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Column 1258to put a much higher tax on cigarettes. In doing so, the Government would be pursuing their policy--to help the nation's health. The Government's stated policy is to decrease smoking. The worry is that smoking is not decreasing among the young, which is why I read out the statistics from the Minister--
I do not intend to repeat the statistics. My hon. Friend can look at the figures in Hansard --either those given by my hon. Friend the Under- Secretary of State or as repeated by me. There is no decrease in smoking among young people.
Sir Peter Emery: My hon. Friend says that that is not true. For goodness sake--why should I repeat the darn things? If we look at the figures-- [Interruption.] I shall not bother with them. I should not waste the time of the House. The facts are apparent from the Government's statement on the Floor of the House, which can be read in Hansard .
I am worried about young women, who cause me the greatest concern. There has been a positive increase in smoking among young women--much more than among young boys. Those women are likely to be most affected by the style of pack. They, as youngsters, may not know of the dangers. People have asked who does not know about the dangers of smoking. Youngsters may not know about those dangers. The message should be hammered home on the labelling of the pack--that must make sense.
Why should we not pass the legislation? What possible reason can there be for not doing so? We all agree that we are interested in the nation's health. If the Bill would make one positive little step forward, surely it should be encouraged. The only reason for arguing against the Bill is to protect the tobacco producers' interests. The Bill is not a major piece of legislation.
Sir Peter Emery: No, I will not. My hon. Friend will no doubt wish to catch Madam Deputy Speaker's eye and make his own speech. There cannot be a reason for opposing the legislation unless it is to defend tobacco producers' rights. If that is so, I am sorry, but I believe that the majority of the people in this country would back such legislation. The 198 branches of the National Asthma Campaign cover most constituencies and involve many more people than those who work in the tobacco industry--they would be massively in favour of the Bill. The Government should accept the Bill because there is no reason not to do so.
Column 1259this country. I can draw a direct parallel between what he said and the private Member's Bill that I promoted last year with his support and that of many other Conservative Members on the subject of tobacco advertising.
We had seen leaked documents from the Secretary of State for Health, which had been discussed in Cabinet in 1993 and which stated that advertising would reduce tobacco consumption, not merely result in smokers switching brands. The same arguments have been advanced today in sedentary interventions as were made against my Bill. Arguments opposing legislation to increase public knowledge of the dangers of smoking are made in the interests of tobacco companies, not in the interests of the public's health.
I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Worsley (Mr. Lewis) for introducing the Bill and enabling us to debate once again the dangers of smoking and associated issues. These are important issues, and I congratulate my hon. Friend on his excellent speech. Like him, I had to put up with nonsensical interventions last year when I introduced a similar Bill. I believe that they are made by hon. Members who do not declare their interests in these matters. My hon. Friend did well and I congratulate him on the way in which he moved the Bill's Second Reading.
I congratulate my hon. Friend also on reading out a list of organisations and individuals within them who live daily with the victims of tobacco use. Their support is vital when introducing legislation to increase public education so that people are increasingly aware of the damage that tobacco does to the nation's health. I noticed that some hon. Members seemed to be uneasy when the list was read out. Anyone who visits his local hospital and meets people who are dying because of the effects of smoking will understand that we must do everything that we can to bring to the attention of the public the great dangers that result from smoking. When the House considers any legislation that bears on smoking we always hear about the loss of jobs that will ensue. The hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) has already raised the issue. In 1991, the Department of Health, as it now is, was taken to court by the tobacco industry. It was argued at the time that if the proposed restrictions were introduced the tobacco industry would produce its products abroad. The Department decided in 1991 to go beyond the measures set out in the EEC directive by 50 per cent., and it was taken to court. The three tobacco manufacturers that took it to the European Court lost their case in 1993. We know that the tobacco industry has not gone abroad to produce cigarettes.
The weak arguments that are advanced on behalf of the tobacco industry do not reflect what has happened. I am aware of the argument about loss of jobs, but it is really one about not placing restrictions on the sale of tobacco products and not enlightening people by explaining to them what happens when they use tobacco products.
