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Mr. Barron: As I said in my speech, nine years ago the then Deputy Prime Minister, the then right hon. Member for Henley, Mr. Heseltine, favoured a total ban on tobacco advertising. Does the hon. Gentleman think that Mr. Heseltine was as wrong as he thinks Labour Members are today?
Tim Loughton: One member of a Government does not constitute a complete refutation of the points that we have been making. Labour Members know that they will not have 100 per cent. support of some of their measures. The right hon. Gentleman should know that, given the experience of the Government over the past five years, during which more than one Member has actively voted against many of their measures.
The greatest fear is that if advertising is banned, the recourse of tobacco manufacturing companies will be to compete on price, starting with savings of £130 million from their advertising budgets. Tobacco companies will not pack up and go home if we enact the Bill. It is clear from the Government's research that pricing has a significant correlation with consumption.
It is right to tax as a deterrent, and it is a legitimate way of raising revenue. It is well documented that that continued through the 1990s until the tolerance threshold was reached. That coincided with the abolition of duty free and the opening up of the single market to alcohol and tobacco products. Despite all the warnings, however, the Government have been largely complacent about that. The explosion in smuggling since 1997 has led to an increase in total consumption of cigarettes and hand-rolled tobacco of more than 5 per cent. It is estimated that 22 per cent. of all cigarettes and 70 per cent. of hand-rolled tobacco are smuggled.
Increasingly, these products end up being flogged from car boots outside school playgrounds to those whom we are most trying to deter from smoking, from completely unregulated car boot sales or from pubs, contrary to the statements made by the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Miss Begg), who thinks that they are not frequented by teenage girls.
After all the progress that was made up to 1997, we have seen a reversal of more than 5 per cent. in combating smoking. However, the Government predict that the Bill will result in a 2.5 per cent. reduction in smoking. There is no evidence for that. We know that it is an arbitrary figure. The Smee report anticipatedthe point was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter)a net fall in consumption of between zero and 5 per cent. The Bill is just as likely to have zero impact as it to cause a 5 per cent. fall. That was admitted in the regulatory impact assessment in the explanatory notes to the Bill.
Price cutting is a major concern, but there are also implications for the ability to convey health information about less harmful brands of cigarettes. All tobacco products are harmful, but for the confirmed and irrecoverable smoker, like my father, lower tar cigarettes are better than higher tar. In the future other innovations
I am all for making the warnings of the hazards of smoking bigger, bolder and more grotesque. Let us have hoardings, paid for by the tobacco companies, with the words "Smoking makes you die a slow and lingering death" occupying three quarters of the entire poster, and the obscure lacerated purple silk design that is the advertisement relegated to a corner. Let us swamp cigarette packets with skull and crossbones and photographs of cancerous lungs. After all, the £130 million that the industry spends compares with the sum of less than £8 million spent by the Government on smoking cessation.
The Government have made no attempt since 1997 to engage in dialogue with the industry about tightening further the terms of the voluntary agreement, be it on the terms of reference of advertisements and their location, the nicotine content or additional measures to clamp down on under-age sales. I would have sympathy with any such measure. Instead, we have a blanket proposal to ban advertising and promotion which leaves many questions unanswered and more pressing issues unaddressed.
I was impressed with the mention by the hon. Member for North Tayside (Pete Wishart) of the role of product placement and the fact that celebrities with fags in their hand are worth a thousand billboards.
Many questions have not been resolved. What have the Government achieved since the international summit on smoking in July 1997? What action is being taken to end the absurd situation whereby the EU tobacco scheme spends £600 million on subsidising tobacco production, more than three quarters of which is produced in Italy and Greece, with the latter presumably protected by the Greek legal system threatening a three-year jail sentence for anyone in an anorak and brandishing a camera caught within 100 yds of a tobacco field?
Exactly what proportion of smuggled cigarettes is intercepted by Customs, and how many real criminals have been prosecuted? What progress has been achieved by the tobacco taskforce in helping sports find alternative sources of revenue, and why has it not met since October 1999?
Those are all important considerations that are not addressed by the Bill. What we need are effective measures that will not just talk the talk about reducing tobacco prevalence among young people, but walk the walk and encourage a comprehensive mix of measures to tackle the problem at its roots. The Bill is a limited attempt at that. The Government have failed to produce a convincing evidence-based approach. Nothing would delight me more than proper comprehensive measures that would really reduce cigarette take-up and make the job of tobacco companies more difficult, but the Bill is not one.
Yet again, the Government have opted for a soft target and come up with another gimmick which, like the latest onslaught on parents of young hooligans, may look good for the headlines for a few days ahead of elections, but does little to address the underlying problem. We in the Opposition are not so easily taken in and I urge hon. Members to vote for the reasoned amendment.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Barron) set out the impact of tobacco advertising on children and argued that it is inconceivable that advertising aimed at 18-year-olds would not affect 14-year-olds as well. My hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Hinchliffe) spoke about 50 years of evidence. I pay tribute to the work of his Committee in expanding and adding to that body of evidence, particularly on the intentions of the industry with regard to advertising.
I welcome the speech by the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir George Young). I wish that he had been successful in his attempts to ban tobacco advertising 20 years ago. It might have saved all of us an awful lot of time, as well as saving lives in the meantime.
My hon. Friend the Member for North-West Leicestershire (David Taylor) spoke about smoking and pregnancy. My hon. Friend the Member for Amber Valley (Judy Mallaber) spoke about the attitudes of children and young people in her constituency. My hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, West (Mr. Bailey) referred to the impact of smoking on asthma. My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Miss Begg) said that we should take away the oxygen of publicity from smoking. The hon. Member for North Tayside (Pete Wishart) referred to deaths in Scotland. My hon. Friend the Member for Eastwood (Mr. Murphy) spoke of the importance of protecting the freedom of children and young people.
The hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox) gave an apparently philosophical speech on the nature of liberty, but with respect, it was really a smokescreen and he avoided many of the important issues relating to why his party is choosing to ignore the strong views of the medical profession. I shall return in a moment to many of the points that he made.
Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold): I thank the Minister for giving way. May I put it to her that she is living in a slightly surreal world? The real problem with tobacco smoking is smuggling. Three years ago, one in seven cigarettes were smuggled. Today, the figure is nearer one in five, yet the Government go on pushing up duty year in, year out, as they have done in the Budget. That will merely encourage more and more smuggling.
Yvette Cooper: If the hon. Gentleman cared about smuggling, he might have been present to discuss it during the debate. Frankly, the smuggling issue is a red herring. This is not an either/or question. Of course, we should have both action on smuggling and action to prevent tobacco advertising.
The hon. Members for Croydon, South (Richard Ottaway) and for Hexham (Mr. Atkinson) protested about freedom. The hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. Flook) claimed that the voluntary code was toughI wish. The hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) gave a long list of red herrings, including an example involving a photographer in Greece.
The hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Dr. Harris) supported the Bill, which is good, but I have to say that his remarks about smoking were probably the most whingey that I have heard for ages in response to a policy with which somebody agrees, even a Liberal Democrat. Faced with a Government who are for the first time in history providing smoking cessation, nicotine replacement therapy and Zyban on the NHS, way ahead of most other countries, in what has been a massive change over the past five years, what is his response? It is to complain that we introduced the policy in health action zones. Yes, and we were right to do so, because those are the areas where people are on the lowest incomes and smoking prevalence is highest. We have now extended that smoking cessation approach across the country, but it was right to introduce it in health action zones first.