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21 Oct 2002 : Column 47—continued

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: Surely the point of the new clause is to look at the whole problem. We face a fiscal problem, involving billions of pounds being lost in smuggling and cross-border shopping; a law and order problem, through the epidemic of smuggling through the white van trade; and a health problem, through the sale of smuggled cigarettes to youngsters, who take up smoking for the first time as a result. It is not just a question of advertising. This well-drafted new clause and the generality of the study are precisely concerned with looking at the whole problem, rather than pretending that an advertising ban will prove anything more than a pin-prick.

Dr. Harris: I accept what the right hon. Gentleman says about there being other issues of concern. I also accept that tackling them might achieve an even greater health gain than can be obtained by this measure, which I do not consider the be-all and end-all. However, I would not describe it as a pin-prick—the hundreds of lives that are reckoned to be saved are more than a pin-prick. Nevertheless, the issues that he raises do exist, and I and many other hon. Members, including a couple from his own party, talked about them on Second Reading.

The only possible impact of the measure to ban advertising, according to the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham, would be price reduction in lieu of advertising. However, if anything, that would serve to undermine, or weaken the pressure for, a parallel trade in smuggled goods, so I accept the premise of the right hon. Member for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory) but not his conclusions.

The burden is on the tobacco industry to demonstrate that the measure is counter-productive, if that is what it believes. That is why we do not need a Government-sponsored research programme. Research will be

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undertaken; there will certainly be research sponsored by the tobacco industry and the tobacco advertising industry, although I would not trust it. However, the subject is one of interest and contention. There is extensive literature about the effects of advertising bans in other countries and I suspect that independent bodies will produce such research for this country.

Government-sponsored research is not necessarily best in such a highly politicised field. I am concerned about the Government's approach to their research contracts—for example, the inappropriate control that they exercise over publication dates and other matters. If possible, independent research would be best. That is another reason why the new clause is wide of the mark.

Dr. Andrew Murrison (Westbury): The hon. Gentleman has partially answered my question. If he does not trust research sponsored by either the industry or the Government, what research would he trust?

Dr. Harris: As the hon. Gentleman pointed out, I have already answered his question. There are still some thriving academic institutions in this country—just about—and, indeed, throughout the world, which are capable of undertaking such research. I certainly should not dismiss out of hand research from any source. I merely point out that the hon. Gentleman's party would do best to promote—

Dr. Murrison rose—

Dr. Harris: Perhaps I could answer the hon. Gentleman's first question. His party would do better to promote the health of independent research in this country and in the wider world rather than calling for Governments of any complexion to fund research into highly politicised issues.

Dr. Murrison: The hon. Gentleman misconstrued my words. I was talking about sponsorship not active research. I am sure that he agrees that academic institutions can be relied on to produce objective research. Sponsorship is a separate matter.

Dr. Harris: I refer the hon. Gentleman to the work that has been done and the concerns that have been raised about the control of the publication and content of research sponsored by Departments. There is an extensive literature and it does not make for happy reading. I am not saying that there is necessarily a relationship with the control-freakery of the present Government, but the concerns are well established. Indeed, some more outspoken Ministers have expressed concern about the quality of research in the social field and that has given rise to anxiety about future funding in those areas.

Mr. Hopkins: Is the hon. Gentleman aware that only today the British Medical Association published a document entitled XTobacco under the Microscope: The Doctors' Manifesto for Global Tobacco Control", which might relate to the objective research about which Members are asking?

Dr. Harris: I was a member of the BMA board of science when some of that work was being undertaken,

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so I did not think it appropriate to blow that particular trumpet, but there are sources of sponsorship that are even more independent than Government sources for such research.

I question whether the people who argue against a ban on tobacco advertising would ever accept such findings. The history of the passage of the measure and of scientific findings about tobacco has been one of resolute refusal to accept what has clearly been shown by evidence not only about advertising but about the causation of disease by tobacco. I would have more faith that tobacco companies would accept the results of independent research if they apologised for their obstructive approach to the public acceptance of the case—clearly accepted by the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham—that tobacco smoking and addiction to tobacco is extremely damaging.

The hon. Gentleman referred to anxiety that price cutting might be used to get around a ban on advertising. That could certainly be a factor, but if we were to argue that it was of overriding importance—especially before it had even occurred—we should never have banned the advertising of things that are currently banned. Indeed, one would want there to be an advertising free-for-all on all products to ensure that prices went up on undesirable substances. If there is clear evidence that an advertising ban would reduce addiction, particularly among young people, we should do what we are doing, even if there is a risk of price cuts—although the major component of the price of tobacco is of course taxation.

The Conservatives have prayed in aid darts and snooker. I support darts and snooker having recognition as sports. They are small sports, but they should not be recognised as sports on the basis of the health impact of the exercise associated with them, as was pointed out by the hon. Member for Luton, North. Some of us feel that the definition of sport could be wider. Indeed, even Ministers share that view in relation to mind sports. All those sports would thrive better if they were not associated with the stench, literally and figuratively, of tobacco.

The hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham argued in an intervention on the hon. Member for Luton, North that, somehow, the tobacco industry might have been interested in a voluntary ban five years ago, but I am not convinced that that is the case. I should be interested to see what evidence there was for that. However, we are where we are: there has been no voluntary ban, and Bernie Ecclestone's actions in trying to get round a ban five years ago is clear evidence that few other options were on the table.

Mr. Hawkins: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way because he has been talking about some of the sports issues that I raised in an intervention on my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton). The hon. Gentleman talks about the embarrassment of various people in the history of the Bill, but does he agree that the greatest embarrassment must lie with the Government? They were in the extraordinary situation of accepting a huge amount of money from Mr. Ecclestone and apparently doing favours for Formula 1 and, as a result of all that being revealed, Mr. Ecclestone got his money back. So the Government hardly come to this issue without

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embarrassment. Lucrative sports, such as Formula 1 and snooker, have a dispensation; less well-off sports, such as darts and fishing, which I mentioned, have no dispensation, so the Bill is in a mess and it needs the review that is set out in the new clause.

Dr. Harris: The hon. Gentleman may be seeking to lead me out of order and I do not intend to go down that path. In relation to the first part of his intervention, yes, what happened certainly embarrassed the Government, and the Government should accept that.

Richard Ottaway : Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Dr. Harris: I may give way in a moment, but I want to bring my remarks to a close.

The hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham discussed other ways to achieve what he seeks to achieve. For example, he was driven to such an unusual approach by the absence of sunset provisions. I should be interested to know whether he considered proposing sunset provisions so that we could discuss them now, because the Liberal Democrats are not automatically opposed to them, although the Conservatives have opposed such provisions in the past.

I do not know what happened to new clause 1, which was an alternative to new clause 2, as it would have given the Government order-making powers of the type that I always thought those on the Conservative Front Bench sought to oppose. That would have been a worse alternative, but the new clause is pretty poor, so we shall oppose it.

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