Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

The Earl of Erroll: The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, pointed out that distributors and others are covered by the Bill. However, the Committee might find that attacks could be made on small businesses, too. It might be perceived as easier to attack indirectly, which has previously been the case in other areas.

Lord Clement-Jones: There are trade associations for that kind of activity and I am certain that the tobacco companies will as far as possible ensure that their means of distribution are kept open.

The Minister gave the lie to the amendment. If there were a genuine point about nicotine replacement products there would be a problem, but because the Bill is framed in terms of tobacco we do not need to have an exception in respect of products licensed under the Medicines Act, or whatever is the correct phraseology. In the circumstances, I do not propose to accept the amendment.

Lord Naseby: I am grateful to those who have taken part in the debate, in particular the noble Earl, Lord

16 Nov 2001 : Column 818

Erroll. The promoter of the Bill, in casting aside the noble Earl's points, has been a little too flippant. When he says, for instance, that the means of distribution will be kept open at any cost, the suggestion is that he would like to close down every form of distribution. If that is his wish, perhaps he would be bold enough to say so openly.

I must also reflect on the comments of the noble Earl, Lord Erroll, because I remember the Town and Country Planning Act. Someone in Parliament suggested that what would happen in terms of challenging advertisements was crystal clear. It never was crystal clear; it never became crystal clear; and the legislation has been persistently challenged.

My Amendment No. 6 was not as vague as the promoters suggest; as I said, it was specific in relation to the Medicines Act. I am grateful to the Minister for making it clear that no product that is or will be available—"will be" is equally important as "is"—which is designed to help people to be weaned of tobacco will be in any way affected by the Bill. That is a most important point and not one to be considered as flippant. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

12.45 p.m.

Lord Skelmersdale moved Amendment No. 7:

    Page 1, line 7, at end insert—

"( ) For the avoidance of doubt, in this Act 'promotion' does not include a display of tobacco products."

The noble Lord said: There can be no doubt in the mind of anyone who has been listening to the debate that the purpose of the Bill is to prohibit the advertising of tobacco products. Nothing more and nothing less. However injurious to health some of those may be—and obviously I am not now thinking of snuff—they are not, as far as I can gather by remarks made by Ministers here and in another place—to be banned at the point of sale. Unfortunately, I believe that by using such a wide definition of advertising they could be. Perhaps I may say in passing that Members of the Committee will be delighted that this is the last of a series of amendments which investigates the meaning of various words.

On and off for the past 30 years, I have been engaged in selling, so I come from a different angle from my noble friend Lord Naseby. That activity has included printing catalogues—obviously an "advertisement", which the Notes on Clauses describe as having its natural meaning. We shall discuss that later. However, I have no idea what "promotion" means. When in the course of business I take my plants to a flower show and put them on display there may be two reasons. If my display is of items which are not currently available but have to be ordered for future delivery, it would constitute promotion of my products in a general sense and, more germanely to today's discussion, an advertisement, too.

If, on the other hand, the display is of items which can be taken away then and there, it is in the nature of a shop. It could be argued in the broadest sense that I

16 Nov 2001 : Column 819

am advertising my wares just as much as in a catalogue or on the website or, as in the first case, for future sales. I am most certainly promoting them. But if I do not promote them, I cannot sell them and I go out of business.

There is no difference between what I have been doing with plants and what the corner shop does with cigarettes and other tobacco products. I trust and believe that that can be made clear in the regulations, but it is, I hope, common ground that regulations should normally be circumscribed, as they are in Clause 4(2). However, I do not believe that that is the appropriate place in the Bill for the amendment. The Bill should state at the beginning what it does and does not cover and in that connection I want to congratulate the drafters of the Bill on not putting the definitions clause towards the end where we so often find it in legislation. The matter should be clear and I hope that I have shown the Committee that it is not.

The noble Lord, Lord Filkin, said earlier that displays set out in a particular way—for example, in the form of a chevron or whatever—would be advertising. Yes, it would. However, that would be the effect of the advertisement, not the promotion of the product. I do not believe that that is a useful argument to use on this occasion. I beg to move.

The Earl of Erroll: I rise to support this amendment which again clarifies the situation. Having heard the Minister refer earlier to a chevron, this is a valid point. Products should be visible so that one knows what is being sold; otherwise, it is very awkward. One does not seek necessarily to drive tobacco under the counter as if it is an illegal substance. Tobacco should still be available to members of the public to be bought legally. Therefore, I do not see a problem here. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, that this is concerned with the distribution of tobacco which will, I am sure, be protected by the tobacco companies. The point that I made previously, which the noble Lord probably appreciates, was to do with the distribution of advertising materials electronically, in printed form and so on. Tobacco companies would not be particularly interested in investing in such advertising and distribution of printed and electronic material. That was the reason I appreciated the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: It is not the intention of the Government to drive cigarette retailing under the counter; nor that the product should be banned at the point of sale. In general the Government are happy with the way in which tobacco products are displayed in shops. We do not want unnecessarily to increase the burdens on small businesses; nor do we expect any significant change in the way in which tobacco products are commonly displayed in gantries either in the corner shop or supermarket. I believe the noble Lord agrees that it would be possible to abuse that, and that is why we have the contingent ability to bring forward regulations if we discover that there is a need to plug loopholes. The intention is that this matter would be dealt with by affirmative regulations. We

16 Nov 2001 : Column 820

believe that we have achieved the right balance and that essentially the kinds of gantry displays that can be seen in many tobacco retailers are perfectly all right.

Lord Clement-Jones: I suspect that the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, has achieved his purpose in this probing amendment; namely, to see what is intended under Clause 8. The Minister has been very helpful in making the position entirely clear. The question is whether there is future abuse. I believe the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, would admit that, if suddenly there was a succession of flashing neon signs and other such abuse of display, that would be a far cry from the matter not being under the counter; it would be demonstrating tobacco products for all the world to see in the manner of advertising. Effectively, Clause 8 is designed to ensure that display does not turn into advertising. The noble Earl, Lord Erroll, was perhaps more solicitous of smaller distributors. However, all of them have their own trade associations and I am sure that there will be very clear conduct by them to make sure that they do not push the Government into producing regulations in this area. If they behave responsibly, there is no reason that they should be prejudiced by Clause 8. In those circumstances, I do not propose to accept the amendment.

Lord Skelmersdale: I am not in the least surprised that it is not accepted; it was not intended to be in the first place. I begin to gain the impression that a good deal of the responses of Ministers hinge on the regulations which could be made in certain circumstances. I recall that during Committee stage of this Bill in another place Ministers said that they were working on draft regulations and would be able to produce them by the end of the debate on the Bill. As far as I know, that never happened. It would be extremely useful both to the Committee and, at later stages, the whole House if noble Lords could have some idea in writing of what the various regulations would be likely to say.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: I shall endeavour to be helpful. However, in relation to regulations on displays, is not the point that in a sense this is a preventative clause to give us power in future to produce regulations if there is evidence that the current position, for example on gantries, is being abused in any way? It may be difficult to anticipate what exactly would be in those particular regulations. The safeguard is that they are affirmative regulations.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page