Mr. Leigh: Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the second paragraph of article 8 of the EC directive makes it clear that any requirements that bear on the import, sale and consumption of tobacco must not imply any change to labelling as laid down in the directive? If the Bill becomes law, there is nothing that the Government can do to stop imported cigarettes carrying health warnings
Column 1260that cover only 4 to 6 per cent. of each packet. Those cigarettes will flood into the country and destroy jobs in our tobacco industry.
Mr. Barron: That is an example of the emotive language that is used in these debates. The hon. Gentleman talks about destroying jobs. The same comments were made in 1991, and they were reported in newspapers.
Mr. Lewis: There are none so blind as those who will not see. The Commissioner responsible for social affairs recently said at the World Council on Smoking and Health that it was his intention to review the EC directive with a view to strengthening it. The process is on-going.
Mr. Barron: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for supplying that information. There is to be a review later this year. We should be arguing for the 25 per cent. requirement to apply throughout the European Union. We should be interested in public health throughout the Union and not only in our own country. Some hon. Members might have a problem with that, but I have not.
Mr. Harry Greenway: If the issue is not about jobs, why did the hon. Member for Worsley (Mr. Lewis) attempt to draw an analogy--a false one-- between lost mining jobs and lost jobs in the tobacco industry? If he and my right hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery) do not think that the potential loss of jobs is real, let them come with me to Northolt and meet people whose jobs will be threatened. They do not care.
Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. I remind the House, and the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) and the right hon. Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery) in particular, that according to "Erskine May" moderation and good temper are characteristics of debate. That is more an ideal to be striven for than that which is being achieved at the moment.
Mr. Barron: If the invitation of the hon. Member for Ealing, North extends to visiting the tobacco industry in Northolt in the morning and talking to members of the union that sponsors me who work within it, and then in the afternoon visiting the local hospital and talking to the consultants who are looking after the victims of smoking, I shall gladly accept it.
Mr. Alan Howarth (Stratford-on-Avon): If we are weighing loss of jobs against loss of health and even loss of life, there can be no doubt that although loss of jobs is an important consideration, loss of health and loss of life are yet more important. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the Bill, highly desirable though it is and deserving of reaching the statute book, is a second-best solution? Surely it would be best of all if we abandoned all advertising of tobacco products. Such advertising should be unacceptable to us. It is surely unacceptable that great
Column 1261corporate interests should be free to engage in advertising and propaganda to lure people into habits that will be deeply destructive to them.
Mr. Barron: I am sure that the hon. Gentleman knows that when addressing me he is shoving at what might be called an open door. I completely agree with him. It is interesting that since we debated these matters last year and the introduction of the voluntary agreement, the Department introduced an increase in the size of health warnings on billboards. That was done under the new and tighter arrangements for the voluntary agreement. I am sceptical about the agreement, but if the new requirement is good enough for hoardings near schools, for example, it is surely good enough for cigarette packets in school tuck shops.
Mr. Harry Greenway: On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I waited a while before seeking to raise a point of order out of courtesy to my right hon. Friend the Member for Honiton and the hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Barron). I wish to raise the point of order now before my right hon. Friend leaves the Chamber. I ask you, Madam Deputy Speaker, to draw a distinction between passion for one's constituents and bad temper. For my part, there was no bad temper when I intervened. However, I care passionately about the jobs of my constituents. I spoke only with passion, as my right hon. Friend well knows.
"The requirements of the Bill would not have the consequence of reducing tobacco consumption in the United Kingdom."
That statement is unequivocal. A copy of the briefing that was sent out by Conservative central office was handed to me this morning. It is from the Conservative research department-- [Interruption.] I heard one or two of those words during the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Worsley.
The briefing states:
"Terry Lewis' Bill seeks to raise the size of health warnings on cigarette packets from the current 6 per cent. of the surface area to 25 per cent. The Government"--
presumably there is not that much division in the Conservative party that central office does not speak on behalf of the Government, but perhaps we will find out whether that is the case later-- "fought off an industry challenge in the European"--
I am sorry, I will start again. The Government
"does not consider that this measure would have any significant impact on reducing smoking against the background of the action outlined above."
Clearly, Tory central office, if not the Government, feels very much the same way as the tobacco manufacturing industry.
