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9.35 pm

Mrs. Eileen Gordon (Romford): I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, North (Mr. Hopkins). I entirely support the Bill, which I also see as a tribute to my late friend Audrey Wise, who felt strongly about the issue. When we took part in the Health Committee's inquiry into the tobacco industry, she really went to town on the industry representatives and the advertisers.

I have the minutes of the evidence here. What haunted me as I heard it--and several of my colleagues felt the same--was the thought of a friend who had died of lung cancer. I had seen him, once a fine strong man, gradually turn into a bag of bones.

The tobacco companies are killing off 120,000 of their customers each year in this country. They have to replace them, and advertising is part of that--which is why we should ban it.

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9.36 pm

Mrs. Caroline Spelman (Meriden): I shall begin by testing the House's collective memory of English literature. I wonder who else remembers Rudyard Kipling's "A Smuggler's Song":

For "the wall", we might as well read "the advertising"; and "the Gentlemen"?--well, the white van trade. Nothing much has changed since Kipling's day, because nothing will work as long as society is complicit in the illegal import of tobacco. While that continues, we have a major problem on our hands.

Mr. David Taylor: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Mrs. Spelman: I want to make a little progress.

Here we all are, discussing tobacco and debating legislation that misses the most important aspect of the problem facing the country. That was the major motivation for our amendment. It is true that smuggling is a serious problem, but again the Government have failed to define it correctly, and are therefore unable to tackle the cause.

The prevalence of smoking has increased under the Government, notwithstanding efforts to educate people about the health risks. Money was thrown at the problem at the time of the millennium--I well remember the "quit smoking" campaign--but the prevalence is rising. Such measures, like those in the Bill, ignore the fact that most of the increase in smoking is due to the steep rise in illegally imported tobacco.

There are no accurate figures to quantify the volume of tobacco products that enter the country illegally. My hon. Friend the Member for Worthing, West (Mr. Bottomley) drew attention to the gap that had been caused by our inability to obtain answers to our questions. Questions have been tabled to the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the level of illegal imports, and to the Home Office on how many people have been stopped and how successful prosecutions have been; but the information is, as I have said, very difficult to obtain. How are we supposed to do our job as an Opposition if we cannot get information from Government?

The Under-Secretary of State for Health, the hon. Member for Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper), seems to find it funny that the Government cannot answer our question about how much illegal tobacco has come into our country, but I think that that is serious. All that the hon. Lady and I can rely on is the tobacco industry's own estimate that one in four cigarettes is illegally imported. How does it reach that estimate? It is rocket science: people go to football stadiums and pick up cigarette packets that have been dropped. That enables the industry to "guesstimate" the percentage that has been imported illegally.

Just in case the Secretary of State begins to feel a bit comfortable, let me tell him that he has a real problem on his hands. While an average of one in four cigarettes may be illegally imported, in his neck of the woods the figure

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rises to 48 per cent. That, surely, is a serious matter. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman would be the first to point out that some of the more vulnerable members of society live in parts of the north-east, and have succumbed to an addiction to illegally imported tobacco. It is a fact that 80 per cent. of lone parents smoke, and that 60 per cent. of the unemployed smoke. The Government are currently failing to protect those vulnerable people with any substantial measure that would successfully tackle addiction.

Having established that the Government are ignoring the real problem associated with tobacco, let us consider the workability of the Bill. That, after all, is what we are here to do.

Mr. Dobson: Does the hon. Lady accept that every one of those smuggled cigarettes is produced by an allegedly reputable tobacco company? Is it not about time that tobacco companies did something about the smuggling of their product--[Hon. Members: "The Government."] No; that is like saying that the Government are responsible for smuggling. Smugglers are responsible for smuggling. It is quite clear that the tobacco companies themselves make a fortune from smuggled cigarettes. It is their job to stop it.

