Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill [Lords]

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Mr. Andrew Hunter (Basingstoke): I reinforce the argument advanced by my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham about amendment No. 41 by inviting the Minister to consider subsection (1), which states:

    ''A person is guilty of an offence if in the course of business he—

    (a) gives any product . . . away''.

My emphasis is on ''any''. In light of that all-embracing word, surely it follows logically that subsection (2), which the amendment would delete, is redundant. Given the wording of subsection (1)(a), I shall be surprised if the Minister can mount an effective argument to say that subsection (2) is needed.

On amendment No. 28, I emphasise that an in-pack coupon is clearly directed not at the general public, but the smoker. It is therefore entirely different in kind from the general advertisements that the Government seek to ban. I may argue with the Government about the effects of that ban, but surely they should acknowledge that, within their own terms of reference, an in-pack coupon or token does not amount to advertising.

Yvette Cooper: Amendment No. 41 would omit subsection (2), which makes it clear that a product or coupon given away with something else will be caught under the Bill. Subsection (2) ensures that there is no doubt that the offence set out in subsection 1(a) includes coupons given away, either with something or separately. Subsection (2) should remain in the Bill, and I oppose the amendment.

Mr. Hunter: What is the deficiency of the wording in subsection (1)(a), which says

    ''gives any product or coupon away''?

Yvette Cooper: Subsection (2) is purely about providing clarification, so that no one can argue in court that something given away as part of another gift—in a free newspaper, for example—would not be covered by the Bill. The intention of the ban is clear in subsection (1); subsection (2) only clarifies, but it is right to include it to prevent mistaken legal defences being mounted.

Amendment No. 28 would allow coupons that give a discount on the next packet. Although manufacturers will not be able to include coupons for honey dolls, children's swings or other products, they may, if the amendment is accepted, include coupons that allow purchasers to buy another packet of cigarettes at a discount. In the end, the effect of the two types of coupon is the same. Whether the inducement to keep buying the same brand for extra coupons is a honey doll or carry cot, or whether it takes the form of a coupon that gives 50p, 10p or whatever off the price of the next packet, the effect is to get the smoker to buy the next packet of cigarettes.

Tobacco companies may argue that they are promoting brand loyalty, but they are also promoting the purchase of the next packet of cigarettes. It is true that the impact might be aimed at existing smokers but, as 70 per cent. of smokers say that they want to give up, we should be trying to protect them. It is right that those who want to give up should not be continually bombarded with new

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inducements to buy the next packet of cigarettes. That is why I reject amendment No. 28.

5.30 pm

Amendment No. 44 would remove the power to make the regulations that ban distributions made for a nominal sum or at a substantial discount. That is one of the sets of regulations that, at this stage, we anticipate need not to be laid. However, it is right that we have such powers should abuses arise. An obvious way of avoiding the problem of not being able to send out free distributions would be to say, ''All right, we will distribute a packet of cigarettes for 10p, or a gift such as honey doll for 20p.'' We have the regulation-making power in place as a way round the free distribution prohibition. To remove that regulation-making power—which is a reserve power—would open a potential loophole that would undermine the entire of clause 9. That is why I oppose the amendment.

Tim Loughton: I am grateful to the Minister for her response, although I fear that some of the regular arguments to which she resorts—such as the use of ''bombarded''—were creeping in.

With regard to amendment No. 44, the hon. Lady said that there was no intention to use the power, but it should be included just in case. That argument is wearing a little thin. I take her point about amendment No. 41 going against the clarifying nature of that part of the clause. However, I do not buy the argument that a coupon—not, as she said, coupons—that offers a reduced price for the next packet of the same brand of cigarettes would have a significant effect on the habits of a particular smoker. He is already dedicated to smoking, by continuing to do so, and I do not think that a coupon constitutes 'bombarding' him. The Minister should give greater credibility to the brand loyalty argument, although I see why she does not want to do that.

Offering a 10p or 50p discount is different from the offer of an inducement to become the proud owner of a honey doll or carry cot, or—as I believe the hon. Member for Eastwood mentioned—to take advantage of a cardio-vascular work-out. I think that we will continue to agree to disagree on that issue, and I do not think that we will make any further progress on the amendment.

