Order for Second Reading read.
Before moving on to the meat of my speech, I want to thank hon. Members in all parts of the House who have sponsored the Bill, which is an all-party measure and not partisan. My thanks go also to my outside advisers--Action on Smoking and Health and the Tobacco Control Alliance. I am sure that they accept the importance of widespread support for the Bill from the sharp end of public health. Without wishing to bore the House, I shall name some of the organisations that have indicated their support for the measure. I shall identify also those who are against it.
Support has been clearly demonstrated by the British Heart Foundation, Imperial Cancer Research Fund, National Asthma Campaign, Cancer Research Campaign, British Medical Association, Coronary Prevention Group, Medical Practitioners Union, Society of Health Education, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, British Cardiac Society, British Paediatric Association, International Union Against Cancer, Coronary Artery Disease Association, Royal College of Radiologists, Royal Pharmaceutical Society, Royal College of Midwives, Health Promotion Agency for Northern Ireland, Royal College of Physicians, Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, Quit--the National Society of Non Smokers, International Organisation of Consumer Unions, Parents Against Tobacco, Institution of Environmental Health Officers, National Association of Health Authorities and Trusts, Royal College of Surgeons, Society of Occupational Medicine, National Heart and Lung Institute, Royal Institute of Public Health and Hygiene, Family Heart Association-- [Hon. Members:-- "Get on with it."] Conservative Members who represent the tobacco industry must be embarrassed at the wealth of support for my Bill from people at the sharp end, who have to deal with the consequences of smoking. I am not surprised in the least at the barracking from Conservative Members.
Other organisations that have indicated their support are the Royal College of General Practitioners, Health Visitors Association, Ulster Cancer Foundation, World Health Organisation, Faculty of Public Health Medicine of the Royal College of Physicians, Tenovus Cancer Research Appeal, Royal College of Nursing, Health and Safety Executive, British Lung Foundation, Marie Curie Cancer Care, Chest, Heart and Stroke Foundation, Addiction Research Unit and British Thoracic Society.
Column 1240That is an impressive list of expert support for the Bill. The only vested interest that I can detect there is in public health and the well-being of the vast majority of our people.
The list of those who are against the Bill is not long. It consists of the tobacco industry and FOREST, the Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco, which is 95 per cent. funded by the tobacco industry. That is it. It is hardly surprising that there is so much support for the measure when one accepts, as I think the Government now accept--
It is hardly surprising that there is so much support for the measure when one considers that more than 111,000 people die prematurely each year from tobacco-related diseases, which include lung cancer, emphysema, heart disease and strokes. That is why there is so much sharp-end support for the Bill.
Colleagues in all parts of the House know that I have many other interests such as leasehold reform and animal welfare, and a number of people were surprised when I chose this subject for a Bill after I came fourth in the ballot. The simple answer is that in my constituency alone one in five people die each year from diseases that are attributable to smoking. Salford, which takes in most of my constituency, is one of the country's black spots for tobacco-related diseases.
As important as that, one of the events in this place that convinced me to take on the tobacco industry again was the visit to the House last year by the late Roy Castle during a remission in his terrible illness. We had a super afternoon with Roy Castle, who was on top form, although he knew what his destiny was to be in just a few short months. Without being maudlin, I can say that his visit had a profound effect on me.
I have been a lifelong non-smoker for no reason other than that when I was a youngster I was interested in sport and was extremely fit. That is probably hard to believe now. I did not realise then that smoking could be such a horrendous disease and the only problem that I saw with it in those days was that the lads who smoked and played football with me ran out of breath quicker than I did and could not run as fast. However, it is far more serious than that and Roy Castle's visit and the conversations with him underscored that. When we consider that more than 111,000 people die each year from tobacco-related diseases, it is no wonder that customers of the tobacco industry need to be replaced. Where does it get those replacements? Another simple statistic is that, on average, 500 youngsters are recruited each day to the tobacco habit. Of course, most of them will die in later life because of that habit. I emphasise that those who are recruited to smoking and touched by its effects and those who die from tobacco use are of all political persuasions and social classes.
Column 1241As long ago as 1971 the Royal College of Physicians, in a strong report, recommended health warnings so as to have a greater impact on smokers, and the purpose of the Bill is to strengthen those warnings.
Mr. Colvin: Is the hon. Gentleman aware that warnings to children on the dangers of smoking are now part of the national curriculum and that last year the Government spent £13.5 million on promoting that? Surely that is adequate warning for youngsters. If they insist on smoking, that is their own problem, but at the moment the Government spend an adequate amount on educating children about the dangers, and that is the time to do it.
