|Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill [Lords]
Dr. Harris: I take the Minister's first point about the knock-about; to a certain extent, I contributed to it. I suggest a scenario in which a tobacco company makes a donation to the Conservative party with the aim of influencing its policy on the banning of advertising of tobacco products. Albeit indirectly, that could promote tobacco products generally. Is it the Minister's understanding that such sponsorship of a political party would be covered by the Bill, regardless of whether it was given back later?
Yvette Cooper: The facts would have to be established, but the clause is clear. If the purpose of, or anything done as a result of, a sponsorship agreement has the effect of promoting a tobacco product in the United Kingdom, it would be covered by the prohibition of sponsorship.
Dr. Harris: I am a little concerned about the Minister's repetition of the words ''a tobacco product''. It may have been covered elsewhere in the Bill, but I presume that that includes tobacco products generally, so that a company that wanted its advertisement to say ''Smoke cigarettes'' without mentioning its product by name would still be covered. What the Minister says is important, not least for purposes of interpretation. Is it her understanding that if a company promotes tobacco generally it will be presumed to be promoting a tobacco product specifically?
Yvette Cooper: The Bill does not define particular tobacco products but speaks of promoting ''a tobacco
Column Number: 191product''. To promote many tobacco products will be to promote ''a tobacco product''.
David Taylor: Further to the point made by the hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon, I believe that several Opposition Members who spoke on Second Reading have registered interests in relation to the Tobacco Manufacturers Association. Is it the Minister's understanding that that could constitute promotion under the Bill?
Yvette Cooper: My hon. Friend raises an interesting point. Hon. Members who speak in the House have parliamentary privilege, which is why they have to declare interests. A question mark hangs over those who are party to a sponsorship agreement; however; if they promote a tobacco product as a result of that agreement outside the House of Commons, it remains to be established whether they are covered by the Bill.
Clause 20 sets out the long-standing Government policy as agreed with European partners that transitional arrangements should be in place to ensure that sports have time to wean themselves off tobacco sponsorship. It states that the last possible date is 1 October 2006. The long-standing Government position is shared by the European directive, which gives a deadline of July 2003 for some sports and October 2006 for global sports. That is an end date, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said on Second Reading. If we and those sports can make the change more quickly than that, we shall do so, but we shall consult on the regulations in due course.
The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Ruffley) spoke about contributions to ''something,'' and asked whether the wording was too broad. I think not, because the wording allows for sponsorship of tourist events, arts events, sports and many other kinds of event. The danger of trying to define the object more closely is that the clause might then exclude a particular event sponsored to promote a tobacco product.
I am interested by what Opposition Members say in their attempts to close loopholes in the tobacco advertising ban. However, we should remain clear in our minds about which parties have been proposing to ban the promotion of tobacco products through advertising, free distribution, coupons, brand sharing and sponsorship. The Labour party is responsible for that effort, with the support of the Liberal Democrats. Which party, on the other hand, has consistently supported the continued promotion of tobacco through advertising, sponsorship, coupons, brand sharing and so on? The Conservative party has done that. I hope that we shall be preserved from any more of the nonsense that has surrounded the politics of the debate.
Mr. Wilshire: That last remark came as no surprise. However, I have heard not one word from the Minister condemning the sleaze surrounding the issue up to now. She made no condemnation of bungs and the buying of favours—slipping a million pounds here and a million pounds there. In addition, she refused to
Column Number: 192contemplate amendments designed to shut off that possibility in future.
Mr. Ruffley: I think that the Minister said, in response to the sleaze allegations, that she had heard it all before. Does my hon. Friend agree that she has indeed heard it all before, from not simply Opposition Members but many investigative reporters, mainly from organs such as The Guardian and The Observer, which are fairly objective commentators, I should have thought?
Mr. Wilshire: Exactly. I was coming to that.
The Minister said that the amendments were not serious, which suggests that I was not being serious. Rarely have I been as serious as I have been in the debate on the clause, for the simple reason that the easiest way in which to undermine public confidence in politicians and the political process is through corruption, which is what the amendments are designed to stamp out.
