Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill [Lords]

[back to previous text]

David Taylor: The hon. Gentleman will perhaps understand the scepticism and cynicism of Labour Members about the Bill's predicted impact on the revenue of British Airways. British Airways, other airlines and airports predicted doom following the change to restrictions on duty free shopping, but doom did not happen. The hon. Gentleman's points relate to a tiny fraction of the revenue of British Airways and they are a diversion from the debate.

Mr. Wilshire: I accept that it would be a diversion to go down the route of duty free sales, but the problems related to airports more than airlines. The airline issue was not explored as fully at the time.

I understand the hon. Gentleman saying that we are considering a small part of a company's profits. All British airlines would be affected, but I am more locked into matters about British Airways than others because of my capacity as a constituency Member. I am not conducting special pleading for one airline because the measure affects all British airlines.

However, even if the matter is small, discrimination against British airlines—and therefore in favour of foreign airlines—does British aviation, my constituents and other hon. Members' constituents no favours at all. The Bill must be even-handed throughout the world, and that is not the case when dealing with foreign airlines that are outside the United Kingdom's jurisdiction. I am arguing for a level playing field.

Dr. Evan Harris (Oxford, West and Abingdon): At the beginning of the hon. Gentleman's speech, he made a distinction between in-flight magazines per se and the price list that he flourished. He argued that because there are no advertisements in the in-flight magazine, as opposed to the British Airways shopping magazine, there is no need to regulate it. Whatever anyone may think about displays in the price list, surely there is an argument that we should ensure that in-flight magazines are prevented from containing advertising. If they were the only things left, surely they would be full of cigarette advertisements.

Mr. Wilshire: I fully understand that. The relevant point is that the Government say that any publication that does not have the primary purpose of influencing the British market is exempted. If something that is mainly intended for overseas consumption will not be caught, why pick on in-flight magazines because their primary market is not the United Kingdom? Airlines do not produce for one country but for all countries.

Although I have not talked to the airlines about this point, I do not have difficulty saying that general magazines should not have adverts per se. However, a price list takes the place of a point-of-sale display of packets of cigarettes. Before the hon. Gentleman reaches any conclusion, he must address the fact that a duty free shop has piles of cigarettes on display. That is an unfair advantage vis-à-vis the airline, which cannot have point-of-sale material stacked up in the aircraft. This is a legal activity and perfectly permissible, and if airports can do it, why not airlines? The Minister should reconsider the need for special reference to in-flight magazines. The rest of the clause is perfectly clear.

Column Number: 119

Yvette Cooper: The Bill does not ban sales on airlines or point-of-sale information. Clause 4(3) provides for regulations to allow advertisements at point-of-sale. I accept that airlines are in a different position to walk-in newsagents in relation to point-of-sale, and the regulations will need to take that into account. We will consult on those regulations in due course before the Bill comes into effect. We recognise the different position of airlines.

It would be odd to exclude from the tobacco advertising ban companies such as British Airways, which clearly operates in the United Kingdom. Equally, since the Bill was last before the House, we have listened to representations suggesting that there should be a level playing field between different airlines. That is why all in-flight magazines, if they are effectively published in the UK, are covered by the ban. I sympathise with the hon. Gentleman's arguments in terms of the principal market. The difficulty is that it is hard to apply the phrase in the same way when referring to airlines. One would not simply be talking about a market in the UK, France or another country. Often, the market is a load of people in the sky between countries, so the phrase does not apply in an obvious way. As drafted, the Bill is even handed between different airlines, which is the right approach to take. I recognise that, because of the international nature of the companies, this is not a straightforward issue. On balance, we have the right wording and the amendment is unnecessary.

Mr. Wilshire: I thought that the Minister might say something along those lines, and I regret it. However, there is the possibility of progress. If I heard correctly, within subsequent regulations and protocols there is some prospect of finding a common-sense solution about what constitutes publishing in relation to airlines and what can appear in a price list. If that is what the Minister is saying, there is a chance of progress. Representatives of the airlines to whom I have spoken say that they seek only a level playing field—both for UK versus foreign airlines and for themselves versus airports around the world.

Will the Minister, either now or later, provide us with a better understanding of what the regulations might contain? What do the Government have in mind in relation to price lists and foreign airlines? Between now and Report, she may be willing to listen further to the aviation industry to see if some common-sense understanding can be produced. If it can, would she write to the Committee saying, ''I have had the discussions, and this seems to be the sort of thing that can be covered by common-sense agreements''. There would then be no need to press the matter further. However, if that does not happen, I would wish to press the matter to a vote on Report. If I understand correctly, there is hope for common-sense progress.

Yvette Cooper: We will consult on the regulations regarding point-of-sale. They will take into account the different circumstances faced by the airline industry. The industry will have the opportunity to make representations on the regulations as part of the consultation process. I understand that the regulations on advertising at the point of sale must be made as

Column Number: 120

soon as the Bill comes into force, so we shall need to have the consultation process before then.

Mr. Wilshire: That is not quite what I hoped to hear. May I press the Minister one stage further? Will the regulations be subject to affirmative resolution in both Houses, as that is not clear in clause 19?

Yvette Cooper: These regulations are negative. I am happy to set out for the hon. Gentleman precisely which regulations are negative and which are affirmative.

Mr. Wilshire: I was hoping that we could dig ourselves out of that problem, but we are not doing well. I thought that I would hear that the regulations would be subject to affirmative resolution, because clause 19 says that affirmative resolution will apply further on. The issue is sufficiently serious to keep me worried. If the Minister had said that the regulations were subject to affirmative resolution, or that they were not but that she was prepared to consider an amendment to make them so, the House might have had the opportunity to revisit the regulations and discuss them before they were finalised. That would have been another way to find some common ground between us.

I wish that I could say that I am satisfied, but I am not. The Minister has not shown a willingness to talk and listen before Report—I wish that she had. I also wish that she was prepared to write to us. However, I am conscious that if we push the matter now, it will be more difficult to revisit the subject on Report. I hope that we can continue the dialogue before consideration on Report; if not, we will have to come back to the issue on Report, and we will have to divide the House on it. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Tim Loughton: I beg to move amendment No. 7, in page 2, line 25, at end insert—

    '(d) if it is, or is contained in, an item of intrinsic value more than 30 years old.'.

There was a debate in the House of Lords that largely centred on the rather nostalgic journey that Earl Howe made with his family to an old railway at Matlock in Derbyshire one sunny day. At that restored railway, he saw several advertisements, going back many years, for various cigarette brands. I have a similar experience. Near where I live in Sussex there is the Bluebell railway, which features in many costume dramas and has many authentic advertisements and station signs, along with other railway paraphernalia. It would be ridiculous if such old adverts were caught under the terms of the Bill.

There are an increasing number of local museums and reconstructions of how people lived in wartime or before then. Invariably, some old tobacco adverts are on display for all to see. Strictly speaking, they constitute advertisements and would be prohibited under the Bill. Also, a large community of collectors of such paraphernalia has grown up. There are collectors' fairs dealing in old adverts, where such advertisements are on display for anyone who chooses to come to see them. Lord Filkin, in the House of Lords, said

    ''it would be absurd if historic advertisements in museums, for example, were caught by the Bill.''—[Official Report, House of Lords, 16 November 2001; Vol. 628, c. 853.]

Column Number: 121

I am sure that he is right. He saw the common sense of the matter. We would like reassurance from the Minister about what measures will ensure that such adverts are not prohibited in the general exclusions that we trying to apply to current and future advertisements. Such reassurances would be helpful to those who possess such items, are in charge of places where they are put on display, or collect them.

5.30 pm

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 9 May 2002