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We are particularly aware—

Earl Howe: What the small shops are afraid of is not a gradual tailing off of tobacco turnover, but a sudden cessation of such turnover. That is what they say is going to hit them very hard.

Baroness Thornton: I hope that I have given some comfort on that, and I will certainly talk to their representatives when I meet them tomorrow.

Lord Naseby: Could the noble Baroness share the comfort that she intends to offer the small shop owner representatives tomorrow?

Baroness Thornton: I have gone into some detail about how we think this will work and why we think that it will not have the devastating impact that the noble Earl and the noble Lord suggest. However, we are aware that in the current economic climate, small businesses are struggling, and that is why we would not commence this legislation until 2011 for larger stores and 2013 for small ones. We understand that small convenience stores replace their tobacco gantries every five years or so, and that means that refurbishments would be able to be made in the normal refurbishment cycle for many stores. Providing an extra two years’ lead-in time for implementation will enable small shops to take advantage of the innovative solutions that I am sure will be developed, and that extra time has been welcomed by the Association of Convenience Stores.

The noble Earl, Lord Howe, noted concerns expressed by retailers, particularly in the growth in membership of the Tobacco Retailers Alliance. I hope that he is aware that the alliance is funded by the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association, which represents three of the largest tobacco companies: British American Tobacco UK, Gallagher and Imperial Tobacco. Of course we could trade statistics on who has written to whom about what consultations, but I should like to note that the Save our Shops postcard campaign that lobbied for many Members of this House and the other place was run by the Responsible Retailers’ Campaign, which is also funded by the tobacco retailers.

Perhaps I may refer to a few points made by the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, and others. He raised the issue about where children get their tobacco products. That research—Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use among Young People, from the NHS statistics and information centre—shows that 78 per cent of young people buy their cigarettes from shops, either local shops or supermarkets, with 17 per cent buying from machines. I am happy to make the material available to the noble Lord.

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Baroness Cumberlege: What is the date on that statement? Is that before or after the new legislation?

Baroness Thornton: It is from 2006.

Baroness Cumberlege: So it does not actually relate to the ban on the 18 year-olds.

Baroness Thornton: No, it does not.

4.30 pm

Lord Naseby: I should point out to the Minister that the survey to which I referred was carried out by Trading Standards North West in September 2007. It is important that the Minister gives the dates of her surveys because this is a moving market and it is very difficult for Members of the Committee to keep track if evidence is given which has been overtaken by other events in the market.

Baroness Thornton: The noble Lord may have a point there, and I will certainly check it. However, I think that it is very unlikely that young people are not buying their cigarettes from shops. As I say, I will check that, but our information shows that the vast majority of children get their tobacco products from shops. The noble Lord, Lord Naseby, referred to the consultation process. We received more than 100,000 responses to the consultation: 10,586 responses from small retailers, including the pre-prepared postcards or e-mails made available to respondents from third parties; 11 responses from large retailers; 21 responses from retail industry representative organisations, including trade organisations; and seven responses from organisations that receive funding directly from the department for programmes of work relating to smoking. We received 85,000 responses from members of the public, which also included pre-prepared postcards or e-mails made available by third parties.

The noble Lord said that the consultation was unsatisfactory in terms of Asian shopkeepers and the Equality and Human Rights Commission. I have dealt with the correspondence on this issue and have invited representatives of the relevant association to a meeting tomorrow. However, the organisation which was helping them to submit letters to the Equality and Human Rights Commission was funded by the tobacco industry. In view of the Government’s policy on this matter, I cannot meet with an organisation which is funded directly by the tobacco industry. However, as I want to take their concerns on board, I have invited them to join my larger meeting tomorrow, if they wish to do so.

Lord Naseby: Will the Minister clarify that? Is she saying that Her Majesty’s Government will not meet with any organisation that receives money from the tobacco industry, but will meet with ASH and all the other bodies to whom they provided funds, which then make representations to them? Is that a level playing field?

