|Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill [Lords]
Yvette Cooper: I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way, as that saves me from having to respond to his point later, and thereby to take up more of the Committee's time. I simply wish to point out that clause 7 refers only to new technology and developments in new technology; it does not refer to the entire scope of the Bill.
Tim Loughton: If that is so, I am surprised, given the enormous powers under regulation that this Bill and so many other Bills give to the Secretary of State, that the Minister is not seeking to solve the problem by extending those powers to amend regulations to other regulations outside electronic communications. She seems to have missed a trick that her colleagues in other Departmentsand in her own Departmentnever fail to miss, with regard to other legislation that we are constantly bombarded with in this place that gives enormous and unprecedented power to Ministers. Therefore, she has not offered a convincing excuse. I am almost arguing against myself by offering the Minister yet further unprecedented powers, but I am sure that she would take them up with relish, as her colleagues have previously done, with regard to other legislation.
I offer a challenge to the Minister. I want her to give examples of the serious gaps that this harmless, well-intentioned and benign amendment will open up. The Bill has been under scrutiny for some time, and her officials have had it under scrutiny for rather longer than have myself and my hon. Friends, so they must have come up with a list of potential loopholes that might be exploited. They have had ample time to tighten up the legislation to ensure that they are not realistic loopholes.
As things stand, it is fraught with loopholes that will instantly be taken to the courts, at vast cost, and to the benefit of nobody except lawyers. All of that could be avoided by the amendment's addition of some closer definitions, the downside of which are limited. Therefore, I challenge the hon. Lady again to tell us exactly what are the gaps that she envisages, because although she keeps going on about them, she has not given any good examples.
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Mr. Ruffley: I wish to amplify to the Minister the point that my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham has made. The hon. Lady genuinely believes that the current draft of the clause will provide a comprehensive coverage of advertisements, and we take that in good faith. Our amendment suggests that that is not the case, and it seeks to tighten up the legislation.
I listened carefully to the Minister, as is my wont; I have a great deal of time for her, because she is very well prepared. Given that, I ask her to justify one of the arguments that she adduced in her previous contribution, when she said that there were loopholes in specific definitionsor words to that effect. In light of what she said, will she tell the Committee what precedents there areI am sure that her legal advisors will help herof loopholes being found in Acts that have a spelled-out definition of ''advertisement''? Take the wording of the Consumer Credit Act 1974. That legislation is not, of course, on all fours with what the Bill is trying to achieve in respect of tobacco advertising, but a spelled-out, detailed definition is used in that Act.
I shall read the definition, which is quite long:
I mention those Acts for a specific reason. If the Minister is correct, and if her argument is to hold water, she will be able to list from the Acts that give a spelled-out, long definition, examples in which a person or people acting in concert, or companies, got round that definition, and were able to create a loophole. I do not think that the Minister expects the Committee to accept willy-nilly, or on her say-so, that the definition that we are trying to put into the Bill through the amendment is not necessary.
Mr. Wilshire: I feel somewhat guilty pressing the Minister further, because it was she who, in the Programming Sub-Committee, offered us an extra 30 minutes. I should be grateful for that. I only hope that she did not wreck her chances of promotion by doing what the Government Whips did not want her to do.
The Minister nearly persuaded me that our amendment was not quite as perfect and well-honed as it should have been. However, she ultimately failed when I tried to press her on some points to which she did not respond. It is not adequate for the Minister to say that the word ''advertisement'' has a natural
Column Number: 24meaning, and to leave hanging in the air the implication that as we all know what it means, we do not need to define it.
The Minister made me doubt part of my argument when she said that one thing that the amendment might do is create loopholes. If ever there was not a little loophole but a gap through which one could take a coach and horses, it is that which would be caused by relying on the natural meaning of the word ''advertisement'', although it is my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds who is the lawyer. Perhaps I should apologise to him for some of the rude comments that I may make about lawyers; I do not mean to offend him. People on the Labour Benches get offended, but that is because they are Labour politicians, not because they are lawyers. I do not apologise for upsetting them, although I apologise for upsetting my hon. Friends.
To rely on the argument that we all know what something means is to invite people such as my hon. Friend to be absent from the House more often in order to be in court justifying that. We would be in a real quagmire then. My little loopholes are as nothing compared with the Minister saying, ''It doesn't really matter. It's got a natural meaning and that will do.'' She must also accept that when one reads Chaucer or ShakespeareI assure you that this is relevant to the point and not a digression, Mr. Amessone finds that words that we now use to mean one thing then meant something entirely different.
David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
Mr. Wilshire: Of course. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman knew Chaucer.
David Taylor: I certainly feel old enough to have done so, now that I have listened to the hon. Gentleman's diatribe. Will he accept that what he has just suggested is only part of a thinly disguised filibuster and that it is much ado about nothing?
The Chairman: Order. If I felt that any Member was filibustering, I would call that person to order.
Mr. Wilshire: I am glad that you would do that, Mr. Amess, but I notice that you did not. Once again, I am sorry that Labour Members are not prepared to listen to any sort of debate about the legislation that they shove in front of us and expect us to rubber stamp without raising any queries. I make absolutely no apology for detaining the Committee. If the debate bores and upsets the hon. Member for North-West Leicestershire (David Taylor), I warn him that he has to put up with four more sittings. It should have been eight sittings, as offered in the first place by the Government Whip, who is not allowed to speakbut I will let that pass, because it would be out of order to raise the matter.
However, it is not enough to say that the natural meaning of a word is all that matters. What happens if the meaning of an advertisement changes? I think that the Minister made a Freudian slipwe will see what Hansard says tomorrow. As far as I am concerned, the
Column Number: 25natural meaning of a word is not adequate. All the examples that the Minister gave us about why we were wrong and she was right focused on the purpose of something. I tried in an intervention to get a response. We heard that the purpose of things in a window was to promote tobacco. Not a word was said about effect.
It is perfectly possible that some people could argueI am sure that lawyers such as my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds would be prepared to give it a whirlthat cigarette packets are not designed to look awful or ugly and put people off but to attract. If an attractive packet, which the Minister says is all rightthe Government do not intend to include the packetincreases sales because it is brilliantly designed, the effect is that of an advertisement, as I understand clause 1. The Minister made no attempt to justify the inclusion of effect. If she does not like the amendment, I advise her to indicate that on Report she would be prepared to re-examine clause 1 with a view to putting it right in a way that she finds acceptable. It appears that she does not agree with our way of putting it right. However, I believe that she is beginning to indicate, by what she says, that there is a defect. If she reflects on it long enough, she might actually persuade herself.
The Minister said that the Government do not consider that tobacco is an advertisement. I agree with that, but I think that she meant to say that a packet is not an advertisement. What the Minister slipped in, if I heard it correctlyI hope that the record will show itwas that ordinary packets will not be considered to be advertising. That introduces a new concept. Who will determine what is an ordinary packet? What takes place in Committee becomes part of the public record and is used when one seeks to understand the meaning of the Bill when it becomes an Act. We now have the concept of an ordinary packet not being an advertisement. Does that mean that the Government now wish to set themselves up as design censors?
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