Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill

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Mrs. Spelman: I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

The Chairman: With this we will consider new clause 2—Tobacco promotion regulatory authority.

Mrs. Spelman: The hon. Member for Rother Valley may find that there is an overlap between some of the aims that I have set out to achieve in new clause 1 and some of what he sets out to achieve in new clause 2, so I look forward to hearing what he has to say. Obviously the legislation has imposed some significant restrictions on the way in which legitimate business has been carried out in this country for a long time.

The justification given for the ban on tobacco advertising is the reduction in the prevalence of smoking, and the Government have set a target of reducing that by 2.5 per cent. It is important that we test the proposition properly and require the Government to evaluate the effect of what they are doing. Parliament should head the scrutiny of the legislation.

The UK has taken a significant unilateral decision as part of a significant trading block to ban tobacco advertising for public health reasons in order to meet the target of a 2.5 per cent. reduction in smoking prevalence. We owe it to those who will have to comply with the ban on advertising to demonstrate whether the target has been achieved because of the investment that they will have to make.

Our purpose will be made clear by this debate on our reasoned amendment. We share the Government's aim of reducing smoking prevalence, but the relatively modest target of reducing prevalence by 2.5 per cent. will be difficult to achieve unless we do something far more effective about the volume of illegal tobacco coming in to this country, which we see as fuelling the incidence of smoking.

4.30 pm

It is quite reasonable to ask the Secretary of State to commission a qualified body to carry out a rolling study of the effect of the Bill. There is little difference between the hon. Member for Rother Valley and me on the concept of a qualified authority. I have read the Health Committee Report with care, and I understand his reasons for wanting a body to be introduced called the tobacco promotion regulatory authority. The Health Committee's report promoted such a body, and the Bill introduces new instruments that will carry out the role for which the Health Committee envisaged a tobacco regulatory authority.

It is a semantic difference, but under my new clause the Secretary of State would select a reputable and appropriately qualified body. Such a body might already be in existence. I am no great fan of setting up quangos and authorities all over the place, we have enough of them--I wonder about the effectiveness of some of them sometimes. An existing authority may be able to perform this role for the Secretary of State.

Commercial regulation is outside the sphere of my brief on health, so I am not sufficiently conversant with the constraints on the Advertising Standards Authority, for example. Existing regulatory authorities and bodies may be perfectly well-qualified—

Mr. Luff: A university.

Mrs. Spelman: My hon. Friend mentions a university. The Secretary of State often commissions a university to carry out such a report. It is possible within existing structures to charge a body with the responsibility for evaluating the effectiveness of the Bill. We owe it to those who will be affected by it. It would also inform the public about the success or our legislative efforts in reducing smoking prevalence, and how much that is attributable to the ban on tobacco advertising.

Mr. Ian Bruce: My hon. Friend will remember that the Prime Minister made a big thing about producing an annual report on Government measures. We saw it in one format one year, and then the format was changed completely so we could not follow it the second year. Her clause would merely put into statutory form what the Government promised us with all that spin when they first came into power. They said that they would report back on the measures that they had taken and on the effects that they had had.

Mrs. Spelman: I recall that the first glossy annual report did not exactly sell like hot cakes at Tesco. I am not in favour of glossy reports, but I am very much in favour of an effective report that has a statutory basis to it, so that we can properly evaluate whether or not the Bill has been successful in meeting the Government's target of reducing smoking prevalence by 2.5 per cent. The target does not appear in the Bill. The rationale for this measure would not be apparent to any lay person reading the Bill, who would not make that connection. It is important to make that connection, and for the Government to establish just how effective or not this ban on tobacco advertising has been, and to put that information in the public domain.

Mr. Barron: May I ask for guidance, Mrs. Adams. We are debating these clauses, but the clock is ticking and we have only 25 minutes left of this sitting. I have been invited by the hon. Member for Meriden to comment on her clause, which I am quite prepared to do. Clearly, I have to move my new clause formally, but I do not know which to deal with first.

The Chairman: You do not have to move your new clause at this stage.

Mr. Barron: Thank you, Mrs. Adams. I shall comment on the other new clause first and then move on to mine. The Committee is running out of time, so I may table it again, so that the House can consider it in more detail on Report next Tuesday.

