|Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill [Lords]
Mr. Hopkins: There is a great difference between an individual who does not receive any financial reward saying, ''I think smoking is a sensible idea'' to his neighbour—that is not something that the law would intervene to prevent—and someone taking money to promote the sale of cigarettes, and getting people addicted to the dreadful habit of smoking.
Mr. Wilshire: That is the correct counter to my point, but I wish anyone who is listening to debate—or who thinks about it while reading the transcript—to ask themselves whether it is a proper response. Should one draw a distinction? I merely think that that is an interesting issue and that the Government have been exposed for sloppy thinking in the way that they approach the freedoms of the individual.
I was also concerned that the Minister said that it was permissible to put an ''I love smoking'' sign in the window—reference was made to Marlboro advertisements, although I cannot remember the details. Let us suppose that a commercially produced advertisement comes into my possession when I am abroad, which has never been published in the United Kingdom. Am I entitled to put it in my suitcase, bring it home and put it in the window? I think that the record will show that that is what the Minister suggested, which would surely create a loophole.
People who are not pursuing the course of their business but merely feel strongly about the issue, could distribute things to returning passengers at ferry ports such as Calais. There is a world of difference between me scrawling on a bit of paper, ''I love tobacco'' and putting it in the front window, and picking up a commercially produced advertisement in Calais, bringing it home and sticking it in the window because I feel so strongly that my civil rights are being abused by this legislation. I do not think that that is what the Minister meant, although that is what she suggested. I would welcome clarification.
In replying to the helpful interventions of my hon. Friend the Member for Taunton, the Minister said that she was ''struggling''. The hon. Lady is responsible for the Bill and has the support of as many civil servants as are necessary, the opportunity to study and discuss the Bill with experts and to take legal advice. If the person with the greatest expertise in the Room says that she is ''struggling'' to understand arguments that are being made, what will be the effect on businesses or in the courts?
We demonstrated earlier the serious issues surrounding the example of a journalist who writes, ''This event used to be sponsored by'' in the report of a course of business unrelated to tobacco advertising—whether or not the ticket was free is irrelevant. The Minister suggested that such an article would not constitute an advertisement. If that is so, I can understand why she would be struggling, because another loophole would be opened up. All the activity previously sponsored by tobacco companies could be referred back to as past events, and it would be an editorial rather than advertising matter. That must be cleared up because what stands in the record is another
Column Number: 070invitation to people to use a loophole to get around the Government's intention.
I asked for a definition of ''published'', but I do not think the Committee got one, although we got quite close with ''shown to'' and ''available''. ''Available'' worries me. I am aware that that is a definition and the Minister has now suggested that ''being available to'' people in this country constitutes publication. That is a serious problem for later clauses in the Bill. We mentioned the aircraft example, in which someone has something in a back pocket that is not shown to anyone but is there just in case it is needed. If that is the definition of published, the anomalies, difficulties and so forth will be apparent when we debate later clauses.
In this debate, the Minister has said that common sense will have to apply in questions relating to British airspace—an admission that, if the current definitions are published, the legislation is likely to be unenforceable. I will not debate the defences available to people, as we will deal with them later.
I rather think that the Minister played into my argument when she suggested that where one lives does not matter. Another loophole would be created, because one could continue business in the United Kingdom for a person who lives somewhere else, and, because the wages and salaries of the company that employs one come from abroad, one would not be carrying on business in the UK. The Minister has created two sorts of people—those who do things for a British company and those who do things abroad. Knowing people's ingenuity, I can only say that, again, that will be an exploited loophole. As with each issue that I have raised on this clause stand part debate, the Government have compounded my worries rather than resolved them. When other people, especially lawyers, read the proceedings of this morning's debates, they will see opportunities for getting round the legislation.
I sincerely hope that the Minister will go away, have further discussions and come back on some of those matters on Report. Although I disagree with much in the clause, if the Government are determined to have their way, I hope that they will do so through provisions that are clear, concise and enforceable.
Yvette Cooper: I shall try to detain the Committee for as little time as possible. I am touched by the concern that the hon. Member for Spelthorne has to try to oppose the entire Bill and the whole principle behind it yet also to close all its loopholes. If Opposition Members could make their points a little more consistent as well as a little clearer, I might struggle with them a little less.
Some people would like to prevent individuals not involved in any business voicing their views about tobacco and cigarettes in the interests of health. I do not think that we should do that. It is right to protect an individual's freedom of speech. However, I do think it right to prevent the tobacco industry using its profits to promote products that kill. That is why this Bill covers actions that take place
Column Number: 071
It is right that it should and right that we should distinguish between something that happens in the course of a business, which includes the impact of sponsorship and free distributions, and decisions that individuals make in the course of their private lives.
The issue, in terms of jurisdiction, is where publication takes place and where distribution takes place, not where individual private citizens live. It is right, perfectly consistent and abiding by the right moral principle, for us to make that distinction.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
|©Parliamentary copyright 2002||Prepared 9 May 2002|