Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Mr. Dobson: What about the tobacco industry?

Mr. Garnier: I have declared my relationship with the tobacco industry. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that, while shooting with tobacco industry representatives, we do not talk only about shooting; we also talk—surprise, surprise—about matters of legislation that affect the tobacco industry. There would be little point in the tobacco industry asking me to come along purely for a bit of outdoor relief, as the right hon. Gentleman put it. It has a huge interest in the Bill, and I sympathise with the concerns that it, and many others outside the tobacco industry, have about the way in which this Government bully and nanny and seek to control every inch of our daily lives. I know that the right hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) is a kind-hearted fellow and he will perhaps wish to consider the tiresome and technical issues of notification to see how they will affect the progress of the Bill. However, if he is like so many other Labour Members, who have decided that they are right and nothing that anybody else can say will change their minds or shade their opinions, that tells us more about him than it does about the tobacco industry, or even me.

The Government do not want to admit that the three-month standstill is not the limit of the Commission's power to delay. If during that time the Commission or a

29 Apr 2002 : Column 719

member state delivers a detailed opinion that identifies in the Bill, or any regulation under it, any provision that will or could create obstacles to the free movement of goods or services within the internal market, the standstill period could be extended by a further three months. Furthermore, under the technical standards and regulations directive, the member state whose legislation is under scrutiny—in this case, this country—is obliged to consider and respond to the detailed comments made on its legislation. However, it gets worse. The total standstill period can be extended for as long as 12 months if, within the initial three months, the Commission announces that it has found that the legislation in question concerns a matter that is covered by a proposed directive, regulation or decision of its own. There can even be circumstances in which the standstill period goes on for a total of 18 months.

The purpose of the delay periods is to ensure legislative harmony throughout the European Union, which I would have thought was something that this euro-friendly Government would wish to see. Whether one is pro or anti the European Union, or for or against the making of criminal law outside this Parliament, it is surely sensible that if we are part of a single market governed by the European Union and its laws, the laws of individual member states should not conflict with each other, create unlawful barriers to trade or give member states unfair advantages over other member states. After all, as soon as the Chancellor's five economic tests are met, the Government want to enter the single European currency. The Prime Minister can see no constitutional reason for not doing so and does not believe that the UK's accession to the euro can have any deleterious consequences for our national sovereignty or our independence.

If the Prime Minister is sure about that great issue, he surely must have no qualms about adhering to European law in relation to tobacco advertising and the technical standards and regulations directive. The Danes notified the Commission and were content with a standstill, as were the Government of the Netherlands. What is so special about this Government and this Bill that allows them to give it a Second Reading, and complete its remaining stages, before the expiry of the initial—and, possibly, only—three-month standstill period, which is due to happen on 1 July?

If the Government have the courage of their European convictions and genuinely believe in the process that they began by belatedly notifying the Commission on 28 March, they should have no trouble in agreeing to the suggestion in my amendment, which of course has not been selected by the Speaker, or in undertaking that they will not complete the legislation until the Commission has completed its work. In fact, the Government should fervently grasp the opportunity with new Labour gusto and tell us that it was all their idea in the first place.

6.53 pm

Mr. David Hinchliffe (Wakefield): I would normally begin by making some remarks about the previous contribution, but I lost the drift of the hon. and learned Member for Harborough (Mr. Garnier) after his third sentence. I apologise for not being able to comment on the detail of his speech, although I note that he and his two hon. Friends who have signed the reasoned amendment that was not selected have registered interests,

29 Apr 2002 : Column 720

presumably related to the tobacco industry. I can only assume that the hon. and learned Gentleman is attempting to wreck a positive and long overdue measure.

Mr. Garnier: I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman did not understand what I was saying. Perhaps the problem was that my remarks were not addressed to him but to Ministers. The purpose of the reasoned amendment that my hon. Friends and I tabled was not to wreck the Bill but to bring it into compliance with this country's European obligations under the treaty of Rome.

Mr. Hinchliffe: I thank the hon. and learned Gentleman for that brief summary of what he took half an hour to say.

It has been a privilege to listen to some of the contributions in tonight's debate. In particular, I wish to pay tribute to the contribution from my right hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) and to praise the efforts that he has made over many years to address the issue of tobacco consumption. I also pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Barron), who year after year has attempted to get a similar measure through the House. I have been present on many occasions when such Bills have been wrecked and talked out by tactics not dissimilar to those behind the reasoned amendment that the hon. and learned Member for Harborough has tabled.

I welcomed the Bill in the last Parliament and it was a deep disappointment to me and, I suspect, to many Ministers that the measure was not included in the Queen's Speech. I welcome the Lords' initiative, regardless of the political background. It is a sensible measure and I pay genuine tribute to the peer who has worked hard to ensure that the Bill has got so far.

Several hon. Members have mentioned the fact that 120,000 avoidable deaths every year are directly related to tobacco consumption. We bandy those figures about without any real consideration of what they mean for all the bereaved families. I represent Wakefield, and to me the fact that double the number of people living in that city die every year nationwide puts the figure in perspective. It is a scandal and a disgrace that we should accept those deaths as inevitable. They are not, and I am grateful that the Government are doing something about them.

