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Sir Jerry Wiggin : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You were not in the Chair when I raised a point of order at the commencement of today's proceedings, pointing out that the voluntary agreement between the tobacco companies and the Department of Health had being going through a state of renegotiation, which had, effectively, been concluded last night. The Bill, if passed in its entirety, will have the effect of precluding that voluntary agreement and therefore it is extremely important that we hear today what the state of those negotiations is
Column 491Speaker this morning why she did not allow new clause 3 to be debated this morning. That would have allowed the Minister to give us a wide-ranging update of the position
Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. Madam Speaker replied to the hon. Gentleman this morning. I heard and I have heard her rulings since I have been out of the Chair. Hon. Members do not need the Chair to rule that, when we are discussing a batch of amendments, that is what we are debating. The subject of the amendments before us, as I have already said, is retail sales on premises. The Chair cannot allow anybody--the Minister or any other hon. Member--to stray outside that area. The Chair will not allow that. It is no good for hon. Members to keep getting up on points of order on that aspect. I have ruled that we are discussing the amendments to which the debate will be addressed.
Mr. McCartney rose
Mr. McCartney : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I assure you that I do not wish to challenge your ruling or previous rulings. It is not an attempt to undermine your ruling in principle. There is a major matter of principle involved because the voluntary agreement specifically excludes advertising within premises. That being so, the amendment cannot be used for the purpose that the Minister seems to have in mind. As I have said, the voluntary agreement specifically excludes
Mr. Alan Howarth : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It seems that it would be sensible if we were to have the opportunity to hear what my hon. Friend the Minister has to report on the state of negotiations between the Government and the industry. The difficulty, as you have explained to us, Mr. Deputy Speaker, is to allow that to happen while remaining within our rules of order.
Will you confirm, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that it would be in order if hon. Members who have tabled amendments were to withdraw them ? We would then be able to proceed immediately to Third Reading. Would you then be so tolerant, following such a departure from the normal conventions of the House, to say that whereas it is normally not in order for us to debate on Third Reading
Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. I know that the hon. Member wishes to be helpful. He knows full well that if hon. Members want to withdraw their amendments, they are free to do so. It is a matter for them to decide.
Mr. Bennett : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I appreciate that you have a difficult job to keep order within the House. Would you agree that one of the principal functions of a Government Whip is to ensure that you are assisted in that task ? Would it not be helpful for the Government Whip to send for the Leader of the House, and for the Leader of the House to arrange for us to hear a statement at 2.30 pm so that information can be given to the House and questioned ? On that basis, the Minister
Column 492should ensure that he does not refer again to any voluntary agreement when he speaks to the group of amendments before us.
Mr. Cash : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. A Minister is a Member of the House. Surely it is perfectly within his rights to comment on any aspect of a group of amendments that is before the House ? It is
Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. With great respect, the hon. Member is trying to tell his granny how to suck eggs. We are discussing a batch of amendments. Every hon. Member knows what they are about--certainly the Chair does--and that is what the debate is to be about. I hope that the Minister will bear that in mind. I do not want to rule him out of order. If he directs his remarks to the amendments, I shall not have to do so.
Mr. Sackville : I shall be brief because of the time that we have lost over the past few minutes with points of order and interruptions. I shall merely say what I began to say. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State and the tobacco industry have reached heads of agreement on matters relating to point-of-sale advertising. In particular, all shop-front advertising will be withdrawn by 1996. That relates directly to the amendments. There are other important and significant changes that were made to the voluntary agreement.
Mr. Nigel Evans : To take up what my hon. Friend has said about shop -front advertising, will the agreement also prohibit advertisements in shop windows drawing attention only to the price of cigarettes and other tobacco products, or particular brands of cigarettes or other tobacco products ?
Mr. Sackville : The full details of the agreement--on this and other parts of it--will be published within a few weeks. We shall release today the heads of agreement, which include the point that all shop-front advertising will be withdrawn by 1996. Copies of a statement that involve all these matters are in the Vote Office for all the House to see.
