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21 Oct 2002 : Column 38—continued

Mr. Speaker: In my long years in the House, the Speaker has never been drawn into an argument.

Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East): Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Given the Government's abject failure to come to the House to make a statement on this extremely worrying potential strike, may I appeal to you to use your discretion in the selection of certain topics for Adjournment debates to give due consideration to this important matter?

Mr. Speaker: The hon. Gentleman can make an application in the usual way.

Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I apologise for giving only very short notice of my point of order. On Wednesday last week, the Secretary of State for Transport made a statement to the press and media on some 92 schemes involving #145 million in a rolling programme to tackle congestion and improve safety at junctions across England's trunk roads and motorways. I made inquiries in the Library on Wednesday, but the only document available was a print-out from the Highways Agency website. There was no parliamentary announcement—neither a statement nor a written answer—and no possibility of holding the Secretary of State to account. I declare an interest, as one of the crossings is in my constituency. The local media phoned me, but I had no information to give at that time. Is that a proper way to make such an announcement? There was no democratic accountability, and there is no record of the matter in Hansard.

Mr. Speaker: The hon. Lady gave me some notice on the matter. I can assure her that the Secretary of State has, in this case, met his obligations to the House.

Mr. Gerald Howarth (Aldershot): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Following on from the point of order made by the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), it is a fact that about 19,000 members of Her Majesty's armed forces are being diverted to take over from the firemen when they go on strike. Will you tell the House whether you would warmly welcome the Secretary of State for Defence seeking your permission to make a statement? It seems astonishing that the House is not able to consider a matter of such urgency. As my hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire (Sir Patrick Cormack) made clear, it is of great concern not only to the ordinary people of this country, but to our armed forces, which may be called on to take part in operations elsewhere in the world, which, although they are not more serious, are certainly much more in line with what they are trained to deploy for.

Mr. Speaker: Clearly, a Secretary of State does not require my permission to make a statement. He has only to inform me, out of courtesy, that the statement will be made.

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Orders of the Day

Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill [Lords]

New Clause 2

Commission of body to study the effects of Act

'(1) The Secretary of State shall commission a reputable and appropriate 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 between the ages of 16 and 19 and under the age of 16; and
(b) the effect of this Act on market shares of different participants in the tobacco industry.
(2) Following the third anniversary of this Act coming into force, and annually thereafter, the Secretary of State shall arrange for an annual report of the findings of the study commissioned in accordance with subsection (1) above to be laid before Parliament.'.—[Tim Loughton.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

4.34 pm

Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham): I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

The new clause would require the Secretary of State to commission a reputable and appropriate qualified body to carry out a rolling study of the effects of the legislation on the prevalence of smoking in the UK population, with particular reference to those between the ages of 16 and 19, and those under 16, as well as its effects on market share. Furthermore, a report should be made to the House after three years and annually thereafter.

Throughout the passage of the Bill, our major concern has been with gaining the evidential basis for banning tobacco advertisements, not with the harmful effects of smoking, on which we are all agreed. The new clause is no more than what we and all right-minded people have been asking for throughout the progress of this long-travelling Bill.

John Robertson (Glasgow, Anniesland): Will the hon. Gentleman clarify the point he just made? Is he saying that tobacco advertising has no effect on the age group that he mentions and that it does not encourage them to smoke, giving them a chance of dying prematurely?

Tim Loughton: Without going over old ground, the hon. Gentleman well knows that the case that has been made by hon. Members and by people in various industries is that there is no firm evidential basis. There are a number of reports. Some support the case that advertising has an effect on young people and some contradict that. The point is that there is no firm definitive study that without doubt can directly link tobacco advertising with the prevalence of smoking, particularly among children. That is the basis on which we proceed. As we have said all along, it is up to the Government, if they are to ban advertising, to make their case. The point is the link between advertising and smoking. No one disputes that smoking is harmful. It is.

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It is a filthy habit. We hate it. We would like it to be rather less prevalent among the population, particularly the young. That point is not in dispute.

Mr. Kelvin Hopkins (Luton, North): To look at the argument the other way, why do tobacco companies spend countless billions on advertising tobacco if there is no evidence that it has any effect?

Tim Loughton: The hon. Gentleman was a member of the Committee. He knows the arguments that have gone backwards and forwards. There are arguments of market share between different brands and a host of other arguments. That is not the point that we are debating in new clause 2. He will have ample opportunity to come up with the new evidence that the Government have signally failed to come up with over the several years that this legislation has been the subject of debate in the House.

The intention of all of us is to do anything we can to reduce the consumption of tobacco products, especially to prevent take-up among young people. All we are asking for in the new clause is good practice, a facility in the Bill to make changes if new evidence comes to light that the Act is having no effect, or even that it is proving to be counter-productive. Many people have made claims, some of them spurious, some not so spurious, that one of the main influences on prevalence of tobacco smoking is price. That is very dependent on the prevalence of smuggling and cheap availability of cigarettes. There is more evidence to suggest that those factors have more effect on smoking and on young children having access to cigarettes and taking up smoking than advertising does. If in a few years, when the Act has come into force and we have had enough time to judge its effects, a proper independent study deems that the Act is not having the intended consequences or worse still is proving counter-productive, the Secretary of State should have that information and be able to act on it. That is all we are asking for.

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath): As my hon. Friend is aware, I have a big interest in the effect of the legislation on sport, particularly minority sports such as darts and fishing. He knows that the world darts championship takes place every year at Frimley Green in my constituency. If it turns out that these very popular sports are severely disadvantaged by the legislation, is that one of the aspects that could be reviewed?

Tim Loughton: Again, that is a major consideration that the Committee and many hon. Members have raised on numerous occasions. It is an important consideration because it potentially affects sports that are good for people—good for the health of young people. Without those sports, there will be other health implications.

Mr. Hopkins: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Tim Loughton: I would like to answer one point at a time before I do so.

Of course, the point to which my hon. Friend referred is an implication of the new clause, but I am primarily concerned with studying the effect on the prevalence of

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smoking. If, in a few years' time, the study shows that far from going down, the prevalence of smoking has increased, we need to know why. We will need to know whether the Act has had a counter-productive effect in some respects. Some would say that, without recourse to advertising, tobacco companies will resort to price-cutting among various brands, and, as I said, price is one of the most sensitive aspects of the prevalence of the smoking. If the hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Hopkins) wants to intervene now, I shall take one more intervention and then try to make progress.

Mr. Hopkins: Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that the health-giving qualities of playing snooker, playing darts and driving fast motor cars counters the damage to millions of people's health from smoking?

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