Column 1262Tobacco Products Labelling Bill, which the House of Commons research department produced this week. On page 8, it quotes the present Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, who was then Secretary of State for Health and who said, on 11 July 1991, when the House introduced the Tobacco Products Labelling (Safety) Regulations 1991, which caused a stir among tobacco manufacturers:
"The evidence from many of the representations put to us during the consultation period suggested that the warnings would be more effective if we increased the size, and removed the attribution to the Health Department's Chief Medical Officers. I believe that the new system of labelling will make a real contribution to achieving the smoking prevalence targets proposed in our recent consultation document, `The Health of the Nation'."
What has changed, in terms of the consultation and advice that the Department of Health has received between 1991 when the Secretary of State said that and the briefings that Tory central office is producing now, to persuade the Government that there will be no change in consumption if the Bill is enacted? The House and everyone concerned--either for or against-- has the right to know why the Department of Health appears to have a different view on the matter.
Mr. Trend: I am intrigued that the hon. Gentleman has a copy of the central office briefing--he has the advantage of me. When he quoted from it some seconds ago, I thought that he was about to say that the Government had fought off the industry, but then he thought the better of it and quoted a different passage. Although I do not have the brief, my guess is that it probably pointed out that the Government robustly fought off a challenge by the tobacco companies on the amount of space that the UK Government demand for health warnings on tobacco packages. That is a good point in the Government's favour. They robustly defended their point of view against the tobacco industry and the hon. Gentleman should have said so, instead of trying to smear them as being the lapdogs of an industry.
"The Government fought off an industry challenge in the European Court of Justice to have the size of the warnings reduced." They did so and I mentioned that fact in response to the intervention of the hon. Member for Ealing, North about the fact that jobs would flow from this country if the size of the health warning were increased. It did not have that consequence then and, while I doubt whether the hon. Gentleman would accept what I say, that has always been a weak thread in the debate and it does not hold water now.
These are examples of products that are for sale in this country. In the bottom left-hand corner, and in Australia and Canada--
Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. I must point out to the hon. Gentleman that, if he intends to use illustrations, it is important to describe them. He must remember that the Official Report is entirely written.
Mr. Barron: This illustration clearly shows why the Bill wants an increase in size. Conservative Members can see the coverage for health warnings on cigarette packets from Canada and Australia. It is clear from afar. None of them can see the warning on the Benson and Hedges
Column 1263packet on the bottom left of the illustration, which has black lettering on gold and is for sale in our shops. The first warning that they will miss, as they get further from the illustration, is that on the product manufactured in this country. The warnings on the packets from Canada and Australia are stark.
There are many other examples--the hon. Member for Wirral, South (Mr. Porter) is showing us a British packet. He is absolutely right. This is the Australian packet, which is a little different. Can hon. Members see? It has two health warnings. The message is there.
Mr. Barron: I accept that, Madam Deputy Speaker. The hon. Member for Wirral, South was showing us a graphic example of Benson and Hedges cigarettes. I could not see any of the health warning from here, but Conservative Members clearly saw what was on the packet that I produced.
Mr. Barron: If the hon. Gentleman reads the Bill, he will see that that issue is at its heart. The warning will either be black on white or white on black and I dare say that then, even at the present 6 per cent., one would at least be able to see some of the lettering on the Benson and Hedges packet that I held up. One would be able to see that something was there, which is more than one can do now because we do not have contrasting colours. For that and for other reasons, the warning fails and hon. Members should take that into account. That change is in the Bill.
Mr. Barry Porter: I declare an interest, in the sense that I smoke and, prior to the Budget, I gave advice and assistance to the Tobacco Control Alliance, which is the alliance of corner shops that sell tobacco. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will accept the fact that one would have to be blind, deaf, or mentally deficient, or a combination of all three, not to be aware of the dangers of smoking, as is evident from all the organisations and individuals who go on about them. I have made a choice. It may be a silly choice, but at least it is informed. I know what is said and published, as does everyone else. We have enough information for anyone to understand any risks that they may be taking. Is that not right?
Mr. Barron: I am grateful for that intervention and will draw directly from it. At one level, the hon. Gentleman is right. I do not want to stop him buying cigarettes. If he chooses to take the risk, that is fine, and at his age it is a mature decision and something that only he can decide. Decisions on smoking are not always mature decisions, however, as they are taken by young children. The hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle) said that the incidence of child smoking has been reduced, but that is not true. I have here-- Mr. John Carlisle rose --
Column 1264last year to say that smoking is good for public health. Many people would disagree, including one member of my family, whose funeral I attended last Friday.