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Baroness Thornton: We are just following the international codes on the dealings one should have with the tobacco industry. It is very straightforward. I think that we shall discuss this later.

Baroness Northover: We will indeed discuss an amendment that I tabled that relates to the WHO guidelines, which state that Governments should not be unduly lobbied by the tobacco industry or unduly swayed by it, and that they should not meet it in those circumstances. The Foreign Office already has that guidance as regards how it operates overseas. We will come to that later.

Baroness Thornton: I thank the noble Baroness for those comments. The general public are concerned about youth smoking. In a public opinion poll conducted by ICM in October, more than eight in 10 people said that they were concerned about children and young people starting to smoke, and agreed that the Government should do more to discourage them from doing so and help those who do smoke to quit.

Nearly seven in 10 people agreed that tobacco displays should be removed from shops if there were evidence that it would discourage young people from starting to smoke, and we are confident that there is robust evidence. There is also significant support for a prohibition on display from a wide range of organisations, including: the Royal College of Physicians, Asthma UK, the British Heart Foundation, the British Medical Association, the Local Government Association, Marie Curie Cancer Care, the National Children’s Bureau, the National Heart Forum, the Royal College of Nursing, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, as well as numerous local authorities and NHS bodies. Internationally, a growing number of jurisdictions are removing, or planning to remove, tobacco displays. They include Iceland, 12 of the 13 Canadian provinces, Thailand, the British Virgin Islands and Norway. In addition, four states in Australia are consulting or planning to legislate.

Noble Lords referred in our debate on Thursday to New Zealand. The New Zealand Government have changed their mind. They are ignoring a recommendation from their health committee to remove displays. That change of heart came about after a general election that installed a Conservative Government. They have provided no evidence above and beyond that available to the committee that first recommended that policy. That is not an example that we intend to follow. Most important for us, perhaps, is Scotland's decision to remove tobacco displays. It would be a shame if it were only the children of Scotland—and, indeed, Ireland—who were protected from tobacco industry promotion. It is an essential measure to reduce smoking by young people and to support smokers who want to quit, and it should stand part of the Bill.

Earl Howe: Last Thursday, the noble Baroness, Lady Young, questioned where I was coming from in arguing against the provisions. Very simply, I come from a school that rates personal and commercial freedoms more highly than many societal goods. I do not come from the school of big government.

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Big government may sometimes be necessary, but we have to justify its intrusion into our lives before allowing it.

It is right that we look at the scientific evidence both for and against, but in the end this is a political judgment. It is a judgment that weighs up prospective public health benefits on the one hand and the risk to commercial freedoms and the viability of businesses on the other. Therefore, this debate is both appropriate and necessary. Those of us who were prepared to sign up to the ban on tobacco advertising and smoking in public places judged that the case for those measures had been sufficiently made. I fear that in this case I am in the other camp. Unfortunately for her, the Minister's reply has taken me no further forward in accepting the Government’s arguments, although I shall of course look carefully at all the sources of reference that she highlighted.

It is not clear to me why, if the Government are so exercised about point-of-sale displays and the possibility that they may have come to resemble de facto advertisements, they do not regulate to restrict the size and content of such displays instead of banning them altogether. After all, it is not so long ago that Ministers felt able make a clear distinction between what constituted an advertisement, which, in their eyes, was harmful, and what constituted a display, which they felt was not. If we accept for a moment without further evidence that some displays have changed and become more eye-catching and glitzy, why not regulate to make them less glitzy and take us back to how displays supposedly used to be? That option does not appear to have been considered at any length by Ministers.

Another issue needs to be mentioned, but the Minister did not do so. If tobacco companies are prevented from engaging in commercial competition at point of sale, which is what a display ban would mean, they would resort to competing on price. One brand of cigarette is already trying to do that. The recommended retail price of that brand per pack is only 1p above the aggregate amount of government taxes. What do we want to achieve? Do we want cigarettes to become cheaper? As far as the young are concerned, the cheaper, the better. We have only to think of the damage done by the illicit market in smuggled tobacco, which can be half the price of the duty-paid product to appreciate the risk that we are running with this measure.

