Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill [Lords]

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Mr. Wilshire: What a change takes place in Committee after a good lunch. Had we received such a response from the Minister earlier, we would probably have made more progress. Having touched on the matter of ''effect'' many times in previous sittings, at last we have heard a coherent argument why the word should stay in the clause.

Lunchtime has had such a calming influence. The dogs are off the leash on the Opposition Benches and can contribute to the debate. I welcome the contribution of the hon. Member for Eastwood. It makes a refreshing change to listen to a different voice, even if I could not understand what he meant by ''little honey doll''. If the hon. Gentleman could listen to himself with an English ear, he might realise why I was confused and asked him to explain what he meant. However, as soon as I knew that it was a little honey doll, all my anxieties went away.

Some of the matters to which the hon. Gentleman referred should be dealt with in the clause stand part debates. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) wants to make some general remarks about the clause, so I shall not broaden this debate; otherwise you,

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Mr. Amess, may rule that we cannot have a clause stand part debate—and that would never do. The hon. Member for Eastwood seemed to doubt whether I was in favour of banning coupons. I hope that, by now, he knows that I think that the Bill is an abuse of human rights, but if the Government are determined to ban tobacco advertising, I am entirely with him that it is right to catch coupons. There is no disagreement between us, once we accept the principle of what the Bill will achieve. It is the principle with which I am in disagreement.

The hon. Gentleman focused his remarks on a swing for the kiddiewinkies, if one smoked £6,000 worth of tobacco. If someone smoked that amount of cigarettes, he would not have the puff left in him to push the swing, which made me wonder why that particular item was in the catalogue. I said earlier that I am guilty of being naïve because I take everyone at face value. I have to plead guilty of other things, too, one being that I am a sensitive soul. When the hon. Gentleman said that he and I spent a week cooped up together, my sensitive nature made me decide that an explanation was necessary. We were on HMS Newcastle as part of the armed forces scheme. It was an enjoyable time and all I can say, on reflection, is that despite the fact that the hon. Gentleman is a non-smoking, teetotal vegetarian, he is good company.

Of all the ingenious arguments that have been advanced during the past four sittings, to have introduced a debate about sperm count was even beyond my wildest expectations of what could be discussed when referring to tobacco advertising. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham on doing just that. I learn something new every day to add to my armoury of debating skills.

In order to spare my blushes—I hope—the Minister kindly said that she would not speak against amendment No. 42. I am grateful for that and I do not intend to provoke her.

5.15 pm

As I said, I listened carefully to the response to amendments Nos. 39 and 50, and I heard a coherent argument on why there should be the consistency of keeping the word ''effect'' in the Bill. I accept that, especially because the Minister pointed out that the clause contains defences such as

    ''if he could not reasonably have foreseen''.

That is a safeguard, and I shall not press the amendments.

I found it curious that the Minister prayed in aid the concept of ''not reasonably have foreseen''. That means that being reasonable is a defence for such matters. However, when the hon. Lady addressed amendment No. 43, which would introduce the concept of ''reasonable steps'', it was curious that she was pleased about the use of reasonableness in one context, but said that that amendment was unreasonable. As consistency throughout the Bill and reasonableness are good ideas, surely that should lead

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her to accept the amendment, especially because she said that she has some sympathy with its intentions.

The Minister seems to accept that I am barking up the right tree on this occasion—I may be permanently barking. If she does not like my wording or the way in which I have introduced the concept of reasonableness, which is the concept that she believes is right in other contexts, I hope that she will table amendments on Report that will allow her to say that the Bill is more consistent.

The Minister's justification for rejecting the amendment was that companies should take responsibility for their actions because the consequences are so serious. All members of the Committee would agree that companies must act reasonably and responsibly. My amendment does not say in any way that a company does not have to accept responsibility. It says exactly the opposite; the company must take all reasonable steps, and we expect a responsible company to do that. Accepting the amendment would not undermine a company's requirement to be sensible.

