PARLIAMENTARY DEBATES

HOUSE OF COMMONS

OFFICIAL REPORT

Standing Committee C

TOBACCO ADVERTISING BILL

Fourth Sitting

Wednesday 9 March 1994

(Afternoon)

CONTENTS

CLAUSE 2, as amended, agreed to.

CLAUSES 3 to 7 agreed to.

BILL, as amended, to be reported.

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113 Standing Committee C Wednesday 9 March 1994

(Afternoon)

[DR. JOHN G. BLACKBURN in the Chair]

Tobacco Advertising Bill Clause 2
FREE DISTRIBUTION OF TOBACCO PRODUCTS AND RELATED INCENTIVES

4.30 pm

Clause 2, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 3
POWER TO PROHIBIT OR RESTRICT PROMOTION OF SMOKING OR TOBACCO PRODUCTS

Mr. Peter Thurnham (Bolton, North-East): I beg to move amendment No. 49, in page 4, line 27, at end insert— "(1A) The power to make regulations under subsection (1) above includes the power to prohibit or restrict the use of any tobacco product in any place, by any person or class of persons, and in any circumstances if and to the extent that the said prohibition or restriction is, in the opinion of the Secretary of State, necessary for or in consequence of any provision in the regulations prohibiting or restriction any form of promotion of smoking or of tobacco products.". The amendment intends to prohibit teachers from smoking in school. However, it was not possible to word the amendment that precisely. The hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Barron) has suggested that he might not support the amendment because its powers could be construed as wide ranging. I shall not delay the Committee long. However, it is right that the Committee should consider the problem of teachers smoking in schools and the extent to which that sets a bad example to children. Members of the Committee agree that we should do what we can to prevent children from becoming addicted. I was horrified to learn that 25 per cent. of children aged IS are addicted to tobacco. Legally, 15-year-olds are too young even to buy tobacco. Teachers who are seen to be smoking on school permises set an example that we should try to avoid. The amendment intended to establish powers to enable the Secretary of State to prohibit smoking on school premises. However, I accept the point of the hon. Member for Rother Valley that the wording of the amendment could lead to a wider prohibition of smoking than I intended. I should be pleased if an alternative wording was suggested so that teachers could be prevented from smoking in schools. The Government document, "Smoke-free for Health", which is an action plan for the nation's health, rates highly 114 clear policies on smoking in schools. I hope that the Bill can incorporate the aim of the amendment.

Mr. Kevin Barron (Rother Valley): I am grateful to the hon. Member for Bolton, North-East (Mr. Thurnham). I hesitate to accept the amendment. Its first two lines suggest wide-ranging powers to restrict smoking. Such an amendment clouds the issue that the Bill tackles. However, I agree that there is merit in restricting smoking on school premises. From 1 April, Rotherham metropolitan borough council will not allow smoking on council premises, which include schools. That is admirable. But such a decision is a matter for the local authority. I would not happily support a decision by Parliament to pass legislation to ban smoking in public places. Policing such legislation would be difficult. However, if local authorities wish to ban smoking in areas of public access for which they are responsible, I wish them luck. I hope that the ban works. The Bill has specific intentions. It might be comprehensive, but the word draconian has been used by one or two hon. Members to describe it. It is no more draconian than the measure to ban tobacco advertising on television in 1964. We could continue that debate for ever and a day. The Bill is no more draconian than the measures that have been made under the so-called voluntary agreement. The amendment would broaden the scope of the Bill too much and I would be unhappy with that. However, I am pleased to have had the opportunity to air my views on how broad or narrow the Bill is in its scope.

Mr. Thurnham: The hon. Gentleman mentioned that his local authority intended to ban smoking in schools. Is he aware of how many other local authorities intend to do that? I am not sure whether my local authority in Bolton has such a policy. We should spread that information as widely as possible.

