Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill [Lords]

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Mr. Flook: In keeping with trying to be helpful in promoting the underlying aims of the Bill, I shall refer to the explanatory notes, which mention ''anyone in the chain''. I accept the point made earlier by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West on clause 2(2). There should be some consistency, and clause 3(a) would be tidied up if ''or printer'' were added to it.

The hon. Member for North Tayside (Pete Wishart) referred to an advertisement—it was on a scrappy piece of paper—for the ''Bacci Bus''. If one could not find out who the organisers of the aforementioned bus were, one could go to the printer that produced the scrappy piece of paper that he waved in front of us. All Members of Parliament are subject to electoral law, so we are very aware of the ''printed and published by'' note at the end of every piece of paper put out in our name. I therefore find it surprising that the word ''printer'' cannot appear. It makes eminent sense to put together ''any proprietor or editor'' and ''or printer''.

Printing can be considered as a natural extension of ''proprietor or editor''. Indeed, the printer produces something that is tangible, unlike the editor or publisher. As we are not always sure who is the perpetrator of a tobacco advertisement, it is important

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to have the opportunity to go to the printer, which produced a physical product that can be waved in the air, as my hon. Friend the Member for North Tayside showed. We should be able to say that we want to go after the people who printed the advertisement. It is strange that the Government have not already included the words of the amendment in the clause.

As someone who has employed printers for electoral communications—and between such communications, as elections are obviously not won purely during an election—I should declare the interest that I have given out printing business with intent to do so. If we did not insert the word ''printer'' we would not be able to go after the printer, who is likely to know who has asked him to print the advertisement—every printer I have ever hired has come after me for a bill. The printer is an important route to finding the perpetrators of an advertisement.

Yvette Cooper: I am tempted to accept the amendment. I like the idea of Conservatives amending—or, as they think, tightening—a Bill that they have fundamentally opposed and voted against, which I assume they will continue to do on Third Reading.

Tim Loughton: The Minister is being entirely disingenuous. She knows that we have reason to moan and that when we were talking about the programme resolution, I said that it was absolutely essential that if the Bill is to be passed—as it most likely will be—it must be watertight and fair. Simply acquiescing to shoddy legislation is not what the Opposition are here to do. We are here to ensure that legislation that must be passed works. We have not opposed the Bill outright, as she knows full well.

Yvette Cooper: A reasoned amendment that states that the Opposition would decline the Bill a Second Reading sounds like strong opposition to me. However, I look forward to the hon. Gentleman voting in favour of the Bill on Third Reading.

As much as I tempted to accept the amendment, it is completely unnecessary as printers are clearly covered in clause 2. Clause 3 clarifies exactly who is covered when it comes to newspapers, periodicals and other publications, so that there is no doubt that the editor, proprietor, or any person who directly or indirectly procures the inclusion of the advertisement is covered by the Bill. No one could be in doubt that the Bill covers printers when clause 2(2) refers to:

    ''A person who in the course of a business prints, devises or distributes in the United Kingdom a tobacco advertisement.''

I am sympathetic to Opposition Members' intentions, for which I thank them, but the amendment is unnecessary.

Mr. Wilshire: What an attempt to muddy the waters, and what an indication of a lack of understanding of democracy that was. It is the duty of Her Majesty's Opposition to oppose bad legislation and to be democratic. If we lose the argument in principle, as democrats, we do not go away and sulk; we participate in the democratic process by trying to make bad legislation slightly better. I do not think that

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that is in any way contrary to the principles of opposition or contrary to my reasons for voting against the legislation previously. It is our job and I do not see why there is even a small point to be scored at our expense by criticising us for doing what we were elected to do.

We have come to the Committee to try and make a bad Bill marginally better. On that basis, I am disappointed that the amendment is not acceptable to the Government. I do not think that it contradicts anything that we stand for and it is a genuine attempt to clear up confusion. I sincerely hope that the Minister will not have to eat her words in due course when the courts get stuck into the legislation, noting that on one occasion it says ''printer'', and on another it does not.

