Adding to that observant point, does the hon. Gentleman agree that, as the large retailers can afford to change their displays and small retailers cannot, those who are addicted to tobacco will be driven to larger shops not just for their cigarettes but for other
things as well, therefore achieving exactly the opposite of the intention of the right hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Frank Dobson)?
Christopher Fraser: Further to that point, such small shops are very often in villages in constituencies such as mine, where the local services such as post offices have gone and they are therefore the last port of call for villagers to buy what they require. If they go out of business as well, the villages will die.
The main point is that this should not be billed as the tobacco display restriction or ban. The Government should be promoting this measure as, "We think the public are thick" because in effect they are saying that people will buy cigarettes only if they are on display and that they will not buy them otherwise-that if they are on display people will think they therefore must be an attractive product and will buy them. That is a completely false premise. People have a choice as to whether they want to buy them. I am perfectly prepared to trust my constituents to make these decisions for themselves. I trust them to be able to decide for themselves whether they want to buy a packet of cigarettes. They do not need the Government telling them what they can and cannot do, and what they can and cannot see when they go shopping.
This is the nanny state gone mad. Everything that the Government do always has at the back of it this: that they know better than the public who elected them. I do not see why they have such little faith in the public when they stand for election hoping that people will choose who to vote for, yet they cannot even allow them to make a choice as to how they buy a particular brand of product. On every conceivable level this proposed ban is wrong, because it goes against the principle of individual responsibility, free choice and people making their own decisions, and it will have a very bad effect on small shops.
Tom Levitt (High Peak) (Lab): The hon. Gentleman began his remarks by saying that he accepted that smoking should be an adult pastime. Does he accept that banning cigarette machines may push consumers from that unsupervised sale towards a supervised sale in small shops, and that therefore the only people who would be deprived of the chance of buying them would be the under-age children who should not be buying them in the first place?
Philip Davies: No, I do not accept that because, again, the premise is wrong. That basically presumes that everybody who buys cigarettes from a vending machine is a child, but that is clearly palpably ridiculous.
I might add that we were talking about the future of local shops, but one other serious issue we ought to face up to is the problem of local pubs. Many local pubs have gone out of business over the last few years, not least because of the ban on smoking supported by so many Labour Members who have helped the small pubs in their local communities go to the wall. About 50 pubs a week are closing down. Lots of Labour Members doubtless argue that they want their local pubs to thrive, but taking the vending machines out of pubs-places
that, again, are largely inhabited by adults-will not make a blind bit of difference to under-age smoking and will have a huge impact on local pubs.
Angela Watkinson (Upminster) (Con): The purpose of these bans might be to deter under-age smoking, but does my hon. Friend agree that the main responsibility for ensuring that children do not smoke lies with their parents? They should know where their children are, what they are doing and how much money they have to spend unsupervised.
Philip Davies: I have great respect for my hon. Friend's opinions and on that, as on so many other things, I agree with her entirely. The whole principle of the nanny state is wrong, but even if one were to think that it is a good thing, one would find that in other countries such a ban has been shown not to have the effect that the Government would like it to have. For example, after years of decline in the level of under-age smoking in Canada, among 15 to 19-year-olds smoking has remained the same or has increased in five of Canada's eight provinces since the ban was implemented. Whereas there had been a fall in the number of young people smoking in Canada before the ban, in five of the eight provinces there has since been either no reduction or an increase. This measure has been shown not to work.
In Ireland, the introduction of a ban has only made the black market worse; for the first time in Ireland, illegal products have been found in traditional retail outlets. That evidence from so close to home surely shows that these concerns are justified and should be taken seriously. Even if one accepts that telling everybody what they can and cannot do, where they can and cannot shop and what they can and cannot see is a good thing, this ban has been shown in other countries to be a complete waste of time. This measure is a perfect example of the Government thrashing around to try to do something-to look as if they are doing something-even if what they do will make no difference or do great damage to local businesses and shops.
The right hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras made the point that the tobacco companies would be able to pay for all the changes required by retailers in their shops, but I must tell him that in Ireland that is not the evidence from most retailers. Well over half the retailers there got zero help from the tobacco companies to pay for their displays and some 75 per cent. of the smallest shops of all-newsagents-had to pay the full cost themselves. There is no evidence that all these costs will be met by the tobacco companies.
Frank Dobson: The hon. Gentleman makes my point: the people running the tobacco companies, who are fabulously wealthy, both individually and corporately, are a set of greedy, grasping people who have no concern at all for the small retailers who sell their product. If they did care about them, they would be willing to make all the necessary changes.
