Column 463ban mail shots from the continent in view of the fact continental manufacturers have increased their stake in the United Kingdom market ?
Mrs. Peacock : I have listened carefully to what my hon. Friend said about the possible effects on health and how good tobacco could be in that respect. Will he explain why tobacco-related diseases in my constituency cost the health service £600,000 last year ?
Mr. Carlisle : I am no great expert on medical matters, as one can see from the shape of me. Having said that, however, it is a fact that in some cases the modified use of nicotine can be of enormous help, especially to those with nervous diseases, which some Opposition Members clearly have. My hon. Friend cannot, with hand on heart, say that there is not one person who would not possibly benefit from the odd cigarette from time to time.
Mr. Alan Howarth : I note with some interest and surprise that my hon. Friend is basing his argument in favour of tobacco advertising on health grounds. Will he comment on the fact that 62 per cent. of doctors believe that all forms of tobacco advertising should be banned ?
Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. There is a lot of noise from the Conservative Benches. I am trying to listen to what the hon. Gentleman has to say, but many of his colleagues are intent on ensuring that I cannot.
Mr. Carlisle : My hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Howarth) makes an important point. Of course we are not saying that in general the use of tobacco products is beneficial to the nation's health, but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash) pointed out, certain substances related to tobacco can be helpful, which is the reasoning behind amendment No. 78. Some people might even contact my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon after the debate to tell him that they have almost been prescribed a form of tobacco. If the Bill were passed without amendment No. 78, those people would be denied the advertising and possibly even the knowledge of such products.
Mr. Cash : My hon. Friend has touched on a very important point. There is a balance to be struck. Is he aware that Dutch researchers have found that nicotine can protect against Alzheimer's disease and that, furthermore, it can cut the risk by up to 50 per cent ? Some Alzheimer patients are currently wearing the nicotine patches usually used by smokers who are trying to kick the habit in order to test the theory. That is an important step forward. The blanket approach of trying to stop everyone knowing anything about tobacco could be detrimental to the health of the nation.
Mr. Carlisle : As usual, my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford makes an extremely helpful point. He has given a medical fact and I am grateful to him. Similarly, a couple of glasses of wine are now reckoned to help in preventing heart disease. I fear that some Opposition Members wish to
Column 464ban the advertising of alcohol ; some of them have already hinted that. On that basis, amendment No. 78 should be approved by the House.
Mr. Barron : I am, once again, intrigued by the hon. Gentleman's claim that smoking cigarettes is in the interests of public health. He also said that in Committee. More important, if he truly believes what he is saying about the amendments he has tabled, why did he not table amendments in Committee ? We could have sat not only for hours, but for days or weeks to consider the detail of the Bill. Why did he not do that ? At the first sitting, I invited him and his hon. Friend the Member for High Peak (Mr. Hendry), who has also tabled amendments, to table amendments in Committee. Everyone knows the answer to that question. The hon. Gentleman should tell the House why he has some of his hon. Friends here to discuss issues that we could have discussed in detail in Committee.
Mr. Carlisle : I shall answer a question with a question. Why did the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Dr. Moonie) table several amendments in Committee ? Except for once or twice when he had the assistance of my hon. Friend the Member for High Peak (Mr. Hendry) and myself, he was the only person voting for them. This is part of parliamentary procedure. Since the Bill came to our attention, was debated on Second Reading and then went into Committee, several other matters, as is right, have come up and should be discussed fully. The hon. Member for Rother Valley is saying that we should not discuss his Bill because he believes that it is in perfect form. Conservative and Opposition Members have an absolute right to question the Bill and to table amendments as they see fit.
Mr. Barron : I gave the hon. Gentleman the right to table amendments by putting him on the Committee, as I had the right to do as promoter of the Bill, although I knew that he and his hon. Friend the Member for High Peak opposed the Bill-- [Interruption.] That is the procedure of this House. If hon. Members do not know the rules, they should check them. I put the hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle) on the Committee on the basis that he opposed the Bill. The honourable thing to do would have been for him to table the amendments in Committee, when we could have discussed them, instead of taking part in this procedural mugging.
