Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill

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Mrs. Spelman: I am not satisfied that we have dealt adequately with this grey area. I understand the rationale for not insisting that sponsorship agreements are in writing and I accept that it might drive the agreements underground. I suspect that many of them are informal agreements anyway. Their precise effect on the market is probably never discussed in great detail with the parties to the sponsorship agreement. If I am correct in the way that I understand that these things are constructed, I suspect that one party is most interested in the sum of money that it will receive in return for such an agreement.

I do not feel that we have been left with a clear idea of how effective this clause is likely to be. I am sure the Minister will agree that, in terms of smoking prevalence among young women, the most damage is done by a Kate Moss, for example, strolling down a catwalk smoking a cigarette. Furthermore, if it is a clearly identifiable brand, that increases the level of damage. The hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Barron) is shaking his head, but I can assure him that market research has shown that young women in particular, who aspire to the kind of figure that Kate Moss has—the opportunity for which has unfortunately long eluded female members of my age—perceive a film or pop star of that status smoking as an indicator to a way towards achieving that perfect shape. We are left with quite a grey area on this point, and one that is quite difficult to clear up, but there is no question but that we shall see a rise in product placement where more conventional types of advertising are closed down.

It was certainly not the purpose of our amendment to create a loophole under this whole discussion on sponsorship—quite the reverse. Equally, we are trying to be fair and realistic about what it would be reasonable to expect of the parties to the agreement. It is still quite hard for people to see what the ultimate effect of some of their actions can be. However, if, in the opinion of the Minister, the removal of the words ``or effect'' will just enlarge a loophole, it would be right to withdraw the amendment if it would just enlarge the loophole. When we come to clause 11, we shall be discussing more precisely the whole position of broadcasting, and that will be a tricky subject, and one difficult to manage. It might be better if we withdrew amendment No. 41 and had a more focused discussion on broadcasting methods later.

The Chairman: Order. We are debating amendment No. 39.

Mrs. Spelman: And amendment No. 41.

The Chairman: Indeed, but amendment No. 39 is the lead amendment and that is the only one that may be withdrawn with leave of the Committee. Should that happen, the other would fall.

Mrs. Spelman: Thank you for that correction, Mr. Malins. We shall leave discussion of amendment No. 41. I wish to place on the record that, as with the matter of internet service providers—this is a message to noble Members in another place as much as anything—with the time available to us, we remain unsure that the loopholes concerning sponsorship have been closed by the wording of the clause. They may wish to return to that matter. We accept that our amendments would not achieve our objective of trying to bring more precision to this clause and, for that reason, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Chairman: We now come to amendment No. 40.

Mr. Luff rose—

Mrs. Spelman: I beg to move, amendment No. 40, in page 4, line 27, after first `contribution', insert `in the course of business'

We missed our Whip this morning, and I got myself into some trouble, but now he is here. We are very glad to see my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Luff) back this afternoon. Since anyone reading Hansard might be concerned for his health and welfare, I am pleased to record that he is back with us.

Amendment No. 40 deals with a slightly separate subject area. The prohibition of sponsorship agreements in clause 9 is not limited to activities that are carried out in the course of business. In that respect, it is unlike tobacco advertisements in clause 2 and free distributions in clause 8, which are limited to activities carried out in the course of business. Agreements that will have no commercial effect will be caught by the definition of the sponsorship agreement in clause 9(2).

Two scenarios illustrate the absurdity of the present provision. First, if a person agreed to contribute cigarettes or cigars for guests who were smokers at a local football club dinner, both contributor and host could be liable to prosecution. That is similar to the difficulties posed by the corporate entertaining examples that I would like the Minister to address. Secondly, if a private club organised a cigar tasting, all subscription-paying members of that club would be guilty of an offence under subsection (1). The clause can be clarified by inserting the words

    ``in the course of business'',

which would make it consistent with other parts of the Bill. The amendment is relatively straightforward, but is designed to make the Bill clearer and more workable.

Yvette Cooper: I accept the principle behind the amendment. At every stage, we have tried to distinguish between what an individual might do and what would be done in the course of a business. There is no intention to prosecute individuals who may choose to sponsor particular events. We have distinguished in the clause between what individuals do as a matter of choice, even if we may not like it, and what is done in the course of business. I ask the hon. Lady to withdraw her amendment, so that we can consider what the exact wording should be to ensure that the clause complies with the intention of the rest of the Bill.