Mr. Lewis: The point is that more youngsters are smoking. The issue is whether the £13.5 million is well spent. In the House, there are arguments day after day, when people ask whether money thrown at problems is money well spent. I am happy to see the national curriculum embrace the subject, but we have to look at the effectiveness of that education, and the statistics show that it is not effective. I concede that we are in the early days of such education in the national curriculum. None the less, I do not think that the money is being well spent. My measure would be a much better idea and it would not cost the taxpayer a penny.
Mr. John Austin-Walker (Woolwich): Would my hon. Friend care to reflect upon the contrast between how much the Government spend on trying to persuade young people not to smoke and the amount spent daily by the tobacco industry on trying to encourage young people to take up smoking?
Mr. Lewis: My hon. Friend makes a cogent point. That argument has been well rehearsed in the House and outside. There is obviously a correlation between the amount spent by the industry and the amount spent on health education.
Mr. John Carlisle (Luton, North): The hon. Gentleman says that more young people are taking up smoking. Where did he find figures on that? The latest figures from the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys, which he will know about, show that the numbers are going down. Part of the reason for that is voluntary agreements brought in by the Government and the measure mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Waterside (Mr. Colvin) to discourage children from smoking. Where did the hon. Gentleman get his figures to show that the number of children taking up smoking is going up? May we have some facts, please?
Mr. Lewis: The figures are more or less static, and as a percentage they are rising. The figures are readily available and if the hon. Gentleman took a trip to the Library, he could soon turn them up. He must concede that all the effort by Government and health organisations is a drop in the ocean compared with the amount of effort that is put in by the tobacco industry to replace the people whom it is killing.
Mr. Greenway: I speak as one who is currently seeing 204 jobs disappear from my constituency. Those are people who were honourably employed by Gallaher and who worked very hard. I am extremely supportive of the argument, although I am not a smoker. It is unpersuasive, is it not, to say that more young people are smoking and then to concede in response to an intervention that that is not the case. What effect would the Bill have on imported or smuggled cigarettes? Would it be possible to force the manufacturers of those cigarettes to use the imprimatur that the hon. Gentleman suggests? Those cigarettes are taking jobs from my constituents, to the passionate distress of Northolt.
Mr. Lewis: The hon. Gentleman should be patient. I assure him that I shall tackle that issue because it forms an important part of my speech. Public health and the future of the current generation have to be balanced against jobs, and I accept that that is a difficult balance. I have tobacco workers in my constituency, but I also have coal miners. I did not hear the hon. Gentleman make too much of a fuss when coal mines in my area were being closed. I am sponsored by the Transport and General Workers Union, which organises in the tobacco industry. I am not saying that the tobacco industry should be shut down tomorrow. My union and the members whom I have represented for more than 30 years understand that. What they do know is that I am trying to deal with what is undoubtedly a public health risk. On the specifics of what the Bill will achieve, it will increase the size of warnings on packets and it will make them more emphatic so that they come more easily to the attention of people who are likely to start the smoking habit. During recent weeks, I have spoken to many people of my generation who smoke. Almost to a man, they said that had they known about the health risks when they started smoking in the 1950s or 1960s, they would never have started the habit. The sort of advice that they received from parents, family and teachers in those far-off days was, "You will never have any money if you smoke; it is an expensive habit." They never said, because they did not know, "If you start the habit, you will more than likely end up in the 1990s with heart trouble or emphysema, or you may even die of lung cancer."
That is the whole point of the Bill. I want to turn back the clock and build on the experience of other countries. The warnings must be more emphatic.
Mr. Greenway: As I said, I care passionately about the jobs in the tobacco industry in my constituency. It is irrelevant to talk about coal mines. The hon. Gentleman has not answered my point about his Bill not applying to imported cigarettes from France and Germany. That is undermining jobs in my constituency. People are not stopping smoking, so all the Bill will do is undermine more jobs in British firms. That is a serious concern for my constituents.
Mr. Lewis: I have the greatest respect for the hon. Gentleman, but I have already told him clearly that I shall come to that point later in my speech. I think that my argument is quite reasonable, because many hon. Members here today voted effectively to dismantle the coal industry. The hon. Gentleman voted for that and the industry was literally dismantled within days and weeks. That led to Britain having to import coal. It is exactly the same argument that the hon. Gentleman puts about cigarettes. However, I am being fairer than the hon.
Column 1243Gentleman, because the consequences of my Bill will take time to come to fruition. It will not close down the tobacco industry tomorrow. If the Bill is passed, everybody will not stop smoking the day after tomorrow. The hon. Gentleman's tobacco workers will not be thrown out of work.
Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough and Horncastle): The hon. Gentleman promised that he would answer the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway). Perhaps it is unanswerable. However, he must deal with that point in the centre of his speech. He cannot dictate to the rest of Europe, which imposes health warnings covering 4 to 6 per cent. of a packet. Under the hon. Gentleman's Bill, Britain would have warnings covering 25 per cent. That would wipe out the entire tobacco industry in Britain and cigarettes would be imported instead. How will that deal with the smoking habit in this country-- [Interruption.]
Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes): Order. I note with some displeasure the number of seated interventions and general mutterings. I am noting where they are coming from and hon. Members may find that they slide down my list somewhat.
Mr. Lewis: There is a way to satisfy the concern expressed by the hon. Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle (Mr. Leigh). I am sure that it can be well and truly sorted out in dialogue with the Minister.
Mr. Richard Alexander (Newark): The hon. Gentleman referred to what happened in the coal industry. I voted against the Government on that issue, but I have to tell the hon. Gentleman that it appears that he is suggesting that two wrongs make a right.
Mr. Nick Hawkins (Blackpool, South): I speak as a non-smoker and I understand some of the hon. Gentleman's points. He has just dealt with the question of whether people will be thrown out of work immediately. Those who run small tobacconists shops in my constituency are worried that, as has been explained by some of my hon. Friends, they will be thrown out of business more or less instantly because of the adverse impact of smuggling. They have asked me to put that point to the hon. Gentleman.
Mr. Lewis: I have already said that I shall tackle that issue later in my speech. However, I must tell the hon. Gentleman that the representations which I get from tobacconists in my constituency are usually about tax hikes and the effects of Budget proposals. It is easy for hon. Members to get carried away when analysing their postbags.
Mr. Robert Key (Salisbury): I would not want the hon. Gentleman to think that everybody on the Conservative Benches intends to vote against his Bill--some of us intend to vote for it. A point has been made about corner shops that sell tobacco. I wonder what proportion of their income is derived from that aspect of their business. One of the most interesting developments over the past two or three months has been the impact of the national lottery on those shops. I understand that the 5p commission per
Column 1244ticket has yielded between £500 and £1,500 a week per shop, which is far more than the profit that they could ever make on tobacco.
As I was saying before all the interventions, as long ago as 1971, the Royal College of Physicians recommended stronger health warnings on cigarette packets. The Bill would move that idea further along. In every sense, it is a consumer empowerment device. It is about choice. It will have an enormous effect on public health. It will enhance public awareness of the hazards of tobacco use by improving the communication of necessary information. It is designed to ensure that cigarette packs have less appeal to young people.
I do not think that any of the apologists for the tobacco industry could deny that the tobacco industry puts enormous effort into the design of packs to make them attractive. I may be arguing with the Minister during most of the proceedings on the Bill, so I want to thank him for at least removing Camel art from the shelves as part of the voluntary agreement. We shall have many arguments about the voluntary agreement, but I welcome that one positive feature, and the Minister deserves credit for it.
The labelling of tobacco products in the European Union is regulated by two directives--one was adopted in 1989 and the other in 1992--which impose a minimum standard on member states. However, despite the amendments that were adopted in 1992--which, in particular, reinforce the labelling of tobacco products other than cigarettes--there are a number of weaknesses in the European legislation, which must be strengthened. The Bill will do that. In the United Kingdom, health warnings are required to cover at least 6 per cent. of the front and back surfaces of the pack, which is 2 per cent. more than is required by the directive. Although that step has been well lauded, the effects in real terms are fairly negligible. I have no doubt that the Minister will claim credit for the fact that the UK standard is 50 per cent. in advance of the European Union standard.
Mr. Lewis: I thank my hon. Friend for that. Today, I have qualified for the job of Chancellor of the Exchequer. It seems that being innumerate is the best qualification, but I thank the Minister for his intervention.
The principal weakness of present legislation is due to the lack of visibility of warnings because of size, position, typeface, design and the use of colours. I know that you will not be pleased at me using props, Madam Deputy Speaker, so I shall refrain from doing so, but looking at various pack designs in the past few weeks has given me a clear idea of the enormous amount of effort and Saatchi
Column 1245and Saatchi work that goes into disguising the warning against the background of the pack. I do not think that anyone will argue about that.
Pack design is clever. A background of long lines makes it difficult in certain lights to see the warning on the pack. That is the principal weakness of the current legislation.
Mr. Barry Porter (Wirral, South): The hon. Gentleman makes an interesting observation about designer packets. He might care to explain why a particular cigarette brand has found itself a nice little niche in the market, even though the packet is white with a skull and crossbones, and the brand is called Death.
