Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill

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Yvette Cooper: I shall try to respond to the points that have been raised.

The hon. Member for Meriden was concerned that the clause and the Bill treated print publishers and electronic publishers differently. They are treated differently in a couple of respects, although the broad aim of the Bill is to be neutral with regard to the different media. First, they have a different defence for electronic means of transmission—that they were unaware of what was being published. Secondly, we have taken a power in regulations to cope with changes in technology, not because we intend to treat electronic media differently from print media, but simply to anticipate future changes in technology.

The hon. Lady raised the issue of print for a foreign market. I said in replying to that debate that I would consider that issue in time for Report.

The hon. Member for South Dorset, as I had expected, again asked about the definition of advertisement and expressed his concern about the definition of a web page. I have set out the Government's position on those matters. The words have the ordinary meaning that people attach to them. Sometimes it can be counter-productive to attempt to define too narrowly in legislation what we mean, word for word, in every case. In doing so, we would exclude more than was intended simply because a particular example had not been anticipated. In that regard, I think that the Bill strikes the right balance.

4.15 pm

Finally, on the question of to which Secretary of State or Minister the clause refers, I should point out that it is standard practice to refer to the Secretary of State in that way in legislation. However, in practice it is the Secretary of State for Health to whom reference is made, because it is his responsibility to take the lead on tobacco products. The hon. Gentleman has expressed anxiety on many occasions about legislation that crosses, and which has implications for, several Government Departments, and I have told him that that, unfortunately, is the way that the world works. Legislation often does not fit into single departmental boxes, but that should cause no problems because we on the Government Benches recognise that it is important that Departments should work together, and are trying to ensure that they do so.

As I have said, it is common practice for a Bill not to define a particular Secretary of State, but in this case it is the Secretary of State for Health to whom reference is made.

Mr. Ian Bruce: I do not want to cause too much discomfort, although we on the Opposition Benches often play games by trying to get Secretaries of State to give different answers to the same question. However, it must be said that the Bill would be improved by a clearer definition. Perhaps a phrase such as ``the Minister who is responsible for tobacco products'' could be used. The clause ought not to refer merely to ``the Secretary of State'', given that there is no such title in British governance.

Yvette Cooper: I repeat that such a reference is standard practice in legislation, and it is clear that ``the Secretary of State'' means the Secretary of State with responsibility for this policy area. The clause is perfectly adequate, therefore, and I ask the Committee to accept it.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 19 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 20

Commencement, short title and extent

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

Mrs. Spelman: In respect of clause 17, the Minister referred to the speed at which different sets of regulations might come into effect—a point that relates to the question of whether the Bill will be enacted on the day appointed by the appropriate Minister. Can the Minister assure me that in enforcing the legislation, enough time will be allowed for specialist tobacconists, newsagents and internet service providers to comply with it and make the appropriate changes? She perhaps anticipated my pleading on behalf of smaller companies that do not have the resources to make such changes easily. I am thinking in particular of small newsagents, many of which have fascia signs that have been supplied by tobacco manufacturers. It might not immediately occur to them that they need to replace such signs, which is quite an expensive process. The different rates at which the regulations come into force is therefore important.

Can the Minister give some idea of the time scale involved? I understand that, in a way, the delayed regulations depend on a promise of not abusing the system, so perhaps no precise time scale can be given. None the less, I seek an assurance that every effort will be made to help small businesses with the changes that must be made in good faith to comply with the Bill.

Mr. Ian Bruce: As my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden said, we have not defined whether existing hoardings, which have been published, can result in a prosecution because they are still on display. That is an important point that we have not previously discussed. One could say that every time someone looks at a hoarding, it is being published, and that would be an offence. If the advertisement is already on a hoarding, is there a requirement for it to be removed, and under which section of the Bill would that happen? If the Minister believes that that will happen, can she indicate when that will take place?

Yvette Cooper: I shall set out our intentions. The appointed date for the Bill to come into force would be two months after Royal Assent, but a further three months will be allowed for advertising in retail outlets, in in-pack promotion schemes that entail coupons being inserted in a pack or forming part of a pack, and for direct marketing contracts that were set up before 8 October 1999. We have set out that provision to enable small businesses in particular to have time to comply with the legislation without excessive burdens being placed on them.