Mr. Barron: That is right. I have no idea of the figures. It came to my notice last year that the local authority intended to introduce a ban. Clearly, it creates responsibilities for local authorities, especially when one of its employees—who may work for eight hours a day—is a tobacco or nicotine addict. They have had to consider counselling for such people because it is a problem if someone is hooked on nicotine. Such people need proper counselling to enable them to carry on working. I would hate to think of anyone being driven out of a job; that would be discrimination. There is no evidence of that, I am pleased to say. The House will be watching. I shall be pleased to tell all hon. Members if Rotherham is successful in its ban on smoking on premises with public access. I admire its courage in taking that decision, but such a decision could not be taken within the context of the Bill. I want to restrict the Bill to the issue of tobacco advertising and promotion. We have been able to do that in Committee, but amendment No. 49 would broaden the issue.

Sir Peter Emery (Honiton): Good afternoon, Dr. Blackburn.

The Chairman: Good afternoon.

Sir Peter Emery: I assure the Committee that if my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State were here, he 115 would want to tell the Committee that he is as concerned about smoking in schools as we are. I am certain that he would want to refer the matter to my right hon. friend the Secretary of State for Education, who would also want to find out whether the concept put forward by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health could be extended further so that it could be considered in education circles and not just in the Department of Health. I am certain that that would be the wish of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary if he were here.

Mr. Michael Trend (Windsor and Maidenhead): The Minister sends his humble apologies to the Committee for not being here; he will, of course, read the report of this afternoon's proceedings with considerable interest. It may surprise the Committee to know that he did not intend to vote in a positive or negative way on any of this afternoon's business. I am sure that he will take all the points made into consideration, especially those of my right hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery) who, as always, has spoken so knowledgeably.

Mr. Mark Wolfson (Sevenoaks): I shall intervene briefly. I am delighted to be able to fly the flag of the libertarian on the issue while allying myself strongly with the Bill. The right way forward when dealing with areas in which smoking should be banned is for organisations to consult and discuss with their employees how such a ban would affect them, how to deal with heavy smokers and what can be done to overcome difficulties. A ban of that nature would be far too wide but it is useful as a marker to the Secretary of State for Education, local authorities and schools that the Committee believes that teachers who smoke in schools set a bad example to children. Wherever possible, that should be minimised.

Mr. Thurnham: On that point, for the information of the Committee and my right hon. Friend the Member for Honiton in particular, I note that paragraph 4.31 of the action plan "Smoke-free for Health" states: "The Department for Education is preparing a circular to schools, for issue early in 1994 after consultations, encouraging the development of clear policies on smoking, both in the workplace and in the educational setting." I hope that more local authorities will follow the line referred to by the hon. Member for Rother Valley.

Mr. Wolfson: There are probably many examples of schools in which the staff have taken a decision among themselves that smoking will no longer be allowed on their premises. That emphasises my point that, wherever possible, such developments should voluntarily be worked out at the workplace but with a strong steer from the House and the Government that that is the right way to minimise the opportunity for negative examples of adults smoking to be shown to children.

Sir Peter Emery: On a point of order, Dr. Blackburn. I apologise to you and the Committee. I have to take the Chair of the Procedure Committee and I cannot be in two places at once. My absence does not detract from my support of the Bill.

The Chairman: I wish the right hon. Gentleman continued success.

