Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill [Lords]

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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

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invitation 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

    ''in the course of a business''.

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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.

Clause 3

Advertising: newspapers, periodicals etc

Mr. Wilshire: I beg to move amendment No. 16, in page 2, line 5, after ''editor'', insert ''or printer''.

In moving the amendment, I clarify my interest, or lack of one. I grew up in the printing industry and owned a printing business. I sold it some time ago and no longer have any financial or commercial interest in that industry. I say that for the avoidance of any doubt, because what I shall say draws heavily on my past incarnation.

Amendment No. 16 would add printers to the list of people who will be caught by the legislation. It is important to pursue that issue. Other issues surrounding it are for a stand part debate and I shall not stray into them—I am aware of the danger. I should welcome the chance to debate those in due course but, for the moment, I am discussing the addition of the two words ''or printer''.

Looking at a range of other legislation in this country—I speak, as I said, as a former printer—the legal minefield for the printer of other people's products is enormous. My experience is that to say that one did not know or did not realise something is no defence. Yet here we are exempting part of the process, which I do not think that we should.

The most obvious example is the libel law. To say that one, as a printer, published a book or newspaper article that libelled someone else is no defence in law against being responsible. If the Bill were enacted as it is, the printer would be given an exemption. We are in danger of creating a loophole that will be easy to exploit.

John Barrett: What is the hon. Gentleman's understanding of clause 2(2)? It states

    ''A person who in the course of a business prints, devises or distributes . . . a tobacco advertisement . . . is guilty of an offence.

11 am

Mr. Wilshire: I was going to come to that once I had set out why it is important that the words ''or printer'' should be used. If a printer is included in one clause but left out of the next, which is inconsistent, lawyers would be provided with a long and expensive argument about which of those two clauses is the one to follow. Will clause 3 cover somebody who prints advertising in ''newspapers, periodicals'' and so forth? I worry every time I read ''etc.'' in legislation. All that I can see is the cash register going round for the

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solicitors and barristers who will get locked into the meaning of ''etc.''.

Clause 3 does not refer to the printer. My supposition is that that would provide some sort of defence notwithstanding clause 2. If I am wrong—I am not a lawyer and there are lawyers in the Room—surely somebody will leap to their feet and say that I am worrying unnecessarily. I hope that that deals with the hon. Gentleman's point, which needs to be cleared up.

If the Government want clear and sensible law, I am surprised that they have not considered precedent. Libel law is crystal clear when a printer is involved. We all know electoral law, and despite changes to printing and publishing we still have to identify the printer. Both the printer and the candidate are caught by specific legislation if anything defamatory or untrue is put into an electoral leaflet, but there is no such specific wording in the Bill.

The obscene publications legislation is yet another example involving the printer. The law covering incitement to racial hatred would catch anybody printing such material. The Bill addresses something that, judging from some Government Members' conversations, the Government consider a social evil. However, the printer has been left out. If I were still involved in the printing industry, I would be very nervous about the confusion between clauses 2 and 3 and being the only person in the chain of publication, production and distribution who is not caught by the legislation. Pressures will be brought on the printing industry to be the loophole by which such advertisements are published. If advertisements are published abroad or the printer is not in business when they are published, the printing industry will provide a loophole that will not be covered as on offence. I shall be interested to hear why the Minister thinks that printers should be left out.

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