Yvette Cooper: I shall address substantial discount and the use of the word ''must''. It is right that the Bill uses the word ''must'' because there could be a need to set out regulations on products and coupons that are available for a nominal sum or at a substantial discount. Substantial discount is a relative concept and may mean different things to different people. Therefore, it is right that the regulations must define substantial discount, whatever the circumstances or worries that they address.
In another place, Lord Filkin said that substantial discount is
''a relative concept and may mean different things . . . For example, many people would see £1,000 as a substantial sum, but if it was the discount off a car costing £50,000 it might not be seen as a substantial discount''.—[Official Report, House of Lords, 18 January 2002; Vol. 630, c. 1266–67.]
Points were made about the definition of ''public''. The word is defined in clause 21, and the public include people in private members' clubs, but not members of a family. A person who gave a product or coupon to his relations would not be giving it to the
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public, but a person who gave such an item to a member of a private members' club might.
I take the point about the spelling error and the drafting, which was raised by the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter). I shall take up those points with the parliamentary draftsmen and ensure that they are resolved and that Parliament's intention is clear—whether on ''procucts'' or ''products'', as the spelling error sets out.
The test on Tesco vouchers is clear. Anyone who gives away a product or coupon with the purpose or effect of promoting a tobacco product will be caught. Each case will be determined on a case-by-case basis. Clearly, coupons that are aimed at promoting Tesco or Sainsbury's are unlikely to be interpreted as promoting a tobacco product. In the end, it will be a matter of fact or an individual case having to be decided in that respect.
Tim Loughton: The Minister says that the issue is not entirely clear, but would not a safer way to get round the problem be to add an extra provision to the Bill to the effect that any coupons or vouchers would specifically have to mention the tobacco products. If they did not, they would not fall foul of the clause. Given what the hon. Lady said, a voucher given by Tesco for its products, which could include tobacco products, would be caught by the Bill.
Yvette Cooper: I am not sure that that is the case. I shall happily consider the matter further before we discuss the Bill on Report. Tesco should be allowed to promote its business, nevertheless the intention behind the clause is to prevent the promotion of a tobacco product. I shall examine whether further amendments need to be made to the clause, but I think that that is highly unlikely. I do not believe that the Bill would stop coupons and promotions by Tesco and other companies that use free distributions in that respect.
Question accordingly agreed to.
Clause 9 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Prohibition of sponsorship
Mr. Wilshire: I beg to move amendment No. 45, in page 5, line 35, after 'services', insert
', support for a political party,'.
The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to take the following amendments: No. 46, in page 5, line 43, at end insert—
'(c) these defences shall not be available to a political party.'.
No. 47, in page 5, line 46, at end insert—
'(5) The defence referred to in subsection (4) shall not be available to a political party'.
No. 71, in clause 20, page 11, line 2, at end insert
', provided that no party to such a sponsorship agreement has made a donation to a political party within the last 10 years.'.
Mr. Wilshire: We come now to sponsorship. It gives me no pleasure to speak to the amendments. They would not have been necessary had it not been for the fact that, within a matter of weeks—or, at most,
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months—after the Government came into power in 1997, their first outbreak of sleaze came to light. It concerned a £1 million donation from the Formula 1 racing boss to the Labour Government and the promise of a further £1 million that occurred—surprise, surprise—at that moment of discussions between Mr. Ecclestone and Mr. Blair, which resulted in Formula 1 motor racing being exempted from the then proposals to ban tobacco advertising.
From the very earliest moments of the Government, sleaze of that sort has surrounded the debate on tobacco advertising. It is extraordinary that they have made no attempt to redeem themselves and to live up to the promise that they made before the election of being whiter than white and having nothing to do with sleaze. They could so easily have taken the opportunity to put into the clause proof that they were at least contrite for the bribes that they were prepared to take and the actions that would follow.
Given that the Government are not willing to clean up their act, Conservative Members will try to do it for them. If they resist any one of the amendments, we will have more proof that they are not willing to clean up their act. If they have nothing to hide and no intentions of taking backhanders and sleazy money from Formula 1 people, for example, they will support us. The amendments are attempts to prevent such action from happening again. However, they were a sleazy Government from the beginning; they are a sleazy Government now and my guess is that they will continue to be so until they are thrown out of office.
