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any brand name which is associated with
unhealthy food products. By definition, any supermarket that retails the products whose advertising would be banned is a brand name associated with unhealthy products. On that basis, he is right to say that supermarkets might be prevented from advertising on TV. That would have a further massive impact on the income of broadcasters. I do think that the consequences of the Bills extent, which is far beyond what most people would believe in, are fully understood. Supermarkets would also be prevented from promoting some things that benefit schools and some activities that take place in schools.
Mr. Evans: The other unintended consequence would be to deny youngsters and their parents information on the products deemed unhealthy by the food police. I shall give two examples. First, an advertisement for Walkers French Fries states:
Walkers French Fries now contain at least 25 per cent. less salt.
80 per cent. Thats how much weve reduced the saturated fat in Walkers Quavers.
Again, I would have said that consumers, be they youngsters or adults, need to know that. The Bill would prevent those and other advertisements relating to foods that are deemed unhealthy from informing us what is being done to improve the healthiness of those foods.
Philip Davies: My hon. Friend is entirely right, and he picks up on the point made by the hon. Member for City of York (Hugh Bayley) about this issue. If a food manufacturer produced a new product that was more healthy than the existing onelet us take a packet of crisps as an examplebut not healthy enough to meet the criteria of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South, it would be forbidden from advertising its new, more healthy product. That would leave us in the perverse situation where the more unhealthy product would probably enjoy bigger sales simply because the new, healthier product would not be allowed to be advertised.
Angela Watkinson: I thank my hon. Friend for drawing my attention to clause 2(3). I hope that it does not mean that Marmite is under threatI have eaten it all my life; neither my parents, nor I, have come to any harm. If the Bill were to end up on the statute book, I would have to start a campaign to save Marmite.
Philip Davies: I cannot share my hon. Friends enthusiasm for Marmite, but I share her concern that it will fall foul of these restrictions. My hon. Friend the Member for Maldon and East Chelmsford mentioned Marmite; it seems that he first raised the issue many moons ago, but he was entirely right, because the problem with some of these restrictions is that they have perverse outcomes. No one present would seriously argue that occasionally having some Marmite on toast could possibly do anyone any harm or be in any way unhealthy. Eating lots of it every day without eating anything else may well be unhealthy, but everything comes back to the fact that we should be promoting a balanced diet.
While I am on the theme, I should say that certain cereals would be considered so unhealthy as to fall foul of these restrictions. We all know that one of this countrys big problems, as teachers will confirm, is children going to school without having eaten any breakfast. It is rather perverse to try to entrench a situation where people would not be allowed to promote cereals, despite the fact that we all know about that problem that I just described.
Mr. Evans: My hon. Friend will know that packaging is covered by the Bill. I am looking at some Kelloggs Frosties packaging. Not only would Tony the Tiger be abolished into oblivion, but as the packaging promotes a free science CD-ROM and is aimed a children, it would have to be redesigned in its entiretyit would almost become a white box with the word Frosties on it in small writing. Does he understand the unintended consequences of the Bill?
As we all know, those in the marketing and advertising industry are very talented and very good at their job. Does anyone really think that if we banned the advertising of certain products on television, all those product manufacturers and their advertising agencies would fold up their papers and give it up as a bad job? Of course they would not. They would try to find other ways of promoting their products. The biggest consequence of the Bill would be the devastating effect on commercial broadcasters.
I suspect that if the supermarkets had all that advertising revenue that they could no longer spend, they would promote buy one, get one free offers. A child who would normally have bought only one bar of chocolate might be given another free, and children would start eating more rather than fewer unhealthy products.
The Secretary of State may, by regulations, issue guidance regarding... the content and nature of advertisements and promotions which may be permitted under this section.
I should be interested to know whether the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South considers that his Bill would ban the promotion of buy one, get one free or three for two offers. Although his Bill supposedly deals with childhood obesity, it encroaches on the issue of value for money not for children but for parents, who may well want to buy a product and get another one free because they have a large family to feed.