The hon. Members for Meriden and for Mid-Worcestershire may be surprised to hear me say that new clause 1 has some merit. Two important issues arise from clause 1: what happens to under-18 smokers, and what the impact of clause 1(b) on market share will be. We know that clause 1(b) has been the tobacco industry's defence for years—that advertising and promotion are simply about market share and brand switches. If the market did not move when advertising and promotion were banned in this country, we would know that the industry was right for all these years—that people keep smoking the same cigarettes because they want to, not because they have been enticed by advertising and promotion to switch to another brand.

Under-18 smoking is an important issue. It would be good to examine the problem and assess the impact of the ban on advertising and promotion. I agree with the hon. Lady that the Health Committee would be the most appropriate body to conduct such a study. I referred earlier to the Health Committee's evidence on the health risks of smoking, which was published in its report last year. Both written and oral evidence of the incidence of under-age smoking was examined carefully. It showed that advertising designed to encourage people over 18 to switch cigarettes had no effect whatever on young people's smoking habits. The Health Committee put various questions to the advertising agencies giving evidence.

The hon. Member for South Dorset said in his filibuster on integration [Hon. Members: ``Oh''.] I shall point out that his speech was not well-focused on clause 19, and leave it at that. Commenting on raising issues with the Secretary of State, the hon. Gentleman said that if people keep asking the same questions, they receive different answers. He is absolutely right. Advertising agencies were giving evidence about how they pitched their adverts to different age groups and claimed that they affected only adults, not children. I thought that that was a fascinating example of a Select Committee really doing its job.

I shall refer to the late Member for Preston, Audrey Wise. Irrespective of whether we agree with her politics, few could deny that she was assiduous in her Committee work. I recall sitting with Audrey on the Committee considering the Food Standards Bill in 1999. Whenever she elicited evidence from witnesses she would always get to the heart of the matter. I have the report of the evidence taken by that Committee. Audrey Wise took evidence from a Mr. Paul Bainsfair. Please do not ask me to explain in detail, but he was the chairman of TBWA GCT Simons Palmer Ltd. On page 318 of the report, she asked questions about the targeting of young adults. She referred to some written evidence that had been given to the Committee by the company and Mr. Bainsfair, and said:

    ``The client is Rothmans and the target `Primary: 18-24 males'. I should just like to know what you think characterises an 18-year-old male, their aspirations and things that appeal to them which would not also appeal to 14 and 15-year-old males?''

Crucially, under the voluntary code, tobacco advertising was not supposed to be aimed at people aged between 12 and 15. The age of 18 is used in new clause 1 because advertisers are not supposed to target below that age. It would seem relevant for a study to consider the effect of an advertising ban on people below the age of 18.

Mr. Bainsfair said, when he was answering questions in relation to what he called the piece of paper that had been given to the Committee:

    ``It is a fact that Marlboro is a brand which is smoked by younger men; they tend to be more upscale.''

The then hon. Member for Preston said:

    ``Yes, I understand that but what I am asking is how you gear the advertising to be attractive at 18, which is your target beginning and not include things which would also appeal to 14 and 15-year-olds.''

He replied:

    ``I shall try to answer your question, do not really fully understand the way we work'',

to which Audrey Wise admitted:

    ``I am sure I do not, or what motivates you.''

Mr. Bainsfair then went into a rather long answer, saying:

    ``The advertising we are trying to develop, and remember that we have to stick very much within the bounds of the code which prevents us anyway doing anything which might be seen to be deliberately attractive to children—not that we would want to—means that it is pretty unlikely that the kind of advertising we come up with would particularly appeal to a 15-year-old.''

The debate carries on for several columns—I emphasise its relevance to new clause 1(1)(a)—and Audrey Wise says:

    ``All I am asking, since you are expert communicators, is what steps you take to make your adverts attractive to young males 18 and up and to not have them attractive to males of 14 and 15.''

Mr. Bainsfair replied:

    ``What I have tried to explain is that there is a very detailed code to which we have to submit all our ideas to make sure that we are not straying into an area which could be seen to do the very thing you are suggesting we might accidentally do.''

He was then challenged by Audrey Wise, who said:

    ``So you are supposed not to do it. What I am asking is how you carry out that remit, that is all.''

Mr. Bainsfair answered:

    ``I do not quite understand your question. We are aiming at 18 to 24-year-olds.''

The exchange went on for another column.

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