Mr. Carlisle rose --
Mr. Carlisle rose --
This table shows the incidence of smoking among girls. In 1988, 22 per cent. of 15-year-old girls were smoking. We have spent some money on health education to try to reduce that percentage, although I do not think that it was enough, both in schools through the national curriculum and through various packages, such as Smokebusters in schools--and elsewhere--which many hon. Members have supported. That is when the majority of people start smoking and those are immature decisions. In 1993, the last year for which we have statistics, the figure was 26 per cent. We are not winning the battle, particularly among young girls. The figures for boys aged 15 are 17 per cent. in 1988, and 19 per cent. now.
It is beholden on us all to do everything possible to change the position. I attempted to do so last year with the support of both sides of the House, but my Bill failed. I predict that, in the next five years, no matter who is in government, legislation will be introduced, because the organisations in the list that my hon. Friend the Member for Worsley read out will lobby us year in, year out until we do all that we can to mitigate the use of that product, which kills so many of our fellow citizens every day.
The Bill goes a long way towards doing something about the problem. To judge from the passage that I read out, it seems that my hon. Friend the Member for Worsley would have had the support of the Department of Health in 1991. I want to know whether he has it today.
Mr. Carlisle: I do not want to labour this point, but it is extremely important to point out that the figures that I have been given by the OPCS for the years 1984-92 show that the number of 11 to 15-year-old boys who smoke has dropped by some 40 per cent. and the number of girls by just over 15 per cent.
The hon. Gentleman must understand that a tiny number of people find the odd cigarette beneficial. Had my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) been a smoker, he might have drawn a cigarette to calm his understandable outrage at the way in which Opposition Members dismissed the Bill's effect on jobs in his constituency.
Mr. Barron: I shall not be drawn into discussing jobs because the industry that I came from before entering the House lost thousands of jobs as a result of legislation voted on by Conservative Members. I concede that half a dozen or so Conservative Members did not vote for it. I shall not describe my surgeries as a result of the consequences of those political decisions. As I told the hon. Member for Ealing, North, I am prepared to meet
Column 1265people in his constituency who think that the Bill threatens their jobs. I do not want them to lose their jobs but the public health issue must be taken into account.
The hon. Member for Luton, North chose to quote figures for 1984. He was right to say that, in 1984, 28 per cent. of 15-year-olds smoked and now the figure is 19 per cent., so it has gone down since 1984. But I deliberately gave the figure for 1988, since when the number of young smokers has gone up. During that time, we are supposed to have had better health education to stop young people smoking. The fact that the figure has increased since 1988 shows that, whatever we are doing in schools, it is not having the effect of stopping young people starting to smoke. We could go back to the base line of 1900 if we so chose, but it would not get us away from what is happening in our society or our responsibility as legislators to act against it.
Mr. Couchman: Does the hon. Gentleman concede that it may be part of the perversity of youth that young people may be reacting against the heavy campaign against smoking and taking it up as a challenge to their elders?
Mr. Barron: Young people start to smoke for a host of different reasons, which we debated last year, including peer pressure or the fact that other people at home have started to smoke. It is no good thinking that one can pick a single reason off the shelf and build one's argument around it.
I support the Bill and tried to introduce legislation last year because we must take on the issue in every way that we can and at every opportunity. If the Secretary of State for Health believed in 1991 that the size of the warning on cigarette packets would have an effect in terms of public health, it is good enough to believe that that is so in 1995. I support the Bill and hope that the House will give it a Second Reading today.
Sir John Stanley (Tonbridge and Malling): I rise to intervene only briefly in this debate in the hope that all hon. Members are anxious to proceed to the second important Bill to be discussed today: the Tobacco Smoking (Public Places) Bill. I warmly support the Bill and congratulate the hon. Member for Worsley (Mr. Lewis) on his good sense, having secured fourth place in the ballot on private Members' Bills, in introducing it.