It is not sensible, in the current climate, for any Member of Parliament to accuse anyone else of being greedy and grasping; I am not sure that there would be much public support for an MP calling anybody else that in the current climate. The right hon. Gentleman criticises tobacco companies for being wealthy, but they have lots of money only because they have sold legitimate-legal-products to people who have bought
them as a result of their own choice. He might not agree with people's decision to smoke-I do not smoke and I do not particularly like going into smoky places, but I believe in freedom of choice-but they should be respected if they decide to spend their hard-earned money on cigarettes. If that is what people wish to do, they should be free to do so-they do not need him lecturing them.
Mr. McCartney: The hon. Gentleman has said much about the nanny state and he has said that there is no problem with smoking, full stop, because it is legal. If he believes that, why does he not have the courage of his convictions? Why does he not start smoking and see where he gets to?
Philip Davies: I knew it was a mistake to give way to the right hon. Gentleman and I shall treat that intervention with the contempt that it deserves. This issue is all about choice. I choose not to smoke but I perfectly respect people who choose to do so, because that is their choice. He has just proved to me what I said from the word go: that he comes into Parliament to try to ban everybody else from doing all the things that he does not like. That is not a good basis on which to pass laws.
I shall conclude my remarks, because I know that others wish to speak, but I urge the House not to allow yet another triumph for the nanny state and for intolerance. I have seen such triumphs time and again since I was elected. If Labour Members want to ban tobacco altogether-that seems to have been the basis of their argument-they should at least have the courage to come to this House to argue for what they really believe in and face the consequences. They do not do so because they are scared of public opinion on that issue and instead come along with weasel tactics in order to try to stop people from doing something that they do not like. To be perfectly honest, I have had enough of this nanny state and I hope that the House will show tonight that it has too.
Gillian Merron: I have listened closely to the debate and know that all hon. Members want to prevent young people from taking up smoking and to support smokers who want to quit. Clearly there are differing opinions about how we best do that, but the case for action, to which this Bill gives effect, is compelling. We know that smoking is the single biggest cause of preventable illness and premature death in England. Smoking kills more than 80,000 people each year-that is the equivalent of wiping out nearly the entire population of Durham, and it is more than the number who die from suicide, alcohol, road traffic accidents, illicit drugs and diabetes combined. Smoking is the primary reason for the gap in life expectancy between rich and poor. The Royal College of Physicians tells us that smoking is positively associated with more than 40 diseases, and the list continues to grow. We also know that in 2007, nearly 200,000 children between 11 and 15 were already regular smokers. Some two thirds of current and past smokers say that they started smoking regularly before they were 18.
The measures contained in the Bill are part of the wider fight against smoking. Since 1997, the Government have banned tobacco advertising, raised the age of sale to 18 and introduced hard-hitting picture warnings on
cigarette packets. Research shows that the decision in 2007 to go smoke-free is now supported by more than 80 per cent. of the population. Since 1997, our actions on smoking have resulted in 2 million fewer smokers-that is a 25 per cent. reduction. In the past decade, more than 70,000 lives have been saved by local NHS stop smoking services, yet about one in five people still smoke, with the highest concentration in the most disadvantaged communities and groups.
Joan Walley (Stoke-on-Trent, North) (Lab): Is my hon. Friend aware of the concerns of the NHS in Stoke-on-Trent, particularly in respect of the very high number-the figure is well above the national average-of 11 to 16-year-olds who classify themselves as regular smokers? Does she agree that it is right that this Government should do all they can to reduce smoking, including among young people, and that we must go even further than the measures in the Bill?
Gillian Merron: I agree with my hon. Friend that we should do all we can. A consultation that we undertook last year attracted almost 100,000 responses, and I shall be publishing the new national tobacco control strategy later this year. I am sure that my hon. Friend and her constituents will be interested to see what is in it.
Amendment 1, as tabled by the hon. Members for Hemel Hempstead (Mike Penning) and for Eddisbury (Mr. O'Brien), would prevent the prohibition of tobacco displays. Since clamping down on advertising and marketing, the tobacco industry has found other ways to recruit new smokers, including the promotion of tobacco at the point of sale. We have seen larger displays, illuminated cabinets, branded clocks and locked towers, which serve no practical purpose, other than promoting sales.
Evidence backs our focus on ending tobacco displays, as demonstrated by a letter in The Times today in support of the provisions in the Bill, backed by the British Lung Foundation, the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, the British Medical Association and Asthma UK. It states:
"There is strong evidence-backed by the World Health Organisation and other leading medical experts-that these measures will help to stop children smoking."
This morning, I received a letter from my counterpart in the Irish Government, who wanted to make it clear that the introduction of similar measures on display in Ireland was successful: no prosecutions have been carried out, compliance has been good and there is no evidence of any increase in illicit cigarette sales. In fact, initial results from research on the impact of the Irish legislation are striking. They show that since the law came into effect in July, public support for tobacco control has grown from 56 to 68 per cent., far fewer young people recall seeing tobacco packs in shops, and the number of under-age people who thought they could successfully buy cigarettes decreased from a third to a quarter. Point-of-sale advertising directly affects young people's smoking. Studies show that tobacco marketing generates new smokers, that young people are receptive to tobacco advertising and that promotion undermines the efforts of those who want to quit.