In any event, even if the Minister still thinks that there is a point to be had at our expense, surely she has been here long enough to understand that an awful lot of amendments are tabled to probe the Government's thinking and to clarify their intention, not necessarily to add wisdom to the legislation. When I was on the Government side of the Committee Room, the number of spurious, doubtful, unacceptable and unhelpful amendments tabled by the then Labour Opposition were legion. It is silly to say that what we are doing this morning is wicked, when for 18 years it was done the other way around. In any event, I hear what the Minister says. I believe that she is wrong. Having goaded me into saying that I should not be trying to be helpful, on this occasion I shall refrain from being helpful. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Tim Loughton: I beg to move amendment No. 18, in page 2, line 5, after 'publication', add

    'knowing it to contain a tobacco advertisement'.

The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to take amendment No. 17, in page 2, line 9, after 'public', add

    'knowing it to contain an illegal advertisement'.

Tim Loughton: In the spirit of not wanting to be churlish and having been duly patronised by the Minister in her response to the last amendment, I will not pursue the amendments if the hon. Lady can give us a simple assurance, which I am sure that she can.

The amendments relate to the ''knowingly'' amendment that we spoke to earlier. We did not pursue it after the hon. Lady gave us an assurance that our concerns were covered adequately by clause 5(5)(a), and the advertising defences clause. If she can give me those assurances and she is happy that they are watertight in this case, I shall be happy not to pursue the argument. I am sure that she can do that quickly so that we can move swiftly on to the next clause. We are now making very good progress on the Bill.

Yvette Cooper: Yes, I can give the hon. Gentleman those assurances. For amendment No. 18, which raises the issue of whether there was knowledge, there is a defence in clause 5(1) that says that a person does not commit an offence if

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    ''he did not know, and had no reason to suspect, that the purpose of the advertisement was to promote a tobacco product.''

There is also a defence in clause 5(2) if

    ''he could not reasonably have foreseen that that would be the effect of an advertisement.''

Those provisions do not allow individuals to claim that they did not know that there was a tobacco advertisement in their newspaper. As editor or proprietor, they have to take responsibility for what is in their newspaper. If they did not know that the purpose or the effect was to promote a tobacco product, they have a defence. If they did not know that the advert was there in the first place, they have to accept responsibility.

Amendment No. 17 is completely redundant because there is a defence in clause 5(6):

    ''A person does not commit an offence under section 3(c) if he did not know, and had no reason to suspect, that the publication contained a tobacco advertisement.''

11.15 am

Mr. Wilshire: I was not going to intervene, but the Minister said that a proprietor or an editor must take some responsibility for what is in a magazine or a newspaper. I can accept the argument more readily for the editor than for the proprietor. I am not speaking on behalf of proprietors or trying to exempt them, but because of the way in which the printed media has developed as huge conglomerates, it is conceivable that a proprietor may not know what is in his publications. It is reasonable for the Minister to say that they jolly well should, but there is no defence in such a case. I hope to return to the issue of proprietors on stand part, if I may.

I wonder whether the Minister would care to reflect on a more sensible approach to the matter. For example, the proprietor should know or should have in place procedures that would bring the problem to light. The chances of a proprietor who owns thousands of newspapers, hundreds of magazines and so on being able on every occasion to vet every publication before it is let loose on the market is a practical absurdity. It cannot happen like that, yet saying, ''Heck. I could not have known, given the fact that these are daily or weekly publications. There are just not enough hours in the day for me to check'' will not be a defence. The alternative would be to have some proviso whereby it would constitute a defence if a proprietor could demonstrate that procedures were in place for someone down the chain to check on his behalf. There is a problem, and the Minister may care to comment and/or reflect on it.

Yvette Cooper: I am not entirely sure that I understand the hon. Gentleman. If he wants to clarify further, I will be happy to give way. It is right that proprietors and editors should have some responsibility for the content of the newspapers and magazines that they publish. Clearly, it is their responsibility to put in place the necessary procedures.

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