Incidentally, is the Minister aware that the black market in cigarettes does not feature in Iceland? That is another reason why comparisons with that country are somewhat dangerous. The Canadian Convenience Stores Association stated:

“In Canada (since the inception of display bans) we have seen unprecedented growth of contraband/illegal tobacco and now one in every two cigarettes sold are sourced through the black market”.

If we look at what drives young people to take up smoking, the main influences are: peer pressure; image consciousness, because it is seen as being cool; and having parents who smoke. We are simply not in a position to say that they take up smoking because of displays in shops. There is no evidence for that other than repeated assertion. We can produce a collection of speech bubbles from kids who have been

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interviewed about the eye-catching nature of displays but we cannot base an evidential case on speech bubbles. The most that these show is that some displays are eye-catching; they do not show that they affect smoking behaviour.

A number of noble Lords, including the Minister, have pointed to legislation in other countries. Perhaps I may end by stating the obvious. Passing legislation in this House is not a matter of routinely copying other countries or jurisdictions. If it were, our lives would be immeasurably easier. It behoves us as responsible legislators to decide these issues for ourselves, looking at the circumstances particular to our own country. I do not think that we should be deflected in the slightest from having a thorough debate and reaching our own conclusions. We will doubtless continue the debate and reach those conclusions at the next stage of the Bill.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees: The Question is that Clause—

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: We have not finished yet. When I objected to the Bill being taken in Grand Committee, I was told, “There will be plenty of time to debate it in Grand Committee”. The noble Baroness treated us to a very long explanation as to why this legislation should go through. I very much appreciated that, but I came to the conclusion that she was talking about not a ban on displays but a ban on tobacco, full stop.

If it is true, as the Royal College of Physicians has apparently told the noble Baroness, that smoking is more dangerous than cannabis and cocaine, then it should be banned. Let us have a little less hypocrisy. If that is the case and the Government accept that case, they should ban it. They should make tobacco a class A drug. Why do they not do that? Why do they keep coming to us in dribs and drabs, banning this and that, now banning displays and vending machines and what have you? Why are they messing about with it? Why do they not come clean and say that they want a complete ban and bring forward a Bill that would do that? It may very well be that they do not want to do that because there is £10 billion at stake, but let us have the truth. If that is the case, then we can understand why these restrictions come along in dribs and drabs: they want to hang on to the money but they want to bombard the smoker and the tobacco companies with all sorts of restrictions.

With regard to the Government’s refusal to talk to the tobacco industry and anyone who is promoted by them or receives promotion from them, do they talk to the drug companies? The drug companies are very well known for giving gifts and so on to GPs to promote some products which have proved to be dangerous, such as thalidomide. It is no good saying “Gosh”; we are having an argument about something which affects 80,000 jobs in the retail sector and 22 per cent of the population who smoke. They are constantly bombarded from one side or the other—if not the Government, then some health authority or whatever. Let us hear from the noble Baroness.

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Baroness O'Cathain: I thank the noble Lord for giving way. I want to ask one question. This statistic of 80,000 jobs depending on tobacco has already been bounced around this Room. In fact, 5,000 jobs depend on tobacco, and 80,000 jobs are in the sector of retailing that sells tobacco along with about 20,000 other product lines.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: Indeed, that is what I said. Noble Lords—

Baroness Tonge: Before the noble Lord continues—

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: May I answer that question first?

Baroness Tonge: I suppose so.

4.45 pm

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: I was mentioning the tobacco retailers. Some noble Lords, particularly those who are members of new Labour, might be interested to know that we have heard from the trade union UNITE. It does not support these clauses at all. It says that:

“The UK tobacco industry is highly profitable to the Treasury, generating tax revenue of £10 billion ... There are currently 6,500 people working in the tobacco sector and ... 80,000 people in the UK”.