116

Mr. Ian McCartney (Makerfield): I thank the hon. Member for Bolton, North-East for having tabled his amendment because it provides us with an opportunity to discuss important matters that must be followed up after the passage of the Bill. All of us who support the Bill have said that it is only one of a family of measures which have to be taken to reduce the consumption of tobacco in the adult population and to persuade young people not to take up the habit. So it is essential for us to flag up for the Department of Health the need to be aggressive in the follow up of the Bill. Every local education authority should be required to submit to the Department of Health and the Department of Education by 1 April 1995 their plans and proposals for a cessation programme in all of their educational establishments, including their recommendations on how to assist staff and young children to give up the habit. Far too often, those who smoke are made scapegoats, but that is not our intention. We seek to befriend those people and provide them with opportunities to give up smoking. Smoking is an occupational health issue for education employers. As part of a strategic approach to get rid of smoking in schools, there must also be a cessation programme for staff and others who work in educational establishments. If the circulars that are due to be sent are to mean anything, the Department must require people to respond to them to show clearly what is happening on the ground. If nothing is happening, the Department should be told why so that it can determine what action needs to be taken to ensure a more positive outcome to the proposals for eliminating smoking in educational establishments. 4.45 pm Secondly, it is also important that the prevention of smoking should be seen as part of the national curriculum in relation to drug and alcohol abuse. Telling children not to do something is not good educational practice. Good educational practice is to provide children with the skills to make informed choices, even whey they are under peer pressure. The only way to ensure that children do not become involved in abuses such as smoking, solvent abuse and drugs is providing them with life skills to enable them to cope in their environment, to recognise it and to articulate. 4.45 pm For a decade or so, I was a volunteer in school projects. I volunteered because of an incident in the street in which I lived, in which a young child died from solvent abuse. I was shocked. I thought about the matter and became involved in an education programme. I learnt the skills to work and communicate with kids and help them to develop life skills. I was pleased that about five years ago the Government recognised the value of such an approach and invested a considerable sum—about £6 million—in health education co-ordinators. Local authorities in England used those resources to employ co-ordinators whose job it was to work with volunteers such as myself and with teachers in education programmes. Since then, every primary school in my area has undergone a training programme that has given teachers and volunteers in schools skill to work with children. 117 Sadly, this year that resource was withdrawn when the Department for Education decided to move the money into the new truancy programme. I am not opposed to investment in such a programme, but it was short-sighted to fund the truancy programme by withdrawing funding from the health education co-ordinators' employment programme. That denuded us of the skills that we need to work with children in the classroom to prevent them from smoking and to give them skills to ensure that they are not encouraged to smoke. I hope that the Department will reconsider its decision in the light of the circular. The money involved was well spent It went to the heart of the problem by enabling work with children to take place using not only professionals but volunteers—getting the community involved. The decision of the Department for Education was short sighted and the Department of Health failed to intervene to prevent the funding being stopped and reallocated—albeit to what is probably a good project. Both projects should have been funded. If we are to encourage teachers to be pro-active in occupational health, education authorities, head teachers and school governors must be provided with a teaching-aid pack as part of a smoking cessation programme. I recommend to the hon. Member for Bolton, North-East (Mr. Thurnham) an extensive project that was undertaken concerning anti-smoking programmes in schools. It involved working with teachers, social workers, parents and pupils—the entire network. A book called "Smoking in Schools"—I apologise for giving it a bit of a plug—is available from the Birmingham education authority. The book sets out in detail the work that has been done, and includes recommendations for change. The recommendations are the work of teachers and pupils. It is vital that pupils are involved. We must bring young people with us—they must feel that they are involved and not that programmes are being imposed upon them. I recommend the book to the hon. Gentleman and suggest to the Under-Secretary that it presents a way to take the Bill forward in many ways. We have exciting opportunities. I hope that we shall maintain our all-party alliance on the issue. My contribution is made on that basis. I hope that the information will help the hon. Gentleman and that he will decide to withdraw the amendment. However, the amendment has given us a vital opportunity to express the need to go forward and to give practical support and help to young people and to teachers who require to give up smoking.

Dr. Robert Spink (Castle Point): I am indebted to my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, North-East for moving the amendment. It has allowed us to have a most useful debate, which will guide others. I shall vote against the amendment and I shall explain why. The essence of the Bill is to try to prevent children between the ages of 11 and 15 smoking, and it is a good and genuine subject for debate. I believe that the Government were right to allow self-governing status for schools. That entrusts parents and governors to make decisions that are in the best interests of the children. All secondary schools in my constituency are self-governing and they pay heed to the various arguments about teachers smoking in school—and, indeed, smoking by pupils. They voluntarily take the matter seriously and have a rational and responsible approach. 118 I believe that the Secretary of State for Education should give firm guidance to local education authorities and grant-maintained schools about the matter. I therefore welcome the debate even though I shall vote against the amendment.