However, I should also say that our intentions have been clear for a long time. We are broadly implementing the European directive, which has been publicly available for a considerable time. Small businesses and large businesses alike know our intentions.

The hon. Member for South Dorset raised a specific question about an old advertisement or hoarding that is still up. If someone allowed that advertisement to be in place and was responsible in some sense for allowing it to remain in place by, for example, having it on his or her property or premises, he or she would effectively be publishing it, or at least assisting with its publication. It would be bizarre to allow all the advertisements that are currently up to be permitted under the legislation simply because no one had got round to taking them down. That would be a major loophole if we allowed it to happen.

Mr. Bruce: It has just occurred to me that I cannot see under which section of the Bill such a person would be prosecuted. As the Minister said, it would be bizarre to ban new advertisements while retaining others. One can imagine that as the date approaches, the tobacco companies will have balloons in the trees. In Burnley, there is a ``Vote Ian Bruce'' sticker up in a tree; I do not know how it got up there, but there is no way to get it down. I am probably breaking the law because legislation specifies that posters must be removed within a particular time after an election.

With loopholes in mind, may I ask where the Bill prohibits such behaviour? I am not sure how a person not in the tobacco trade who continues to show a poster would be caught.

Yvette Cooper: The Bill provides for someone to be currently responsible for publishing or bringing to the attention of the public. If that person does not take the advertisement down, he or she is therefore liable. If it were not in his or her power to take the advertisement down because, for example, it was stuck in a tree, he or she would have a defence.

Mr. Luff: That is a fascinating point. What about old enamel signs outside antique shops? Are there any brands advertised by old enamel signs or by mirrors in gentlemen's lavatories that would be affected? Are there any old brands of antique interest, that are not there to promote the brand, but which are still up, that will be caught by this? If the brand was not current, would there be a problem?

Yvette Cooper: The question would be whether something was being published in the course of a business. An old curio that was privately owned clearly would not be covered by the Act. However, if something was being distributed, published or used currently, and had either the purpose or the effect of promoting a tobacco product today, it would, no matter how long ago it had actually been manufactured, be covered. Obviously there is no intention to ban historic antiques.

Mr. Bruce: The hon. Lady did say published or distributed today, but by someone in business for tobacco. I think that she should include those words.

Yvette Cooper: We are talking about what is done in the course of the business, so the hon. Gentleman would certainly not be prosecuted for continuing to wear the Silk Cut jacket that he clearly acquired some considerable time ago.

The hon. Member for Meriden raised a point about the timetable for regulations. We will, of course, give considerable time for the consultation. We have not yet set out the timetable for implementing the regulations, but will do so in the same way in which we provided appropriate time scales for introducing some of the provisions for advertising and retail outlets, and timetabling provisions in the original European directive around brandsharing and other areas. There is no intention to place unnecessary burdens on business, and we obviously aim to introduce the ban in the most effective way.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 20 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

New clause 3


    ``(1) A person who in the course of a business displays tobacco products or causes them to be displayed in a place or on a website where tobacco products are offered for sale is guilty of an offence if the display does not comply with such requirements (if any) as may be specified by the appropriate Minister in regulations.

    (2) It is not an offence under subsection (1) for a person who does not carry on business in the United Kingdom to display or cause to be displayed tobacco products or their prices by means of a website which is accessed in the United Kingdom.

    (3) The regulations may, in particular, provide for the meaning of ``place'' in subsection (1).

    (4) The regulations must make provision for a display which also amounts to an advertisement to be treated for the purpose of offences under this Act—

    (a) as an advertisement and not as a display, or

    (b) as a display and not as an advertisement.''—[Yvette Cooper.]

    Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

    New clause 1

    Review of effect of this act

    ``(1) The Secretary of State shall commission a reputable and appropriately qualified body to carry out a rolling study of the effects of this Act on—

    (a) the prevalence of smoking in the United Kingdom population, with particular reference to the uptake of smoking by persons under the age of 18; and

    (b) the effect of this Act on market shares of different participants in the tobacco market.

    (2) The Secretary of State shall arrange for an annual report of the findings of the study commissioned in accordance with (1) above to be presented to the Health Select Committee of the House of Commons for evaluation.''. —[Mrs. Spelman.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

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