It says that exports are worth £984 million and,

per year. That is not from me but from a trade union that gives a lot of money to the Labour Party. It is worried, as it is entitled to be, about the jobs of its members at a time when there is a very serious depression. We have to take these things into account.

Baroness Tonge: This is really a point of order. I am a relatively new Member of this House, and I seek guidance from the Chair about what we are actually debating. The noble Earl, Lord Howe, has withdrawn his amendment and therefore we are in a sort of limbo.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees: We are still debating the Question that Clause 19 stand part of the Bill.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: I do not want to keep the Committee for too much longer but, as I say, I was assured that in Committee I would have plenty of time to make my points. It was the Leader of the House who told me that. This is an important matter; a lot of people have spoken on it, and we must speak it out, so to speak.

Lord Laird: Will the noble Lord give way?

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: You are only delaying it.

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Lord Laird: On the question of employment, would the noble Lord advocate that we retained capital punishment on the basis that it gives jobs to executioners?

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: That was a bit flippant, wasn’t it? There was only one executioner and his assistant. We do not have capital punishment and I would not want it to be reintroduced.

It says on tobacco packets, “Smoking kills”, but smoking does not kill everyone who smokes. Will the Minister confirm that 78 per cent of people who die not from smoking but from “smoking-related diseases” are over the age of 65? We have all got to die from something, you know.

Baroness Howarth of Breckland: If you have watched your mother suffocate with emphysema, you will have a view about smoking—related diseases even in the elderly.

Baroness Thornton: I echo the noble Baroness’s point of view in respect of my own mother.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: If we are going to go into personal experiences, I was born in the Rhondda valley and my father was a coal miner. I saw lots of people who were working down the mines suffering from emphysema, and many people suffered from it who had never smoked in their lives. All sorts of things cause so-called smoking-related diseases. It is no good the Minister shaking her head.

Baroness Thornton: My mother is not a coal miner—she has never been down a coal mine in her life—but she smoked for 50 years. There is no question that her condition now is related to the fact that she smoked for 50 years, which she bitterly regrets.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: All right, if we are going into real personal experiences: my father smoked all his life from the time that he was 13, all the time that he was fighting for this country and being a prisoner of war in Germany. He smoked all his life: cigarettes, pipe, cigars, anything you like to speak of. He died when he was 84. So he was all right. My grandfather also smoked a pipe and cigarettes all his life; he died when he was 93. All these personal experiences get us nowhere because people die from all sorts of diseases for all sorts of reasons.

I was going to ask the Minister when I was quoting some statistics about people who die from smoking—before she shook her head—if she would confirm that that is not actually known. It is not put on a death certificate whether people have died from smoking. She will find that those figures are not clinical but statistical. We should take those things into account.

I am going to sit down because I can see that the Committee is getting very impatient and wants to get on with its business. I want it to get on with its business as well. So, although I have stacks of things still to say, in order to respect the Committee and its wish to carry on, I will sit down.

Noble Lords: Hear, hear.

Clause 19 agreed.

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Amendment 86

Moved by Earl Howe

86: After Clause 19, insert the following new Clause—

“Purchase of tobacco on behalf of children

After section 7(2) of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 (c. 12) (sale of tobacco, etc, to persons under (eighteen)) insert—

“(2A) A person commits an offence if he buys or attempts to buy tobacco on behalf of an individual aged under 18.

(2B) Where a person is charged with an offence under subsection (2A) it is a defence that he had not reason to suspect that the individual was aged under 18.

(2C) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale.””

Earl Howe: I turn to an issue that I hope the Minister will want to look at seriously—that is, how the current law prohibiting the sale of tobacco to minors might be tightened up. Before speaking to the detail of the amendment, it is perhaps worth my making a general point. The measures contained in the Bill are designed to bear down on the prevalence of smoking, particularly smoking by children. That is the main justification put forward for them, and the underlying aim is of course wholly right in public health terms. However, both of the Bill’s main measures in this area—the ban on point-of-sale-displays and restrictions on vending machines—impinge in one way or another on personal and commercial freedoms.

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