on Second Reading. I seriously wonder whether the Government have fully grasped the relevance of the

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technical standards directive to the Bill. I also wonder, therefore, whether the Minister has grasped its relevance to this programme resolution. On one hand, the Bill aims to disadvantage UK tobacco manufacturers, because they are not being similarly disadvantaged in every other EU state—only in some, where national legislation has advanced. On the other, the Bill penalises tobacco advertisers in other EU member states that advertise in the UK. For example, I am told that several magazines sold in the UK are printed and/or published in Germany. Under the Bill, German publishers and printers will no longer be able to gain income from advertising tobacco in the journals that they produce in the UK. For them, and for others, the Bill, in the wider EU context, introduces a technical barrier to trade.

Article 8 of the directive is particularly relevant to the resolution. It requires member states to notify the Commission of proposed technical regulations or legislation. A three-month standstill period follows before the regulations or legislation can conclude their passage through the national legislatures, so that other states can make representations. If necessary, other states can ensure, through the Commission, that no harmful provisions exist in the legislation or regulations. During those three months, regulation or legislation has to remain potentially open to substantial amendment. That is the substance of article 8. Its relevance to this resolution is, therefore, self-evident.

Also relevant to the resolution and the argument that I am developing is the fact that, almost immediately after proceedings on the Bill began in another place, the Conservative Opposition raised with the Government whether the Bill was notifiable. That was raised on Second Reading and in Committee in the other place. The Government were adamant that nothing could change their opinion. They said that the Bill was not notifiable and they would not consider an alternative point of view.

Had that remained the situation, I would not have tried to catch your eye this afternoon, Mr. Amess, and make such points. However, extraordinary to relate in the light of their previous refusal to entertain the prospect that the Bill was notifiable, on 28 March 2002, the Government conceded that the Bill was notifiable and duly notified the Commission. Meanwhile, the Government's advisers had not delved as deeply as they might or should have into the intricacies of European Union product law. They were taken by surprise shortly after Second Reading in another place when both Denmark and the Netherlands notified primary legislation that was virtually identical to the Bill in content and purpose.

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