In the first sitting on 23 February, the hon. Member for Luton, North said :
"We were tempted to table numerous amendments--we thought of as many as 200".--[ Official Report, Standing Committee C, 23 February 1994 ; c. 5.]
Instead, the hon. Gentleman has waited to table amendments until today when, as he knows, time is limited and the Bill will be procedurally mugged. All his hon. Friends who accept that one can do this to a Bill that is a major issue of public health should be ashamed of themselves.
Mr. Carlisle : Oh dear, we have ruffled the hon. Gentleman's feathers. As I gave him notice in Committee that several amendments might be tabled, I am surprised that he did not make his point in Committee rather than allowing his hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy to table some stupid and spurious amendments. We know that they
Column 465were designed specifically to try to prevent discussion on the Floor of the House, when the whole House could take part, because they would be voted on only in Committee.
Sir Jerry Wiggin (Weston-super-Mare) : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Barron) has just stated that he placed hon. Members on the Committee. I am sure that the Committee of Selection observed the normal courtesy of seeking advice from the hon. Gentleman. He has said, not only on the Floor of the House, but outside the House, that he placed hon. Members on the Committee. It would be a great mistake if such a perversion of the reality was allowed to become current belief.
Mr. Barron : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I came third in the ballot and decided to promote this Bill. When I left the Chamber after the Bill's unopposed Second Reading, the Clerk to the Public Bill Office gave me a letter that said that I could nominate hon. Members to the Committee, with the exception of the Under-Secretary of State for Health, the hon. Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Sackville).
Mr. Deputy Speaker : It is quite simple. As the House knows, the hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Barron) will have had some input in terms of suggesting names. It is then a matter for the Committee of Selection. Full stop.
Mr. Leigh : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. A disgraceful slur has been made against the hon. Member for Rother Valley. Would you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, ask him to explain himself so that his good character can be vindicated ? Namely that he
Mr. Leigh rose
Mr. Charles Hendry (High Peak) : Does my hon. Friend agree that the memory of the hon. Member for Rother Valley is rather selective ? When we moved the first amendment in Committee, shortly after my hon. Friend had started to speak the hon. Member
Mr. Carlisle : I take it that we have talked enough about amendments Nos. 78 and 79, although other hon. Members may come back to them. I know turn to amendment No. 18, which is important and helpful to the Bill.
Mr. Sweeney : My hon. Friend seems to have been advancing the argument that a little bit of tobacco is good for people, just as the odd glass of wine is good for people. Is he not aware that the overwhelming medical evidence is that even a small number of cigarettes are harmful ? If a
Column 466heavy smoker cuts down his smoking, he improves his chances of a long life. The more he cuts down, the more he improves those chances. The best thing for a heavy smoker to do is to give up smoking entirely. The best thing for a non-smoker to do is never to take it up.
Mr. Carlisle : I thought that we had dispatched amendment No. 78, but I shall go back to it as my hon. Friend the Member for Vale of Glamorgan seems to want me to do so. If my hon. Friend looks carefully at the Bill, he will see that without the excellent and helpful amendment No. 78, tabled by me and by my hon. Friends, he will be denying access to advertisements and information to those who find that the odd intake of nicotine through tobacco products or, as my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford said, through patches on part of the human tissue--which may count as a tobacco product--is helpful. We need the amendment to assist those people. My hon. Friends may disagree with that and may vote against the amendment.
Mr. Richard Alexander (Newark) : Does my hon. Friend agree that if the Bill goes through as drafted, the opportunity for health warnings through advertising on notice boards will go ? We shall lose a great opportunity for advising people about the health hazards of smoking.
Mr. Carlisle : My hon. Friend is absolutely right. There is no doubt that since the health warning appeared on poster sites and on cigarette packets, there has been a continuing drop in the number of people who smoke. The background to our debate should be along those lines. As a result of the Government's policy, the voluntary agreement and the decisions made by many individuals, who have not been nannied by hon. Members, the consumption of tobacco has been reduced. That is why amendment No. 78 should find favour with the House.
