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Mr. Bercow: I know that my hon. Friend will agree that we would not want to be remiss by failing to ensure that members of the public who may be listening to the debate are aware of the meaning of the negative and the affirmative procedure. Will she therefore confirm that the Government's intention in using that procedure seems to be to avoid debate on the Floor of the House, for which the affirmative procedure provides? Is that not to enable them to save their own face?
Mrs. Spelman: There is a great deal of face saving in the Bill, which kicks decisions on many difficult issues into the long grass. Those issues will be subject to regulations that we have not seen, and will not be able to see while debating those issues. Even now, on Report, we cannot properly anticipate many of the difficulties and controversies surrounding the issues that will be dealt
Mr. Ian Bruce (South Dorset): I am sure that my hon. Friend did not mean to mislead the House. Does she remember that the Minister told us that the Government would not introduce regulations under various parts of the Bill that provide for regulation? Therefore, in some cases people will have to guess what they might be doing wrong--for which they might subsequently be caught by regulation if a future Government decided to introduce such regulation.
Mrs. Spelman: I thank my hon. Friend, with whom I spent many hours in Committee. Perhaps I could give hon. Members a flavour of the way in which the regulations will work. Although the power to make regulations has, in some cases, been provided in the Bill, a warning has been given that if everyone behaves and complies with the spirit of the Bill, it will not be necessary to make those regulations. The provision will hang over those who have to operate under the Bill as an incentive to get it right first time. If they do not, they risk a rap on the knuckles, or perhaps being taken to court, so that the meaning of the regulations can be clarified. That is a very strange way of regulating businesses that, until now, have been able to advertise legally. They will suddenly discover that some of the things that they have been doing, quite legally, have become illegal. The threat of regulation will hang over such companies if they get it wrong. The Bill places business in a very difficult position.
I want to return to questions about brand sharing that were not answered adequately in Committee, and I hope that the Minister will take this opportunity to answer a very important question. The UK has decided to introduce a ban on tobacco advertising ahead of other European Union member states. Legal professionals advised the Commission and other interested parties when the intention at a European level was to proceed to a directive regarding the ban on tobacco advertising. Does the Minister agree that their comments might have some relevance today? The conclusions reached about brand sharing at the time are relevant to what the UK is about to do unilaterally.
Mr. Dale Campbell-Savours (Workington): I have been listening closely, but will the hon. Lady confirm that she is saying that if the makers of Silk Cut, a brand-named cigarette in the United Kingdom, decided to sell trousers, they could erect, at every football ground in the country, huge signs with the words "Silk Cut" on them? Is not the presumption in the defence of the new clause being offered by the hon. Lady, that the words would not be identified with cigarettes because they were being used in relation to trousers? Does that not appear to the hon. Lady somewhat nonsensical? Would not anyone seeing a sign that says "Silk Cut" think of cigarettes rather than trousers?
Mr. Kevin Barron (Rother Valley): I shall put the question another way. For the sake of argument, let us say that the manufacturer of Clarks shoes has no connection with any tobacco company, in this country or any other. Under the new clause, would it be acceptable for that company to call a range of shoes the "Silk Cut" range?
Mrs. Spelman: Common sense tells me that people wanting to buy shoes would be far more attracted by the good reputation of Clarks as a manufacturer than by any name chosen for a particular style of shoe.
Mrs. Spelman: I am not; it is Labour Members who are avoiding an issue that is uncomfortable for them. The Government have chosen to go ahead with a ban on tobacco advertising, but at one time there was a Europe-wide attempt to introduce a directive with the same objective. The view of legal professionals at a European level was that banning advertising through brand sharing represented a contravention of article 10 of the European convention on human rights. It is legitimate for the Opposition to ask the Government, who intend to go down that road, whether they are satisfied with the procedure, although their opinion on that issue is different from that of the Advocate-General in Europe.
We did not get an answer from the Minister in Committee, and it is important to come back to the question today. Worldwide Brands International is, quite legitimately, asking me, as a representative of the Opposition, to put that question to the Government, as it cannot get an adequate reply. Of course the issue is important to such a company; it may wish to go to the European Court for a ruling on whether this piece of British legislation, which will affect it significantly, represents a contravention of article 10 of the European convention on human rights.
It stands to reason that if the Advocate-General of the European Court of Justice was giving that advice not so long ago, the issue has already been considered at a high level. That is a good reason for bringing the question to the debate. Of course we do not want to pass legislation that is promptly found to contravene the European convention on human rights.
Things are particularly difficult for our legislature at present, as we have incorporated the convention into British law only very recently. This issue has to be worked through. I should have thought, however, that the Government would have anticipated the problem, which has already arisen at a European level, and that they would be ready to answer the question today. That is why it is important to return to the point, which was debated in Committee. I hope that right hon. and hon. Members understand our rationale in coming back to it, because we need to find the answer.
I find it difficult to understand why there is such strong opposition to legitimate diversification by companies that have nothing to do with the tobacco industry. Why do we want to make it so difficult for companies to diversify? Surely, with our shared public health agenda of trying to reduce the prevalence of smoking--[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Liverpool, Garston (Maria Eagle) gives me rather a contemptuous look, but I assure her that we share the Government's desire for a reduction in smoking. I do not know how many times I have to say that to get my point across. Perhaps this will be the last time this evening.
It is surely desirable for tobacco companies to produce other products if possible. I confidently predict that a consequence of depriving companies of the opportunity of brand sharing will be to weaken their competitiveness. I am confident that the legislation will lead to the ascendancy of foreign brands of tobacco coming into this country. That is already a feature of the flow of illegally imported tobacco.
I referred in the programme motion debate to students being offered £25 to promote tobacco brands on university campuses. The brand of tobacco in question was, in fact, foreign. That is the tip of the iceberg. We will see foreign brands coming into this country, and we will have shackled our own tobacco companies so that they have no way out.