David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire): The hon. Gentleman has extensive knowledge of recent parliamentary history. Will he remind the Committee which Government introduced the great openness that we are now experiencing in respect of political donations for the funding of political parties?
The Chairman: Order. I hope that the hon. Member for Spelthorne will resist temptation and not respond to such a question. It has nothing to do with the debate.
Mr. Wilshire: I may well be found in the Stranger's bar later on, where perhaps we could continue the discussion. I would be happy to do that. However, at present, I accept your ruling, Mr. Amess, because the only allegations of sleaze and nastiness that are before the Committee relate to tobacco advertising. I shall confine myself to speaking about the amendments.
Amendment No. 45 is necessary. It refers to subsection (2), which tries to define a sponsorship agreement. I find it interesting that sometimes the Bill tries to define something, and on other occasions it does not, and I cannot help wondering why it should wish to do so in this instance. Perhaps the Government are trying to create loopholes for their friends, so that more money can roll into their coffers. The Bill specifies that a sponsorship agreement involves the making of a contribution, but it does not say to whom that contribution must be made. That is curious.
It is possible that someone who would benefit from a loophole with regard to the ability to advertise
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tobacco does not make a contribution, either in money or in kind, to—for instance—the racing cars carrying cigarette advertisements that drive around the Formula 1 circuits, because the Bill simply states, ''makes a contribution''. On the exemption for motor racing, it could be argued that the £1 million bung that was given to the Labour party was not given to anybody. That money was not directly handed over as a sponsorship agreement, but was given to a third party. So the argument goes thus: ''I—whoever I am—sponsor Formula 1 racing. Formula 1 cars carry my adverts. The Government exempt Formula 1 racing, and then I give the Government £1 million. Therefore, I have not paid anything by way of sponsorship, but the Labour party's coffers contain an extra £1 million, and it has a promise of another £1 million.''
Unless this part of this clause is tidied up, the Labour party might have a nice little loophole that would enable such activities to go on happily for forever and a day. How many more £1 million are lurking around somewhere? How many more little bits of legislation that have come before this House since 1997 have been passed in such a way as to allow nice loopholes for more money to sail into Millbank towers to fund the Labour party?
Mr. Ruffley: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for ventilating the ambiguity in line 33 of page 5. Has he ever before come across draftsmanship that uses phrases such as,
''makes a contribution towards something''?
That is strange language. It jars with me, as a Parliamentarian. Does it jar with him? Has he seen anything as sloppily drafted as that, during his time in the House of Commons?
Mr. Wilshire: No, I have not. However, it strikes me as quite an accurate description of a contribution of £1 million being made to the coffers of the Labour party—which, I gather, is what happened. What appears to be sloppy drafting is, in fact, an accurate description of the sorts of sleaze and corruption that have come to light since 1997.
Mr. Ruffley: Is my hon. Friend suggesting that this is not incompetent draftsmanship, but a deliberate attempt to create a loophole that might be exploited by the Labour party?
Mr. Wilshire: I cannot claim to be able to see inside the minds of the people who drafted this legislation. I am merely suggesting that the sloppy drafting could be interpreted in that way. The Minister might wish to answer my hon. Friend's question, but I cannot do that, because I am not a clairvoyant. I can only say that the drafting is sloppy, and that that invites the explanation that it is deliberately sloppy for the reason that I have suggested. One of the two possible answers to my hon. Friend's question is correct and, in due course, the Minister will no doubt tell us which is the right one.
Amendment No. 46 refers to subsection (3) and says that there will be defences against the allegations in the Bill. We have been round this course before, and are not surprised to learn that those defences relate to not knowing the purpose of the payment or what its effects will be. That invites us to get into a discussion of the
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purpose of bungs to political parties. The explanation offered by Mr. Ecclestone as to why none of this has anything to do with tobacco advertising in Formula 1was that he made his donation to the Labour party because he was impressed by its decision to spare high earners massive tax increases. Well, he would say that, would he not? He had to say something, but he did not deal with the fact that he and the Prime Minister discussed tobacco advertising when they met. The two things do not add up.