Mrs. Anne Campbell (Cambridge) : I draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to a letter I received from the East Anglian health authority, which is situated in my constituency. The letter says that overall, people in East Anglia are healthier than people in the rest of England, but that they do particularly badly in terms of smoking-related diseases. The letter writer quotes the number of deaths of people from coronary heart disease and the incidence of lung cancer among women, which is increasing in the region. She says :
"all groups of health professionals are convinced that our local efforts would be much more effective if they were supported by a ban on the advertising and promotion of tobacco."
That negates what the hon. Member is saying about the possible beneficial effects of tobacco.
Mr. Carlisle : The hon. Member for Cambridge (Mrs. Campbell) is making the bland assertion that because the incidence of smoking in her region, which I know well, is higher than that in other regions, it means a higher rate of heart disease and stress. I suggest to the hon. Lady that if I lived in Cambridge, with a Labour Member of Parliament and a Labour council, I would feel extremely stressed. I am not surprised by the figures that she quotes.
Mr. Robert Banks (Harrogate) : My hon. Friend referred earlier to the influence of advertisements on children and smoking. Does he not agree that it is extraordinary that the brand of cigarettes which is most widely sold in this country--Silk Cut--has nothing in its advertisements at all which relates to smoking other than
Column 467the warning ? Is it not the warning that is important ? Without those advertisements, we would not have the warning.
Mr. Alan Howarth rose
Mr. Carlisle : May I answer the point and then come back to my hon. Friends the Members for High Peak and for Stratford-on-Avon ? I am anxious to get on, but my hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate (Mr. Banks) has raised an important point.
Obviously, to many of us, such advertisements are totally ambiguous. We do not understand what they are and they are specifically aimed by the industry at those 26 per cent.--my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford said 7 per cent.--who change brands year in year out. However, they are changing brands on a falling market. Those advertisements are purely for existing smokers. I do not believe that some of the advertisements encourage non- smokers.
Mr. Howarth : I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way a second time. In response to comments made by my hon. Friends the Members for Newark (Mr. Alexander) and for Harrogate (Mr. Banks), my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, North seems to be going so far as to suggest that it was the very existence and continuation of advertising, carrying health warnings, that had caused the diminution of tobacco consumption. Is that really what he is saying, because the debate is becoming quite surreal ?
Mr. Carlisle : Many of the arguments that we heard in Committee from Opposition Members were surreal, but I hate to cast aspersions on my hon. Friends. One should consider the evidence that has been put forward by many bodies and organisations that are nothing to do with the tobacco industry, such as, for example, the social affairs unit, which does not exactly sound like a right-wing Conservative organisation, but is headed by Dr. Digby Anderson who had the privilege of going to school with me. What he says in his evidence and what others say demonstrates that tobacco advertising is a factor, but that it is a very minimal factor. The biggest effect of advertising is switching of brands.
Mr. Hendry : Will my hon. Friend confirm that one of the Government's objectives is to encourage people to switch to low-tar cigarettes and that the best way in which people can get information about the tar levels of a cigarette is through advertising messages ? If we get rid of the advertising of tobacco, the competition will concentrate on price wars and we shall end up with people being encouraged to smoke more because cigarette prices will come down.
Mr. Carlisle : My hon. Friend is absolutely right and we have seen that happen in a price war over the importation of cigarettes through the ports because of duty-free goods. The consumption of one particular brand has risen quite dramatically because of its price. To the Government's credit, they have tried hard on the basis of "The Health of the Nation" White Paper, their whole thrust being to discourage smoking. That is reflected in the taxation policies of my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his predecessor. There is no doubt that the higher the price goes, the more people tend to give
Column 468up smoking. However, it is not for the House to dictate to those 16 million adults who wish to smoke and to tell them that a legitimate product should not be advertised.