It is blindingly clear that corruption has surrounded the debate. The best that the Minister can do is say, ''Look who proposed a ban.'' I am merely saying, ''Look who proposed a ban but who, in return for £1 million and the promise of another £1 million, said, 'We are proposing a ban except for the people who are giving us millions of pounds.''' If that is something to be proud of, I am glad that I am not associated with it.
Some people in my party may actively promote tobacco; I have no idea. I have at no time in the course of the Committee or knowingly in my life set out to encourage people to smoke. I merely speak on behalf of legitimate business doing a legal activity being allowed to carry on its business. I do not consider that to be picking on anyone. I defend people's right to continue doing things within the law, regardless of who they are, whom they voted for and what product they make. If the Government had any courage or principle in the matter, they would try to ban smoking, not go round this course pretending that they are noble while taking £1 million here and there.
I was and am being serious, and I resent the matter being dismissed as going round the course again. Of course the Minister has heard the argument many times, for one simple reason. Time and again, the Government take bungs from people, so we have only to mention each example once for her to hear it many times. If she wants to stop hearing the case, she must simply go to her Prime Minister and colleagues in Government and turn them into decent, honest and honourable people who do not take bungs.
The Chairman: Order. The hon. Gentleman must relate his remarks more closely to the amendment.
Mr. Wilshire: I was trying to, but I was responding to the Minister, who was tempting me to expose sleaze wherever I see it, which was, I believe, a phrase that was used at one stage.
I have spared the Liberal Democrats much comment, for which they are probably grateful. Had they been present to listen to the debate, they would be better informed, rather than not attending regularly.
I must take comfort from the odd gesture whenever it comes. The hon. Member for Oxford, West and
Column Number: 193Abingdon says that he is with me in spirit. How I wish that he had the courage of his convictions. As well as being with me in spirit, why does he not break the habit of the Liberal Democrat party and vote for something?
Dr. Harris: I was present for the entire discussion on the amendments, because they interested me. The Minister has made it clear that it is her view that the Bill already stops tobacco company sponsorship of political parties for the purpose, through policy changes—that is, indirectly—of promoting a tobacco product. That is why I do not believe that the amendments are strictly necessary. However, the hon. Gentleman was right to probe the matter to flush out the fact that the Labour party, too, runs the risk of being seen to be too close to the industry at a time when it purports to be introducing a ban.
Mr. Wilshire: I am interested in that intervention. One of the most revealing things that I have heard in the course of today's debate was that the hon. Gentleman was present because the amendments interested him, from which I conclude that he could not care less about the rest of the Bill.
Dr. Harris: It was very uninteresting.
Mr. Wilshire: Exactly.
The Chairman: Order. I again ask the hon. Member to address his remarks closely to the amendment under discussion.
Mr. Wilshire: I am trying to do so, Mr. Amess, but my difficulty is that in the earlier debate, which you allowed because it was in order, issues were raised that needed a response. I am a little challenged to know why, if the original comment was in order, my response to it is not. However, I will not try your patience other than by making one more point.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds drew the Committee's attention to the size of the Labour party's overdraft. I shall not discuss that, but I will talk about what that means for the amendments under discussion. The amendments were made necessary by Formula 1's donation of £1 million and offer of another £1 million. That subject attaches directly to that of excluding Formula 1 from the provisions of a Bill such as the one before us.
Given what my hon. Friend says about the £10 million overdraft, the enormity of what happened with Formula 1 is clear. The £2 million that we know about is 20 per cent. of the Labour party's overdraft. That is not small beer, but a 20 per cent. slice of the value to which it is in hock. I am sure that the Co-op bank will be grateful—[Interruption.] I will not stray any further; I shall return exclusively to my amendments. I believe that they are important, and I am being serious about them.
I shall end my speech as I started it: if the Labour party has nothing to hide, if there are no more donations that we do not know about and if the Government do not intend to take money in exchange for exemptions from the Bill, why will the Government not accept the amendments? If the Government have nothing to hide, they have nothing to fear. The
Column Number: 194amendments are trying to save the Government from themselves, and heaven only knows that they need some saving. I have no intention of withdrawing the amendment, and I commend it to the Committee.
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