Column 1266Members oppose the Bill and, two hours into the debate, they have not been called. It has therefore not been a balanced debate. I simply wish to make that point.
Sir John Stanley: I was congratulating the hon. Member for Worsley on introducing the Bill, which intends to be helpful, responsible and overwhelmingly beneficial. The hon. Gentleman's opening speech and the subsequent speeches by my right hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery) and the hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Barron) put forward the case for the Bill extremely cogently. The case for the Bill is based on one essential and fundamental proposition, which I hope opponents to the Bill will at least acknowledge: it is universally accepted that tobacco in general, and cigarettes in particular, are addictive and potentially lethal. At the critical point--the point of sale and use--the warning of those facts should therefore be prominently displayed to consumers. That overwhelming case for the Bill is relevant not only to those who choose to exercise their right to smoke--I deny no one that choice; it is also relevant because, notwithstanding the legislation in force, very young people have access to cigarettes. It is deeply regrettable that many parents still have the habit of smoking in close proximity to their children, including babies. In those circumstances, it is an essential part of our responsibility that tobacco companies display with due prominence the essential warnings about health.
A number of hon. Members have expressed in interventions their opposition to the Bill. If they catch your eye, Madam Deputy Speaker, they will be able to develop those points further. One singularly specious argument against the Bill is that it represents unwarranted interference in freedom of choice.
Sir John Stanley: My hon. Friend thinks so, but that claim is not only specious but extraordinarily paternalistic. It rests on the proposition that adults are incapable of making an informed decision whether to use a particular product that carries a health warning. If one carries that argument to its logical conclusion, health warnings should be removed from the packaging of all products that may pose a health or other hazard. That would not be remotely acceptable because on that basis, one would have to campaign to discontinue warnings against having unprotected sex because of the danger of AIDS. I am sure that few hon. Members would be prepared to advance the argument that far.
Mr. John Carlisle: My right hon. Friend argues that warnings should appear on tobacco products because, if used to excess, they can kill. Does not the same apply to alcohol? Should not warnings appear on bottles of alcohol, because it can have an equally devastating effect on people who use it to excess--in exactly the same way as cigarettes? Why draw a distinction?
Column 1267of smoking cigarettes as compared with drinking alcohol. I am not aware that alcohol consumption is likely to lead to fatal lung cancer.
Mr. John Marshall (Hendon, South): Does not my right hon. Friend accept that an illness such as cirrhosis of the liver, which can be fatal, may be caused by excessive alcohol consumption? Is he saying that it is nicer to die from cirrhosis of the liver?
Sir John Stanley: I am sure that my hon. Friend is aware that many forms of activity can, in some circumstances, lead to death--but there is no parallel to the direct relationship between smoking and fatal illness.
As to the reaction from tobacco manufacturers to the Bill, they should pay- -
Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. Before the right hon. Gentleman continues, I remind him of the old custom that hon. Members speaking from the Front Benches should not step over the red line. [Hon. Members:-- "Is that a red warning?"] A verbal warning has been given.
Tobacco manufacturers should pay much closer attention to profound changes in public perception of their responsibilities in this country and elsewhere--the hon. Member for Worsley referred to foreign countries. The undoubted right of people to exercise their wish to smoke is increasingly balanced by the right of non-smokers, who are probably in the majority, to enjoy an unpolluted, smoke-free environment and to take measures to ensure one. The tobacco companies have not taken sufficient account of that profound change. The legal climate also is changing. In the United States, substantial litigation is in train, in which large numbers of people are seeking to sue for personal health damage from smoking. Following a recent decision by the Legal Aid Board in this country, it seems likely that similar litigation will begin here. Against that background, tobacco companies should adopt a different stance in promoting their products.
The key issue is the Government's response to the Bill. I remind my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Health that I was among the hon. Members who were deeply disappointed by the Government's response to last Session's private Member's Bill on tobacco advertising, introduced by the hon. Member for Rother Valley. From my perspective, the Government gave a dismal reaction and failed to take into account their responsibility for the nation's health.
Mr. Sackville: Our response on that occasion was a robust statement on the strengthening of the voluntary agreement with the tobacco industry, which puts this country well ahead of any other in Europe in efforts to reduce tobacco consumption. I simply do not know what my right hon. Friend is talking about.