Mr. Quentin Davies : May I make a point in response to our hon. Friend the Member for High Peak (Mr. Hendry), who appeared to be arguing that one of the disadvantages to the nation's health of banning advertising would be that it would no longer be possible to tell people about the supposed medically and clinically beneficial effects of tobacco consumption in the circumstances outlined by my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford Mr. Cash) ?
Surely my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, North would agree that the voluntary agreement precludes the industry from using the medium of advertising to draw to the attention of the public any such beneficial effects of tobacco, if such effects exist. Therefore, any damage would be done not by the Bill being passed, but, in the light of the analysis of my hon. Friend the Member for High Peak, by the voluntary agreement, which would impede the communication of medically useful information. Is that really what really my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, North is arguing ? If so, he is arguing not against the Bill, but against the voluntary agreement.
Mr. Carlisle : Aside from the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Stamford and Spalding, we do not know what the revised form of the voluntary agreement will be. The voluntary agreement has been extremely successful in reducing the consumption of tobacco products--far more successful than in those countries where there has been an absolute ban. That is the merit of the agreement, which my hon. Friend the Member for Stamford and Spalding will certainly outline to the House if he has a chance later and catches your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
Sir Peter Emery (Honiton) : I have not interrupted my hon. Friend before, but may I ask him to refer to the request from Professor Dame Margaret Turner-Warwick, as he is talking on the medical side ? She is the first lady ever to have been a president of one of the royal societies of medicine. She was president of the Royal Society of Physicians and wrote :
"The increase in lung cancer incidents is almost entirely due to cigarette smoking. Please help to reduce the unacceptable level of preventable deaths and disease caused by tobacco by supporting the private Member's Bill to ban tobacco advertising."
Does he dismiss that absolutely ?
Mr. Carlisle : I believe that my right hon. Friend brought up a similar point on Second Reading, not Committee. Opinions vary on this very touchy subject. I do not think that my right hon. Friend would say that one opinion expressed by one person supported by others would necessarily be taken as gospel in the House. She is entitled to her opinion, as are other medical professors, who would take a contrary view, not only on that, but on passive smoking and other subjects.
Mr. Cash : Would my hon. Friend also be interested to know that the eminent Central Council of Physical Recreation has sent me a letter today, which says that it takes a long-term view and very much hopes that the Bill
Column 469will not go through ? Those people are responsible for so much of the physical recreation and health of the nation. It knows perfectly well, as it says :
"to single out one legal product as the object of special Government restriction within the market place is not only odd but does present a future threat to other products and services which may from time to time become unpopular or out of favour."
There is a real balance in the argument about the merits and demerits of the Bill, not only on medical grounds, but on physical recreation and health.
Mr. Carlisle : My hon. Friend is absolutely right. He will know, as chairman of the Conservative Back-Bench committee, that sporting matters are of direct interest to me. The CCPR has consistently said that banning tobacco advertising would be very detrimental to sport. Several hon. Members indicated dissent .
Mr. Carlisle : In particular, it says in the existing voluntary agreement--I see hon. Members on the Opposition Front Bench shaking their heads and making gestures at me. It says in the voluntary agreement that sport should not be influenced by tobacco companies and, indeed, should not be promoted. That has been agreed, not only in the voluntary agreement, but in the separate code for sport. There is overwhelming evidence that just to ban the advertising of a legitimate product, which is all we are talking about here, would affect a lot of people in the sporting world and elsewhere. Many would be denied the sports they currently enjoy if it were not for the sponsorship of certain tobacco companies.
Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley) : As my hon. Friend will know, I have a retail interest in selling tobacco products and also have experience of selling tobacco products to many customers in the Swansea area. I should be delighted if all my customers gave up smoking because I know of the damage that it does to their health. However, we have diversified over the years.
Is my hon. Friend aware that, when I first started selling tobacco products, the popular brands were Woodbine, Capstan Full Strength and Senior Service--high in nicotine and tar yield ? Now, our highest selling brand is Silk Cut, which is a low-tar cigarette. If one talks about safer cigarettes, there is one. It is the advertising of the benefits of switching from high-tar to low-tar cigarettes which the Bill would ban.