Ms Lynne : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The Minister has just said that a statement will be available in the Vote Office. He previously said that no statement was being made. When is the statement due to be made--now, or perhaps at 2.30pm ? It certainly was not made at 11 o'clock this morning.
Mr. Campbell-Savours rose
Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. I am on my feet. At the risk of continually repeating myself--I hope that the Minister will help me on this --we are discussing the amendments. There is no statement in front of the House. I repeat that we are discussing the amendments and that the Minister must stick to them.
Mr. Campbell-Savours : It is--it is about the Vote Office. Will you instruct the Vote Office that it is not to hand out statements to anyone relating to the debate that has taken place today, because it would be an abuse of our procedure ? The Minister has just announced that statements are to be made available subsequent to the statement that he has made at the Dispatch Box.
Mr. Bennett : Yes. I understand that at least one copy of the statement was released by the Vote Office. At present, other hon. Members are having difficulty obtaining copies. Surely, once one copy has been released, all copies should be released and all hon. Members should have an opportunity to obtain a copy. Surely it is an abuse of the House for a Minister to release a statement in this way and for us not to be able to ask questions on it.
Mr. McCartney : Yes. I apologise for the fact that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, have been place in an impossible position by the Government's business managers today. You are respected in all parts of the House. I want to make it clear that the Opposition regard what is happening as an important matter of principle. The press release that has been issued on the statement quotes what the Minister is purported to have said at the Dispatch Box during the Report stage of the Bill. It gives direct quotes from what the Minister has said. That is a serious abuse of the House and the Chair, and a complete misuse of the procedures of the House. It places you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in an impossible position and--which is as important--it places hon. Members in a position whereby they can be manipulated and used by the Government business managers and officials in the Department of Health, acting on behalf of the Parliamentary Under- Secretary. He knew that the statement was to be issued, but, during the past two hours when questioned about it, he chose, cynically, to say nothing.
Several hon. Members rose
Mr. Deputy Speaker : If the points of order that hon. Members wish to put to me are on the same subject, I shall not take them. I have ruled on the matter and shall now call the Minister. The Chair is responsible for debate in the House, not what the Minister has put in the Vote Office. If there are points of order which are completely different to those on which I have ruled, I will hear them.[ Several hon. Members-- : "On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker."] I hope that they are different points of order and that hon. Members are not attempting to take advantage of the Chair or the House.
Mr. Barron : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I ask for your advice ? I do not want to go too far back, but I came third in the private Member's ballot last year and consequently I have tried to bring a Bill through the House with the guidance of the Chair, both on the Floor of the House and in Committee. I must say that I have received good guidance in both situations.
On Second Reading, a statement was made at 11 o'clock in a proper manner by the Department of Health in relation to a matter which concerned my regional health authority. Clearly, that statement took up time which I thought had been allotted to me by the House for my private Member's Bill.
I seek your guidance, Mr. Deputy Speaker. A press release has been passed to me which quotes a statement allegedly made during the debate on Report by the Minister which does not relate to issues contained in my Bill. Is that a right and proper way for the private Members' Bill procedure to be used by Ministers ?
Ms Lynne : Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I seek clarification. As a relatively new hon. Member, I have never experienced a press release being put out when the Minister has not made the statement in the House. The release says :
"Mr. Sackville made the announcement during Report Stage of Kevin Barron MP's Private Members Bill on tobacco advertising." Is that in order ?
Mr. Deputy Speaker : With great respect to the hon. Lady and the hon. Gentleman, I already dealt with the matters raised in those points of order. There can be no further points of order on that issue.
Column 495Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash). Fourteen years of Conservative rule in this country is destroying the country's institutions.
Mr. Campbell-Savours : From memory, I think that "Erskine May" states that to misrepresent the proceedings of Parliament is a contempt. The Minister has quoted in the press release a statement which he has not made. He is therefore technically in contempt.
