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We are back in the land of unintended consequences. As a result of the abolition of the 10p tax rate, the House has spent a whole week debating what happens when one advances a measure and then realises the consequences. Certain methods could be considered to help indigenous childrens programming. PACT has been lobbying the Government for a tax credit for childrens programming for three years. It is possible to play around with the conditions, but the fundamental point is that we are in this position because of the ban. If the Bill is enacted, we will see what has happened to British childrens television multiplied 10 times over. Hon. Members have mentioned figures of £224 million and £250 million, which are well-established figures for the revenue that would be lost to commercial broadcasters as a result of the sweeping advertising ban proposed in the Bill. A reduction of £250 million in revenue would
mean £250 million less to spend on programming. As a result, the hon. Member for Falkirk (Mr. Joyce) would see many more imported, cheap American television programmes on our screens and far fewer home-grown products.
Martin Horwood: I am not following the hon. Gentlemans argument. How can Conservative Members argue simultaneously that the Bill would be a boon to American TV and that it would reduce competition and give an unfair advantage to the BBC channels that promote domestic television production? It is nonsense.
Mr. Vaizey: No one, not least the Liberal Democrat Front-Bench spokesman, the hon. Member for Bath, has ever been able to follow a point made by the hon. Gentleman. I join the hon. Member for Bath in being a member of an ever-growing group of people unable to comprehend one of his points. If he wants a British broadcasting monopoly, he can by all means advocate it. He can say, effectively, Lets ban all advertising, close down our commercial broadcasters and just have the BBC. To be sure, the BBC has a large budget£3.5 billion or £4 billion
Mr. Vaizey: As I have said, by banning advertising, the Bill would take £250 million away from the commercial broadcasters. That is money that could be used to produce British programmes. I, for one, believe that British programmes should be produced and shown on a range of channels, not just the BBC.
Obviously, the ban would affect the advertising industry. I make no apologies to the hon. Member for Falkirk, who wants to parody me as seeing the advertising industry as a vested interest. We have a very successful advertising industry in this country. The Minister has just published her creative industries strategy paper, which flagged up the contribution that advertising and other creative industries make to this country, and the hon. Gentleman should know that there is a thriving advertising industry in Edinburgh. I therefore make no apologies if the message goes out from this House that the Conservative party supports the advertising industry and believes that it is doing a good job, including in self-regulation. I shall come to that in a moment.
Mr. Joyce: When I referred to vested interests, I was referring to the food processing companies. I agree that the advertising industry can certainly be a force for good, and I am very pleased that we have a successful industry.
An important point of principle is the position of Ofcom. Hon. Members have referred in detail to the extensive consultation that Ofcom undertook before it introduced its current regulations on advertising to children, and the fact that it is reviewing the effect of the regulations and will report back in the summer. The point has been made, not least by my hon. Friend the
Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) in his excellent article in The Grocer, which I recommend to all hon. Members, that the Bill compromises Ofcoms independence. [Interruption.] I have a photocopy with me, if the hon. Member for Falkirk would like me to circulate it. I hasten to add that my hon. Friend did not send it to me, in case hon. Members think that he is vain and self-promoting.
Ofcom is a very expensive piece of machinery that this Government created to regulate broadcasting. By and large, it does a pretty effective job. I know that it has its serious critics, but it is an important organisation, not least because the nature of broadcasting and communications is changing so rapidly, as it will in relation to advertising to children. There are now many different ways to get childrens attention. Ofcom has engaged in extensive consultation, and as a matter of principle, regardless of the merits of the Bill, it would be wrong for Parliament to legislate on such a specific, narrow broadcasting issue. Ofcom has clearly acted on it, continues to review the situation and may act again in future. It consults the Department of Health and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and will consult Ministers and perhaps even Opposition Front-Bench spokesmen on the merits or otherwise of a ban. However, as Ofcom is engaged in the exercise, it would be odd for Parliament to legislate. Indeed, in the next two or three years we might get another communications Bill that would give Parliament the opportunity to debate the matter and decide whether to set parameters.
I am worried that the Bill is one of those fashionable measures on an issue about which people get greatly exercised and that they pursue single-mindedly and doggedly without any thought of the consequences. Where would this end? If one watched a series of television adverts over an hour or so, it would be pretty much possible to come up with a case for banning every single one, and a start would certainly be banning all car adverts. We know that cars reduce peoples need to exercise and pollute the environment. The start would be banning adverts for 4x4s immediately, but a case could be made down to the Mini.