I appreciate that there has been much debate about the evidence to justify removing displays, which is why I invited all hon. Members to the meeting I held earlier so that we could hear from experts what the peer-reviewed evidence shows. I am confident that there is convincing publicly available evidence-from Canada and Iceland as well as from Ireland-to justify removing tobacco displays. Cancer Research UK, in summarising much of the relevant publicly available evidence, tells us that there is clear evidence that
"tobacco point of sale has a direct impact on young people's smoking"
"Among established smokers, point of sale does not facilitate brand choice...it stimulates impulse purchases and undermines efforts of smokers to quit."
Christopher Fraser: The hon. Lady has stated that the Government hope that they will deter young people from taking up smoking, the logic being that a young person will see a tobacco display and as a result will be encouraged to smoke. If that is the case, why has the Department of Health's recent consultation on this issue ensured that youth smoking and tobacco advertising are not linked? There is no mention of it.
Gillian Merron: I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman makes that point. Perhaps he will be interested in the tobacco control strategy, which will be published later this year. It will make great efforts in this regard.
The Government strongly believe that we have a responsibility to do everything we can to prevent young people from becoming addicted to smoking and to support those who quit. However, I understand the concerns that have been expressed about the impact on small businesses in particular, which have recognised that sales are declining and that they must prepare for a future where tobacco sales are severely limited. We have been working closely with retail bodies such as the Association of Convenience Stores and the British Retail Consortium to develop the draft regulations and cost-effective practical solutions. I have been glad to meet the National Federation of Retail Newsagents and the Association of Convenience Stores, and I have listened to their concerns so that we can work together.
Mr. Slaughter: I thank my hon. Friend for the presentation that she arranged at lunchtime where ample evidence was displayed. A number of my hon. Friends attended, but not one Opposition Member did. Their protestations about there being no evidence are rather lukewarm. I found it more persuasive when I visited a constituent of mine, an independent retailer called Mr. Mahesh Patel, yesterday. He says that he welcomes the ban. He does not believe that it is costly and believes that it gives opportunities. As an independent retailer, he fully supports the fact that the Government are taking these measures.
The regulations are flexible and light touch rather than proscriptive. Perhaps I can reassure colleagues. Indeed, something did go amiss and a box of the consultation documents is sitting in the Vote Office.
Unfortunately, no one realised that that was what the box contained. It seems like we have had a bit of a day of things that should have arrived at a certain time not doing so. However, the documents are certainly there.
Let me make it clear that retailers will be free to cover tobacco products as they see fit, provided that they cover the tobacco they stock. Examples of possible solutions can be seen in the material that I have circulated to Members.
David Taylor: Was the Minister as shocked as I was by the deliberate exaggeration of the costs that we heard from the Opposition early on in the debate? To put a few doors on displays and flaps on shelves surely costs only £100 or £200. We have heard estimates of £10,000 or £1,800. Those figures are designed to frighten newsagents and others. It cannot be true, and I hope that she will lance that particular lie.
Gillian Merron: I would always rather deal in facts. My hon. Friend is quite right about the reality of costs. The estimate from Canada that we are using is something in the order of £450, but that includes fitting and shipping. I would expect to see British innovation and I would also expect the solutions, which are completely flexible, to be used first by the larger shops, so that the smaller shops will be able to benefit from them.
Lembit Öpik: The Minister says that she has consulted the National Federation of Retail Newsagents. She will know, therefore, that its national president, Suleman Khonat, has said that many international cases show that removal has no effect. He also said that it will have a damaging effect on business. Has she considered the proposals in amendment 16? It seeks a compromise of a maximum surface area of 1.5 square metres for the advertising of cigarettes and tobacco products, therefore overcoming the problem of the power wall while at the same time respecting the almost insuperable costs that have been associated with many small newsagents' shifting to the new regulations, which, I stress, none of them have seen, I have not seen and most Members of this House have not seen.
Gillian Merron: I have of course considered amendment 16, tabled by the hon. Gentleman, and I hope that he will not press it to a Division. Display, partial or full, constitutes promotion and allowing any display, as permitted by that amendment, would effectively allow tobacco promotion to continue.
It has been suggested that removing the display of tobacco would impact on business by reducing footfall trade-that is, the sale of other items to customers who come to buy cigarettes. By definition, by the time that a customer is in the shop their foot has already fallen. Of course, the provisions in the Bill will apply equally to all tobacco retailers.