Does clause 2(6) mean that our supermarkets could no longer promote buy one, get one free and three for the price of two deals? I think that the general public would be very interested to know whether that it is the hon. Gentlemans intention, especially at a time when they are struggling to pay their mortgages, their energy bills and the prices at the petrol pumps. I think that they would be very interested to know that the hon. Gentleman is trying to ensure that they will pay even more for their food in the supermarkets as well.
Philip Davies: My hon. Friend has made an important point. As he says, clause 2(6) gives the Secretary of State power to make the decisions. Will offers in supermarkets really be determined by the Secretary of State on a case-by-case basis, depending on whether the individual who holds the office at the time happens to think that a product is healthy or unhealthy? That would be a sizeable intrusion on the workings of the free market.
Mr. Evans: Let us suppose that the food police decided that a breakfast cereal was unhealthy, and a supermarket wanted to offer 50p off a packet of cornflakes. We could be in the unedifying position of seeing a nanny Secretary of State interfering and saying You cannot give a family 50p off that packet of cereal, because the food police have deemed it unhealthy. That would be the ultimate nanny state.
Philip Davies: My hon. Friend is entirely right. Any Government who tried to restrict the range of offers available to customers in supermarkets, and in fine retail outlets such as his, would be extremely brave, and would be embarking on a very dangerous path.
I realise that there is not much time left but I wanted to talk more generally about obesity and why it is a problem, as it undoubtedly is. We need to focus on it. Is the reason for the obesity level in the UK the amount of advertising on TV? The majority of people would say that the problem of childhood obesity
Mr. Greg Hands (Hammersmith and Fulham) (Con): I realise that it is only six days before the London mayoral election so I shall try to make my speech as general and non-partisan as I can, but I want to set out an important proposition. It is this: the public need to know who is providing funding for candidates for directly elected office, especially if that office comes with significant planning powers, such as those of most directly mayors and, most definitely, the elected Mayor of London.
Contrary to what was said in the Evening Standard earlier today, I am not calling for a change in the law. I am calling for proper enforcement of the existing lawthe Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000by the Electoral Commission. It is my belief that the proposition that I outlined above was actually the intention of the Act. Ironically, the Minister in charge of electoral administration is the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw)the Secretary of State for Justice. Ironically, because it was he who in a previous guise, as Home Secretary, introduced the PPERA in 2000. At the time, he said:
At the heart of the Bills provisions is the need to ensure that the funding of political parties is open and transparent. Greater transparency will not only strengthen the accountability of political parties but help to buttress their financial standing. The secrecy that has hitherto been permitted to political parties in their funding, and the scandals to which such secrecy has given rise in recent years, have undoubtedly left a sour taste. In contrast, all political partiesand the reputation of our political system as a wholewill benefit from the Bill.[ Official Report, 10 January 2000; Vol. 342, c. 35.]
I believe that the sour taste described by the right hon. Gentleman is very much with us today, with the London Mayor election. One candidate, the incumbent, Mr. Livingstone, has not declared a single donation since the PPERA began just after his election in 2000, even though many donations were made specifically for him and for the benefit of his campaign. According to schedule 7 of the PPERA, the Mayor of London is a regulated donee. He is specifically named as such:
Mayor of London or elected mayor within the meaning of Part II of the Local Government Act 2000.
In addition, the Mayor of London is normally a regulated donee as well, simply for being a member of a registered political party. For the 2004 election, the current Mayor was indeed a member of a registered political party, as he is also for this election. I am absolutely satisfied that, for the purposes of the Act, candidates for Mayor of London are regulated donees. It is not just I who am convinced: I have seen significant legal advice that maintains the same.
As I have said, Mr. Livingstone has never reported a single donation to the commission as a regulated donee. By comparison, the Norris for London campaign reported £490,000 given to Steve Norris as a regulated donee in 2004. My hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Johnson) has declared 58 donations, totalling just under £440,000, this time to him as a regulated donee as a member of a political party.