Adverts for clothing could be a problem because we know that a lot of clothes are made in pretty unpleasant conditions in third-world and developing countries. Obviously, adverts for shops selling both food and clothing, such as Sainsburys and Marks and Spencer, could be banned in case an M and S advert featuring Twiggy enticed a mother to that shop and she then bought a high-fat product for her child. Adverts for almost all products, such as detergents and perfumes, could be banned because almost all products that we use and consume have a downside.
any brand name which is associated with the food product in question or similar less healthy food product.
He thus makes a pertinent point about banning supermarkets such as Sainsburys and Tesco from advertising on TV because they are associated with the sale of unhealthy products. Such a thing might not be further down the line. This very Bill could well lead to a ban on supermarket advertising.
provision about the advertising, marketing and promotion of food and drink products to children; and for connected purposes.
Mr. Vaizey: That is correct, Madam Deputy Speaker. I have to say that M and S was the culprit in my downfall as a child, with the M and S teacake the prime example. I do not think that it is a stretch to say that an advert for M and S, regardless of the product, could be construed under the Bill as involving a brand associated with unhealthy food for children.
The Bills scope is wide, so hon. Members who cited the Olympics were absolutely spot on. It would be unavoidable that the BBC television broadcast of the 2012 Olympics 100 m final, with a large McDonalds hoarding in the background because it was the chief sponsor, would fall foul of the Bill by promoting a brand associated with unhealthy food. Nothing in the Bill would grant an exception. Technology might allow the McDonalds sign to be pixillated out, but if McDonalds, or any other commercial advertiser, thought that the large amount it had spent on sponsoring the Olympics was being undermined by the Bill, it would have pretty strong words to say to the International Olympic Committee and the Olympic Delivery Authority.
The Bill is a sledgehammer to crack a nut, there is no evidence that such a ban would tackle a problem that we all recognise, and the Bill is drafted in such a way as to have enormous ramifications across a huge area of marketing. Additionally, however, the Bill is an excuse not to talk about the positive things that we could do to reduce childhood obesity. As the hon. Member for Bath pointed out, running through the Bill there is a hostility to the private sector, a belief that everybody working in advertising is childless, and a belief that no one who works for a food company has children or worries about them. That is ludicrous.
McDonalds, the company that people love to hate and pillory, has done an enormous amount in terms of corporate social responsibility. My hon. Friend the Member for Maldon and East Chelmsford (Mr. Whittingdale) mentioned football, but it has also been involved in training, including vocational training. Because of my involvement in work experience, I have visited McDonalds and have seen what it does. An enormous amount of responsibility is taken. As everybody knows, the McDonalds product range has changed, mainly because of public pressure, and there is a much greater focus on healthy eating. It is important that we recognise that the debate is not completely one-sided, with people from the evil industry desperately trying to force high-fat products on our children behind our backs, and the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South standing like Horatio at the bridge to prevent them from crossing. As has been mentioned, billions of pounds-worth of food products are now much lower in fat, sugar and salt.
It is a bit rich of Labour Members to lecture us about the need to ban the advertising of high-fat foods because of the effect on our children, when their Government have closed 187 playing fields, and 57 more are earmarked for development. If the Government were serious about tackling childhood obesity, they would immediately ban the selling of playing fields, not the advertising of
high-fat foods. They would reduce the cut to the number of training places for physical education teachers. They would tell us how they will get the 1 million children who currently do not do two hours a week of sport into sport and exercise. That is the type of positive thing that the Government could be doing.
The Government could be encouraging our children to eat better food. We know that when Jamie Oliver had his school dinners campaign, we heard a lot of rhetoric from the Government, but it turned out that the additional funding provided was something like 50p per meal, per school. I recognise that we can change childrens eating habits, both at home and at school. I have seen that in numerous primary schools in my constituency, which now have a huge focus on healthy food. We can change childrens habits by providing them with the opportunity to exercise and play competitive sports. Measures of that type, and not a misplaced, mistimed and grossly disproportionate attempt to ban the advertising of high-fat food to children, will help us to reduce childhood obesity.
Mr. Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Wantage (Mr. Vaizey), who made a witty, highly cogent speech on this important subject. A good place to start is recommendation 7 of the report, Risk, Responsibility, Regulation: Whose Risk Is It Anyway? produced in 2006. Recommendation 7 is that a campaign be launched
against regulatory inconsistencies and absurdities.
We have yet to hear the Minister set out the Governments approach, but having read the Prime Ministers trenchant words about the need for proportionality in regulation I should be very surprised if the Minister supported the Bill. If she did so, she would be going against all the homilies given by her Government on the subject of less and better regulation.