Mr. Thurnham: If it is for the convenience of the Committee, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Mr. Barron: Clause 3 gives the Secretary of State the power to introduce further legislation if the ban envisaged under clauses 1 and 2 is circumvented by the advertising of tobacco products in another form. It is relevant because the hon. Member for High Peak (Mr. Hendry) this morning mentioned three examples of advertisements that he said he could not understand. He did not know that the red traffic light is to be found in Marlboro adverts—a fact that I confirmed from a sedentary position. I do not wish to be unkind to the hon. Gentleman, but he said that apart from the Government health warning, it could have been an advert by the Health Education Authority. It is unlikely that the tobacco companies would finance such adverts, but we should not close our minds to the possibility. I am sure that if sports events were not sponsored by tobacco companies, the HEA might sponsor them. Indeed, in countries where similar bans have been imposed, advertising by tobacco companies has been replaced by Government advertising to get people to quit smoking—Australia being an example.

Mr. Charles Hendry (High Peak): The point that I sought to make was that the advert was so obscure that no child would say, "I must start smoking." People who see something purple with a slash across it do not rush across the road thinking, "I must start smoking." I was trying to emphasise the point that I have been making continuously during our debates that the purpose of advertising is to reinforce brand loyalty and to encourge switching, not to encourage people to start smoking. The obscurity of the advertisements endorses that.

Mr. Barron: It would be wrong for the Committee to jump to the conclusion that the advertisements are so obscure that they are not effective. The industry does not spend £100 million a year on bill boards and other forms of advertising in order to achieve obscurity; its aims are positive, as I have argued. The advertisements are directed not at closed minds, but at inquiring minds. I could not demonstrate that better than by quoting from a letter published in The Independent on Monday, 7 March. It was written by a young person, although her age is not known. The letter is addressed to the Minister and headed, "Dear Dr. Brian Mawhinney". The writer clearly understands what the advertisements are about. Her name is Emma Forrest—spelt with two Rs, so I do not think that there is any connection with an organisation that will be familiar to one or two people in the Room. 119 The letter states: "We are McLuhan's babies, we are a media-literate generation. Books count for nothing, but television and movies and advertising billboards are our lives. We see an obscure, arty cigarette advert and reckon a measure of our intelligence is working out what brand they're selling. If we're smart enough to do that, we can go out and buy the product." Clearly, the advertisements are there for the inquiring mind, to get people to think through the message on the bill board. With no disrespect to the Committee, inquiring minds are usually young minds, taking in knowledge of the world. Perhaps that is why the hon. Member for High Peak did not recognise that he was capable of thinking through the advertisements. Earlier, the Minister mentioned the bill boards that he passes coming over Vauxhall bridge. They are not aimed at people such as him or me, but at people with inquiring minds, who want to get to the bottom of the advertisement. The money is paid not for obscure reasons, but for positive reasons. There is a new generation of advertisements. Much of the old generation is no longer available in Britain and has not been for many years. Advertisements glamorising cigarettes for women have not been permitted for decades. The new family of advertisements is designed to challenge people's minds, as Emma Forrest describes in her letter. I could not have expressed it better, and I thought that it would be useful for the Committee to have that knowledge, especially in view of what was said this morning.

Dr. Spink: I have listened carefully as the debate has progressed over the weeks. Irrespective of whether one believes that advertising directly affects a young person, it has an indirect impact. Even the smoking lobby accepts that young people are often enticed into smoking by the example of their parents and other older people who smoke. To the extent that advertisements reinforce the smoking habits of older people, they must indirectly bring young people to smoking by example.

Mr. Hendry: If my hon. Friend is correct, why does the research carried out by the Department of Health into the factors that encourage young people to smoke show that advertising was not one of the seven main factors? Advertising was specifically excluded from the list.

