Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill [Lords]

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Mr. Flook: I apologise to members of the Committee for not mentioning that I have declared an interest in the Register of Members' Interests. The Under-Secretary may be confused by the word ''sponsor''. The clause states:

    ''A person who is in the course of business publishes a tobacco advertisement, or causes one to be published''.

The journalist is in such a position as a guest of a tobacco company. He would not be under sponsorship but, given that the provision covers an advertisement, it would suppress his freedom of speech.

Yvette Cooper: I am struggling hard to follow examples of who is sponsoring whom and who is giving money to whom. Clauses 9 and 10 are clear about free distribution and sponsorship, so we will have a great opportunity to discuss what constitutes sponsorship—and what does not—when we reach those clauses. There is no question of journalists' freedom of speech being compromised as long as they are not being sponsored to advertise such products. There is a sensible distinction to be made between advertisements and journalism.

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The hon. Member for Spelthorne asked what was meant by ''publish'' and he referred to an airline company. Again, I was not sure whether that was his real worry. A magazine is published. Someone published it. The hon. Gentleman's concern was more about the principal market, the location of the publication and whether it was in the United Kingdom, not the definition of ''publish''.

Mr. Wilshire: I was determined to put on the record a definition of ''publish''. Its meaning is not self evident. As the Under-Secretary knows, a range of activities are published. I return to the coach operator, coming in and going out. Does the act of bringing in something on the back seat of a coach constitute publishing in the United Kingdom? We need a definition.

Yvette Cooper: Publication would be here, if the advertisement was shown to people who are here. If the advertisement were available in this country, it would have been published in this country. We have set out defences whether or not the principal market was in other countries and so on. If people brought back a magazine from their holidays in another country and it is lying around the house, surely it would be wrong to expect the company responsible for the advertisement to be penalised for it being in the United Kingdom. Other defences are set out in respect of the principal market. I look forward to having a sensible discussion about the airline industry. The publishing aspect is relatively straightforward. The Bill allows for electronic as well as print publication to anticipate changing technology.

The hon. Member for Wilshire mentioned an interesting issue: people who live here but carry on their business abroad. It is right that, if the business were carried on abroad and the publication of the tobacco advertisement took place abroad, legally, the fact that they lived in the United Kingdom would not mean that they were covered by the Bill. The Bill is about not where people live but the carrying on of business and the publication and distribution of tobacco advertisements. Someone who works for a company in the United States that publishes and distributes tobacco advertisements to the United States population but who lives in the UK and does that work online, for example, or travels to and fro to do it, has a right to do so. We are not penalising people's right to work in different parts of the world or to compete for business in other parts of the world. The Bill is designed to prevent the advertising of tobacco products to people in this country.

My hon. Friend the Member for North-West Leicestershire expressed concern about clause 2(4) and asked whether it created a loophole to exempt people who do not carry on business in the United Kingdom. We must all recognise that the internet and its international nature pose new questions and dilemmas.

We have jurisdiction over only this country. That causes difficulties in dealing with things that are available and legal in other countries but which can be accessed from this country using new technology. We have tried to set out extensively means to prevent that in as many ways as possible for those who carry

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on business in this country, in whatever form in the chain.

The Bill is as comprehensive as possible, bearing in mind Parliament's jurisdiction. However, we must recognise that international issues are involved. That is why it is right to work on international agreements on the matter, why we need strongly to support progress in the European Union in setting out an EU-wide tobacco advertising ban, and why we must work with the World Health Organisation for a worldwide framework on tobacco control.

David Taylor: I pay tribute to the work that the Minister has done in the field so far. The key and residual thrust of my point, to which the debate on clause 7 may be relevant, relates to the phrase ''technological development'' when pre-existing, old-style, old-hat technology can be used by tobacco-promoting companies decamping abroad. Perhaps that phrase needs some attention, and perhaps I shall table an amendment before we have a chance to discuss it.

Yvette Cooper: I shall be happy to discuss the issues surrounding clause 7 further. Clause 7 is aimed at new and developing technology. The issue is jurisdiction as much as technology. My hon. Friend is right to say that the technology already exists to obtain information and access to things abroad. The issue with which we are grappling in Committee and in Parliament is jurisdiction, where we can enforce laws and who we can enforce them over. That is why the e-commerce directive has emerged as a way of considering some of the broader issues surrounding the internet throughout Europe. We recognise that, in a world of rapidly developing technology, international issues can be an extremely important part of the lives of people in this country.

I hope that I have responded to the questions. The clause is important. Inevitably the debate has ranged around many later clauses, because, although the clause sets out the Bill's broad scope, many later clauses are essential in specifying defences and some further issues, for example, distribution.

Mr. Wilshire: Will the Minister give way?

Yvette Cooper: I nearly got away with it.

Mr. Wilshire: Yes, the Minister nearly got away with ignoring one of the key questions. I asked whether she could give us a definition of ''in the United Kingdom''.

Yvette Cooper: I understand that publication would be in the United Kingdom if the advertisement is shown to passengers who are here. That includes part of British airspace, although there is the problem of enforcement, about which sensible decisions would have to be taken.

Mr. Wilshire: I am grateful to the Minister for that statement; I will return to it shortly.

I wish to put the Minister out of her misery. Wilshire is the Member of Parliament for Ali G's constituency. I am not a member of the ''Staines massive'', but I am the hon. Member for Spelthorne. [Interruption.]

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Mr. Wilshire: I have been called all sorts of things in my time, and I have never yet taken offence.

David Taylor: The hon. Gentleman is a terminal bore.

10.45 am

Mr. Wilshire: Yes, that is a good one.

The Minister rightly said that the clause creates wide-ranging offences. Given that the Bill will be on the statute book, it is right that they should range as widely as possible. However, it is also important that those offences are clearly defined, so that we know where we are going.

With regard to the phrase,

    ''in the course of a business'',

I followed the Minister a long way down the track, but I became seriously alarmed when she drew a distinction between the individual's right to free speech and a collective right—or lack of right—to free speech if one forms a business.

I wish the Minister to reflect on that, and to clarify whether she really meant what I understood her to be saying, which is that it is alright for me, as an individual, to have a right of free speech—that is what democracy is about—but that the moment that I build a business on the right to free speech, that right is taken away from me. If that is what the Government believe, we need to know that. We must have that out in the open once and for all. Putting aside all of the medical arguments, one reason why a group of people object to this legislation is not because they love smoking and tobacco, but because they see it as an assault on the rights to free speech. I think that I heard the Minister admit that that is right. If she has made that admission, we have made real progress this morning in showing why this is a dangerous Bill.

Mr. Hopkins: The hon. Gentleman is talking about free speech as if it is unrestricted—[Interruption.]

The Chairman: Order. There is too much background noise. If Committee members wish to have private conversations, they should leave the Room.

Mr. Hopkins: There are many sensible restrictions on free speech, such as incitement to do all sorts of different things that are undesirable to society and to individuals.

It is sensible to restrict the free speech to advocate smoking, which kills hundreds of thousands of people every year. I support that.

Mr. Wilshire: That is a fair point, but it does not address the point that I was making. It is possible to construct an argument that there should be a limitation on free speech with regard to tobacco advertising—the Government have done that several times. However, my concern is that the Bill introduces a differentiation with regard to the restriction on free speech: an individual has that right, but a group of people running a business do not. That is what I heard the Minister saying—that certain people can have the right and others cannot. I hope that the hon. Gentleman accepts that that cannot be fair, because I agree with him in principle.

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