Mrs. Spelman: The right hon. Gentleman made a substantial speech, and he has now made a long intervention. Just in case that intervention should create a false impression, I should reiterate the statement of my hon. Friend the Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox)--that the Opposition have no love of tobacco companies. We want vulnerable people to be protected, the law to be upheld and smuggling to be curtailed. Any suggestion that there is an alternative motivation is completely wrong.

It is worth recalling that the Bill started life as botched European legislation. This would not be the first time, and may not be the last, that we have had to pick up legislative fragments from that part of the world. Nevertheless, the Opposition share the Government's aim of reducing the prevalence of smoking. It is of course unacceptable that 125,000 people die each year from smoking-related causes.

Mr. Bob Russell (Colchester): Will the hon. Lady give way?

Mrs. Spelman: No, I shall not; I have already had to take a long intervention in my short speech from the right hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson).

The question is about the Bill's practical workability. I invite hon. Members to go to their local newsagents who supply a large variety of magazines--273 different magazines in the case of my newsagent--and to talk to them about the practicalities of looking through each of those magazines. How are newsagents supposed to look through each magazine to establish whether it carries tobacco advertising? The provision is simply unworkable.

Those who have spoken for retailers have made the point that they are the casualties of the Government's failure to legislate on smuggling. Retailers have lost their quite legitimate businesses because of the Government's failure to legislate on smuggling.

The Government will have to tackle the fact that the tax differential between British tobacco and continental tobacco is so great that it is driving quite legitimate

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electronic trade in the product, using modern media methods. I have severe doubts that the Bill will succeed in tackling the internet sale of illegal tobacco. Where do any of those websites, as global businesses, reside?

This is a funny Bill that is constructed in an extraordinary way, specifying tobacco-sales offences on which people may be found guilty, but then providing a series of defences and reasons why they should be let off the charges. One defence provided in the Bill is that someone simply did not know what he was doing or was unable to foresee the effects of his action. Such a defence seems, in the words of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Anniesland (John Robertson), substantially to reduce the Bill's effectiveness.

A large part of the Bill is devoted, more seriously, to brand sharing. I think that we would all do well to be aware that many non-tobacco products are sold bearing names that originally derived from tobacco companies. One trading company--World Wide Brands International--sells clothes, bags, shoes and other products using the name Camel, and initially it used the Camel tobacco logo. Subsequently, it completely changed its logo, and it now calls itself Camel Active. However, its products would be banned by the Bill.

Consequently, the Government have invited that company to suggest amendments that recognise the type of diversification that it has undergone. I am disquieted at the idea that it is all right for that company to diversify, and that a provision to help it may be cobbled together for inclusion in the Bill, but that the Government are not quite so keen--unless I misheard the Secretary of State earlier--on the tobacco companies diversifying. Surely we want the tobacco companies to diversify, if at all possible, and to produce something other than tobacco.

We had a substantial exchange on the issue of sports advertising and tobacco, and various Labour Members quite rightly pointed out that the preferential treatment enjoyed by Formula 1 and snooker creates a very unlevel playing field for other sports. It is perverse that Formula 1 would have no difficulty in replacing its tobacco sponsorship; in fact, tobacco sponsorship is already declining. However, Formula 1 has an extension, no doubt because of the special relationship that the Government enjoy with Bernie Ecclestone. Yet sports such as darts--referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway)--and other minor sports will have much less chance of replacing tobacco advertising. The Government could at the very least have created a level playing field.

Why cannot we take a lead from other countries where sports are now sponsored by health funding sources to relieve them of tobacco advertising, sending the strong signal that sport does your health good? If that can happen in other places, why not here?

We are legislating for a ban on tobacco advertising on the eve of a general election, ticking the box on the last of Labour's manifesto commitments with a token measure that entirely misses the whole problem with tobacco in this country. That is a familiar pattern that the Opposition are used to. This is yet another failure of the Labour Government to make a correct diagnosis of a problem and propose legislation to deal with the cause of it. Resources are then misplaced and the electorate is disappointed in the end by a failure to deliver.

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9.46 pm

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