Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Mr. Greenway: We did win a by-election.

Mr. Morgan: One swallow does not make summer.

22 Jan 2001 : Column 718

The Conservatives' leading and only speaker in the debate on the Sewel motion was Ben Wallace, a Conservative regional Member for North-East Scotland. He said:

Mr. Wallace had some reservations about the Bill, but most of them related to the fear that it would fall because of an imminent general election. His other reservations were based on the view that the Bill did not go far enough. He went on to say:

As the Scottish Conservatives are contesting the Westminster election, those of us who have votes in Scotland must ask whether they are in favour of the Bill, or whether they are under the control of the English Conservatives, who are against it. Perhaps they are saying one thing in Scotland and another thing elsewhere. The hon. Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman) might want to tell us about that.

Following the comments of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Anniesland (John Robertson), I point out that, given the significantly higher incidence in Scotland of heart disease, lung cancer and so on, tobacco advertising is clearly of great importance. If the Bill can reduce even by one the number of deaths in Scotland, it will have done its job. I think that it will do a lot more, however, and I trust that it will make speedy progress here and in the other place.

7.49 pm

Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley): I support the Government's objectives in the Bill, which is very important. Hon. Members from all parties made many contributions and advanced honest arguments, but choices have to be made. As somebody who used to smoke, I have been on both sides of the fence. It is said that the worst people are those who are reformed, but I have also benefited from the tobacco companies as a former director of a rugby club that was financially supported by them. I believe that the tobacco industry puts money into rugby because that sponsorship has influence. Much of today's debate is about whether advertising influences. I believe that it does.

The prime example is Formula 1. The purpose of advertising in that sport is to influence people and to increase the power of the tobacco industry. People ask whether advertising really has an effect. Of course it does. Young children have toys that bear the advertisements. Very young people recognise a racing car that is covered in sponsorship from a tobacco company. That has an influence on children, who are vulnerable. We should end that.

Let us consider the sports that are sponsored. Rugby league has benefited for many years from one of the longest periods of sponsorship, through the Silk Cut challenge cup. That is an annual event that has been played at Wembley and, dare we say it, at Edinburgh, and it may go to Wales. Rugby, fishing, darts, greyhound

22 Jan 2001 : Column 719

racing and clay pigeon shooting have all benefited from sponsorship. I do not detract from the benefits that the tobacco industry has brought those sports, but there comes a time to recognise that sport and tobacco are not compatible. Far from it; they should be separated. The tobacco industry did not benefit those sports because it believed in them, but because it believed that advertising had influence. We revert therefore to the argument about influence. The sports that I have mentioned continue to benefit from sponsorship.

The Government acknowledged that sport needed financial support. In 1997, when we came to office, we rightly set up a taskforce chaired by the then Minister for Sport, my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks), who was challenged to find alternative sponsorship. The taskforce had many members. I do not how successful they were, but they should have succeeded. The Government should be obliged to find alternative sponsorship for the sports that will lose the income that they have had for many years. I thank the tobacco industry for what it has done for sport, but I believe that the two cannot continue together.

Young people recognise brands of tobacco. Youngsters who play rugby league at Wembley see that the cup is sponsored by a tobacco company. They can see representatives of Silk Cut and the tobacco kiosk that is set up outside the ground. That can encourage young people--perhaps the next generation of young rugby stars--to take up tobacco through their involvement in the sport.

Although I cannot detract from what tobacco companies have done for sport, it should not be sponsored by a killer. Tobacco kills people. As I have said, if children's toys carry tobacco advertisements, something is sadly wrong. Surely the time has come to change that.

The figures are awful. Those for 1998 show that 31 per cent. of 16 to 19-year-old men and 33 per cent. of 16 to 19-year-old women smoke. That makes 1998 one of the worst years since 1978. That is unacceptable. Smoking is considered trendy; we ought to do something about that and put people off.

Perhaps some hon. Members believe that banning advertising will affect only a few people. I acknowledge that statistics can be made to support both sides of an argument. However, if the statistics claim that we can deter 3,000 people a year from smoking, that should be a sufficient reason for banning advertising. If it deters one person, that is good enough. I believe that thousands of people are influenced by advertising and that banning it would benefit not only those whom we deter from smoking but the national health service.

People ask why I felt that I had to speak in the debate. Doctors and consultants who came to my surgery in 1997 shortly after the new Government were elected said that they believed that the Government were right to ban tobacco advertising. For some, banning advertising will never go far enough, while others will never accept such a ban. However, we must strike a balance. When those doctors and consultants expressed their views, I listened to them and took their opinions on board. Those views were reinforced by visiting a hospice and talking to people who said, "I wish I'd never smoked." We should take account of their regret in our debate.

22 Jan 2001 : Column 720

If we can save 3,000 people, or only one person, a year, that is a justifiable and sufficient reason for banning tobacco advertising. Those doctors and consultants were right, as are the people who work in hospices and contacted me. We should listen to those experts in health who believe in saving people's lives and in a better quality of life. We can play our part by supporting the Government to ensure that people--perhaps thousands of people; we shall never know--are saved.

We must acknowledge the fact that the tobacco industry employs people in well paid jobs in this country, but we must not let it stop us. The companies that have made billions of pounds over many years should consider alternative employment for people who work in the industry. We should persuade them to look for alternatives and re-employ people. There is nothing wrong with considering alternatives for the futures of those who have had good-quality, well paid jobs. They have a right to work, and we should not dogmatically say, "You must stop tobacco production tomorrow." We will not do that.

The Bill is a stepping stone, onto which we can all step today. Some hon. Members may have a personal interest in not banning tobacco advertising, but if they can stop a young person smoking by banning tobacco advertising, they should cross that first stepping stone. It is important to have a healthy nation. We can begin by ensuring that people do not smoke. Smoking is the biggest killer if we take account of lung cancer, heart disease, other related diseases and passive smoking, which although easily dismissed some years ago, is now acknowledged as a killer.

If we can begin to deter people by banning advertising, we should do so. All hon. Members who know someone who has died through smoking should think about that person's family and how they suffered. They should consider how those people started smoking: through a nudge and a wink at school or because they saw some trendy advertising.

Let us return to the issue of Formula 1. Some of the onlookers will be members of the international set who want to be involved in Formula 1 racing, but some will be young people who want icons--and their icons will be the drivers whose cars are covered in tobacco advertisements. That, surely, is wrong. Is this really about a belief that racing cars are important to the tobacco industry? No: it is about the tobacco industry getting a return on its investment in advertising on those racing cars. That is the reality--and the reality is also that young people are influenced, and young people are vulnerable. For that reason, whichever sport is involved--and not many are involved now--we should end tobacco advertising. The House has a moral obligation to ensure that that happens, so that young people have a chance not to be influenced.

Many would like to take the proposals a stage further. The time for that will come--not in the short term, but when reports are produced in the longer term. People will then begin to recognise that tobacco results in serious illnesses, and to take account of the number of deaths caused by smoking in this country and throughout Europe.

As we begin to allow the export of misery--for that is what we are doing in ensuring that people in the third world will die because of the tobacco industry--

22 Jan 2001 : Column 721

the industry, given all the money it has made over many years, should stand up and say "We are seeking alternative employment for the workers, but we should also seek alternatives to make the shareholders happy. We ought not to make them happy through the export of misery and death, and we ought not to make them happy with tobacco advertisements in sport."

The time has come for the industry to reconsider its future. It is a global player with many interests, and it ought to think about where it wants to be next.

Next Section

IndexHome Page