Any London voter can quickly learn, from the names and amounts given, the nature of the funding behind the campaign of my hon. Friend the Member for Henley, as they could for Steve Norris in 2004. I believe that that is why we have political funding rules: they allow voters, stakeholders and journalists the opportunity to scrutinise for themselves who is funding the main candidates and incumbents and to make their judgment accordingly.
The Livingstone team declares that the rules do not apply to him, as it says that all fundraising is carried out in the name of the Labour party. Even if that were trueI will show significant evidence to the contrary shortlyhe would still need to make the declarations as a regulated donee. It is irrelevant whether the donations are physically received by the candidate if they are made to himthe phrase in the PPERA is a controlled donationfor his use or benefit as the holder of such an office in connection with any of his political activities. Failure to submit the appropriate donation report is an offence under the PPERA.
So what difference does it make whether a mayoral candidate or a candidate for any other directly elected office is treated as a regulated donee under schedule 7? First, the reporting requirements for a regulated donee are significantly more stringent than for a political party. Instead of quarterly, declarations need to be made monthly. That requirement is particularly significant during the run-up to an election, where monthly or quarterly declarations make a big difference to whether the electors can see the donation before or after polling day.
The other main difference is the threshold amount. For regulated donees, it is £1,000. For political parties, it is £5,000. Again, that is a very significant difference. For reasons that I will discuss shortlythe London Mayors very significant planning powersI believe that it is vital for the reporting frequency to be as often as reasonably possible for the London Mayor and for the threshold to be as low as reasonably possible.
Returning to the current incumbent, his team has been arguing that he should not be treated as a regulated donee, as all funds are given via the Labour party, and therefore the rules that affect political parties should apply. However, until it was recently modified, the website that solicits donations to the Ken Livingstone campaignkenlivingstone.commade it explicit that donations are for the Ken Livingstone campaign, not even for general Labour party fundraising, or indeed regional, London-wide Labour party fundraising. The website was specifically inviting donations for Ken Livingstone. Indeed, the cheques were due to be made payable to a separate account in the name of Ken Livingstone. Similarly, the website claimed that the threshold above which any donation needs to be declared was £5,000, which is correct for political parties, but clearly wrong for regulated donees. Also, donations to a political party must be reported only seven weeks after the end of a quarter. For regulated donees, such reports must be made within 30 days of receipt.
To summarise, we have four very significant problems with the arrangements. First, it is impossible to see who is funding the Livingstone campaign separately from any general Labour party funding, even though donations were and still are being solicited specifically to help the candidate, not necessarily the political party. In fact,
with the current way that the PPERA is being operated, we might never know who gave to Ken Livingstone and who gave to the Labour party.
Secondly, because he does not believe that he is a regulated donee, the frequency of declarations is only quarterly, not monthly. That might not normally make much difference, but in the run-up to an election of the magnitude of next weeks, that makes a huge difference. The fact is that, with the last quarter of the campaigns fundraisingprobably the biggest quarter of all for donationsthe names will not be known until 27 May, which is 26 days after polling day. There is therefore no chance for Londoners to see who is funding the Mayors re-election campaign.
The Minister doubtless knows that I took up those issues with the Electoral Commission in March, but its investigation was wholly unsatisfactory. Despite the clear evidence that the spirit and letter of the PPERA were being circumvented, the Electoral Commission pronounced itself satisfied, because it said that there was no evidence that any donation had actually been made. In other words, despite a separate bank account for Livingstone donations, millions of leaflets pouring off the presses, widespread media reports of lucrative fundraising auctions and evidence from the 2000 campaign that Ken Livingstone has the ability to raise significant sums of money in his own name, the Electoral Commission saw no evidence that a single donation had actually been made to the Livingstone campaign and therefore could see no grounds for investigation.
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