Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill [Lords]

[back to previous text]

Mr. Wilshire: There were a couple of issues that the Minister did not address, and I would be grateful if she could give us some information about them. She rightly says that she is concerned about the anxieties of small businesses. I welcome converts to the cause of capitalism wherever I can find them. Welcome to the club, I say to her.

Why 51 per cent.? There must be a reason for that figure, and I expected the Minister to give us an explanation. The figure cannot have been plucked out of the air. Were there consultations, and if so, with whom? Did others suggest 51 per cent., or say that it sounded reasonable? I should like to know because it helps to define the sort of small business that the Minister has in mind.

Another subject on which I expected guidance is subsection (1)(c), which reads:

    ''complied with any requirements specified by the appropriate Minister in regulations in relation to tobacco advertisements on the premises''.

It would be nice to know to what we are being asked to agree, and what the Government have in mind by way of acceptable and unacceptable advertisements. I would not put it beyond the Government, if they could get away with it, to say, ''Look, we are making a concession, aren't we great people? We've converted to capitalism and we're going to support small businesses'', and then come up with a regulation saying that any advert larger than a postage stamp will not be allowed. That is how they might defeat this so-called good concession. It would be helpful to have some reassurance about the type of advertisements that the Government might include under regulations.

Yvette Cooper: May I seek your guidance, Mr. Winterton? Obviously, I am happy to respond to as many points as hon. Members make, but in the interests of speeding up our progress it would be helpful if hon. Members could raise as many of their points as possible in their first contributions on a subject, rather than raising new points as soon as I have sat down.

We had discussions with specialist tobacconists on the 51 per cent. before last year's Bill was published. They had no strong objection to that figure. If Opposition Members want to propose a different figure, we could discuss it, but 51 per cent. seems

Column Number: 144

sensible to me. As for regulation-making powers, we have said that at this stage we have no intention of introducing any particular regulations. The power is included in the Bill in case the provisions in clause 6 are abused and used as a loophole to introduce forms of tobacco advertising other than those normally used by specialist tobacconists.

Tim Loughton: I fear that I am going against the Minister's request for us to group all our points together.

Perhaps I could reply to the Minister's response to my initiation of a clause stand part debate. As my hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne said, we have identified yet another undefined ''in case'' subsection, the most far-reaching and abusive example of which we shall consider under clause 7. The Minister said that the clause was a proportionate response, but she went on completely to ignore all the practical points that I made about when the accounting period starts and fluctuation in the mix of sales, for example. That shows that the provisions in the clause are tokenism, and that no regard has been taken of the mechanics of bringing the clause into effect and the effect that it will have on practitioners.

The clause does not provide any clarity. If I were a specialist tobacconist as defined under the clause, I would not know whether I was coming or going, which my hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke said was the response of his specialist tobacconist. The clause will cause much confusion.

11.45 am

The Minister said that special dispensation is being made for specialist tobaccos because the market for those is predominately adult. The market for any product under the Bill should be adult because a person must be aged over 16 if he or she is to smoke.

The amendments that related to specialist tobacconists and mail order lists were concerned with only specialist tobacco products, and particularly cigars, and specifically stated that people must be aged over 18 and that they should be treated as adults for the purpose of retailers' mail order prices and lists. Retailers derive much of their income from mail order because they are specialist, few in number and often difficult to reach. It was inconsistent for the Minister not to accept amendments that related to what she admitted to be an adult market, but to give special dispensation under the clause. The Government are being entirely inconsistent, which will result in a mess, and the Minister was unable to give us any reassurances.

I shall not force a vote on the clause so that we may move speedily on to consider other clauses. However, the more we debate the clause and the more the Minister takes us round in circles with her inadequate responses, the greater the confusion among retailers and the potential number of challenges in the courts. That is exactly the chaos and confusion that it is the

Column Number: 145

job of members of the Committee and other hon. Members to avoid by making the Bill clear and fair, which I fear is not true of this clause.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 6 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

The Chairman: I make a further plea to the Committee for faster progress. I am trying to help the Committee and, ultimately, the House of Commons. I am deeply worried that clauses of this important Bill might not be discussed. It is helpful if a Committee highlights the problems of a Bill before it returns to the Chamber for further consideration. That allows debates to be more meaningful and enables the Government to prepare answers that address difficulties and problems highlighted by the Opposition.

I ask again for further progress, and I hope that after the completion of this afternoon's sitting, which is our last and must finish at 7 pm, the majority of, if not all, the Bill will have been debated.

Mr. Wilshire: On a point of order, Mr. Winterton. I understand your concern but I must put on the record again that the guillotine at 7 pm is not fixed for eternity. The Government could allow adequate time to debate the Bill rather than insisting that five sittings are adequate and imposing a guillotine. The Opposition should do their job properly and to the best of their ability. We are not party to the lack of time.

The Chairman: That is not a point of order. The House of Commons made a decision on the programming of the Bill.

Tim Loughton: Further to that point of order, Mr. Winterton. It is in order for the Government to approach you, as Chairman of the Programming Sub-Committee, to ask for a revision of the programme order that could allow debate to continue beyond 7 pm this evening and on other days. Have you received such an approach?

The Chairman: The hon. Gentleman is correct. The Government could do that, and the usual channels of both sides of the Committee could have approached me. However, they have not done that and it is a little late to do so today. I now wish to make progress.

Clause 7

Developments in technology

Tim Loughton: I beg to move amendment No. 34, in page 4, line 5, at beginning insert 'From 1st January 2007'.

I wish to speak only briefly to the amendment because I hope to raise a wider issue under the clause stand part debate. The clause is one of the most far-reaching, so-called Henry VIII clauses that I have read. It provides that if the Secretary of State chooses so to do on whatever whim may have affected his

Column Number: 146

judgment on the day, he can change just about everything in the Bill that relates to advances in technology by electronic means. We want some definitions from the Minister of exactly what those changes may be. ''Electronic means'' covers an enormous range of current and likely developments.

The amendment would at least give some breathing space to what will become law. The Government are looking to bring in some of the legislation applying to advertisements two months after Royal Assent. That could well be before the end of 2002, so it seems only right that they should have set down something that will be appropriate for at least a good few years to come. Albeit that we have severe reservations about other matters that are not properly qualified or defined under the Bill, there should at least be a four-year run before the Secretary of State can don his Henry VIII cap and, on a whim owing to a development in e-technology, change everything. That is only reasonable.

We shall want to scrutinise other parts of the Bill, given that the Government want special dispensations for the advertising promotion ban and the sponsorship ban not to apply to certain sports until a later date. It is reasonable therefore that the Secretary of State should limit himself to dealing with what we have passed into law for at least the next four years, rather than suddenly deciding because of a development in e-technology—of which he may or may not now be aware—to bring in more strenuous regulations. We want there to be some leeway so that the Bill can bed in. If the Government have not prepared it for the next four years, the Bill is not worth the paper on which it is written. We should add that rider to the Bill, unhappy though we are with the entire clause, the reasons for which we shall advance in the clause stand part debate.

Mr. Wilshire: It is unfortunate that the procedures of the House of Commons require amendments always to be considered before the general principle of the clause. However, I understand why, and such is life. I should prefer to start the debate by discussing the general principles of what I consider to be a bad clause. If it can be removed, so much the better. I doubt whether we shall win that argument, but we shall give it a whirl. Having established the principle that the Government are determined to have a Henry VIII clause, it would have been better to discuss first whether we can control it.

Previous Contents Continue

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries ordering index

©Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 14 May 2002