Mr. Sackville : The main heads of the agreement which we have reached have been placed in the press office. I shall seek to catch your eye later today about the other parts of the agreement which do not relate to premises and to point of sale advertising.
Mr. Sackville : For the moment, I shall rest my remarks by commending the agreement to the House. It is a major step forward in the voluntary agreement which exists between the industry and the Department.
Mr. Sackville indicated dissent .
Mr. McCartney : Today, like last week, has descended into a shambolic attempt by the Government to manipulate the private Members' Bill procedure of the House. It is quite scandalous. The House has before it a measure which was approved without dissent at Second Reading and which has all-party support
Mr. McCartney : The hon. Gentleman likes to niggle me. He has never won an argument, and he will not win one either. In Committee, hon. Members from both sides of the House debated the aspect of premises in great detail. These amendments are wrecking amendments. The reason why they are wrecking amendments on behalf of the tobacco industry
Mr. Peter Griffiths : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am sure you will agree that I am not one for wasting the time of the House. Earlier today, I asked whether all the amendments on the amendment paper were in order, and the Speaker ruled that they were. Wrecking amendments would not be in order.
The reason why the amendments have been placed on the amendment paper and why they are being so vociferously supported by a small group of Conservative Members is to protect a market. The Government have already indicated that that is the case. Let us look at what the amendments attempt to do with regard to the market. It is 50 million packets of cigarettes sold each year to children between 11 and 15 years of age in premises owned by companies and individuals who support the amendments before the House.
In Committee, where excellent work was done, the Under-Secretary said virtually nothing about the matters contained in the amendments, and hon. Members on both sides of the Committee rejected them. The amendments were rejected on the simple premise that the Bill is about child protection. It is about protecting the children identified in the Government's document "The Health of the Nation", in the independent review of tobacco advertising by Dr. Smee and by the Government's independent advisers. The figures set out in "The Health of the Nation" showed that tobacco advertising was a significant factor in attracting young people to smoking and sustaining their involvement in the smoking habit.
Mr. Forman : The hon. Gentleman will know that I am on his side on the broad principle of the argument. Is he aware that the press release, of which mention has already been made, says that there will be a ban on advertising for tobacco products on computer games and on other computer software ? It is interesting that all my hon. Friends who have made a case against the Bill are saying that there should be no ban ; yet in the press release the Government are advocating and agreeing a ban with the industry. Is there not some rather interesting contradiction there ?
Mr. McCartney : The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. If he has an opportunity to read the press release--it is out of order to discuss the press release at present--he will see that there is a whole series of ambiguities. With regard to some matters, there is a less than forceful response from the industry, as promised by the Minister of State at Second Reading. Therefore, the statement is totally inadequate.
Mr. Nigel Evans rose
Mr. Leigh rose
Mr. McCartney : I promise to give way to both hon. Gentlemen in a moment, especially to the hon. Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans), as someone who is involved in the industry. When he gets up, I hope that he will accept at least some responsibility for the 50 million packets of cigarettes a year that are sold through the premises of his hon. Friends and others who are involved in selling cigarettes. On the Government Benches, there are two groups involved in terms of the amendment. There are the Conservatives Against Tobacco, and there is a tobacco
Column 497industry party--I should call them TIP. By God--do they tip the industry. In the past two years, they have paid £200,000 to the Tory party coffers. One of the biggest contributors made it plain that the sole reason for the contribution was to maintain opposition to the introduction of a tobacco advertising ban. There was a rejection of that philosophy by an overwhelming majority of hon. Members including Conservative Members and members of the Cabinet who support the Bill's concept in principle. Despite that, a few Conservative Members will destroy an opportunity to protect millions of potential victims of tobacco advertising.
Mr. Robert Banks : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I have listened carefully to the difficulties with which you have had to contend. You made the correct judgment that the debate should centre on the amendments. What I have heard in the past two or three minutes was clearly way off beam.