Dr. Spink: I am aware of that research. Our common sense tells us that one of the key factors that entice children to take up smoking is smoking by their parents. In so far as advertising entices parents to keep on smoking, it will indirectly cause children to take it up.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 3 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 4
PENALTIES FOR OFFENCES

5 pm

Dr. Lewis Moonie (Kirkcaldy): I beg to move amendment No. 42, in page 4, line 32, leave out "5" and insert "4". 120 I hope that I can persuade my hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley of the merits of the amendment, or at least to consider it seriously. It would reduce the penalties on summary conviction for offences from level 5 to level 4—from £5,000 to £2,500. There is little doubt that the tobacco companies will obey the Bill when it is enacted. That is the experience in other countries when bans have been introduced. They may try to find loopholes, but they will not contravene the law. However, the same cannot be said of small retailers who, perhaps inadvertently, may contravene the legislation by displaying old advertising material, for example. A fine of £5,000 would be a little severe for such an offence. I cannot recall tuppeny tobacconists being fined £5,000 for selling cigarettes to children under the age of 16, which is a criminal offence and which excites a disgracefully small number of prosecutions. The amendment has merit. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley would not wish the Bill to bear disproportionately harshly on the small business men and women who may be caught by its provisions.

Mr. Barron: I give my hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy (Dr. Moonie) full marks for trying to persuade me to support his amendment and I compliment him on doing so. However, I cannot accept it. Legislation was passed by the House a few years ago to tighten up the illegal selling of tobacco products to children under 16. Level 4 is mentioned in that legislation so that retailers can be fined up to a maximum of £2,500 for any one offence. I emphasise that that is the maximum. If the Bill is enacted and there is a deliberate attempt to override it, that will be a much more serious offence than selling cigarettes to a 16-year-old. I am not saying that is not serious, but the offence would be much more serious, so it should be higher on the scale in terms of the power that the courts will have to fine people who contravene the law. I do not disagree with my hon. Friend about an inadvertent slip-up by small tobacco retail outlets, but £5,000 at level 5 is the maximum. I have great faith in our magistrates. Most hon. Members have because we are usually married to one. We have faith in them using their common sense in deciding what fine up to the maximum of £5,000 they would impose on anyone who has fallen foul of the Bill when enacted. I shall leave it in the good hands of magistrates to decide whether a deliberate attempt has been made to flout the law on advertising tobacco products or whether there has been an honest mistake by someone who has some old leaflets or signs lying about. The Bill, when enacted, would allow people time to get rid of such material because part of it would not become operative for at least 12 months. If magistrates thought that a mistake had been made, it would be up to them to decide the amount of fine, up to the maximum of £5,000.

Mr. McCartney: My hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy tried to paint a reasonable picture of his proposal while suggesting that the fine would be harsh. Those experienced in consumer and health and safety issues know that courts do not usually impose such levels of fine when an employer is found guilty. Even a recalcitrant person who has been warned frequently about his conduct is usually fined about 10 per cent. of the maximum. From my experience, a person coming before 121 a court in these circumstances will have been warned consistently about his conduct by the trading standards officer. The most likely fine amounts to £50. It is suggested that it be reduced to £25. We are attempting to ensure that those who, despite advice, continue quite blatantly to display tobacco advertising material are brought to court Unless the fine is set at a high level, we shall make it disproportionately easy for offenders to break the law or we shall give the impression that the offence is not important so they may carry on as before. That is likely to happen with minimal fines. My hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley was right. Experience has shown that even when prosecutions have been brought, a minimum fine has been imposed because the court has taken account of the nature of the business, especially if it is a company such as British American Tobacco. A maximum fine may be imposed although that will not always be so, any more than it is in health and safety cases. In a recent case in my constituency, an employer was fined £400 after a young male employee was killed. Imposing a maximum fine of £5,000 shows clearly how seriously we regard continuing and flagrant abuses of the law. In practice, fines are usually minimal.

Question put, That the amendment be made:

The Committee divided: Ayes 1, Noes 9.

[Division 23]
AYES
Moonie, Dr. Lewis
NOES
Anderson, Ms Janet McCartney, Mr. Ian
Barron, Mr. Kevin Morris, Estelle
Bayley, Mr. Hugh Spink, Dr. Robert
Campbell, Mrs. Anne Wolfson, Mr. Mark
Lynne, Ms Liz

Question accordingly negatived.