Mr. Carlisle : If I may say to the hon. Member, I am not sure whether it is for Makerfield or Mafeking, my hon. Friend the Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans) is legitimately selling a product, which is lawful, to those who are legitimately allowed to buy it. Thank heavens, assuming that the Bill does not find favour with the House, he will still be able to advertise that product.
My hon. Friend is entirely right that, in terms of the tar content, the advertising of cigarettes has improved with the health warning and with the ability of tobacco companies to say to their customers that they have a lower-tar cigarette
Column 470and, therefore, encourage them to switch to that brand rather than to others. That must be beneficial to the running of the industry and the way in which things are going.
Mr. Leigh : I take up the point that was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans). Since 1986, the number of people smoking middle-tar cigarettes has fallen from 40 per cent. to 4 per cent. The central feature of the arguments that are being advanced by some of my hon. Friends is that if we ban advertising there will be no inducement to switch to low-tar cigarettes.
There are many amendments before us and I know that the House is anxious to make progress. Having discussed amendments Nos. 78 and 79 reasonably comprehensively--I accept that there may be some divisions, as it were, between my hon. Friends, some of whom may not like the amendments--I shall move on to amendment No. 18. If the hon. Member for Rother Valley has studied it, I think that he will agree that it would be an extremely helpful amendment to his Bill.
The amendment turns on communications with those in the industry and with those working for the industry. When the hon. Gentleman tabled his Bill, I do not think that he intended it to introduce such swingeing restrictions. For example, if his Bill were enacted as it stands, it could prevent tobacco companies from engaging in communications, if I may use the term, with their employees, with their trade unions or with their works councils. I do not think that that was the hon. Gentleman's intention. I see that he is nodding. It is not for me to comment on whether the hon. Gentleman took advice on the drafting of the Bill. Equally, it would not be for me to comment on where his advice, if he received any, came from. Obviously it did not come from the trade unions. I am sure that they would have been rather upset by such a swingeing restriction being imposed on them. If the hon. Gentleman has received trade union advice, perhaps he will tell us-- obviously he did not ; otherwise, he would have told us.
As I have said, amendment No. 18 would be extremely helpful. Of course, it may not appeal to every hon. Member. The House may wish to say, if there is a Division, that it does not like it. I believe, however, that it is very helpful. Under the Bill as it stands, a communication from a tobacco company to its employees informing them, perhaps, of a meeting--there might have to be a meeting to discuss the possibility of a pay rise or it may be necessary to discuss the future of the company, including the introduction of improved social benefits--could be prevented from taking place.
Mr. Robert Banks : What would be the position of shareholders and annual reports, for example, in terms of the tobacco companies informing their shareholders of what they are doing and the results that have been achieved ? Surely they should be able to communicate that information to their shareholders and, for that matter, to the public at large, who need to be in possession of such information. I have in mind people in the City- -bankers and the rest.
Column 471They will need to be notified of dividends, for example, and it will be necessary for them to receive notices of meetings. As I have said, amendment No.18 reflects a wish to be helpful. We are saying, in effect, that the Bill should be more specific. Tobacco companies should be able to have communications with who they wish. It may be--God forbid--that the Opposition will form a Government. They may wish to relate to the public the ills or possibly even the merits of the social chapter. If it comes before the House or it is introduced into our legislation, a tobacco company, if the Bill is not amended, would not be able to tell its employees of the merits or otherwise, or the conditions imposed, by the social chapter. I ask the House to examine the amendment carefully. It is designed to be helpful and it is unique.
