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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, of course. But I do not believe there is anything in the action the Government have taken which would demonise smoking. Our emphasis has been on providing health information to people who wish to receive it. If we look at the last full year of smoking cessation services, 62,000 people quit after four weeks. That shows that can be an important route to take, alongside other legislative actions.
My noble friend, Lord Haskel, thought we should go much further. The noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, may wish to respond to that. He is correct. I am a Minister concerned with better regulation. The regulations in the Bill provide a balanced and proportionate approach. That surely is what business requires.
On voluntary agreements, I say to the noble Earl, Lord Howe, in respect of the statement by the three largest tobacco companies, that voluntarily adopting worldwide standards that make it clear that tobacco advertisements should not be aimed at youth or suggest that smoking enhances sporting, social, sexual or professional success will be ineffective. Apart from the fact, already mentioned by a number of noble Lords, that young people are attracted to advertising not meant for them, it is not realistic to try to set up
The noble Earl, Lord Liverpool, raised the issue of alcohol. Tobacco is always dangerous; alcohol is only dangerous if it is misused. There is a fundamental difference between the way in which we treat tobacco and the way in which we treat alcohol.
I noted with interest the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, in relation to the Internet. First, I share the concerns of my noble friend Lord Mitchell to ensure consistency of approach; that is absolutely right. I understand the concerns of the Internet service providers. I have met them. The Government would look sympathetically at amendments which might be seen to deal with specific problems they encounter.
In relation to the technical standards directive, I am advised that, since the Bill covers advertising rather than technical specifications relating to goods, it is not notifiable in its entirety. However, where the Bill would affect specifications applicable to goods, such as the brand-sharing provisions, the Bill provides for regulations to be made which could be notified under the technical standards directive following due consultation. But that would be without affecting the timing of the introduction of other measures.
A number of noble Lords mentioned the question of freedom of speech. I am satisfied that Article 10 of the Convention on Human Rights provides a right to freedom of speech. But it goes on to provide that that right may be circumscribed for the protection of health. It is on that basis that the provisions of the Bill are compatible with the convention.
Smuggling was raised on a number of occasions in the debate. The noble Viscount, Lord Oxfuird, and the noble Earl, Lord Howe, raised it specifically. Of course there may be some link between levels of duty and smuggling, but it is very much at the white van man end, which accounts for a comparatively small part of the total smuggled market. A substantial proportion of the cigarettes smuggled into the UK come from parts of the world where duty is negligible. Bringing UK tobacco rates closer to those of other EU countries would have little effect on those smugglers. Indeed, many EU states, such as Italy and Spain, with relatively low taxes, suffer significant tobacco smuggling, indicating that even low tax rates do not protect against smuggling from countries where duty rates are even lower. Indeed, the Canadian experience was that tax reduction had little net effect on smuggling and for that reason the Canadians returned the tax rates to their original levels.
I noted with interest the comments of my noble friend Lady Gibson as to the impact on employment. Our policy is to bring about a reduction in the consumption of tobacco products. One would expect that that could have a knock-on effect on the numbers employed in the industry.
It is worth making the point that there has been a long-term fall in employment in the industry from 40,000 in 1980 to under 10,000 in 1998. That is at least as much due to automation as it is to falling demand. However, I recognise the concerns of my noble friend about the impact on tobacco trade employees. I listened with a great deal of interest to her remarks about diversification, alternative employment and re-training. I have a great deal of sympathy with such concerns.
The noble Earl, Lord Howe, asked the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, about the issue of reversal of the burden of proof. I have no doubt that he will wish to respond to that. However, perhaps I may say to the noble Earl that I have discovered at least 10 examples from the period of the last Conservative government where a reversal of the burden of proof was used in legislation.
Lord Clement-Jones: My Lords, we have had an excellent debate. I particularly enjoyed seeing the Minister manfully trying to defend the Government in their completely indefensible failure to bring forward a tobacco advertising and sponsorship Bill in this parliamentary Session. However, I am extremely grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken today in support of the Bill. We have had some magnificent speeches. Perhaps I may mention the maiden speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, which was of rare quality. She went ably through the evidence for the link between smoking and ill health and the devastating effects of smoking. I was reassured by the fact that she was clearly as moved by the contents of her own speech as the rest of us.
Many positive and powerful reasons have been put forward by noble Lords today in support of the Bill. Those are, principally, the serious health effects of smoking; the need to discourage people, especially young people, from starting to smoke; the need for an advertising ban to be part of a comprehensive strategy to tackle smoking; and, importantly, as put forward by the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, the absolute need to send a strong international message to other countries and to be part of that movement which will have an effect world-wide.
I was interested to hear the remarks of the noble Earl, Lord Howe, in response to the Bill. I felt the embers of a slightly warmer approach to the Bill than perhaps there were on Second Reading of the government Bill. However, a number of arguments were put forward by your Lordships, particularly on the Conservative Benches, in opposition to the Bill. I shall briefly go through some of them.
The noble Lords, Lord Naseby and Lord Monson, effectively declared that this was a matter of freedom. As a long time civil libertarian, I have examined my conscience over the Bill. If I were not so mild-mannered I might resent the raising of this issue. No advertiser has unfettered freedom of speech. The existence of the British codes of advertising and sales promotion, administered by the ASA, recognise that. Furthermore, it is clear that Article 10 of the convention permits restrictions and limitations on the right of freedom of expression which pursue a legitimate aim and are proportionate. The protection of health is one such aim. The ban is proportionate. It will save at least 3,000 lives per year. It is consistent with the United Kingdom's international obligations to legislate in this area. Indeed, your Lordships will recall that the Bill was certified in its previous form as compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights last time around. I would be happy to remit it to the Human Rights Committee of both Houses if we really felt that there was an issue about whether it is compatible. As regards the matter of choice and freedom, my noble friend Lord Rennard dealt adequately with that matter.
What would have been very interesting is the argument of the tobacco industry that advertising does not increase consumption or encourage people to take up smoking, but it was barely mentioned today by opponents. The noble Lords, Lord Patel and Lord Mitchell, the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, and my noble friend Lady Northover made their views clear on that matter. It is interesting that the industry seems to have withdrawn from the field an argument that, frankly, none of us thought had any credence at all. I thought the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, hit the nail on the head when she described it as extraordinary, adding that if that was the case we should accuse the tobacco companies of being profligate with their shareholders' money; and, by the way, I liked the original as well.
We had some very powerful speeches on the effect of advertising on young people. There is no doubt in the minds of those who support the Bill that advertising and sponsorship is about adding aspiration and street credibility to smoking. I do not think that that can be an issue.
As to the assessment of the evidence, the Health Select Committee concluded that advertising agencies have connived in promoting tobacco consumption, have shamelessly exploited smoking as an aspirational pursuit in ways that inevitably make it more attractive to children and have attempted to use their creative talents to undermine government policy and evade regulation. That underlines the need for flexibility and shows in particular why Clause 7 of the Bill is
The argument that manufacturers believe it is wrong to ban the advertising of a legal product had a longer trot today. The argument is that tobacco is a legal product and therefore it should be legal to advertise it. The noble Lord, Lord Naseby, objected to comparisons with guns and pharmaceuticals. Along with tobacco, they are products which can be manufactured and sold legally subject to regulation. But they are also subject to advertising restrictions and not just restriction or regulation, but bans. There are restrictions also on advertising prescription drugs. The matter is on all fours in that respect. Moreover, as the noble Earl, Lord Howe, pointed out, tobacco is a unique product. It is the only consumer product which kills the user when used according to the manufacturer's instructions; so it should have a unique regulatory framework.
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