I beg to ask to leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Mr. Wilshire: I shall try not to detain the Committee for long. I am worried that clause 9 provides yet more regulating power, despite the fact that the Minister says that she has no need to use it. Subsections (7) to (9) were the subjects of an amendment, and they add to my collection of doubts about what it is that we are doing. Subsection (7) states:

    ''The Secretary of State may make regulations providing for this section to apply''.

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Subsection (8) states that the regulations

    ''must provide for the meaning of 'substantial discount'''.

Curiously, we were told before lunch that it was proper to say that regulations ''may'' provide for a definition. Suddenly, it is a good idea that they ''must'' provide. Before lunch, we had a wonderful argument about why we did not need ''must''. Now, without a comment, we are asked to agree to ''must''. Where is the consistency throughout the Bill that was trumpeted in an earlier debate?

Consistency suggests that, if references are made to the need for definitions, one either ''may'' or ''must'' make them. One cannot pick and choose and say, ''You may make those but you must make the others'' without some reason being given.

The clause states that

    ''the regulations must provide for the meaning of 'substantial discount'''.{**W4**}

The mind boggles at what ''substantial discount'' might mean. It might simply be one person's opinion, and to have an order-making provision that involves somebody defining ''substantial'' is an abuse of the process of Parliament.

Clause 9(9) states that the regulations would apply

    ''with such modifications . . . specified in the regulations as the Secretary of State considers appropriate.''{**W4**}

Methinks that Henry VIII is back again. The clause is saying, ''We can have any definitions that we like by order, and, having made them, we can vary them.'' Consistency, parliamentary democracy and the rule of law no longer matter to the Government. The Minister owes us an explanation for continuing to trample over the things that we hold precious in this country.

Mr. Hunter: I shall be extremely brief. I have a technical drafting point to make and I do not expect the Minister to reply to it now, although she may take it on board. The offence under clause 9 is defined in subsection (1). Subsection (3) refers to no offence being committed under subsection (1). However, subsection (5) refers to the offence being committed ''under this section'', rather than ''under subsection (1)''. For the sake of consistency, purely in drafting, should subsection (5) not read ''under subsection (1)''?

Tim Loughton: To be consistent, and in the interests of showing that the Opposition have done their homework and scrutinised every word of the Bill, I refer the Minister to the top of page 5, line 2, which refers to

    ''the purchase of tobacco procucts''.{**W4**}

I noticed the spelling mistake some time ago, as one would expect from the amount of scrutiny Opposition Members have given the Bill. When I tried to table an amendment to correct it, I was told that it would require the Bill to go back to the House of Lords and then be reconsidered by the Committee, which would take up considerable parliamentary time.

Keen that we are to ensure that the Bill makes progress to its next stage of parliamentary consideration, we do not wish to sabotage it by pushing a point about a single spelling error. I do not know what processes are now available to the Minister

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to ensure that we do not have a Bill that contains a glaring spelling error. I draw her attention to it out of good will and hopefulness. No doubt, she will get her officials on the case PDQ.

Subsection (1)(a) reads,

    ''gives any product or coupon away to the public in the United Kingdom''.

When does a member of the public cease to be a member of the public? I am thinking of a private club, of whatever description for whatever activities may go on in such a club. Do members of such a club, who could see coupons or special offers while within the confines of that club acting as private members in private, still constitute members of the public? It is not an entirely flippant point, because being within a private club can sometimes allow for certain entitlements.

Subsection (1) continues:

    ''the purpose or effect of giving the product or coupon away is to promote a tobacco product.''

My wife is a keen collector of Tesco reward points. She swaps them not for little honey doll whatsits or carrycots, but for money-off vouchers for groceries. In theory, such groceries may include purchases from the tobacco counter of Tesco. If those vouchers were used to purchase cigarettes, they could be deemed to have the purpose or effect of promoting a tobacco product. Unless a specific exclusion were made that a money-off voucher could not be used to purchase tobacco—and perhaps alcohol—it would be legitimate for my wife to use her voucher to buy cigarettes, cigars or any other tobacco product, although that is unlikely because she does not smoke, unlike me. Has the Minister considered whether supermarkets such as Tesco and other shops that run reward schemes might fall foul of the clause? Will it be necessary for supermarkets to include exemptions for products against which their money-off vouchers may not be used?

Those couple of serious points show how people could unintentionally fall foul of the Bill's terminology.

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