People may be able to deny that donations are intended to influence sponsorship or tobacco advertising, and it would make great sense to clear up all reasonable doubts about whether we are creating another loophole through which Labour party donors can wriggle. We should exempt from subsection (3) those who make political donations, to prevent them from taking advantage of the defences in it. We should also exempt political parties and say that they cannot use those defences. If the provisions are meant to plug the loophole for other people, that is fine, but the Government must come clean. They should tell us whether they intend to use the defences in the clause and to say, ''Ah well, the odd £1 million that has come into our coffers has nothing to do with buying influence—it's just a matter of someone's high-mindedness and gratitude.'' I am not sure quite how anyone could be grateful to the Government, but I am doing my best to get my mind around what the Government are saying.
To avoid doubt, let us make it clear that stopping off the defences in the clause for political parties and those who make political donations would deliver the Government from temptation once and for all—they certainly cannot resist it without our help—and enable them to be as honest, decent and upright as they promised to be, because they have clearly failed in that regard.
Amendment No. 47 relates to subsection (4), which states that an agreement must be made
''in the course of a business.''
If £1 million is popped into a brown envelope and put in the Labour party's pocket, the agreement must be entered into in the course of a business to fall foul of the Bill. That explains why I and, I assume, other members of the Committee received a copy of a letter from the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile on or about 15 April. The FIA thought that I would be riveted by the letter, which is from Max Mosley to the Secretary of State for Health. The letter does not say who Max Mosley is, although he seems to figure somewhere in the story of the £1 million bung. Page 2 of his letter states: ''We''—presumably the FIA—
''are not seeking, and have never sought, any exclusive exemption for Formula One from UK or EU efforts to ban tobacco advertising and sponsorship.''
There we have it. The Bill says that, to qualify, an agreement must be in the course of a business, and the business interest in the £1 million bung to the Labour party in 1997 is represented by the FIA and Formula 1 racing. Yet, those bodies are saying, ''It was nowt to do with the course of business. Someone who got rich on the back of F1 just happened, in a private capacity, to give the Labour party £1 million.'' Lo and behold,
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they are exempt from the ban on tobacco advertising. The agreement was not in the course of business, however, because the FIA says so.
When one reads that letter in conjunction with the Bill, one understands that the Labour party has learned nothing. It is even prepared to use the Bill to help it wriggle, wriggle, wriggle, so that people can slip it millions of pounds in return for favours if they subsequently write a letter such as the one that I quoted. The whole things stinks, and we must do something about it.
In your wisdom, Mr. Amess, you have decided that we should debate amendment No. 71 to clause 20 now. I hope that, when we come to consider clause 20, we shall be able to vote on the amendment as well. Clause 20 deals with the transitional arrangements. If ever an amendment was needed it is this one, because in the first instance £1 million bought a total exemption for Formula 1 from this legislation. Unfortunately for the sleazy members of this Government, they were found out, so they had to give it back. That cost them not only the first £1 million but the promise of the second £1 million.
The Government could not, after that, come up with a complete exemption. I am sure that that was what they wanted—it is what Mr. Ecclestone and the Prime Minister discussed in Downing street—but having been rumbled, that was no longer possible. What was the second-best option? Under the circumstances, it was a transitional period. If one cannot wriggle out of the ban altogether, let the status quo go on a bit longer—let more money be made. Who knows whether any money changed hands for this clause? Perhaps £500,000 instead of £1 million buys a later date, even if it cannot buy an exemption? I would like to hear from the Minister whether more money has changed hands for this measure.
If there is a good argument for a transitional arrangement for sponsorship, one way for the Government to clean up their act would be for them to accept amendment No. 71, which would make it quite clear that no one could take advantage of the transition if they or their company or organisation or anybody involved with them had made a political donation within the past 10 years—whether they had to give it back is another matter. Anybody involved in sleaze and backhanders could not take advantage of the transition. That would enable the Government to argue that there are good, sound practical reasons for a transition period. They could allay my suspicion that the real reason for the transition is to put more money into the back pockets of the Labour party's treasurer.