David Taylor: When counting the dreadful losses that happen every year, perhaps we could reflect that 15 people an hour die prematurely from diseases linked to smoking. So far in the debate, that is about 40 deaths, several of which may have occurred while we were listening to the interminable speech from the Liberal Democrats' Front-Bench spokesman. They were probably a merciful release.

Mr. Hinchliffe: My hon. Friend makes his point in an interesting way. I might add that Professor Sir Richard Peto, who advised the Health Committee in the last Parliament during its inquiry into the tobacco industry and the risks of smoking, has calculated that 1 billion people will die worldwide from smoking by the end of the present century. How can that be allowed to happen? History will judge us all on that figure.

Dr. Howard Stoate (Dartford): I apologise for not being here earlier in the debate, but I was attending a

29 Apr 2002 : Column 721

Standing Committee on Delegated Legislation. As my hon. Friend knows, eight out of 10 people who smoke wish that they had never taken it up and seven out of 10 would like to give up if they could. Does he believe that advertising is a major factor in people taking up smoking in the first place?

Mr. Hinchliffe: My hon. Friend served on the Health Committee in the last Parliament and was present for many sessions of evidence—and saw the written evidence—that clearly demonstrated the obvious connection. The Committee reached an all-party consensus that there is a clear connection between advertising and consumption. The link is obvious to all of us who have looked in detail at the issue.

Tomorrow the Queen will visit Parliament to address Members of both Houses in Westminster Hall, as part of the golden jubilee celebrations. Unfortunately, I have alternative engagements. Interestingly, it is also 50 years since Parliament was first informed by a predecessor of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health of the clear connection between smoking and ill health. One has to ask why it has taken so long for us to get round to taking this obvious and sensible step. In relation to tobacco consumption, what does the golden jubilee mean? To me, it means 50 years of denial of clear evidence of a link between smoking and ill health; 50 years of premature and avoidable deaths; and 50 years of marketing tobacco to attract new consumers to replace those who have died. To me, it means 50 years of this Parliament bowing to the squalid commercial interests of the tobacco companies.

It is a political fact that the Conservative party has been funded by the tobacco companies over a long period. When in office, they wrecked every attempt to control tobacco advertising. I have referred to the attempts of my right hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley and others to introduce such controls.

I am interested in the Tories' reasoned amendment, and in the arguments of the hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox) about freedom. I strongly suspect, as others have said, that the hon. Gentleman does not believe in the reasoned amendment. I also strongly suspect that the others who have put their name to it do not agree with its content. I say that because the hon. Member for West Chelmsford (Mr. Burns), who unfortunately is not in his place, signed up to the Health Committee report, which said:

I pay tribute to the hon. Member for West Chelmsford, who is himself a smoker, for his efforts on the Committee regarding this important inquiry. I suspect that he, too, does not really believe what the reasoned amendment says.

I was proud to see a different direction taken by the new Labour Government in 1997. For the first time in many years there was a clear and important public health agenda. The hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Dr. Harris), who has left the Chamber, talked about four wasted years. I was astonished that the hon. Gentleman appeared to pass over some crucial public health measures that related directly to smoking. An advertising ban was proposed in the Government's first Queen's Speech in 1997. To the great credit of my right

29 Apr 2002 : Column 722

hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, the very important "Smoking Kills" White Paper was produced. It pointed us in a fundamentally different direction, which I actively supported as long overdue.

We also had the Formula 1 aberration. It is interesting to note that the first report of the Health Committee in the previous Parliament was highly critical of the exemptions allowed to Formula 1. I was reminded of that watching the television news last night. I am not particularly interested in Formula 1—frankly, I would prefer to watch paint dry—although I understand that some people find it attractive. I saw Schumacher being interviewed on television, his jacket plastered in Marlboro signs. It was a fairly obvious point, which reminded me of what we had discussed at the beginning of the previous Parliament. The Formula 1 issue typifies the way in which the tobacco companies have conned politicians for the past 50 years. I suspect that there were many on the health team in government during that time who believed that we were being conned and had nothing to do with it.

Sport and sponsorship are important areas of concern. My sport, the great game of rugby league football, has been heavily involved with the tobacco industry for many years but has successfully weaned itself off tobacco. I was reminded of that last Saturday at Murrayfield, at a game which, incidentally, was the first ever attended by my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Scotland Office, who is now a convert for life to our great game. It is possible for a sport to move away from its dependence on tobacco. We have some excellent sponsors in rugby league by the name of Kellogg's. The only downside of an excellent day out on Saturday was having to spend the best part of eight hours in a GNER smoking compartment on the train up to Scotland, because that was the only compartment where I could get a seat. I found it frankly impossible, but smoking compartments are getting smaller and smaller and I hope that before too long we will not have any at all.

Next Section

IndexHome Page