I do not believe that we are as far apart on the subject as it might appear. I said that I do not wish to press amendment No. 42, and I suspect that if I withdraw it, the other amendments will fall. If that is the case, I am entirely content. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Tim Loughton: I beg to move amendment No. 41, in page 4, line 31, leave out subsection (2).

The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to take the following amendments: No. 28, in page 5, line 18, at end insert—

    '(6A) For the purposes of this section, a coupon shall not be deemed to have the purpose or effect of promoting a tobacco product if it only provides for the product with which it is packed or sent to be sold at a discount on a single subsequent purchase of that product.'.

No. 44, in page 5, line 19, leave out subsections (7), (8) and (9).

Tim Loughton: The amendments explore a similar theme. I shall major on amendment No. 28, although I shall mention amendment No. 41 first.

Amendment No. 41 would remove subsection (2), which states:

    ''It does not matter whether the product or coupon accompanies something else, or is given away separately.''

The subsection is unnecessary because one must differentiate between in-pack and on-pack offers. In-pack offers are coupons contained inside a packet of cigarettes and on-pack offers advertise money off on the wrapping of the packet or group of packets.

Amendment No. 28 exempts coupons that allude only to the product in which they are contained. A coupon in a cigarette pack that offers 10p off a subsequent purchase of a pack of that brand of cigarettes does not promote greater expenditure; it merely gives a reward for loyalty, if a customer buys another packet of the same brand.

When manufacturers wish to make special price offerings, three principal options are available to them:

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first, revised terms to wholesalers and retailers that enable them to make special price offerings to their customers; secondly, on-pack discount price marking and pricing flashes offering, for example, 10p off; and thirdly, in-pack price offerings, such as the coupon option that I have mentioned.

There can be no guarantee for the owner of the brand and the smoker that revised price terms for the trade will automatically filter through to the consumer, as intended. Packets of the same brand of cigarettes can be—and are—sold at widely varying prices at different outlets.

With regard to the Government's intentions, on-pack price offers such as price flashes are less desirable than discreet in-pack price offers, such as coupons that offer a price reduction on a single subsequent purchase of the product. Therefore, we are going for the lesser of available evils, which will have a beneficial effect. Such price offers are directed only at existing smokers, and they are noticed only by them. They are of interest only to them. Therefore, they will not entice non-smoking adults—or children—to take up the filthy habit. They are most unlikely to be of an order that will encourage existing smokers to smoke more, or to continue to smoke. We are talking about offers such as 10p off a subsequent packet of cigarettes, rather than £100 off a subsequent 25 packs, or whatever.

I have no doubt that the Minister will say that even in-pack offers will have the effect of promoting a tobacco product, but I ask her to consider the most important point, which is whether the measure is proportionate. With regard to many of the amendments that we have addressed this morning, she has responded by saying that the existing legislation is proportionate. Will she apply that principle to what is being proposed now? In the context of the Bill in general, it is an important principle, but it should be applied to the provisions of this clause in particular. Otherwise, the issue that the amendment addresses will be contested later in the courts. It is a probing amendment that proposes a limited exemption.

Amendment No. 44 seeks to delete subsections (7) to (9). It is a consequential amendment. The subsections should be deleted if the limited forms of coupons that amendment No. 28 proposes are allowed.

There will always be some price-cutting promotion, and our greatest fear is that the absence of advertising and promotion could lead to wholesale price-cutting, which would result in a greater increase in smoking. We are trying to limit and cap the effects of any promotions. The proposed legislation prohibits direct marketing schemes but, in the interests of proportionality, it will go too far by interfering with suppliers' freedom to make special price offers directly to existing smokers of a particular brand of cigarettes.

Amendments Nos. 41, 28 and 44 are relatively modest and proportionate probing amendments, to which I would like the Minister to respond. I do not think that they take away from the Government's intentions.

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