Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill

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Mr. Ian Bruce: I support my hon. Friend's argument in favour of the amendment. If we are trying to restrict the provision of useful information to smokers about how they can reduce their health risk, compiling a database of smokers, who have already taken some proactive action by asking for information, is a sensible way in which to control the flow of information. By removing that, we are, in effect, saying to the tobacco industry, ``You will just have to keep finding ways in which to get people to respond to advertisements.'' I am not even sure whether phrases such as ``If you would like some information about this particular product,'' can be classed as an advertisement to promote tobacco products.

People will be continuously persuaded to contact tobacco companies. One way in which the company can ensure that people ask for information is to put a request form inside a cigarette packet. That is a sensible way to pass on information, because the person has already bought the cigarettes. It makes common sense that names should not have to be deleted from a database of people who have asked to be kept informed of offers, especially when all the other requirements of keeping databases are in place.

Yvette Cooper: The problem with the amendment is that it would create a massive loophole in the Bill by allowing extensive direct marketing by tobacco companies. The fundamental flaw in the Opposition's argument is that 70 per cent. of smokers say that they want to give up smoking. Smokers who at one time in their lives wanted further information about a product may six months or a year later—even less than that—decide that they want to try to give up smoking. Given how addictive tobacco smoking is, and its huge health impact, people should be supported when they try to give it up.

We know the type of direct marketing carried out by tobacco companies. For example, Imperial Tobacco sent out large numbers of free samples with their new Concept cigarette-making pack early in the new year, just as many smokers were trying to give up. To have direct mail or promotional products coming through people's doors when they are trying to give up, even if they had requested that information a year previously, undermines their attempts to give up smoking in what are often difficult circumstances.

Given the health impact, we should be trying to support people who give up smoking. People have a right to request information about tobacco products. Communications in response to such a request should be limited to it. The amendment would create a massive loophole in the Bill, which is why the Government will reject it.

Mrs. Spelman: I hear what the Minister says and her argument relates in particular to the bulk sales of cigarette manufacturers. However, she has not dealt with the plight of small specialists. The Bill contains no nod in their direction and is going to be most harmful for them. We have no desire to create a massive loophole that will undermine the agreed target of reduced prevalence, but the position of tobacco specialists is difficult.

Mr. Barron: I wonder why the hon. Lady is worried about tobacco specialists, as the clause does not relate to them. Tobacco companies in this country are well known to hold databases of millions of names. Those databases would provide a way round the ban on the advertising and promotion of tobacco if we did not ensure that companies could not use them to contact people directly, especially people who have decided to stop smoking.

Mrs. Spelman: Our problem with the Bill is that—in debating clause 1—we were unsuccessful in persuading the Government that it will be disproportionately hard on specialist tobacco producers. Little distinction is made for the specialist tobacco industry. When we debate clause 6, we will discuss their shops but, as I said earlier, they do not all have shops.

The clause is targeted mainly at closing down possibilities for bulk cigarette manufacturers, but in engaging constructively with the Government to try to get the Bill right, we have a responsibility to consider both the big corporate players and the small guys. The Government have said that they are the friend of small business, but they are being unfriendly towards small business, especially the business that does not have a shop, which is singularly not catered for under the Bill. As we shall discuss later, a specialist tobacconist is defined as a shop, but they are not all shops. That is the weakness with the clause as drafted. I was not satisfied by the Minister's response, as she did not touch on specialist tobacconists. Perhaps she will return to the matter.

Yvette Cooper: The Opposition amendment does not single out small businesses or specialist tobacconists and would allow the continuation of all direct marketing. That is a massive loophole and we cannot accept the amendment. A persuasive case has not yet been made for specialist tobacconists or for particular small businesses needing special treatment in such circumstances. However, if the hon. Lady wants to table amendments later, when we discuss specialist tobacconists, I shall be happy to consider them. The amendment does not make a distinction for specialist tobacconists.

Mr. Barron: Does my hon. Friend know of any small specialist tobacco shops in this country that use direct mailing for their customers?

Yvette Cooper: I am not aware of those that do, which is why I do not believe that a persuasive case has been made for singling them out for special treatment under the clause. We have provided for special treatment for specialist tobacconists under clause 6 and we shall consider the issue further when we discuss that. At this stage, however, there is not a persuasive case for making a further exemption.

Mrs. Spelman: That is helpful, although the hon. Lady has now set me an interesting little task with which I shall have to do my best to deal. We will need not to complete clause 6 by the end of this evening, as I would beg leave to find the time to table an amendment that would craft what she is describing by first thing on Tuesday morning—or on Report. I shall do my best to engineer that today.

I accept that we do not want to create the massive loophole that the hon. Lady describes, but when we deal with clause 6, we will need to do something about the definition of ``specialist'' and she indicates that we may well be able to. In that case, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

3.30 pm

Mrs. Spelman: I beg to move amendment No. 22, in page 2, line 21, leave out `printed' and insert `published'.

The Chairman: With this we may discuss the following amendments: No. 23, in page 2, line 25, leave out

`by an airline which is not a United Kingdom airline'.

No. 21, in page 2, line 30, leave out subsection (3).

Mrs. Spelman: Amendments Nos. 22 and 23 are on different subjects, but Nos. 23 and 21 are inextricably linked. We had an interesting exchange earlier about what legally constitutes publishing something. That caught me out, as I had no idea that it could be defined so broadly. However, my reading of this aspect of clause 4 would seem to put a UK-based company that physically prints a magazine but then exports it to another country for publication in a difficult position. It will become guilty of an offence even though the principal market for the publication is not the United Kingdom.

The important issue in this context is where the tobacco advertisement is published. For example, if the European edition of the International Herald Tribune were printed in London, the exemption that that publication would enjoy—as one whose principal market was not the UK—would be lost because it was printed here. There is no argument for making an exemption for a foreign publication dependent upon it not being printed in the UK when, increasingly, the location of printing is simply a matter of economic calculation and nothing to do with the intensive publishing market. We seem to have moved a long way from a health Bill and to be dealing with trade relations. However, this is an important matter that we need to clarify and I would be interested to hear the Minister's reply.

Amendments Nos. 23 and 21 are different, but they tackle the same problem. The clause as drafted exempts in-flight magazines, but only for foreign airlines. That is anti-competitive and would necessarily disadvantage United Kingdom airlines in an international market. It goes without saying that our airlines, as I am sure hon. Members are aware, have taken quite a knock recently with the loss of duty free. The ability to communicate about their tobacco products and their relative prices, together with the different duty arrangements pertaining to the countries to which they fly, has been an important part of buttressing their losses.

This is not an insignificant problem but a very significant one. Why should the in-flight magazine of American Airlines be exempt when read on board an aircraft flying between New York and London, whereas the in-flight magazine of British Airways or Virgin Atlantic would be covered by the Bill? The airline industry is global, like the internet service providers, and we must be careful that we are not disadvantaging companies that have to fight for survival in global markets. The measure is discriminatory and unreasonable, as it applies only to airlines and not to other foreign travel operators such as ferry companies that also have publications on board. Any discrimination between nationality of ownership or registration would be anti-competitive. At the least, that inconsistency needs to be cleared up.

The measure would also prevent airlines from showing clearly details of their duty-free tobacco products on board their aircraft. Now that that is virtually the only place that the airlines can legitimately pursue that aspect of their business, it is difficult to imagine how they will get around that problem. The only solution that I can imagine is that of their staff waiting for a passenger to request the price of the cigarettes that are on board.

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Prepared 1 February 2001