Clauses 4 to 6 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 7
SHORT TITLE, COMMENCEMENT AND EXTENT

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Mr. Barron: It might be appropriate for me to thank you now, Dr. Blackburn, for the way in which you have chaired the Committee. It has been of enormous help to me as this is the first time that I have attempted to steer through a private Member's Bill. It has been an interesting experience. I also thank members of the Committee for their attendance and support as I do those hon. Members who advanced contrary opinions about the Bill. I do not wish to reiterate the debate. I hope that we shall have the opportunity on Third Reading to debate the wider parameters and consequences of the Bill. Everyone has had ample opportunity to table 122 amendments and to debate different issues, which leaves me nothing more to say than to thank all hon. Members. The Minister is not in Committee this afternoon, but perhaps I should thank him, too. If any members of the Committee were wavering in their support for the Bill, the contribution that the hon. Gentleman made on behalf of the Department of Health will have firmed them up to support the Bill. I am grateful to the Minister not only for that, but also for voting against clause 1. The Government's attitude towards tobacco advertising is clear. This is the first time that a Minister has voted against the Bill. I hope that the House will give members of the Government the opportunity to vote against the Bill on Third Reading and give other hon. Members the chance to vote in its support, if they so wish. In thanking all members of the Committee for their contributions to the debate, I should say that I intend to debate the Bill on Report on Friday 13 May. I hope that it will be given a fair wind. The House can then decide whether it is happy with the previous voluntary agreements that have governed tobacco advertising and those that are being proposed in current secret negotiations, or whether it wants an Act of Parliament that will stop tobacco advertising at sports promotions and so on. It is time that the House was given a clear opportunity to make such a decision. We know the approach taken by royal colleges, consumer associations and the British public towards tobacco advertising. Most institutions that are concerned about public health support the Bill, and I hope that Parliament gives the same opportunity to parliamentarians to make a decision about the Bill on Third Reading on Friday 13 May.

Mr. Hendry: I echo the thanks that have been made to you, Dr. Blackburn, by the hon. Member for Rother Valley. On behalf of my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle), I thank the hon. Member for Rother Valley for the opportunity that he has given us to put our views to the Committee about the Bill. We respect the sincerity of the hon. Gentleman's views, even if we recognise that they are fundamentally flawed. During our proceedings in Committee, we have sought to try to demonstrate some of those failings, but always to do so in a tremendous spirit of co-operation and understanding. We sought to expose some of the ludicrous elements of the Bill. We shall continue to do so. I refer to matters such as that of little Jimmy who has never been tempted to smoke in his life, yet will run across the road to a tobacconist having seen an advertisement. Enlightened souls such as myself cannot begin to understand that argument. We have put forward such opinions and have sought to put across the danger that is inherent in the Bill. 5.15 pm The one thing that my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, North and I most certainly feel is that having heard the debates on the Bill, we are even more aware now of its flaws than we were before the process began. We shall, therefore, be working assiduously to come up with further proposals when the Bill is next debated in the House. I thank you, Dr. Blackburn, for the way in which you have chaired the Committee.

123

The Chairman: May I pay a warm and generous tribute to the hon. Member for Rother Valley for the way in which he has conducted the proceedings on his private Member's Bill. That reflects great credit on the House and on himself. I applaud him and salute him. I thank members of the Committee for the faith that they placed in me when I made a decision under Standing Order No. 88 prior to lunch. I think that the decision was fully justified. I thank hon. Members for the kindness and 124 courtesy that they have extended to me, for which I am especially grateful.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 7 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Bill, as amended, to be reported.

Committee rose at seventeen minutes past Five o'clock.

THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS ATTENDED THE COMMITTEE:

Blackburn, Dr. John G. (Chairman)

Anderson, Ms Janet

Barron, Mr.

Bayley, Mr.

Campbell, Mrs. Anne

Emery, Sir Peter

Hendry, Mr.

Lynne, Ms

McCartney, Mr.

Moonie, Dr.

Morris, Ms Estelle

Spink, Dr.

Thurnham, Mr.

Trend, Mr.

Wolfson, Mr.