Mr. McCartney : I am more than trying to do that, because I am dealing with premises and the resources to promote products inside and outside those premises. We are also debating the use and influence of those resources to maintain the status quo. That is what the debate is about. The House must decide whether we as a society are prepared to pass the amendments or allow them to wreck the concept of the Bill and be prepared to accept the fact that 110,000 of our fellow citizens die each year as a direct consequence of the activities of the tobacco industry.
Mr. Nigel Evans : I note the hon. Gentleman's comments about deaths, but we are discussing advertising and its banning and not the harm that tobacco products could do. I accept all that he says about that. The amendments relate to retail premises, and I welcome the fact that in my retail premises sales are decreasing. Will the hon. Gentleman welcome the fact that the warning on advertising in premises which will be allowed when the voluntary agreement is in place will take up 20 per cent. of the advertisement and not just 17.5 per cent. as before ?
Mr. McCartney : That means that 80 per cent. of the advertisement will still persuade people to kill themselves for the profits of the tobacco companies. If the hon. Gentleman was really serious, and as he has acknowledged the damage that his company is doing by selling the product, I shall give way to him if he is prepared to say that his company will forthwith withdraw tobacco products from sale, because, as he has said, they seriously damages the health of his customers.
Mr. Nigel Evans : There are 225,000 outlets in this country and 1 million people are employed in the manufacture or sale of those products. In that context, for my company to give up would be useless. Why cannot the hon. Gentleman be honest and say that he would favour a total ban on the sale of tobacco products ?
Column 498hon. Gentleman chose that stance and did not choose the Government's position on the medical harm, death and injury to many of his customers and potential constituents.
Mr. Nigel Evans rose
Mr. Alan Howarth : The hon. Gentleman is right to stress the lethal effects of tobacco consumption. In particular, I applaud him for drawing attention to the damage done to children. My intervention gives me an opportunity to correct something that I said earlier. Sir Richard Doll said that a ban on advertising would prevent the premature deaths of 70,000 children who are now living. As the hon. Member for Makerfield (Mr. McCartney) says, the Government are on record as saying that smoking is by far the biggest single preventable cause of death. I remind the hon. Gentleman that, according to newspaper reports just before Christmas, the view of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health, which was given in a submission to the Cabinet, was :
"My Department's review of the effect of tobacco advertising suggests that further restrictions up to and including a ban could be expected to reduce smoking."
Does that not demonstrate that the Government's analysis makes it quite clear that we should move well beyond the voluntary agreement and have a firm and definitive ban ?
Mr. McCartney : The hon. Gentleman is absolutely correct, both in his analysis and in the fact that it is based on propaganda not from Opposition Members or from opponents of the tobacco industry, but from within Government and their medical advisers. It is incredible that the Government, despite the overwhelming evidence from their internal inquiries, choose to turn their face away, and, in so doing, be inexplicably involved in the potentially premature deaths of a potential 70,000 children in the United Kingdom. Only the Minister can say why a Minister at the Department of Heath would take such foolish action and is driven to the point, which I was making earlier
Mr. John Carlisle : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I seek your guidance. Having read the Bill and studied it carefully, and having heard every minute of the proceedings this morning--I did not miss much in Committee--I thought that it dealt with the advertising of tobacco products, not the banning of that legitimate substance. Perhaps I have been misled over the past hours, days and weeks, possibly not on the intent of the hon. Member for Rother Valley, which is pretty obvious, but on the fact that the Bill is, perhaps, precluding something that might be coming. Are we keeping to the subject or not ?
Mr. Deputy Speaker : I can assure the hon. Gentleman that his interpretation is quite correct. There has been quite a bit of straying from the amendments, on both sides of the House. The Chair has attempted to stick religiously to the debate in question. That is what the Chair intends doing for the rest of the debate. I draw that to the attention of the hon. Member for Makerfield.
Mr. McCartney : The hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle), who raised a point of order, is well noted in the House as an expert in misleading in terms of debate. [Interruption.] The position in relation to