Mrs. Spelman: That is very helpful. I will withdraw the amendment on the understanding that the Minister accepts the spirit in which it was made, and will find wording that reflects the distinction and makes the clause consistent with other parts of the Bill. That will be music to the ears of members of people from all parties, as individuals who have an interest in tobacco products. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Mr. Ian Bruce: The Government are in danger of creating a complication that they did not intend. There is an understanding that advertising is acceptable if wholesalers and manufacturers are advertising to sellers of tobacco. By not defining sponsorship, something that is considered to be promotion under clause 4 could also be caught as sponsorship. For example, it is not unusual for a tobacco company to have an after-dinner speaker, possibly a famous person, at a conference of its sales agents. That individual will be paid a sum of money that could certainly be regarded as sponsorship. Would it be an offence for an individual, as part of that sponsorship agreement, to give a speech helping to promote tobacco products to the retailers? That sort of marketing activity is widespread. Perhaps the Minister, in trying to help my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden to ensure that the activity concerned would have to be conducted in the course of business, would consider a different definition in clause 9, of who is being sold to, or for whom the sponsorship is designed.

5.30 pm

We should also refer to clause 18, which relates back to clause 9 for certain international events. It seems wholly illogical that tobacco promotion through sponsorship is to be allowed, for a period of time, if it is connected to an international event. Either we think it wrong to have sponsored events that deal with tobacco promotion, or we do not. The fact that the promotion is connected to an international sporting event should make no difference.

I can only assume that the Prime Minister, and his colleagues, having accepted £1 million from Bernie Ecclestone—even though they had to give it back—promised Mr. Ecclestone that they would continue to support him, and have stuck to that promise. That is one sort of definition of an honest politician—once bought, he stays bought.

I am worried about some things that may be excluded, but which we might think it good for tobacco companies to do. We should be telling tobacco companies that they are causing ill health and should be putting money into research to allow people to be cured, or creating a situation in which smoking tobacco would not be a health hazard. That sort of sponsorship activity would put the tobacco companies in a good light and would help them to improve their image. But it would also give them promotion, and is therefore banned by the clause.

Tobacco companies set up charitable foundations: it is good for their image. That is why companies whose first requirement is to make profits for their shareholders give money to charity. It may be that the tobacco industry is doing things that are good for the health of the nation, but which would be banned. We may be sending the message that the companies can, if they can get their advertising and promotion through the Bill's loopholes, do harm, but that the Government will make sure that anything positive that they might do is banned. Not only would the tobacco companies be clobbered, but so would the charities that would receive money in sponsorship deals to look into tobacco diseases. It is a horrible thought that a researcher receiving money from a charitable trust to examine how to do away with the harmful effects of tobacco might be caught by the Bill.

I have another, perhaps self-interested, point. Mine is very much a sailing constituency—a Royal Yachting Association centre of excellence is being set up in Portland. We organise many international sailing events. Volvo and BT are big sponsors, but the tobacco industry is also involved in sponsorship. It is extraordinary to think that we can tell tobacco companies that they can still sponsor events held in France, which are televised and reported, but that UK sport must have that business taken away and sent elsewhere. We need an even playing field. We need to ensure that sponsorship money is not spent elsewhere, so that it takes events away from the UK. The Government owe it to everyone, not just those who have paid £1 million—and got it back—to make sure that people are not disadvantaged simply because they want to do their work in the UK.

I want to put some dictionary definitions on the record, because the Minister keeps talking about them. My hon. Friend the Member for Meriden was right; she turned to me when she smilingly sought sponsorship for her Bill, and I wrote back to her. I do not know whether I am on her list, because she was overwhelmed by colleagues who wanted to be sponsors of her Bill, and that is what sponsorship is about.

The first definition of ``sponsor'' in the compact Chambers Dictionary—I cannot carry a bigger one around with me—is:

    ``one who gives his word that another will do something act in a certain way.''

The second definition is:

    ``godfather or godmother.''

We had better make sure that we are not godfather or godmother to someone who is a smoker. A further definition is:

    ``one who makes himself responsible for e.g. the introduction of a law.''

That, in fact, is the definition we had from the Minister.

It is only when we reach definition number four that we find what the Government are going for in the Bill. It is:

    ``a business firm that pays for a radio or television programme and is allowed time to advertise''.

The fifth definition is:

    ``one who agrees to contribute towards the cost of an event etc. or to a charity if someone else performs some task.''

We understand that the final two definitions are those that the Government intend for the Bill, but I do not think they have defined their terms sufficiently clearly because the other three types of sponsorship might inadvertently be caught, and I know that the Government would not want that to happen.

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