I move on to amendment No. 95, which relates to advertisements on the side of vehicles. In this instance, the hon. Member for Rother Valley has tried to be helpful for he has said that advertisements on the side of moving vehicles might be prohibited. He was not, however, specific. There is a feeling among some of my hon. Friends that the hon. Gentleman should go to his advisers, paid or otherwise--it would not be proper for me to resurrect that argument, but the drafting should have been done rather more carefully --for further advice. As things stand, the intention behind the Bill is very much to focus on the name of a company and not necessarily the brand name. In some instances, companies are known not by their name but by their product. For example, there is the Hoover vacuum cleaner. To many people, a vacuum cleaner is a Hoover. They do not use the name of the maker or manufacturer of the instrument. They refer, as it were, to the machinery. Equally, many people talk about Rothmans, John Player or whatever. They do not necessarily refer to the tobacco company itself.
The purpose of amendment No. 95--it is intended, as I have said, to be helpful--is to ensure that advertisements that use a name that is rather different from the name of the product should be allowed on the side of vehicles and on mobile poster sites.
It is an old trick in the motor industry to park vehicles bearing advertisements in places chosen by the company. My own company, the Bletchley Motor Group--I hesitated before mentioning it, excellent company though it is--has painted BMG on the side of a lorry and parked it by the side of a road or in a hotel car park, for example. It is a legitimate method of advertising. As the Bill stands, it would be extremely difficult for my company or a tobacco company to use it.
Mr. Cash : Is my hon. Friend aware that the Bill as it stands would be anti-competitive ? Wearing my legal hat, I have from time to time been called upon to give advice on matters of this sort. Will my hon. Friend accept that the Bill could infringe European requirements, laws and regulations ? As a result, if the Bill were enacted it could be overridden by the European Court of Justice. That would render the Bill useless and obsolete.
Mr. Carlisle : Many of us regard it as useless. I hope that it will be obsolete after today. However, my hon. Friend is right. With his deep and detailed knowledge of European matters, I think that the House will accept that he
Column 472has raised an important matter. It is the anti-competitive section of the Bill that we are trying to amend. It is so important to allow proper competition.
Mr. Alexander : Does my hon. Friend agree that, if the amendment were not carried, the Bill, when enacted, would favour a company whose name was the same as its product ? By favouring that company, it would discriminate against companies lawfully manufacturing a product but not being able to advertise in the same way.
Mr. Robert Banks : I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way to me again. Before he leaves the amendment, will he reflect on the fact that it draws attention to how draconian and ridiculous the Bill is ? For instance, some tobacco companies may acquire vintage vehicles or replicas of such vehicles, and merely paint the name of the company on the side. Surely that is allowable. Surely that should be permissible in the brand wars that will take place.
Mr. Carlisle : My hon. Friend is right in his worries. As the hon. Member for Rother Valley has said, however--I pay credit to him because he is an honourable man who has done a minimal amount of research into the Bill--he has tried in this instance to ensure that the Bill is not as draconian as it might be. There is, however, still a worry. There is a later amendment--we are galloping through the amendment paper so I am sure that we shall reach it--that would be helpful to the hon. Gentleman on this important point.
I move on to amendment No.2, which deals with stationery. It is extremely important. The Bill, as drafted, will ban stationery and other identifying items that could be deemed to be communications constituting or containing an advertisement. That is extraordinary--it means that, if a tobacco company has a logo and wishes to communicate with anyone--possibly hon. Members--it will have to be careful that it does not fall foul of the legislation and be deemed to be advertising its product.
It will be extraordinary if a company cannot even write to its customers in the fear that it may be advertising its wares. It could not write to the Department of Health to say that the next cigarette that it was to manufacture was lower in tar. It could only do so on blank paper that gave no sign of the sender of the letter. That begs the question as to what is a letter and what an advertisement. The House must consider that issue, which is why the amendment is helpful. Some hon. Members may not think so, but those of us who have put our names to it believe so.
Are we to legislate so that a tobacco company cannot put its name at the top of the letterhead for fear that it will contradict the law by advertising its wares and itself ?
Column 473interest."] I have already declared my retail interest ; the hon. Member for Makerfield (Mr. McCartney) was not listening.
The greatest number of communications that we in the retail trade receive from the tobacco industry normally arrive after a Budget when the price of tobacco products has increased. Such price increases have contributed more than anything else to the decrease in tobacco consumption in this country.