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6.30 pm

According to the rules,

The onus therefore rests entirely with the editor.

The notes accompanying the rules state:

Again, all the onus is on the editor.

13 Feb 2001 : Column 206

I suggest to my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst that the problem lies with the extent of the editorial subjectivity involved. Under the current rules, product placement is clearly possible in programmes produced and shown in this country. We ought to have some control over it, but the rules are clearly insufficient to prevent the youth of today from telling us which brand of cigarettes their favourite film stars or television actors smoke.

Mr. Peter Atkinson: May I explore the issue of product placement as it relates to a later part of the Bill? My hon. Friend mentioned films made in the United States and distributed in this country. The Bill mentions only printed journalism; would the distributor of those films, or indeed someone who copied videos of them for commercial purposes, be subject to prosecution under my hon. Friend's proposals?

Mrs. Spelman: We discussed in Committee whether the proposal would result in thought police dashing around this country's cinemas deleting parts of films that featured blatant product placement. I seem to recall--the Minister may confirm this--that responsibility for adhering to a set of British guidelines on product placement rests with the distributor; but in practical terms it would be impossible to implement such censorship. We are talking about what are effectively foreign-produced, imported films, and a degree of international co-operation is clearly desirable.

The research in The Lancet, which in fact emanates from academics in the United States, has produced a proper analysis of the films concerned, most of which are American-based. It demonstrates that whatever legislation exists in the United States to control product placement is not particularly effective either. This is a classic example of the difficulty of taking effective unilateral action in an international market.

It is ridiculous to try to ban conventional tobacco advertising while leaving an enormous loophole in relation to product placement. It is plain that existing regulations do not work adequately in the context of a British-produced product over which we have some jurisdiction, and our purpose was to draw attention to the problem. I hope that the faith of the hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Barron) will be restored to some extent by the knowledge that we share a public health agenda in wishing to reduce smoking, especially in the vulnerable group who start smoking young and subsequently find it difficult to stop--if, indeed, they want to stop.

Amendment No. 1 deals with a different subject, but again I hope that all Members will appreciate--in the context of a health Bill--that we share the objective of reducing smoking. That is clearly desirable in public health terms. Ours is a probing amendment, intended to ensure that the Bill does not inadvertently catch an advertisement that is actually designed to reduce the prevalence of smoking.

I ask hon. Members to imagine a large poster, pitched at trying to deter under-age smokers, depicting a young person stubbing out a cigarette. The accompanying slogan would read, perhaps, "Stub it out--don't stub your life out." Such a poster, depicting someone using a tobacco product, would be in a sense attractive, and in a sense

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pitched at young people; but its hard message would also be directed at young people, whom it would attempt to deter from smoking.

We must not risk catching anti-smoking health education posters in the ban on tobacco advertising. The amendment is intended to make it possible to continue with hard-hitting health education measures that may well require classical forms of advertising. As the Bill stands, it will close the door on such measures.

Sandra Gidley (Romsey): Might not the amendment provide a loophole for manufacturers of low-tar cigarettes, enabling them to claim that their products were beneficial in health terms?

Mrs. Spelman: The amendment was not designed to create any sort of loophole. No amendments were tabled by Liberal Democrats in Committee, but it would have been helpful if the hon. Lady had tabled even one. Indeed, the whole question of low-tar products could have been raised in a series of amendments.

As someone who served in Committee on the Health and Social Care Bill, the hon. Lady presumably knows that no distinction is made between high, low and middle-tar products; the aim is to impose a blanket ban on tobacco advertising. Our probing amendment is intended to ensure that good health education campaigns are not caught by the legislation. I wish members of other parties would begin to believe that we have a health agenda, rather than being doubting Thomases.

Mr. David Taylor: Does not the amendment introduce an oxymoron? If it were accepted, clause 1 would state that "tobacco advertisement" meant an advertisement whose effect was to promote a tobacco product

Is that logically consistent?

Mrs. Spelman: I am not sure about the oxymoron. As the hon. Gentleman will note from the debate on the programme motion, we shall be jolly lucky if there are no oxymorons, given the speed at which the Bill zipped from Committee to Report. As it is, there is a typographical error in amendment No. 13, although there was certainly no intention of producing any grammatical or typographical mistakes.

As I have said, ours is a probing amendment, intended simply to ensure that we do not close opportunities for good, justified health education campaigns. It is quite possible that a health education poster might depict a tobacco product as part of a hard-hitting message about the health risks of taking up smoking, or continuing to smoke. I am sure that the Minister has an answer; I do not think it necessary to see more in the amendment than I have explained. Health education campaigns were successfully used by the previous Conservative Government to reduce the prevalence of smoking. We want to make it possible to continue such campaigns, which have been shown to work. That is the simple purpose of amendment No. 1.

Government amendments Nos. 40 and 41 enable us to debate a subject--the position of printers and publishers of written material--which, as my hon. Friends have said, is very important to Conservative Members. I pay tribute

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to my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Luff), who, with his experience in the printing industry, was the first to point out that the Bill might well place British printers in a very difficult position and at a competitive disadvantage. Our amendments seek to restore the position of British printers and publishers, to free them to tender in international markets for publications that, although directed principally at an overseas market, may be sold partly in the United Kingdom.

As originally drafted, the Bill would have placed British printing companies at a competitive disadvantage. I am therefore very pleased that the Government have conceded on the issue, so that publications printed in the United Kingdom whose main market is abroad will be able to compete equally with overseas publishers.

Mr. Ian Bruce: The Government are trying to address that issue, but not the issue of in-flight magazines, which we raised in Committee. My hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Luff) said that he had taken an Air France flight that had an in-flight magazine containing tobacco advertisements. Although one would not think that that magazine would be caught by the provision, the plane was owned not by a French company but by a British one flying for Air France. The Government amendments in this group would not deal with that. The Bill would stop that British company flying for Air France because of those tobacco advertisements in the in-flight magazine. Is that not ridiculous?

Mrs. Spelman: I hope that, for the benefit of members of the Committee and other hon. Members in the Chamber, the Minister will address the issue of the predicament faced by United Kingdom airlines that have code-sharing arrangements. That issue is similar to the one that my hon. Friend has just described. When we purchase a ticket with a United Kingdom airline, we expect to be flying with that UK carrier, although the plane may be supplied by a continental carrier. However, will stewardesses on a Finnair flight returning to a Scandinavian country as a British Airways flight, for example, have to rush through the plane ripping out the in-flight magazines? It will be quite difficult practically for airlines to comply with those provisions.

Mr. Peter Atkinson: The provisions will also work in reverse. United Kingdom airlines operating out of United Kingdom airports--Newcastle airport provides a very good example--provide services for foreign airlines. Where do those airlines stand?

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