§ 11.4 a.m.
§ Mr. Francis Noel-Baker (Swindon)
I beg to move,That this House, noting the increasing power of the advertising industry and its influence upon our national life, and the growing impact of advertising on the individual, calls upon Her Majesty's Government to recommend the appointment of a Royal Commission to consider whether further safeguards are desirable in the public interest and, if so what form such safeguards should take.I should like to start by making it quite plain what the purpose of my Motion is, so that there may be no misunderstanding either in the mind of the Minister of State, Board of Trade, who is to reply, or of any hon. Members on the other side of the House. My Motion does not imply a general attack on the advertising industry; it does not recommend any particular solution to the current problems of advertising; it does not even ask for any specific legislation; and it does not even venture to suggest precisely what new safeguards are needed.
My purpose is simply to suggest to the House that the advertising industry is now sufficiently powerful, complex and controversial, that its impact on each man, woman and child living in this country is sufficiently great, and some of its methods sufficiently doubtful, as to make very desirable indeed some form of independent and impartial inquiry. I am not even absolutely wedded to a formula of a Royal Commission, although my Motion calls for one. If the Minister of State were prepared to give us what my hon. Friends would accept as a satisfactory assurance about the establishment of a really impartial and independent inquiry, we would look at the action we might take again.
There are some people—and, personally, I sympathise with them—who suspect and dislike most forms of advertising. 1504 People who dislike it may say that it is bad because mainly it seeks to exploit base human instincts, encourages envy and deliberately sets out to inflame acquisitiveness and greed. Whatever my personal feelings in the matter, and I have some sympathy for that point of view, that is not the position that I propose to take up in the House today.
I accept that in a modern industrial state, a number of aspects of which probably, at any rate, most of us dislike, advertising is an integral part of business life. It is perfectly legitimate and reputable. Most of the people working in the advertising industry are doing a decent and reputable job, but it is a highly controversial matter, and I believe that in their own interests the advertisers as much as the general public would be wise to welcome an inquiry such as I propose and to co-operate with it.
In fact, many leading men in the industry with whom I have discussed the problem in recent days have made it plain that they understand the need for greater public knowledge about their work. They are sensitive to the growing public interest, and the growing public disquiet about the advertising industry, and they realise that it would be a good thing for them and the general public if a little daylight were to be let into the operations of the industry. That, I think, has been clearly reflected by, for example, the President of the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, who was good enough to allow me to consult him before this debate.
In April this year he said at a dinner:This Institute has dedicated itself to produce a case for advertising before this year is over…within the next six months we are confident we will have written the case for advertising so that even some of the politicians of whom we do not fully approve will understand it.Maybe I come within that category.
Only two weeks ago the same gentleman, Mr. Saunders, President of the I.P.A., said at a special dinner that the industry was preparing to put overthe total case for advertising, into which a good deal of thought and effort is now being put by so many associations and individuals.This means, and I am very glad it does, that the advertising industry is thinking in terms of doing a public relations operation on itself and to explain what its 1505 purpose is and how it works. I am glad that leading advertising people and advertisers have said that they would welcome a Royal Commission and be very glad to co-operate with it. But it seems that there is still a less enlightened minority in the advertising industry determined to try to preserve some kind of mystery about their work.
There was, for example, in last week's Advertiser's Weekly, which describes itself as a journal of advertising and marketing and which is influential in these circles, a comment on today's debate. It said:This week's news makes it quite clear that advertising faces a winter of carping and ill-informed criticism.It goes on to say,The real danger lies in the Royal Commission proposal, which offers new opportunities for the introduction of vague generalities into mud-slinging debates.I do not know why it should be thought that vague generalities may be introduced into mud-slinging debates by a Royal Commission.
The leader, rather incongruously and illogically, having denounced the idea of a Royal Commission, adds:Such an inquiry into advertising, with a brief to consider the desirability of public control, would only reveal the business to be an efficient factor of marketing and distribution.A minority in advertising have been saying, "We do not want an inquiry because there will be a lot of ill-informed and carping criticism, but, of course, if there were one it would reveal nothing but good about the industry."
This is muddled thinking and a dangerous argument for the industry itself. I very much hope, in view of the enlightened attitude which most of the leaders of the industry have taken, that the Minister of State will be prepared to take that view also and agree that there is a case for an independent and impartial inquiry.
I do not wish to worry the House with a large number of statistics to show that the advertising industry is very large and very powerful and is growing very fast. I believe that that is generally known to hon. Members, and one of my hon. Friends has more detailed figures to give to the House. But I should like to draw attention to the fact that it is estimated 1506 that this year about £400 million will be spent on advertising work. This compares with £365 million last year, £330 million in 1956, and only £97 million in 1938, so that the expenditure has more than quadrupled in the last twenty years.
The figure for Press advertising, the latest that I could find, is £182 million in 1956, against £51 million in 1938. Poster and outdoor advertising, I am glad to say, is declining and, I hope, will die very soon. The poster and outdoor sign business cost £29 million in 1956, as against £7 million in 1938, when, in all conscience, our country looked hideous enough then because of it. Television advertising cost £15 million in 1956, £38 million in 1957, and £50 million in 1958. In October, 1958, the total money spent on commercial television, a record figure, was £5,356,807, which was 25 per cent. above the revenue for October, 1957. The total number of advertisements last month was 28,326, again a record figure, 11 per cent. higher than the 25,464 last March.
Out of my researches I have found it is now possible to pay, for one minute of Sunday evening time on television and 30 seconds at a week-day peak period, £4,000 for the minute and nearly £2,500 for the 30 seconds. The most expensive Press advertising that I have been able to trace in recent months was £12,800 paid for four pages in a women's magazine, two of them in full colour, for a stocking advertisement for women. These are very large figures indeed. I think that they illustrate the fact that this is an enormously wealthy industry, spending a very great deal of money.
I do not want to go into detail to describe the range of the activities of advertising in the national, provincial and periodical Press, poster advertising, radio advertising, which, luckily, is small because the stations are in foreign countries, direct mail, which is a very large operation indeed, on which a great deal of money has been spent, and, finally, television, to say nothing of the multifarious activities of the public relations divisions of some of the advertising agencies and individual public relations men.
Quite apart from the extensive range of the industry which I have tried to explain to the House, it is not unreasonable to feel disquiet at some of the methods which some of the advertisers are beginning to tell us themselves they 1507 are using on the public. I have looked up a speech by a Mr. Brunning, Chairman of the Brunning Group of Marketing and Advertising Companies, at a conference at Leamington on 14th November. He told us that:Present-day marketing is like a military operation and the big companies are able to employ every weapon.This talk about psychological and hypnotic weapons, and so on, is very current in advertising circles. The Advertising Association itself, in a note for speakers, draws attention to the fact thatadvertising must be invoked in the first place to mobilise or prefabricate demand for a new product and so make its production economically possible.If one looks at some of the phraseology employed nowadays by advertising men one sees talk of hypnosis, psychoanalysis, motivation, conditioned reflexes, psycho-persuasion, thematic apperception and all the jargon of modern psychiatry and, it is not unfair to say, of brainwashing as well. This is a large, powerful, wealthy and very important industry which, thanks to television, has come into the sitting room of almost every family in this country, though not my own yet. But any day now my own is threatened with a television set, thanks to the demands of my children.
There are, of course, a great number of criteria on which different people and different sections of industry will seek to judge the advertising industry. It covers a wide range of activities, and different people are attracted or upset by different aspects of it. There is some criticism, for example, on the grounds of amenity alone—the poster question, to which I referred and on which my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) will have something to say if he has the good fortune to be called in the debate. Others might comment on what one might call the social-economic aspects of some advertising operations. There are even religious objections. I had quite a heavy postbag, when this debate became known, from people objecting to some aspects of religious advertising in the Press.
§ Sir Spencer Summers (Aylesbury)
Can the hon. Member tell the House what he means by religious advertising?
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I am in a difficulty, because I do not want to offend the very delicate religious susceptibilities of some people, but as I have been asked the question I will answer it.
I have had complaints, for example, about the advertising by the Roman Catholic Church in newspapers, and I believe that there are other religious organisations which buy advertising space on a commercial basis. I do not want that to be taken as offensive, and I should not have mentioned the fact, or the people concerned, had not the hon. Member asked me, but there are people who take exception to the use of advertising media for religious purposes. There was some criticism of this point in connection with the Billy Graham crusade some time ago.
There are people who are upset on grounds of morality and who claim that some aspects of poster advertising, in particular—for example, the advertising of underwear on the London underground, and the theatrical and cinematograph posters on boardings—are obscene. There are people who criticise advertising on what might be called social grounds; they dislike the huge expenditure of money on gambling and the promotion of betting of football pools.
There is a very serious health aspect with which I intend to deal in some detail, relating to the advertising of health foods and drugs of various kinds. There is a moral aspect about which many of my hon. Friends feel very strongly in conection with the widespread advertising at present of alcoholic drinks. Finally, there is what I might call the straightforward ethical aspect, the downright dishonest practices, swindles and rackets—I am choosing my words deliberately—which do occur and are occurring, I fear, on too great a scale on the fringes of the advertising industry. When I have given my evidence I do not believe that there is any hon. Member who will not accept these charges and agree that some of these things should be exposed.
On the amenity ground, which I happen to believe is very important, my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central hopes to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, and he will speak with greater knowledge than I. There are many people who find poster advertising particularly objectionable on four main 1509 grounds: first, that posters are always incongruous, in whatever surroundings, and, therefore, injurious to amenity; secondly, that they exploit the public highway and give the public no option but to notice them, whether they want to notice them or not; thirdly, that they vulgarise a public environment and thereby degrade public taste; and finally, that they distract the attention of motorists and other road users and, therefore, can sometimes be dangerous.
Those, broadly speaking, are the views of such responsible bodies as the Council for the Preservation of Rural England, which for the last nineteen years has been campaigning for the virtual prohibition of general commercial advertising throughout the countryside. I sympathise with the C.P.R.E., wish it luck and hope that it will succeed, but I understand that there is a difference of opinion on this question. I understand that some people think that an unnecessary fuss is made by those who object to the petrol and brewers' advertising throughout the countryside and who object on the grounds of obscenity to some of the film and theatre posters. These are controversial matters and that is why I am asking the Government, and the Minister who is to reply, to accept that they are controversial and, therefore, that a public independent inquiry could do nothing but good to the amenity aspect of this industry.
In passing, I am delighted to know, first, that, according to the industry itself, poster advertising is declining very fast and may be on the way out, thanks to a shift of money to television. Secondly, I should like to congratulate the Minister of Housing and Local Government on his Circular 25/58, which keeps all poster advertising off the new motorway except for limited advertising which he will permit within the so-called service areas, on land acquired for the purpose. This is an excellent thing which will prevent our motorways from looking like some of the deplorable main roads in various continental countries. My main memory of driving from Rome to the airport there or from Milan to the airport at Malpensa, some way from Milan, through beautiful Italian countryside, is that all one sees is poster after poster on hoardings showing a cat with eight legs advertising Motor 1510 spirit. That does great harm to the tourist industry, and I hope that we do not come to that stage in this country.
I turn to perhaps a more difficult aspect of the question—that which I venture to call the social-economic aspect. Because of the crisis which I have described, many hoardings in London and elsewhere, which cannot obtain commercial advertising paid for by advertisers, now carry this message:Advertising introduces you to the good things of life and has done much to create your high standard of living.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
Hon. Members say, "Hear, hear" I intend to quote what the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mr. Shepherd) said last July, on the same lines:Advertising plays a tremendous part in the life of the community, and I do not know how we could get a vital and progressive society without it. If we did not advertise we should have a dull society—dull, Socialist society—and although some people would like that, I certainly would not.He went on to say that:Advertising can play a part in improving living standardsalthough, with disarming frankness, he added:I do not necessarily pretend that the advertised product is either the cheapest or the best."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th July, 1958; Vol. 591, c. 456.]There are those who claim that advertising contributes to a lowering of prices and is in the economic best interest of the individual consumer and the country as a whole. I venture to question that and I should like to deal with one specific aspect of it, about which I have given notice to the Minister. I cannot understand that argument in terms of the advertising of motor spirit. Hoardings all over the countryside are covered with huge and, to my way of thinking, hideous messages urging the rival merits of Shell, Esso, Regent, B.P. and the other so-called popular brands of petrol.
Personally, I detest and disbelieve all these posters. I think that there is a negligible difference, whichever brand I use, if it is of the same grade, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will have a word with the Minister of Transport and ask him what his experts have told him about the effect of the different brands of petrol. Is it or is it 1511 not a fact that Ministry of Transport officials are perfectly satisfied that, judged in terms of performance by the ordinary motor car, there is a negligible difference between any of the various brands which are spending so much money on advertising? I believe that there is.
Secondly, I object to this campaign and I question its value, because from the consumers' point of view there is no competition; they all cost the same and they are all working hand in glove, as far as I am aware.
Thirdly, it seems to me that the public interest demands, if it demands anything, that less and not more petrol should be used, on grounds of health, on grounds of traffic and on grounds of foreign exchange. When we look at the Advertising Association's own case on petrol advertising, which I have studied, we find that its speakers' notes, rather disarmingly, say that what they are doing is to get motorists to use less petrol by helping them to use the most efficient petrol for their particular motor cars.
I do not believe that and in a moment I will explain why I do not believe it. When I read that advertisers' case I became very angry because I discovered—which I had not known before—that for my small motor car, in which I cover 20,000 miles a year, I am required, out of the money I spend on petrol, to pay not less than £2 a year for the trouble of looking at all these filthy hoardings, paid for out of my pocket. I resent that very much indeed.
What I resent even more is the fact that the whole of this campaign is dishonest. In my view it conceals the basis of the need for selling petrol. The fact is that the basis of the problem is the need for the oil companies to dispose of their surplus of high-grade petrol, for the production of which British refineries are over-equipped.
I do not want to go into the technicalities of the oil industry, but I have had a look at the matter during the last few days and I think it would be fair to say that the British oil industry is over-equipped for the production of high grade petrol. It has grown up on the American pattern, whereas our pattern of consumption is different. We have fewer motor cars, and fewer of the large motor cars, and, for one reason or another, we consume a much smaller 1512 proportion of petrol out of the total of petroleum products—only 20 to 25 per cent., I believe, as compared with about 30 or even 35 per cent. in the United States of America.
Therefore, in my view, what the oil companies ought to do, in the interests of the general public, if that were the only criterion, would be not to spend millions of pounds in trying to shove a particular brand into the tank of my car or the cars owned by other members of the general public. They ought to have a good look at the whole industry and consider whether they can do something about this unnecessary over-production of high grade petrols, instead of trying to foist them on the public in this way.
There is much talk in the Press and in advertising generally about the various petrol additives. It is claimed that the additives in different brands really make a difference to the performance of a car. Broadly speaking, I am advised by experts that this is what one might fairly call a lot of nonsense. The technical experts have told me about the additive in Shell petrol, the advertising account for which is handled by an advertising agency, Messrs. S. H. Benson, Ltd. The company try to give the impression that this additive, "I.C.A." as it is called—actually a chemical known as tri-cresyl phosphate—does make some difference to the petrol. It is conceivable, says the expert who advised me on this, that it may have some significant effect on conditions inside certain petrol engines. That is as far as he will go, and he does not say whether the significant effect of I.C.A. in Shell is good or bad. He adds that the additives in the other brands of petrol really have no significant effect at all. There is one in Esso, for instance, the account for which is handled by Messrs. McCann-Erickson Advertising, Ltd. and Samson Clark and Co., Ltd. The same applies to the additive in National Benzole, the agency for which is London Press Exchange Ltd.
The advertising campaigns for these additives are just a sales racket and, for practical purposes, they might not be put in the petrol at all. These facts are perfectly well known to the manufacturers of the motor spirit, and, I am sorry to say, known also to the gentlemen working for the advertising agencies who are responsible for these campaigns.
§ Mr. Stephen McAdden (Southend, East)
As the hon. Gentleman is giving so much publicity to the oil companies and their advertising agents, will he also let us know the name of this expert by whom he is advised?
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
If the hon. Member will have a word with me after the debate, I will substantiate all the evidence I have given. I will explain where my information came from, and why, in some instances, I should have to ask the permission of the person concerned before giving his name in the House.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I have seen the heads of a number of leading advertising firms in the last few days. Some of them asked me not to mention the conversations we had. I am in a little difficulty there. The person I am quoting now was a senior executive in an important oil company, but, obviously, I cannot, in the circumstances, give his name on the Floor of the House. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will appreciate that.
The gentleman to whom reference has just been made advises me that this current period advertising campaign is not altogether dissimilar from what is happening with regard to detergents. It is an example of the advertising industry running away with itself. One firm makes a claim, and another firm thinks it has to answer it in the same sort of fashion. This gentleman tells me that if somebody could suddenly stop the race, if all the oil companies could be stopped simultaneously from indulging in this competition of falsification about additives, and so on, everyone would be glad. Unfortunately, nobody will start the process. If anyone went out of the race, he would be frightened of what his competitors might do.
§ Sir S. Summers
Are we to infer from what the hon. Gentleman is saying that we should prevent certain industries from advertising their particular products, but permit other industries to do so? Would that be a fair inference?
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving me the opportunity to clear that up. I hope that, if he has already forgotten it now, he will 1514 look in HANSARD tomorrow at what I said at the beginning of my speech. I am not recommending any particular course of action. I am not suggesting legislation. I am not saying what an independent inquiry would do. What I am saying is that there is sufficient controversy on this matter, sufficient disquiet in the public mind, to warrant an independent inquiry. Frankly, I think that if he examined the case about petrol alone he would see that that in itself justifies an independent inquiry. I should be very surprised if, in the light of all the facts, the hon. Gentleman disagreed with that.
I was asked by the hon. Member for Southend, East (Mr. McAdden) about the oil executive whose words I quoted. I should like to quote now from his report to me about branded petrol and additives. He saidI think it is true to say that petrol advertising under present conditions is aimed at maintaining the existing companies in their present positions in the market, to help them in enforcing the solus site policy in the trade"—that is what is described nowadays as the tied garage, with only one brand of petrol being sold—to the detriment of the trade and of independent manufacturers who also sell through the trade, and to prevent, if possible, the incursion of newcomers into this market.Those may be desirable objectives from the narrow outlook of the individual oil companies, but they are certainly not desirable objectives from the point of view of the consumer and the general public.
My oil industry adviser finished his report on this subject with the following words:It is not unreasonable to conclude that if one company produces a magic additive the others have to follow suit for the purpose of prestige and sales talk. I would hesitate to say that they are quite as cynical as the manufacturers of household detergents in these perversions of applied science, but the difference is one of degree rather than of kind.
§ Mr. F. H. Hayman (Falmouth and Camborne)
My hon. Friend has made some interesting researches. I wonder whether he went so far as to ask the A.A. and the R.A.C. whether they permitted their road scouts to use these petrols with additives, because I understand that, years ago, they did not.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I have talked to a great many people during the last ten days about this matter—to advertising executives, oil company people, brewers, and so on—but I did not manage to go to the A.A. I am sorry that I did not.
I want now to touch on a quite different aspect of the subject. A little earlier I said that there are many people who have very strong feelings indeed on the subject of betting and gambling. They regard gambling as a wasteful activity, and some of them would like to see it suppressed by law. That is not my position; I have never held that view, and I do not think that it would be a workable policy. Nevertheless, I recognise that the vast expenditure nowadays on advertising football pools and other forms of betting is a highly controversial matter. Millions of pounds are spent every year. There is a special difficulty about giving exact statistics about this side of advertising, as I discovered when I was looking into it. Millions of pounds are spent on poster sites, the sides of buses, in the Press and by direct mail advertising in order to undo the Chancellor's work on National Savings, to encourage people to disregard appeals for thrift, and to persuade them to spend more freely on the pools, the horses and the dogs.
Quite apart from the paid advertising, there are hundreds of inches of free publicity given in the columns of the Press every time a pool winner has an extraordinary return for 2d.—a thing, incidentally, which I deplore, but about which I will not detain the House now.
I do not share the view that gambling ought to be suppressed by law, though I know full well that there are people who feel very strongly about it. In my view, if the public interest is the criterion this is certainly a matter in regard to which there is an overwhelming case for an independent public inquiry to find out what is happening. It is very difficult to find out exactly what money is being spent in various ways for the promotion of gambling in Great Britain today.
I come now to what some of my hon. Friends may think is the most grave aspect of the whole subject, the expenditure on advertising so-called health foods, tooth pastes, drugs and patent 1516 medicines. A great deal of such advertising is dangerous because, in the opinion of many doctors, the health of the nation is being endangered by wildly dishonest claims made by the manufacturers of these products. Even if there were no case to answer for petrol and other substances which I have mentioned, and which I shall mention, there would he a case over food, health foods, and drugs and medicines. I am well aware that there has been legislation on this subject, but it has shown itself to be inadequate and ineffective.
I start with a relatively minor case—near my constituency, incidentally. A leading London firm of advertisers, Messrs. C. J. Lytle Ltd. was fined by the Chippenham magistrates for advertising in a woman's magazine that a particular food product was rich in protective vitamin A and enriched with vitamin C and other wonderful improvements. This was some kind of grapefruit. Analysis showed that one grapefruit contained 1/340th of the necessary daily requirement of vitamin content and that 170 grapefruits would have to be eaten to substantiate the claim by Messrs. C. J. Lytle Ltd.
I turn now to a question which is worrying many hon. Members— the selling of sugar and coloured water, with a little synthetic taste added, at ridiculously inflated prices under misleading descriptions claiming that these things are medically useful glucose drinks. Of course, they are nothing of the kind. They are simply a way of misleading the public into spending 3s. for a small bottle containing a little sugar which the public could buy more easily and more cheaply at 7d. in a packet from Messrs. Tate and Lyle. I will not go into the details of glucose drinks, but I will say something about Messrs. Tate and Lyle, if I have time, at the end of my speech.
I hope that the Minister of State will look at this. If he reads, as I have no doubt he does, the daily Press he will have seen an advertisement in some leading national dailies by Messrs. Ryvita. There are pictures of attractive young ladies being admired by young men. This kind of thing is said:She is a year-round Ryvita fan. That explains her elegant slimness and vital attractiveness.It invites the Minister of State and myself and the others who read these things 1517 to "study the simple way to stay attractive," by cutting out a coupon and sending it to Messrs. Ryvita.
The fact is—and this must be known to both the manufacturers and the agents handling the account—that recent research has been done into this subject and has shown that Ryvita contains just about the same amount of carbohydrates, weight for weight, as ordinary bread. So that if one wants to slim, there is precious little difference between eating bread and eating Ryvita. On the whole, the balance is in favour of bread. That must be known to the advertising firm, which, incidentally, is Messrs. Colman, Prentis and Varley. It must have been known to the manufacturers, because a great deal of publicity has recently been given to a report by the Consumers' Association which carried out detailed investigation of this product.
I turn to toothpaste advertising and to two firms responsible for what I am advised by the Chairman of the Dental Health Committee of the British Dental Association to be grave deception which, according to medical opinion, is having very dangerous results. The first is the toothpaste Gleem, which is manufactured by Messrs. Hedley and Co. which, also, rather appropriately, makes detergents. It is advertised by an American agency called Irwin Wasey and Co. The second is a toothpaste called Colgate's Dental Cream which is said to contain a substance called Gardol, and which is manufactured by Messrs. Colgate and Palmolive, the advertising being handled by Masius and Fergusson.
I have a script of a television commercial presumably devised by Messrs. Irwin and Wasey, about Gleem. After an aeroplane noise and various other irrelevant things, it says:Just one Gleem brushing removes most of the bacteria, major cause of tooth and mouth decay.Another voice says:This is because Gleem has exclusive GL70, an important new bacteria fighter.I am advised by a leading dental surgeon—and I can reveal his identity if hon. Members want to know it—that GL.70, this "important new bacteria fighter", is simply an ordinary detergent, like the others made by Messrs. Hedley and Co., and that it has no special medical significance whatsoever.
1518 As for Gardol, this is described in television commercials, presumably devised by Masius and Ferguson, asThis invisible protective shield…Gardol does work rather like an invisible shield that binds itself round your teeth…fights tooth decay for hours. … Tests show an amazing reduction in tooth decay.That may be so, but they are not tests with Gardol, because that is a trade name for sodium lauroul sarconsinate, which does not remove acid formation on the teeth.
§ Mr. R. Gresham Cooke (Twickenham)
Is it not true that when one uses a detergent or any of these chemicals it keeps bacteria at bay? Is the hon. Member suggesting that we should not clean our teeth?
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
No. I am coming to that. Perhaps I should anticipate that part of my speech. It will upset my notes and I am sorry to do it.
It is perfectly true that it is a good thing to clean one's teeth. It is perfectly true that it is a waste of good money to do it with toothpaste. By far the most effective and cheapest way, which I recommend, to any thrifty and intelligent housewife and which I am trying to enforce in my own house—as from today—is to clean one's teeth after each meal with ordinary kitchen salt. I am proposing not to use any more toothpaste for the rest of my life. To say that Gardol is an "invisible protective shield ", when it is an ordinary detergent, is getting rather near the wind.
I have a great deal more information about toothpaste which I should be glad to show to any hon. Member interested who did not read yesterday's issue of The Times, which carried a report of a serious attack on toothpaste advertising in the British Dental Journal. I will quote from a letter which the Chairman of the Dental Health Committee of the British Dental Association sent to me a couple of days ago, and which he said I could use in the debate. He said:For some considerable time the dental profession have taken strong exception to some types of toothpaste advertisements which make exaggerated and false claims regarding the so-called therapeutic properties of their products.To paraphase the letter, he went on to say that nothing, of course, could be 1519 further from the truth than to say that it was necessary to brush the teeth only once a day, before breakfast. Since dental disease affected practically the whole population and cost the country many millions of pounds a year in the repair of the ravages it caused, it was little wonder that dental surgeons felt frustrated and disheartened in their attempts to teach the public, especially children, the correct principles of dental hygiene while this kind of advertising continued.
The Chairman concluded by saying:In our particular case"—that is, his Association—in order to prove a certain therapeutic claim made by the manufacturers of toothpaste was false, we should have to embark on several years' clinical investigation.Therefore, legislation is very weak. He went on:In the circumstances you can understand how welcome your efforts will be"—that is, this debate—and if the British Dental Association can help in any, way I am sure that they will be only too pleased to do so.I ask the Minister of State to accept, on this evidence, the fact that there is widespread and genuine anxiety and disquiet in the dental profession. This is from the Chairman of the Dental Health Committee of the Dental Association and there are others like him, and their disquiet shows that there is a case for an independent and impartial inquiry.
Perhaps even more dangerous is the question of tranquillisers. I shall refer briefly to three widely advertised products, regarding which there is strong medical opinion. Doctors say that the present advertising of these products is dangerous, and that they should not be advertised on television or in any other way—and that for the time being their sales should be forbidden except upon doctors' prescriptions. The names of the three products are Persomnia, made by Messrs. Chemical Products, which are advertised by Messrs. Smiths Advertising Agency; Relaxatabs, made by International Laboratories and advertised by Marshall Hardy Limited, and a product called P.R., handled by Pritchard Wood and Partners.
One large group of national newspapers—with whose politics I do not agree—did to its credit ban these products 1520 from its advertising columns, upon its own independent medical advice. This advice was not given to it by any commercial body; the group of newspapers has a private arrangement with a leading Harley Street doctor, who has told it that these drugs are dangerous. As a result advertisements for, them are kept out of the columns of the newspapers concerned. [AN HON. MEMBER: "Who is the doctor?"] I am sorry; I have been asked not to give his name, but I shall he glad to tell my hon. Friend privately. I do not intend to break any confidences in respect of that doctor or other people to whom I have been referring. I hope that the Minister of State will not try to make me do so.
I hope that the Minister will look carefully into this question and seek medical advice, and will also ask the Minister of Health to look at it again. This is an important national issue. We are in danger of having in this country the situation which has developed in the United States of America. Do we want to become a nation of people who are boosted by drugs in the morning, soothed by tranquillisers in the afternoon and put to sleep by hypnotics at night? If not, there is a strong case for looking into the advertising aspects of the problem and, secondly, for tightening up the relative legislation.
I now turn to the question of tobacco. A great deal has been said in the House about tobacco advertising, and I have referred to it myself. All I want to do now is to draw the attention of the Government and the House to the extraordinary situation which now exists. For years people have said, "We must discover something more about the cause of cancer." The Government have made appeals: money has been spent on research by distinguished scientists and, in the end, there has been found to be incontrovertible proof of a direct connection between cancer and cigarette smoking—as the Minister of State knows very well from his time in the Ministry of Health.
But what happens? The Government pay no attention.
§ The Minister of State, Board of Trade (Mr. Vaughan-Morgan)
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
At any rate, the Government have paid relatively little attention to it. I hope that the Minister can 1521 make me change my mind on this matter, but I cannot see any sign of publicity being given to the Government's attitude in the matter. We certainly see no change of attitude on the part of the tobacco companies, or in the behaviour of the general public, who continue to increase consumption of cigarettes year by year, particularly in the case of female smokers.
§ Mr. Walter Monslow (Barrow-in-Furness)
Does my hon. Friend say that if I went along Piccadilly and inhaled some carbon monoxide I would not be worse off than if I smoked cigarettes?
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
My hon. Friend would be much better if he did not do either. It would be much better for him to go to the Yorkshire dales and not to smoke.
In this context we cannot do anything about carbon monoxide, although I hope that the Government will get moving on the question of clean air, but at least there is a free choice about cigarettes. I should say that the case of my hon. Friend is probably hopeless. If he has done himself damage by smoking for many years there is nothing much that he can do about it, and I would not wish to deprive him of any pleasure that he may obtain from smoking cigarettes. But of one thing I am certain. If I can do anything to stop my children getting the habit of smoking, I shall certainly do it.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I am very glad of that. I very much hope that in view of that fact he will look again at the growing expenditure on tobacco advertising by the Imperial Tobacco Company and its associates.
I asked the Imperial Tobacco Company for its views on this question. Its first answer was a curious one. It said that only a small percentage of its expenditure went on advertising—although it seems to me to be an enormous figure—and went on to say that the figures of consumption per head of population here are much lower than they are in many 1522 other countries. The letter made no mention of the fact that the Imperial Tobacco Company is doing its level best to bring these figures up.
A second note from the company reached me only a few minutes ago. It mentions the health aspect, which was not referred to at all in the earlier letter. In the first place, it minimises the danger of lung cancer and questions the medical evidence, which I do not believe can be fairly done. Secondly, it goes on to say:If it were ever shown that there was any ingredient in cigarette smoke that is harmful to the human system we should do everything possible to remove it. Research to date has not discovered any such ingredient.I should like to ask a doctor to answer that statement, which I believe is palpably untrue. The note goes on:Meanwhile, we do not think that the satisfactions—and some medical psychologists would go so far as to say the benefits—of smoking in this age of high pressure and strain (and tranquillisers) should altogether be overlooked.There is certainly enough controversy and public disquiet over this question of cigarette smoking—and particularly of the advertising of tobacco products—to justify an impartial and independent inquiry.
§ Mr. Martin Maddan (Hitchin)
Has the hon. Gentleman been told that the Imperial Tobacco Company is spending large sums of money itself upon research into the possible causes of lung cancer, and that if it could find what they were it would be most anxious to be among the first to do something about it?
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I have no doubt that these people are trying to do a reputable job. Tobacco manufacturers have given £250.000 to the Medical Research Council, although I wish they had kept their money and had taken the advice given by the doctors.
§ Mr. Maddan
In addition to the sum mentioned by the hon. Member, the industry has spent much more money on its own research, and it has not yet been able to find anything out.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
If one wants an independent and impartial opinion on this matter one does not ask the tobacco industry to carry out research. This is a controversial question. The hon. Member and I disagree. That illustrates the 1523 fact that there is controversy and that we need an independent inquiry. Why cannot he understand that I dislike people trying to persuade my children to take the risk of getting cancer by smoking?
I now turn to another controversial question—the question of advertising by the brewing industry. Many of my hon. Friends are strong temperance people, and total abstainers, and I understand their point of view. My grandfather—a Member of this House many years ago—was a strong champion of the temperance movement in the East End of London. I do not share his view. Perhaps I am wrong. But I do very much dislike the ethics of the advertising of alcohol and drink. The controls that we apply are far weaker than those which apply in many other countries, especially in the English-speaking countries on the other side of the Atlantic, and in Australia and New Zealand.
One specially disquieting aspect of chink advertising is the fact that it appears to be aimed specifically at young people. That is quite natural. Some years ago, a director of the Brewers' Society, speaking with rather more frankness than is shown nowadays, said:We want to get the beer drinking habit instilled into thousands—almost millions—of young men who at present do not know the taste of beer.That is what is being done now—slightly less directly—by advertisements on television and all over the Press, day in and day out.
There is one particularly noxious advertisement, issued by S. H. Benson on behalf of the Guinness Company, which is headed, "Guinness Popularity Poll." It is a picture of a rather unattractive-looking man in a saloon bar. The question is, "When did you drink your first Guinness?". The answer is, "About the same time that I smoked my first pipe". The man does not say "my first cigarette", but for a combination of bad advice to young people I recommend this advertisement to the attention of the Minister of State.
Secondly, I find an advertisement for canned beer, issued by the Metal Box Company and which was in The Times the day before yesterday. It 1524 was, presumably, devised by Messrs Arthur S. Dixon, Ltd., of Savile Row. This advertisement really "takes the biscuit". It is a picture of four young people standing by a motor car. Two of them are drinking canned beer, and there are four other tins of canned beer in the boot. Obviously, these young people are out for a drive in the countryside. This sort of advertisement is all the more significant in view of the fact that the Minister of Transport has just been bewailing the number of road accidents and that the Home Secretary is to set up an inquiry into drunkenness, particularly among young people.
What is the point of the Government simulating this righteous indignation about an increase in drunkenness and in road accidents and then for them to say that there is not to be an inquiry into this kind of advertising? This is a question on which there is sufficient controversy to warrant an independent inquiry.
Very briefly, I turn to an even less attractive aspect, if possible, of the advertising industry. These are fringe activities which, I am sure, hon. Members connected with advertising would deplore and which I have brought to the attention of some of the leading figures in that industry, who say that they dislike them very much and would be glad to help stop them.
The Minister of State may remember seeing a few months ago all over the Press advertisements of miniature trees. "A full-grown tree one foot tall" says the Manchester Evening Chronicle, in an advertisement covering a whole page. There is an attractive picture of a tree which says:Think of the look of amazement on your friends' faces when they see these exquisite fairly-like beauties in your home and garden!One should remember that the friends would have to wait for thirty-five years before the tree began to look like that.
Of course, the whole thing was an utter racket. Reputable newspapers would not accept these advertisements, but they appeared in a great many newspapers. The hon. Gentleman opposite nods. He knows how many of these advertisements he must have seen. I nearly bought one of the "blinking" trees myself.
The people who put this racket on the market are called Messrs. Miniature 1525 Trees Inc., 1958. There is a Mr. Peter Darrel Jackson, who is apparently behind the racket. The tree seeds offered were ordinary seeds which, if planted, would have grown into a common kind of British tree. Since there was a little bit of inquiry into the business, Mr. Jackson and his friends have closed down the racket and are now, I am informed, operating from the same address and by the same methods a so-called course of memory training. Perhaps Mr. Jackson and his colleagues will explain what they are up to, but, if they do not. then it is surely a matter for an inquiry.
Then there was the case of a firm called Messrs. Fairdeal. The firm was fined over and over again. It paid a total of £750 in fines and £193 1s. in costs for misrepresenting the goods which it advertised in postal bargain sections of newspapers. The firm appealed and its fine was increased. If one turns to many of the popular dailies today one sees six, seven or eigth small Fairdeal advertisements in the bargain sections of their newspapers. Some newspapers have kept them out, but most have not. The reason is that Messrs. Fairdeal is legal business, until again convicted, and spends about £60,000 a year on these advertisements. That matter ought to be looked into.
On an apparently more respectable basis, the Daily Telegraph of 11th November, 1958, carried an advertisement about Harris tweed which I have often seen. It says:Be on guard. You want genuine Harris Tweed, so insist on seeing this trade mark on this label.Then appears a trade mark designed to look like something official. It has an orb with a crown on top.
I have seen the advertisement for many years, and I was under the impression that if the tweed coat I bought did not bear the sign it would not be genuine. That is the object of the advertisement which has been devised by the people making this Harris tweed. Their firm is simply a private independent firm, the Harris Tweed Association, Limited, which competes with other people who make equally genuine Harris tweed.
The wording of the advertisement is such that the firm cannot be got at under the existing law. Dorland Advertising. 1526 Limited, which prepared the copy, must know that it is a swindle. The advertisement says that only genuine Harris tweed has the trade mark stamped on the cloth. It implies that any other Harris tweed which does not bear the trade mark is not genuine. The advertisement certainly misled me.
§ Mr. Norman Dodds (Erith and Crayford)
Is my hon. Friend aware that that was denied by the President of the Board of Trade in the House on 27th February, but the question remains? What more has to be done than simply say that the matter is out of order in the House?
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his intervention. I have the HANSARD. It is quite true that the President of the Board of Trade answered a question on the subject and made it quite plain that the advertisers were misleading the public also in respect of claiming to have some kind of official backing. Will the Minister tell us what he is going to do about this racket, and, incidentally, what advice he intends to give to Dorland Advertising, Limited, about the kind of copy it is producing for its clients.
§ Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)
I have great sympathy with what the hon. Gentleman says, but I think that it would be a little unfortunate if the word "racketeer" were used in connection with this particular Harris Tweed Association. I do not speak with any direct personal knowledge, but I have similar problems to deal with. In fact, it is a fairly old-established firm and a respectable undertaking, though it may have been trespassing somewhat in these advertisements. However, it would be unfortunate if it went out that the people concerned were racketeers.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I have a great respect for the hon. Gentleman's knowledge and opinion. If he knows more about the firm than I do, I shall be very glad to have a talk with him later and to withdraw the word "racketeers." But from looking very carefully at the advertising copy, and at what is said by the British Retail Trading Standards Association Incorporated, I believe that the firm is engaged in a deliberate racket which is intended to deceive the public. I would like to give the hon. Gentleman a little of the evidence which I have on the subject. 1527 One of my hon. Friends is to talk about another racket which has developed in the advertising columns of the popular Press and which is known as switch sales. I will touch only very briefly en the subject and say that I regret that so many of the popular newspapers are accepting advertising which they know to be misleading and to which their attention has been drawn by trade organisations, consumer organisations and others, but who, nevertheless, go on producing this utterly misleading advertising by firms who call attention to products which they do not propose to sell, and very often have not got. I will leave the details about switch selling to other hon. Gentlemen.
I only want to say a word or two about detergents. I think that the public is getting thoroughly "fed up" with the detergent propaganda which has been going on month after month on television and in the Press. Through my door yesterday. as chance happened, came a new pamphlet advertising one of the Hedley products which claimed that a wonderful new ingredient called "Bluinite" had been discovered, which had a double action and contained blue speckles, and so on.
My hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood), who takes a particular interest in this matter, told the House something about these detergents when we were talking about consumer protection a few months ago. What he did not tell the House, and what I would like to say, is that a good deal of careful chemical research into detergents has just been undertaken.
The manufacturers give the impression that if fabrics are washed in these products then, in some mysterious way, they are made clean. [HON. MEMBERS: "Whiter than white."] The manufacturers say "Whiter than white" or "Bluer than blue", but the implication is that the clothes are made cleaner. Of course, they do not actually say that because that is not true. I have had tests carried out on the results of using three of these products, Persil, Tide and Fairy Snow. Persil is made by Messrs. Crosfield, a subsidiary of Unilever and advertised by J. Walter Thompson. Tide is made by Thomas Hedley and Co. and advertised by Lambe and Robinson. Fairy Snow is also made by 1528 Thomas Hedley and advertised by Messrs. Young and Rubicam.
I have here samples of fabrics which I should like the Minister's experts to examine after this debate. If an ordinary fabric is washed six times in each of these products, far from making the fabric cleaner there goes into it an optical dye. This optical dye cannot be removed from the fabric and not only is the fabric not cleaner, but actually it is made dirtier with a substance which there is no way of removing. I have had a report on this which states:The principal detergent powders such as Daz, Dreft, Fab, Omo, Spel, and the soap powders Fairy Snow, Oxydol and Persil contain optical bleach. This is an invisible dyestuff which reflects ultra-violet light. Optical bleach is not in itself harmful, but laboratory tests are now beginning to discover that concentrations of this dyestuff in some powders is building up to an extent when it is harmful.I will not labour the point. Everyone understands that detergent advertising is a racket and people are sick of it. The fact is that these products not only do not do what the makers claim, but they do damage to the fabrics which are washed in them. I, for one, am banning along with toothpaste all detergents from my house as a result of these claims. What we shall finish up with at home. I am not entirely sure.
I wish to say only a few words about advertising in the Press and may I preface my remarks on this subject by saying that many people are depressed by the steadily lowering standards, both editorial and in the advertising columns of our national daily Press, which has been going on in the last ten years. Undoubtedly, part of the reason for this is because the big national daily newspapers are dependent on advertising for their existence. I am told that if 12 of the big advertising agents decided to deprive a particular national newspaper of their advertising, they could knock that newspaper out tomorrow. It would have to close down.
I am told that if all advertising were taken out of their columns, the national dailies would cost nearly double and the price of evening newspapers would be trebled; it would be about 7½d. The price of Sunday papers would go up to 7d. or 9d. according to the sale. That is an indication of the extent to which these newspapers are dependent on 1529 advertising revenue. I would merely comment that, personally, I do not think that would be too high a price to pay to get newspapers which did not contain advertising matter.
The fact is that the big advertising money has been switched from the Press to television. Whereas, some years ago, advertisers were queueing up to buy space in the newspapers, today newspaper advertising departments are searching round for advertisements and having difficulty in filling the advertisement columns of the newspapers; and in some cases they have lowered their standards substantially.
I am told that the advertising managers of a number of reputable national daily newspapers—I hope that the Minister of State will not ask for their names, because I shall not give them, as I promised not to—say that there has been a substantial lowering of standards in Press advertising. In their words, in each newspaper office today there is a man with a gun who says, "You must fill your advertisement columns, and don't ask too many questions." That is a matter which I think should be examined in an impartial independent inquiry.
I have tried to illustrate some of the controversial aspects of the advertising industry which I find very disquieting indeed. I hope that I have made out a case for some kind of independent inquiry. The Minister may say that there are already in existence adequate safeguards. He may point to the fact—I hope that he will not—that there is legislation, and draw my attention to perhaps 10 Statutes and Statutory Instruments. I have examined them. They start in 1889 and finish this year with the Prevention of Fraud (Investments) Act. In some cases they contain Sections covering advertising. The fact is—I do not think the Minister would dispute this—that legislation covering advertising is untidy, complicated and very much in need of consolidation and bringing up to date.
If we compare the legislation on advertising in this country with that in the United States—a great country of free enterprise—we shall see that we are far behind in our efforts to protect the public from unscrupulous advertising. Certainly, 1530 the reputable people in the advertising industry would not object were the legislation tidied up. People in the legal departments of advertising firms will confirm this and will tell the Minister that there is a need to clean up the legislation.
The second argument which may be advanced by those who object to any change is that there are sufficient safeguards within the industry itself. They may point to bodies which have been set up to maintain standards. I have looked at the codes and standards operated by these bodies and their composition. Connected with the Independent Television Authority there is the Advertising Advisory Committee. Examining the members of that Committee one finds that they include a dentist, a doctor, a representative of the Ministry of Health, someone from one of the trade associations, and one or two other people who might be described as independent.
All the others are advertising men. The membership of this Committee of 14 includes Mr. Bevan, chairman of one of the leading companies—not my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale Mr. Bevan)—and a number of other leading men in the advertising world. Eight out of the 14 members of the Committee are advertisers. How can these people be expected to take a decision about a product which may be one of the accounts handled by their own firm? I am not attacking these people, but I say that they are placed in an impossible position. It is a strain on their loyalties, and the independent members of such committees feel very unhappy about the situation.
The Advertising Association tells me that it has a Consumer Advisory Committee which represents the interests of the consumer. I expected to find on that Committee representatives of consumer associations and representatives of the housewife, the ordinary family man, and so on. But what did I find? I found Lady Barnett and Sir Frederic Hooper, the Managing Director of Schweppes, Ltd.; Mr. Sidney Horniblow, the Managing Director of Service Advertising Ltd.; Mr. Ivor Cooper, Marketing Adviser to Unilever, Ltd.; Mr. More O'Ferrall, Managing Director of one of the biggest poster companies; Mr. Emrys 1531 Roberts. director of The Branded Textiles Group; Mr. Varley, Chairman of Colman, Prentis and Varley, Ltd.—and so on. Is it not nonsense to claim that a Committee of this kind, on which at least 12 members are connected with the advertising industry out of a total of 19—even excluding Lady Barnett—can be expected to function in an independent manner?
The strongest body among those which I have examined is the Joint Copy Committee of the Newspaper Proprietors Association and the Newspaper Society. They are the people who decide whether advertisements shall go in a newspaper or be left out. [An HON. MEMBER: "Is Lady Lewisham on that?"] I doubt it, because they are all newspaper people.
This body protects the interests of the newspaper industry. It has legitimate interests which it is perfectly entitled to protect, but one cannot imagine that such a body can adequately safeguard the general public interest which, in some cases, may run counter to the interests of newspaper owners. Having looked at this matter as carefully as I can, and discussed it with advertising men, I have come to the conclusion that the arrangements inside the industry are inadequate and, in many cases, put an unfair strain or the advertising side. Looking at other countries we find that there is an overwhelming case for some kind of independent body such as exists in other countries. I do not suggest that we should copy them exactly.
If one looks round the world to some of the most progressive and advanced countries, we find that there are much stronger independent methods of seeing that the public interest is looked after, so far as advertising is concerned. I do not wish to give the impression that the consumer is always the innocent and unprotected victim of unscrupulous advertising agents and manufacturers. Very often, he or she is exactly that, but it is not always the case.
There are some bodies like the Consumers' Association, which publishes an excellent periodical, Which, and the Retail Trades Standards Association, which has led the way in prosecuting firms guilty of misrepresentation. These bodies do excellent work, and I hope the Minister will say something about them, 1532 and that the Government will actively encourage them to be more widely known and perhaps have a little time on radio and television to counter some of the effects of the advertising industry.
I was going to say a word about political advertising, but I have my eye on the clock. I came across a quotation from a speaker at the International Advertising Conference, seven years ago. He said:The great truths of civilised living and happiness, and the major principles of peace and prosperity, the wisdom of the world's wisest men can be packaged and presented, distributed and sold, as cornflakes are sold, by tried and proven commercial methods.There is a growing development of commercial methods in political campaigns in the United States of America, and I think that nobody who has had a close look at the expense involved and the methods used can think that this is a good thing. It is an American affair, and it is not our business in this House to comment upon it, but it is our business to do what we can to see that this kind of method does not reach this country.
I do not want to labour the point so brilliantly made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) the other day about the handling of party political accounts by commercial advertising agencies. Mr. Varley, Chairman of the firm of Messrs. Colman, Prentis & Varley, was good enough to come and see me and have a talk with me when I was preparing my case for this debate. I am very grateful to him and I shall respect his request that I should not repeat some things he told me in confidence, but I am bound to say that I think that, on a purely commercial basis, that firm is very unwise in handling party political accounts.
I know that many of Mr. Varley's colleagues in the advertising industry take a similar view. I have discussed it with them, and they have explained the reasons why they do so. They think they would be wise not to handle either of these political accounts—not that they are likely to get ours.
At all events, I think this is a subject on which there is growing up a certain anxiety and disquiet. It may be exaggerated, and perhaps the Minister of State will say that it has been done 1533 before, but this Colman, Prentis & Varley account is quite different from the commercial methods used during the municipal elections for the L.C.C. before the war. There is no parallel between what happened then and what the Tory Party Central Office is doing now. We know that the Labour Government used commercial advertising over a whole range of questions. Of course they did, but we recognise that advertising is an integral part of modern life and very often Governments have to use it.
We are worried about the political aspects—not only here, but many other people outside the House as well—and that reinforces the case for a really independent and impartial inquiry. The advertising industry is very well represented in this House. I have tried to find out how many hon. Members there are who have declared an interest in the matter. I do not find many on this side of the House, but, on the other, there is the hon. Member for Tonbridge (Mr. Hornby), who was connected with the J. Walter Thompson Company some years ago. [An HON. MEMBER: "Shame"] I do not think that it is a shame. I did warn the hon. Gentleman that I was going to refer to this. I do not think it is a shame and I disagree with my hon. Friend. Then there is the hon. Member for Bromsgrove (Mr. Dance), and the hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. J. Rodgers). I am personally disappointed that he is not answering this debate; and I do not say this in any offensive way. I wrote to him to say that I was hoping to hear him, and I think he would have spoken with a great deal of experience of this subject.
Then there is the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Ian Harvey), who has a long record of service to the advertising industry, and also the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page), who has many interests, and to whom I would say that I am sorry if I have inconvenienced his arrangement for going to Cornwall today by telling him that I would mention him in my speech.
Two curious things happened involving the hon. Member for Crosby. The first is that he made a statement about this debate which was reproduced by World's Press News published yesterday. It said:R. Graham Page, legal director of the Fleet Street advertising company, James M. 1534 Greenwood Advertising, Ltd., and Conservative Member of Parliament for the Crosby division of Lancashire, said that the Government were opposed to the idea of a Royal Commission.I do not know how he got that information. The Minister of State shakes his head. It is a rather mysterious thing. Had the hon. Member any prior information about this?
§ Mr. Graham Page (Crosby):
No. The hon. Gentleman knows what happens with telephone calls from the Press. If I recall the actual words, I think they were that I hoped the Government would resist this Motion.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
After many years of advertising and public relations experience, the hon. Gentleman really ought—I hope that this is not offensive—to take more care. Here are two quotations from yesterday's World's Press News, saying that he told them on Wednesday that the Government were opposed to setting up a Royal Commission on advertising. The hon. Gentleman also forecast the course of the debate, saying that it would turn into a general Labour attack on private enterprise. He declared:Damaging things will be said about advertising by a number of uninformed critics.No doubt the hon. Member for Crosby was not very well informed, and I quote from World's Press News:Mr. Page was due to meet a number of M.P.s on Wednesday—as W.P.N. went to press—to give them authoritative information about the advertising industry.I hope that it was more authoritative than his comments to World's Press News, and again I quote from World's Press News:Although Mr. Noel-Baker told W.P.N. last week that his Motion would call for a Royal Commission on advertising, the text of his Motion, as finally put down, makes no mention of the Commission idea.I had a talk with one of the staff of World's Press News, and I asked where they had got that idea from. I said that my Motion had been on the Order Paper for some days, and he told me that they had got it from a circular from the Advertising Association, which apparently had been sending round copies of my Motion, I do not know with what comments because W.P.N. did not tell me, and they have got it wrong.
§ Mr. Gresham Cooke
If the reporter got it wrong then, is it not very probable that he got my hon. Friend's statement wrong in the first place?
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
The reporter got nothing wrong; he got it absolutely right. He was quoting part of a hand-out from the Advertising Association, and they were the people who got it wrong. He went on to make a point about the alleged fact that I was dropping the Royal Commission at the moment, and the hon. Member for Crosby commented:In spite of the absence of any direct reference to a Royal Commission on advertising in the Motion as put down, the Government would be against it.
§ Mr. Arthur Skeffington (Hayes and Harlington)
Has the hon. Gentleman taken any steps to have them withdrawn, which is the proper and honourable way of doing it?
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would like to take the opportunity of withdrawing those words because he does not think the Government—
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I ask the hon. Member to repudiate what is alleged to have been said by him by World's Press News.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
No doubt the hon. Gentleman will have something to say to World's Press News about it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Time".] It is all very well for the hon. Member (Sir S. Summers) to point to the clock. Back benchers like myself do not often get a chance to initiate a debate of this importance and—
§ Sir S. Summers
We were pointing out to the hon. Gentleman that there are other back benchers who want to share this chance with him.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
On a point of order. I think that I am entitled to your pro- 1536 tection, Mr. Speaker. It is my Motion. I won the opportunity in the Ballot, and I now intend to make my speech in my own way. [HON. MEMBERS: "There is plenty of time."] I will come back to the hon. Member for Crosby and refer to a debate on advertising in relation to the Hire Purchase Bill, which took place some time ago and in which my hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton (Mr. Albu) took part.
During the discussion a number of Amendments were moved against the Government and in the interests of the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising and other bodies connected with the advertising industry.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
It was supported by the Government. The hon. Gentleman may recollect the debate that took place in Committee. My impression was that he was moving Amendments which the I.P.A. wanted and which the Government spokesman did not want. My hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton took the view that the hon. Member for Crosby was deliberately setting out to hamstring and sabotage the Bill. I think that that is a fair description of what some of my hon. Friends thought.
The debate was subsequently commented on in the Bulletin of the Retail Trading Standards Association. It said this:As, during the Second Reading of the Bill, there was a considerable amount of opposition during the Committee stage and during the Third Reading by Mr. Graham Page, who had at an earlier stage revealed his interest in an advertising agency. Mr. Page's suggested Amendment records scant sympathy and at one point Mr. Austen Albu stated in Committee: I am amazed that the hon. Gentleman should continue in this Committee to put forward Amendments which can but give rise to the suspicion that it is the desire of advertising agents to deceive the public'.A few days after this comment was published, the editor of the Association got a letter, not signed by the hon. Member for Crosby, but written on notepaper bearing his name as one of the directors. It said:Your comments, in that article, concerning Mr. Graham Page, M.P., who is a director of this Company, are unfair, unreasonable and evidently malicious.1537 Why the Retail Trading Standards Association should be unfair and malicious nobody can make out.
The letter went on to say:As a Member of Parliament, Mr. Graham Page expects public criticism of his conduct and is not greatly concerned by the violence or the inaccuracy with which it may be expressed against him personally. But when the matter in which you choose to report and comment upon…contained a serious reflection upon this company—the company was never mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton because the hon. Member for Crosby did not say with which company he was associated—it cannot be overlooked…I must require you to let me know at once, what course you propose to take to remedy this irresponsible and malicious attack.…There was then some correspondence to and fro. The editor of the Bulletin of the Retail Trading Standards Association offered to publish a statement on behalf of the hon. Member or his firm, but the firm would not accept that and insisted that the Bulletin must withdraw its statements. The Bulletin quite fairly replied that its statements were fair comment. It got a letter dated 14th November, 1957, from James M. Greenwood Advertising, Ltd., of which the hon. Member for Crosby is a director. It finished by saying:If you are not prepared to publish something editorially upon the lines I have indicated, then your rejection of the contention that the article was libellous had better be tested in court.If that is not a threat of a libel action I do not know what it is. Perhaps the hon. Member for Crosby has had another think and has decided that the case would not stand up to an action.
§ Mr. Page
The hon. Gentleman has referred in much detail to this matter, but I cannot understand its relevance to this debate. I do not think that the House would wish to hear all the details of some squabble between myself and himself on this subject, but would the hon. Gentleman not agree that the selection of one phrase used by the hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Albu) in that article was unfair in the circumstances in which it was used? Had the answer to that phrase also been used would it not have been much more fair? 1538 Reporting of Parliamentary debates must be fair.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
This is a matter of general public interest. If people can be threatened with libel actions simply for describing what had happened in the House of Commons it is very dangerous. There might even have been a case for its being regarded as a breach of Privilege. Moreover, this is not merely an argument between me and the hon. Gentleman, but an argument of general public interest. On the charge of unfairness, I would remind the hon. Gentleman that a lot of unfair things are said in the House of Commons. I think that he is very unfair to me and to my hon. Friends, but I do not start suing him for libel or even threatening libel actions. I think he would agree that this was not a reasonable attitude to take.
I come back to the question of politics in advertising. I say that there is a sufficient case to warrant an independent inquiry and I hope that the Minister will not resist the suggestion of a Royal Commission. A number of people of distinction in the advertising world have told me and written to me saying that they would welcome a Royal Commission. Two of the biggest advertisers, both of whom I have attacked in this debate, have said that they would welcome a Royal Commission. There is Messrs. Arthur Guinness and Sons, Ltd. They finished a short letter to me by saying:If a Royal Commission were established we should, of course, give every assistance in our power.Mr. C. M. Vignoles, C.B.E., of Messrs. Shell Mex and B.P., Ltd.—I think he is the Managing Director—very kindly wrote to me and said:Let me at the start emphasise, of course, that, as an advertiser, while we consider advertising plays an essential part in the promotion of our business, we are naturally sympathetic to any move to use it more effectively and I believe that the setting-up of a Royal Commission should not fail to do good and would be welcomed as much to the advertising community as to any other.World's Press News which I have talked about and which represents a very large body of opinion in the industry, said yesterday in its leading article:It can be stated with confidence that the advertising industry would in no way resist a call for a Royal Commission…There is certainly no inclination to object to a probe simply for fear of what it might throw up.1539 I have memories of similar opinions in conversations with people in the advertising industry.
It would, therefore, be a pity if the hon. Member turned down a proposal which the industry welcomes and wants, and with which it says it will be prepared to co-operate. I have freely expressed my own opinions and some of my prejudices during this debate. I do not expect that every hon Member will agree with me on every point in my attitude towards the advertising industry, but I believe that the matters of fact I have discussed are fully substantiated by the evidence, which I have carefully checked. I have no doubt about it whatever.
I do not ask the House to take what I have said as evidence, to agree with my point of view and to accept any of my assertions. All I am saying is that very many people, outside the House as in it, are anxious, unquiet and inquisitive about what is happening in the advertising industry today. They earnestly hope that all these matters and matters I have mentioned in my speech will be corrected and investigated more fully than is possible in this House or by any one individual.
We want an independent inquiry. As I see it, the advertising industry itself makes no case against that, but would he glad to have it. I beg the Minister to think this matter over again and to tell us that we shall have an independent inquiry into advertising and that the Government will pay attention to the recommendations that such an inquiry may make.
§ 12.40 p.m.
§ Mr. John Stonehouse (Wednesbury)
I beg to second the Motion.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. F. Noel-Baker) on choosing this subject and on his magnificent speech in support of his Motion. He made a very good and lengthy speech, but I have seldom enjoyed a speech in this House more than the one we have just heard. He has made an incontrovertible case for an inquiry into the advertising industry. I think my hon. Friend has established all his points extremely well, but, if he has established only one-tenth of them, a case has been made for a Royal Commission to inquire into this subject.
1540 We all realise what a tremendously powerful influence advertising now has on people's lives. It also has a tremendous influence within the economy. It is unfortunate that whenever advertising is discussed it arouses passions on both sides and some exaggeration creeps in so that the argument becomes emotional and blurred. There are those in the advertising world who would have us believe that advertising can do no wrong and that it distributes benefits to all and sundry. As my hon. Friend has said, they are now filling up their unused poster sites with ludicrous advertisements saying, "Advertising introduces you to the good things of life and has clone much to create your high standard of living."
What a flamboyant claim that is. If it is true, our case for a Royal Commission to investigate this question is amply justified because the public certainly do not know nearly enough about this powerful industry. They do not know how much it costs, in total expenditure, in the price of consumer goods, nor in the influence it wields on their minds. On the other hand, some critics of advertising go too far and say that all advertising is bad. I do not agree with that. I believe that much advertising is perfectly acceptable and does a useful job. The co-operative societies, for instance, which are all organisations of consumers, spend a fair amount of money on advertising products in a very useful way. There are many good advertisers who certainly would benefit from an investigation and from the establishment of a code of conduct.
In order to check up on the details of advertising expenditure, I have consulted the Annual Abstract of Statistics. The Annual Abstract is very abstract on this subject, because in this impressive document I find not a word about advertising. There are all the details about air transport, crime and punishment and, in page 156, there are even details of the stocks of rough tanned hides. There are details about cinemas, pubs, insurance and banking, but advertising is ignored.
Expenditure on advertising has increased tremendously since the war, particularly in the last six years. In 1952, it was £200 million, and by 1956 it had reached £330 million. Last year there was a further rise of 10 per cent. to £365 million. Actually, it may be more than that because we do not have access 1541 to all the facts. One significant fact is that advertising on T.V. increased from £2 million in 1955 to £50 million this year.
§ Mr. H. Hynd (Accrington)
From his researches, can my hon. Friend say how much of that expenditure has been passed on to the consumer in the prices of commodities?
§ Mr. Stonehouse
That is something we do not know and that is why we are asking for a Royal Commission to inquire into the subject, but it is quite apparent that a great deal of this expenditure has to be passed on to the consumer. For instance, in Sweden some years ago there was an advertising war between two firms of detergent manufacturers. They were using competitive advertising to plug their products. Kooperativa Forbundet, the co-operative organisation there, decided to break that competition by selling detergent at a lower price, with the result that all expenditure on competitive advertising had to be cut and the price of the commodity was brought down. Even advertisers and advertising executives admit that a great deal of their advertising expenditure has to be passed on in the form of higher prices to the consumer.
Advertising now costs the consumer the equivalent of the cost of two-thirds of our educational service and about four times the cost of our police force. It is certainly a tremendous cost to the community and the question we are asking is, does the community get value for the money it pays? The late Lord Leverhulme once said that half the money spent on advertising was wasted, but no one knew which half. That was a long time ago and perhaps now more than half is wasted. Is it right to continue a gamble without knowing where we are going? One of the most disturbing features is the pressure of advertising of branded goods by which the public are hypnotised by brand names, in newspapers, on posters and on T.V. In time the judgment of the individual is affected by this mass persuasion. I have an extract with me from a book written by Mr. J. McEwan on "Advertising as a Service to Society." He is the head of a long-established advertising firm and has had thirty years' experience. He wrote:Many people may publicly express doubt about what is said in advertisements, but 1542 privately they not only read the advertisements which interest them, but also accept the statements in general as authoritative…if you consider that because you are sceptical of advertisements you are never guided or influenced by them, test yourself out. I guarantee you will not find one purchase of a competitive branded article that you make, or have ever made, for that matter, which has not been the result in the first place of the influence of advertisement.You choose a certain soap, prefer a certain beer, like a certain perfume, cook with a certain flour, and so on through all the branded luxuries and necessities. You may probably furnish reasons that seem individual. They probably differ from time to time, but they are mostly not your own reasons. Advertising has provided the reasons. Advertising induced you to try this or that brand first. Later you may try a change of brand. It will not be because you have realised that you have been under the influence of advertising, but simply that advertising has persuaded you towards another variety."
Take, for instance, the advertising of household soaps. On Press and T.V. advertising alone more than £7 million was spent in relation to those commodities, quite apart from the millions of pounds spent on circulars, coupons and posters. Two huge firms dominate that field and spend about £3½ million each on Press and T.V. advertising. Part of this expenditure is on what is known as the "detergent war", and more than £1 million a year is spent on each of the main detergents, Omo, Daz and Tide. Virtually, the only competition comes from the co-operative societies, but this branded competition dominates the market and eventually the consumer is virtually unable to exercise any free choice between these commodities. The various brands of detergents are practically identical, but each advertising agent spends sleepless nights trying to find a slogan which will prove that his client's detergent is unique. Is it necessary to have this expensive charade when what the consumer wants is lower prices?
We can do without this expensive competitive advertising in branded goods. There are those who would try to justify this massive advertising of detergents by saying that it results in mass production, and that the advantage of that—lower prices—is passed to the consumer, that we dispute. If this extravagant claim is justified in the case of detergents it should be able to do the same with other commodities. Take, for instance, bread.
About £1 million a year is now spent on the promotion of bread sales. 1543 Roughly, half that sum is spent on the promotion of one brand name, and other firms are now seeking to encourage the people to buy their branded bread which is, of course, produced on the same kind of plant as is the competitive brand. On average a household spends about three times as much on bread as it does on household soaps. Are we, therefore, to understand from the advertisers that it would be fair if bread were to be advertised three times as much as are household soaps?
If that were the case, it would mean that we could be spending another £20 million a year on bread advertising. Would the consumers benefit from that? Would they enjoy the staff of life any more with a brand name and which, because of advertising, costs more? And if we are to have brands of bread, why not brands of potatoes? There is no limit to the basic commodities that could be branded, much to the delight of the advertising agents, but not to the benefit of consumers.
There is not only the volume of advertising but the misleading character of some of it. The public certainly need protection against dishonest advertisements. Many advertisers and their agents do their best to dupe consumers, and they should be checked, and controlled. Nor are these fraudulent practices confined only to tiny concerns, some of which were referred to by my hon. Friend. Some big and very well-known firms are just as guilty in this respect.
A case was sent to me last year by a constituent who had been persuaded by an advertisement for Pye T.V. to buy a T.V. set under a rental scheme. The advertisement reads:Pye rental scheme. Initial payment (9 months' rentals in advance) £19 19s. 9d. Thereafter weekly payments of 10s. 3d.…Further down it says:Remember—under the Pye Rental Scheme you know exactly how much your T.V. is going to cost you.That is a dishonest advertisement, because it gives the impression that if the purchaser pays nine months' rental in advance he will not have to pay anything more for nine months, but my poor constituent, who could ill afford to pay that 10s. 3d. a week immediately, was expected, a week after the set was delivered. to start paying that sum. 1544 More serious is the increasing practice of "switch sales"—the advertising of second-hand machines by means of a coupon, whereupon the salesman, by high-pressure tactics, proceeds to sell a new, expensive machine. This is not confined to the small firms. Huge firms do it by using subsidiaries as a cover for this dishonest game.
I have here an advertisement which appeared in the News Chronicle last Tuesday. Ostensibly, it is the advertisement of a firm called Nortic Electrical Limited. It is headed:What? a washing machine for only £16. Yes, indeed—and the deposit is low, payments easy.…Save £4 with this coupon, valid for 14 days.The coupon at the bottom says:I should like to know more about your special reduction on reconditioned machines.I have checked on the advertising expenditure of this firm and find that it has greatly increased in two years. In April, May and June of this year it spent £37,700 on advertising. The firm is by far the largest advertiser in this field. But it sells hardly any second-hand or reconditioned machines at all, and the very few that it does sell cost very much more than £16.
The firm of Nortic is merely a cover for the large manufacturing firm of Vactric, which spent only £500 on Press advertising in the same three months. I have here a statement from a salesman who was employed by Nortic, in which he describes the practices adopted by that firm, which employed him for about five months. He writes:I was employed by Nortic Electrical Ltd. in March, 1958. At the training school of the firm where I spent a week I was taught how to sell new washing machines on coupons obtained from advertisements for reconditioned washing machines.Nortic Electrical Ltd. turned out to be a cover company for Vactric, whose new machines we sold.The reconditioned machines were advertised at £16 or £20 each. In all my months with this firm I never heard of a secondhand machine being sold at this price. In fact, hardly any second-hand machines were sold at all. I certainly never sold a secondhand machine myself. Most of the salesmen I knew never sold second-hand machines, they only sold new ones in reply to the advertisement coupon.Frankly, I was fed up of this business of selling new machines to people who could ill afford them.1545The new machines cost them £69 6s.—when they sent in a coupon they were expecting to get a reconditioned machine for £16. At the time of sending in their coupons they were not expecting any salesman to call on them. In my opinion the advertisement issued by Nortic Electrical Ltd. was extremely misleading, and was, in fact, a trick to get high-pressure salesmen into homes.I understand from the salesmen that they actually take the new machines with them in a van. They get the hire-purchase agreement signed on the spot, and sell the machine on the spot. If the customer tries to withdraw after a bit of reflection, he is not allowed to do so—
§ Mr. Dodds
Does my hon. Friend accept that the trick of the whole business is that it is a well-known newspaper that prints the advertisement; that the advertisement invites the readers to fill in their names and addresses, and says that they will be sent full details to look at; that no details are ever sent, but a slick salesman comes to the door and, if he cannot make a sale, he is particularly rude, and many people have to succumb to his overtures?
§ Mr. Stonehouse
Yes, and I am grateful for that intervention. That is absolutely true. In some cases, I think, a postcard is sent to an inquirer warning that someone is to call. People expect to get details of a second-hand machine but, in fact. they get a salesman showing a new machine, and persuading the inquirer to buy it.
As I did not wish to accept mere hearsay, I inquired further. I asked the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising to inquire into this business. I gave the specific example of Vactric. The Institute was good enough to send in a coupon, and to have somebody check on the practice of the salesman.
The Institute's report proves what I have been saying about the salesmen's tactics, but the President said that it was not felt that there was anything in the behaviour of the salesmen or in the nature of the advertisement that would entitle the Institute to take any action. That may be the attitude of the Institute—which, in some respects, is a very good organisation—but it is certainly in the public interest that some action should be taken over these increasing and fraudulent practices—
§ Mr. Anthony Greenwood (Rossendale)
Can my hon. Friend tell the House the name of the advertising agency that handles this account?
§ Mr. Stonehouse
Two firms place advertisements. One places them for the Vactric organisation—and that is a very small account—and another places the advertisements for Nortic. I can give the information, if it is required, but I do not have it in my notes today.
On the information that I have obtained, it is quite apparent that Nortic is a subsidiary company of Vactric. It was set up, originally, by a Mr. Angel Citron, who resigned as a director on 31st August, 1957. He has since set up another firm, under his own name, which spends over £6,000 a month on advertising secondhand machines in the Press.
§ Mr. F. Noel-Baker
If my hon. Friend is not able to answer the question I think I can. I believe that Nortic Electric's advertising is handled by a firm called Wilson Advertising. I agree that it is in the interest of the general public that these agencies should be known.
§ Mr. Stonehouse
I thank my hon. Friend for that little bit of information that I had not by me.
Salesmen employed by Citron use the same techniques employed by Nortic. Many other firms are also following these practices. The newspapers in my constituency, for instance, carried these advertisements only a week ago for a firm called Paxton Products. Advertisements have also appeared for a firm called S.E.P. All are using this technique of getting leads from coupons, which ask for information about reconditioned machines; but the salesmen use the name of the inquirer to sell a new machine.
Newspapers should be protected against this very bad practice of advertising agencies in placing this type of advertisement in newspapers.
§ Sir Herbert Butcher (Holland with Boston)
On a point of order. In view of the fact that two of the five hours for the debate have already elapsed, and have been occupied by the speeches of the hon. Members who have moved and seconded the Motion, and as the second speech is not concluded yet, would it be possible, Mr. Speaker, to secure an extension of 1547 time so that the case may be further developed? There remain only three hours, of which some of the time will probably be taken by the Minister, who certainly will wish to speak, and also by some more hon. Members of the opposition side of the House. Perhaps it would be possible to consider that matter?
§ Mr. Speaker
I cannot give an extension of time. That is quite impossible. That would have to be on a Motion carried by the House, and on a Friday it is most unusual.
§ Mr. F. Noel-Baker
Further to that point of order. Mr. Speaker, I wonder if you would advise the House, for this is a topic which exercises the House as well as the general public, and we shall not have nearly the time we need for all hon. Members who have strong objections on this question to express them. In these circumstances, is there any step which my hon. Friend and I and others could take to obtain a little more time for the discussion of this most important problem?
§ Mr. Speaker
I cannot think of any, because there is a Ballot regularly for the priority of Motions, and the priority of Motions will be decided by the Ballot in future, too. I do not see now that that can be done.
§ Mr. Stonehouse
We hope that the Minister who will reply will accept the proposal we are making for a Royal Commission to be set up, but if he does not we shall, of course, have to ask for more time to devote to this subject and continue to press for an inquiry into this most important industry.
The newspapers should also be protected. Some of them do refuse to accept these obnoxious advertisements. I believe the Express group refuses to accept advertisements for switch sales, but many newspapers cannot refuse to accept advertisements placed by the larger advertising agencies, because they must keep on the right side of these firms as they must have the large weight of advertising placed by them.
To return to the general problem, there is, I think, ample material available which shows the need for an independent inquiry to be made. That is recognised not only outside the industry but also 1548 within it. In the book I quoted from just now, Mr. McEwan says there arestrong reasons for complete protection of the public interest by making it impossible for anyone to wield the instrument of advertising as he wills. For, despite the many efforts already made within the advertising circle, the power of public opinion has yet to bring a decisive influence from outside. It is towards that end that this book has been written. This aspect is all the more important because it seems to me that there is widespread ignorance of, and widespread indifference to, the subject.He says it is certainly the right of every member of the public to have a voice on this subject and that the advertising business should be helped to control the conduct of those within it.
There is an organisation called the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, to which reference has already been made. This does seem to have tried to improve standards recently. For instance, it undertook a survey about subliminal advertising, about which we heard some exchanges in the House some time ago, and I understand that the Institute has condemned it, but we have yet to have any clear indication as to whether the advertising world in general condemns this insidious practice.
§ Mr. Stonehouse
I understand from the Institute that it has no objection to a Royal Commission being set up to investigate advertising.
There is a frightening prospect before us if we fail to control advertising. There has been a description of the insidious subconscious technique used in the United States in a recent book by Vance Packard, and American advertising firms are already operating in this country. Motivational research is being conducted by psychologists and new ways are being discovered of manipulating the public.
Let us beware of these dangers, the dangers of the new techniques developing which will mould public opinion in such a way that the public will not be able to exercise any conscious control over its own mind. Let us beware of these dangers and seek to get the information which will enable us to control this most important industry.
§ 1.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)
The hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. F. Noel-Baker) has already declared for me my interest in this subject, what I may call a double interest, in being a director of an advertising agency, and, on the other hand, being a solicitor who is unable to advertise.
It may be as well to come back to the basic ideas about advertising and try to discover what the advertiser is trying to do in relation to the public. Advertising is, after all, merely a means of communication between the seller and the buyer, the means of communication between the manufacturer and the customer, and basically it is merely telling the customer what there is for him to buy.
Of course, it is not telling him in a take it or leave it manner. It is telling him in a persuasive manner, and perhaps the most important thing to consider, in dealing with this Motion today, is whether that persuasion is wrong, or, if it is right, whether it can be exercised in a wrong way.
Is it, for example, wrong because of the articles which it is endeavouring to persuade the customer to buy? I understood from part of the speech of the hon. Member for Swindon that that is rather the point to which he was directing his attention. He dealt with certain articles, which, in his view, as I understood it, should not be advertised and which the public should not be persuaded to buy. I have never understood the view that it is morally wrong, for example, to persuade the public to buy a soap, whereas there is apparently nothing morally wrong in persuading the public to buy the sort of article which the hon. Member for Swindon produces, books. He can be freely advertised on the B.B.C., when he is fortunate enough to be engaged to appear, as the author of a book which has recently been published.
§ Mr. Anthony Greenwood
Would the hon. Gentleman not agree that it is morally wrong for a firm which makes two detergents to claim that both wash whitest?
§ Mr. Page
I was coming to that in connection with products which the hon. Member for Swindon mentioned.
The hon. Member seemed to suggest that because there were two products of exactly the same quality neither should be advertised and neither manufacturer should claim the public's attention or try to persuade the public to purchase that article. But surely that is fair competition between two articles. If they are of the same quality why should not the public be persuaded by one manufacturer to be his customers and the other manufacturer try to attract the customers as well?
The hon. Member for Swindon said that there was "negligible difference" between various types of petrol. For all I know there may be negligible difference between the books which the hon. Member writes and those which some other hon. Member writes. But I am sure that the hon. Member for Swindon would like the most attractive dust-cover on his book, a more attractive one than the dust-cover on another hon. Member's book, and that is really advertising his product and—
§ Mr. F. