Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill [Lords]

[back to previous text]

Pete Wishart: Methinks, along with most of the Committee, that the hon. Gentleman laboureth the point. If we were to take any word and expose it in the way that hon. Members have this afternoon, we would find any number of distinctions. The word ''conservative,'' for example, may be pursued and constrained in several ways. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would consider that. If we were to spend as much time as possible looking at ''conservative'' as opposed to ''advertisement,'' we might spend even less time debating it.

Mr. Wilshire: At the risk of being slightly out of order, the hon. Gentleman gives a good example of a word changing its meaning. My right hon. Friend the new Leader of the Opposition is doing a brilliant job of changing the meaning of the words ''Conservative party,'' but I shall not pursue that, because someone on the Government Benches will complain that I should not, and you, Mr. Amess, will tell me that I must not. I will leave matters well alone.

Whether we want to press the amendment to a Division is very much down to the Minister. In response to what we said earlier, I accept that some of

Column Number: 26

what we are suggesting is not perfect. However, we are raising issues that seriously need consideration and a thoughtful response. Just as the Minister is not persuaded that she can support the amendment, I doubt whether the clause will achieve what the Government want it to. I shall be interested to hear what she has to say because if she will reflect on the matter, and if we can revisit it on Report to pick up some of the points that have been raised, we would say thank you for that. If not, we might reserve our position until we have heard what she has to say.

Yvette Cooper: The hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham asked me for some examples of loopholes created by his amendment. I thought I had done that in my earlier response, but I shall run through some for him again. There was the Marlboro ad—a huge cowboy—on the side of a van. There might be a price list with a Silk Cut logo spread across a billboard. There might be stationary covered in nothing but logos that drops out of a Sunday colour supplement. There might be the buying-up of premises in prime sites to spread logos and advertisements all over the building. There are plenty of ways in which a creative tobacco company or advertising agency could find a way to advertise its product under the Opposition amendment.

The hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) asked why we include ''effect'' and not simply ''purpose''. It is not really good enough for a company to argue that the purpose of the Silk Cut logo emblazoned on the side of its van is to identify the van for the driver so that he can find it in the car park, when its effect would clearly be to advertise Silk Cut cigarettes. I think that it is right that the Bill includes the effect as well as the purpose.

The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds asked why we could not use examples from other Bills. I have to say that, historically, the way in which the tobacco industry has behaved during the past few decades means that we should expect anything of it when it comes to finding a way round advertising bans. As I mentioned before, the Health Select Committee revealed some interesting information on the internal deliberations of the tobacco industry and the advertising agencies in that area, which is why we are right to begin by anticipating possible loopholes and ensuring that we have as comprehensive a ban as possible.

Mr. Ruffley: My question is more specific; perhaps she could have another go at answering it. The specific definitions in other legislation that have been detailed by my party, presumably have led to loopholes by her logic. Could she detail the precedents on which she and her officials are drawing to substantiate the claim that detailed definitions of advertisements can be got round?

Yvette Cooper: I think that I have done that in the examples that I have set out. I have set out several examples of the ways in which the amendment's detailed definitions could easily be got round: on a van

Column Number: 27

or a price list on a billboard. I have already done that without consulting huge numbers of lawyers. In Committee, I have come up with several possible ways round the amendment that would allow the tobacco industry to continue advertising. I think that those advertisements should be banned, and it is right that the Bill should ban them.

The hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham seemed to suggest that a way of coping with the fact that the amendment, or some form of it, would set up a lot of loopholes would be to create new powers to clamp down on future loopholes. It is interesting to think about how we would define a clause that would allow the exercise of those powers without using the word ''advertisement''. If we wanted to close those loopholes, we would want to prevent advertisements that were not being prevented by the amendment. If we were going to do that in regulations, we would have to return to the word ''advertisement'' in order to do so. In the end, the Bill turns on the natural meaning of the word ''advertisement''. Hon. Members have had all kinds of anxiety about that and have raised all kinds of quibbles, grumbles and complaints, but that is how we legislate: we put words in and we rely on their natural meaning. Whether it is ''tobacco advertisement'', ''tobacco product'', ''purpose'', ''effect'' or ''tobacco'', whether it is smoked, sniffed, sucked or chewed, we rely on the word's natural meaning. That is what we do when we legislate; it is what we do when we talk.

Mr. Ruffley: She is just not accurate in what she is saying.

The Chairman: Order. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will rephrase his reference.

Mr. Ruffley: I apologise, Mr. Amess, if any offence has been given. I do not believe that the Minister is setting out the position as fairly as she could. She is saying that legislation uses the natural meaning of the word. Manifestly it does not. In the Gaming Act 1968, the Medicines Act 1968 and all the other Acts that have been listed, the Government of the day did not rely on the natural meaning of the word. They went to a great deal of trouble, difficult though it may be for legal advisers, boring though it may be for Ministers, to draw up a long list of descriptions of what constitutes an advertisement. I ask the Minister again, in all sincerity, to explain why the Government of the day on this occasion do not do what previous Governments have done and make a long list.

Yvette Cooper: I have on several occasions listed a series of possible loopholes that the amendment would create. I have also explained clearly why the tobacco industry must be treated with particular care and caution. We have evidence from Health Select Committees of the way in which it has behaved in this regard before, and it is right that we should set up the most comprehensible ban possible.

Mr. Wilshire: I am no apologist for the tobacco industry, as I have tried to make clear, but will the Minister explain why it is wrong for a business going

Column Number: 28

about its lawful activity of producing a product that a Government consider to be lawful and that should be available for sale to use every legal means at its disposal to sell its products? I thought that was what business was all about, or has the Labour party reverted to socialism and communism?

Yvette Cooper: We are back to the Second Reading debate all over again. We have made it clear why we believe that the advertising of cigarettes and products that kill should be banned in this country. Nobody is preventing people from buying cigarettes or choosing to smoke. I strongly believe that people have a right to smoke, and tobacco products remain legal. However, for all the reasons that we set out on Second Reading—because of its effect on health and particularly on children—I believe that we should ban tobacco advertising.

Mr. Hunter: Will the Minister address the point that I raised earlier out of order? I apologise, Mr. Amess, for reading the amendment incorrectly? It is the effect side that worries me, and the Minister is not addressing that point. Does she not realise that the inclusion of that distinction in the Bill, bracketing purpose and effect, creates a minefield for lawyers? How on earth can effect be established in a court of law?

Yvette Cooper: Again, I disagree. As I think I explained earlier with regard to the Silk Cut ads spread across the side of the van, no matter how much the tobacco industry might disclaim that as the purpose of the advertisement, I think that everyone would consider it to have the effect of a tobacco advertisement. Inevitably, hon. Members will always be able to produce issues at the margins where questions and points of fact must be decided on the individual case, but many cases that will be covered by ''effect'' will be clear, but would not be covered simply by the phrase ''purpose''.

Mr. Hunter: I am talking not about the Silk Cut van, but about the example that I gave earlier—it is the one given in the House of Lords by Lord Filkin—of

    ''a fast car in which the driver is seen smoking an identifiable brand of cigarette as he puts his foot on the accelerator.''—[Official Report, House of Lords, 16 November 2001; Vol. 628, c. 801.]

In that sort of indirect, secondary advertising the question of effect will be extremely hard to determine.

Yvette Cooper: It will depend on what the advertisement looks like in practice. It will depend also on whether its effect is to promote cigarettes and tobacco products or whether there is hardly a glimpse of a tobacco product and nobody notices it because they are concerned only about the car. In the end, a judgment will have to be made on some of these cases. That is inevitable, and it is right that such individual judgments are made on a case-by-case basis, and not in Committee where we cannot see what such an advertisement would look like. I have responded in extensive detail and we should have time to consider the rest of the amendments, many of which have been tabled for discussion today.

Column Number: 29

Previous Contents Continue

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries ordering index

©Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 7 May 2002