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Mr. Barron: The hon. Gentleman says that we shall need to see the evidence. I understand that last month, following his public comments about supporting a ban if he found enough evidence in favour of one, he was sent four bundles of independent evidence, including the Smee report, by the charity Action on Smoking and Health. Has he read them, and is he convinced by the arguments?
As I shall explain in a moment, I do not think that there is convincing evidence that, in the absence of a wider policy, an advertising ban would be as effective as the Government claim. Many of the studies show that an advertising ban can be successful only if it is fully supported by a fully comprehensive anti-smoking policy. Such a policy is, however, profoundly missing in the Government's overall policy. The need for such a policy is amply demonstrated by the single fact--no other is needed--that, under the Government's policy, smoking is increasing. It is as simple as that.
I believe that both the current Government and previous Governments are at fault for failing to listen to the evidence of those who wanted to introduce new education policies. All the evidence has shown that a successful smoking education policy not only requires the right message, but that message must be applied for an adequate length of time and to the right age group. All the evidence suggests that there is no point in aiming an anti-smoking message based on mortality or morbidity at people in their teens, as teenagers simply have no concept of their own mortality. Effective anti-smoking campaigns must be targeted at people in their mid to late-20s, who are far more receptive to such messages. No Government have taken on board that evidence, but hon. Members on both sides of the House should alter their policy on the matter.
In considering whether a ban would work, we must examine the Bill's list of exemptions. No offence is committed if the tobacco advertisement is in communications between those who are engaged in the sale of tobacco products; information sent to consumers who request it; a foreign publication whose principal market is not the United Kingdom; in-flight magazines on non-United Kingdom airlines; a place, or on a website, where tobacco products are offered for sale, as long as it is in accordance with regulations.
There are quite a few exemptions. A shop that sells cigarettes will still be allowed to have cigarette advertisements in the most prominent position in the shop. Advertising within shops is some of the most potent advertising available. Moreover, who decides whether the United Kingdom or somewhere else is the principal market for a magazine? In Committee, we shall explore those technical details.
In his intervention on the Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Bolton, South-East (Dr. Iddon) raised the issue of brand stretching, which is the use of tobacco brand names on non-tobacco merchandise or services--such as Marlboro clothing, Dunhill golf equipment and Camel boots. Is it true that the Department of Health has been in talks with cigarette manufacturers, and that an outline agreement has been reached whereby the Government will accept the continued legal availability of current brand-stretched products on the understanding that no new brand-stretched products will be legally available after implementation of the ban? I think that the House would like to know whether there is such an agreement. I wonder whether the Secretary of State's silence indicates his assent.
If brand stretching is banned, how would the Government control the import of new lines of such products? Would individuals have to declare such products? What regulation would that require? How would such control ever allow diversification, which is the sensible opt-out route for the tobacco industry? If the Secretary of State was indicating a U-turn on the issue in his allusion to it in his speech, we would welcome it.
We must deal with the real reasons why tobacco consumption is increasing in the United Kingdom. If, as I believe, hon. Members on both sides of the House are genuinely concerned with stopping smoking, we must examine the real reasons why more people are using tobacco now than were using it three years ago.
In 1999, total consumption of hand-rolling tobacco was a cigarette equivalent of 21 billion, which is 100 per cent. more than the figure when the single market was introduced. No United Kingdom duty was paid on almost 80 per cent. of that consumption. The Government themselves estimate that, in 1999-2000, total cigarette consumption was about 76 billion, of which 13.6 billion--18 per cent--were smuggled. The Tobacco Manufacturers Association estimated the figure to be slightly higher than that, at some 20 per cent. However, on his own admission, between 1997 and 1999 the Chancellor lost potential tax revenue, excise duty and VAT totalling £5 billion owing to smuggling. Even if the tax take increases for each of the next three years--no one believes that that will happen--it will still be below the 1996-97 figures. So much for extra money for the NHS.
Dr. Fox: I am pointing out the weaknesses in the Government's proposals. The Government said that they had to have a total ban, but then brought in lots of exemptions in different areas. We are questioning not the principle of bringing in a ban, but the workability of a ban, which is a separate issue. There are many issues that Committee members will want to explore.
The Chancellor took two years to take steps to attempt to curb tobacco smuggling. Those steps were too little, too late in terms of the revenue lost. The Chancellor increased by £300 million over three years the resources available to Customs and Excise, compared with his own admitted tax loss of £5 billion.
Tobacco consumption in the UK is rising because the real price of tobacco is falling. The risk of the Government's approach is that, by their mistaken policies on taxation and by getting on the wrong side of the tax yield curve, they will increase smuggling and depress the price. What is worse, a ban on advertising will result in a battle to retain market share that is based on further price cutting rather than on advertising. The Government may, from the best of intentions, get the opposite result to that which they seek.
"The problem is like an iceberg, plain for all to see. But the Government is pretending it isn't there, even though it is costing the Treasury £800 million a year in lost duties."
Mr. Miller: I have been listening carefully to the difficult arguments being made by the hon. Gentleman. Why did smoking among young people go up during the last five years of the Tory Administration?
Dr. Fox: It is a question of getting the balance right between price mechanisms, advertising and other elements. We got the balance right because consumption was going down. That is the ultimate test of the use of taxation in terms of public health: consumption fell all the way to 1996 and has gone up since 1997. That is the test. Is the policy working, or is it just rhetoric? I know that new Labour measures everything by the rhetoric, but what matters is whether consumption is going up or down. The policy is failing.
We find it difficult to take lectures on moral rectitude from a Labour party that was exposed, in the run-up to the election, as having received substantial funding from Philip Morris for a business breakfast for the Prime Minister--as well as the whole sorry Ecclestone episode. The then Minister for Sport wrote:
After considering the issue of sponsorship in great depth the Government has proposed excluding Formula One from the scope of the proposed EU Directive on tobacco advertising and sponsorship which is currently being negotiated. We have always made clear that we are pursuing twin objectives of reducing smoking and of safeguarding sport from any effects arising from the loss of tobacco sponsorship.
The arguments are complex, and there is a genuine debate to be held on the matter. However, the Government have failed to say why a ban is the only way forward. Unlike the previous Conservative Government, they have failed to implement a successful anti-smoking strategy. They have failed to reassure us that they can be taken at face value and that their policies are not up for sale. There is no doubt that smoking kills, or that it needs to be reduced. We are all agreed on that. However, tokenism is not enough. We need a proper comprehensive strategy that admits that the increase in tobacco consumption since Labour came into office has damaged health. We need the Government to accept their failures and get us back on the track to reduce smoking. Like most of the Government's public health policies, this one is a failure.