I was waiting to see whether the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Nigel Griffiths) would refer to this Aprils FSA News when he introduced the Bill . On page 6, there is a feature on Scotland, entitled:
Scottish childrens diet too high in sugar.
soft drinks, confectionary, biscuits and cakes,
yet that the Scottish dietary target stipulated that less than 10 per cent. of the total calories consumed should be non-milk extrinsic sugars, which are added to food, drink and table sugar, and are present in fruit juices. The findings were that average NMES consumption was now 17.4 per cent. of calorie intakehigher than in 1997, when it was only 16.7 per cent. I do not know whether that has happened because the Scottish National party has become more powerful in the intervening periodthe hon. Member for Angus (Mr. Weir) intervened earlieror whether the statistics are related to political parties and policies.
The report in FSA News was interesting not only for the findings that I have outlined but for stating that there is no evidence of a difference in average consumption
between children who are overweight and those who are not. The FSA was obviously surprised by that and said that it could be due to the fact that, at the time of the study, youngsters were either eating less or under-reporting what they ate, thereby undermining the whole purpose of such a survey.
It underlines the ongoing need for FSA Scotland to continue to work with organisations,
the Scottish Government, to promote a healthy balanced diet and give children the support and information they need to make better dietary choices.
Nigel Griffiths: I want to spare the hon. Gentleman from citing an out-of-date report. Yesterday in Scotland, evidence was published, which shows that, as a result of action, the diets of children in Scotland mean that they are now a healthier generation. Perhaps he would like to reflect on that. It is good news, which the House should celebrate.
Mr. Chope: I am all in favour of joining in celebrations with the hon. Gentleman, and perhaps the information provides an excuse for doing that. However, I cannot accept responsibility for not being up to speed on the subject when I am quoting the research supplement to FSA News, dated April 2008. Its findings show the importance of promoting a healthy, balanced diet. That was underlined in a good speech by the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster), who emphasised the importance of calorie intake in relation to obesity.
Mr. Evans: All the talk of food made me hungry, so I nipped out and had a Jaffa Cake. I suspect that Jaffa Cakes would fall foul of the Bill and could not be advertised, yet the packet says that they are backed by sports nutritionists. Is not the point that diet should be balanced and that we should not simply pick on one food group and say that it is so bad that it should not be advertised?
Mr. Chope: My hon. Friend is right. The importance of a balanced diet and not consuming more in calories than they expend or need for healthy growth is the message that we should convey to young people.
Was Ian Botham being irresponsible when he said that he could eat three Shredded Wheat in one day? I do not think so, but if people who did not take any exercise followed him and thought that they were doing themselves a favour by eating three Shredded Wheat, they were probably mistaken. When Ian Botham was promoting those products he was a fit gentleman and was taking a lot of exercise. Nobody would suggest that young children should eat three Shredded Wheat a day, unless they were taking quite a lot of exercise.
Mr. Chope: My hon. Friend makes his point extremely well without any need for me to try to trump it in response. Sport is highly relevant to this debate. It is fair that the Government should come in for quite a lot of criticism for not promoting their investment in sport as they said they would. The statistics that the hon. Member for Bath adduced on that subject were highly enlightening.
The next question is: where is the scientific evidence in support of the Bill? In intervening on the hon. Gentleman, the promoter of the Bill said, Well, we havent got the scientific evidence yet, but well find it later, after weve regulated. That is completely at odds with the sound regulatory policy that is pronounced by the Government and certainly supported by us on the Conservative Benches.
Philip Davies: As usual, my hon. Friend makes a powerful point. Does he also agree that the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South seemed to be saying that the Bill should go forward whatever it takes, no matter how big the cost or how small the benefit? Does my hon. Friend also agree that any sensible legislation must come with a sensible cost-benefit analysis? It strikes me that the huge costs to commercial broadcasters more than outweigh any tiny benefit to obesity.
Mr. Chope: Absolutely. The Bill has a number of shortcomings, including the absence of a proper cost-benefit analysis or regulatory impact assessment. The Bill does not even have any explanatory notes attached to it, which we would normally expect to see on Second Reading and which might be able to throw some light on the potential impact of clause 3, for instance.
The situation is not that there is no scientific evidence in support of the Bill; the situation is that there is scientific evidence against it, which the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South conveniently omitted from his introduction. He started with such enthusiastic, over-the-top language that he was clearly hyped upI do not know what he had in his diet this morning, but he was certainly not in a position to overstate his case.
Let us consider some of the evidence that exists, some of which is produced in an excellent article that has been drawn to my attention by Patrick Basham and John Luik, the co-authors of Diet Nation: Exposing the Obesity Crusade. They point out that
none of the studies purporting to demonstrate that food advertising causes childhood obesity control for more than a handful of...other risk factors. These studies...cannot establish an evidence-based case about the connection between food advertising and childrens weight.
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