Mr. Lewis: The brand is appropriately named. I am not sure that it has a niche in the market because of the colour of the pack. As I understand it, it is about clever importers getting round import legislation and using customers as agents. We are talking about cigarette packs which appear on the shelves in tobacconists shops, and which are passed around in places such as the tea room. We are not talking about companies that get round legislation by importing cigarettes. It is no good the hon. Gentleman shaking his head. That is a fact about Death cigarettes.
Mr. John Carlisle: The hon. Gentleman mentioned Camel. I do not know whether he intends to mention it later; some of the supporters of his Bill may do so. I am pleased that he lauds the Government's decision, which was supported by the tobacco manufacturers. Does he agree that Camel sales in the UK amount to only 0.25 per cent.? It is obviously an offender and I think that the industry has admitted that. He is stretching the imagination a little far by saying that the warnings on manufacturers' packs are not obvious to people who want to look at them. If people choose to ignore them, that is up to them.
Mr. Lewis: The hon. Gentleman is being disingenuous. I was being illustrative about pack design. I was not arguing about those companies' share of the market. I am talking about the simple premise of the designer packs. I gave just one example where I thought that the Minister deserved a little pat on the back. The hon. Gentleman should allow me that indulgence, and not spoil me and make me mad. That is a little over the top.
Mr. Peter Bottomley (Eltham): Does the hon. Gentleman accept that, if manufacturers abide by the letter but not by the spirit of the voluntary code, they add to the pressure to tighten the code or to introduce more legislation? Does he agree that if 5,000 people a week stop smoking, 2,000 because they are dead and 3,000 because they have given up before they die, and if fewer people take up smoking after the age of 21, much of the effort must be directed at people who, sadly, copy the example of older people-- not necessarily because of advertising--and who look on smoking as an acceptable habit?
Mr. Lewis: As always, the hon. Gentleman is looking for a compromise. I do not know whether any compromise is on offer. However, if the House gives the Bill its Second Reading today and if it is considered in Committee, those ideas may be explored. My position now, however, is that we should follow the example of
Column 1246other countries, such as Canada and Australia, and seek to ensure that packs are of the same design as in those countries. It is not doing the tobacco industry any harm in those countries. It seems a reasonable route to take.
Clause 1(1)(a)(i) improves the position in relation to the size of the health warning. It states that it should be
"printed in a position where it is clearly visible and unlikely to be damaged when the packet is opened".
Subsection (1)(a)(ii) states that the health warning should be "printed in the centre of a rectangular area . . . which is surrounded by a border"
to ensure that the message stands out and that it is not incorporated into the pack design.
That appears to have been successful in Canada and Australia. If colleagues wish, I could go through chapter on verse on the experience in those two countries, although I accept that the new pack design was introduced in Australia several months ago and that a bedding-in period is probably required.
Subsection (1)(b)(i) states that the warning on any packet containing cigarettes or rolling tobacco should cover at least 25 per cent. of the pack surface. Provisions have been made if the pack is not rectangular. The provision ensures that the health warning is printed at the top of the packet, thereby maximising the visibility of the message.
With the warning positioned at the top of the packs, smokers are constantly reminded of the health implications of smoking. Existing warnings, positioned at the bottom of the pack, are easily obscured when stacked for display and when circulated during normal social intercourse.
Professor Gardner has published a paper for the Society of Clinical Psychiatrists. He states:
"Social and personal rituals with cigarette packets related to fundamental human daily activities may reinforce dependency messages. Health messages on the packs are not prominent enough to continually warn smokers during these activities."
He argues that there should be new, stronger health warnings "to help break the automatic pilot guiding the purchase and use of cigarettes."
We do not take that into account very much. The problem involves not just the purchase of cigarettes across the counter and the continual use by the individual, but people passing packs round and reinforcing the message while they are having a cup of tea or a glass of beer.
Mr. Robert Banks (Harrogate): The hon. Gentleman has not referred to poster advertising, which contains pungent health warnings. He has to convince us today that sufficient awareness does not exist among the public at large. My information is that people out there--adults and children--are already well aware of the dangers of smoking.
Mr. Lewis: The hon. Gentleman has convinced himself. The latest voluntary agreement on poster advertising has accepted the need for larger warnings, and the need for white lettering on a black background or black lettering on a white background. That has been the case since 1 January. All I am saying--I think that I take the hon. Member for Harrogate (Mr. Banks) with me--is that the same conditions should apply to packs. [Hon.
Column 1247Members:-- "Why?"] If those conditions are good enough for posters and are deemed necessary by Ministers and by the industry, why should they not apply to packs?
Mr. Michael Trend (Windsor and Maidenhead): Perhaps my hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate (Mr. Banks) was trying to raise this point. Has the hon. Gentleman met anyone who was unaware of the dangers of smoking?
Mr. Lewis: Yes--[ Laughter .] Hon. Members may laugh. I can tell them what they will probably regard as a funny story. I was told a day or two ago that one young woman would buy only packs that did not have the warning that smoking can damage babies. She needs educating. She probably buys brands that have an entirely different warning on them because she does not like the warning about damaging babies.
Sir Peter Emery (Honiton): I want to clear up a point, which the hon. Gentleman understands, that was put earlier and left standing; it goes rather against the hon. Gentleman's argument. Smoking among youngsters has increased. The figures that I shall quote are in Hansard of 27 January at column 393 and are included in a reply from my hon. Friend the Minister. I quote only from Hansard , as you understand, Madam Deputy Speaker. The information on the prevalence of cigarette smoking among adults aged 16 and over shows that in 1988, the figure was 32 per cent. and that it is now down to 29 per cent. For women, the figure has gone down from 30 per cent. to 27 per cent. The information for the prevalence of regular cigarette smoking among pupils between 11 and 15 shows that in 1988, the figure for boys was 7 per cent.; it has now gone up to 8 per cent. For girls, the figure has gone up from 9 per cent. to 11 per cent. Let us have the facts and not a lot of nonsense.
Mr. John Carlisle: On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. As I was involved in the previous altercation about facts, I point out to my right hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery) that the facts I quoted were from the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys--
Mr. Lewis: As always, I am grateful to the right hon. Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery), who is the distinguished Chairman of the Procedure Committee. I would have expected no less of him. I tell the hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle) that I would rather accept the Minister's word for the purposes of my argument. Clause 1(1) ensures that the health warning is placed on a white background and on the front and top of the packet, to maximise visibility. Clause 1(2) details the type and colour requirements for the health warning, ensuring legibility and prominence. That provision is similar to the
Column 1248provision for poster advertisements to which the hon. Member for Harrogate referred. To avoid desensitising the message, which is a common occurrence, the colours should be rotated so that for 50 per cent. of the time, the lettering is white on black and for the other 50 per cent. of the time, the lettering is black on white. Clause 1(2) also prevents the incorporation of the warning into the design of the pack by requiring the addition of a distinguishing line between the warning and the rest of the pack. For a white background with black lettering, there would be a black border; the reverse would be the case for white lettering.
Clause 1(3) details the type and colour requirements for the product information on the side of the pack, which is an important feature. The analysis of the tobacco product includes the tar yield and other details of its composition. Clause 1(4) addresses the issue of flexibility when dealing with the warning on different pack sizes. It is not always possible to have a rectangular warning; that would be a matter for discussion in Committee.
Clause 1(5) allows the Secretary of State discretionary powers to address the import of tobacco products from other European Union states for consumption in the United Kingdom. I hope that the hon. Member for Wirral, South (Mr. Porter) will pay particular attention to this part of my argument. Article 8 of the relevant Council directive on labelling allows member states to introduce requirements concerning the import, sale and consumption of tobacco products that they consider necessary to protect public health. Under article 8, the Secretary of State has the power, in the interests of public health, to ensure that imports into the United Kingdom are on a par with the indigenous product.
Mr. Lewis: I do not think that that point is relevant. We have the directive. Article 8 gives the Secretary of State the power. I am not interested in any other Secretary of State in any other country in the Union. I am interested in what happens here. Under the directive, our Secretary of State has the power to take up the position that I have described. There is no argument. Comparisons are odious at this stage of the game.
Mr. Greenway: Comparisons are not odious; they are absolutely essential if the hon. Gentleman is to convince the House of this important part of his argument. What would be the attitude of the French Government, the German Government and other Governments in countries that export cigarettes to this country if we started to ban their exports in this or any other area? There would be retaliation; it would be a denial of free trade. Is not the whole thrust of the European Union for free trade? If the hon. Gentleman cannot give me three or four examples, or even one, how does he expect to convince me?
Mr. Lewis: I am sorry that the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) will not take no for an answer. Article 8 of the Council directive gives the Secretary of State the power, in the interests of public health, to ensure that other countries in the European Union adhere to that directive. If there is a difficulty with that, let us thrash out the detail in Committee. I am sure that the Minister would welcome that approach. I hesitate to say that the hon. Member for Ealing, North is on the wrong horse, but my proposition is simple.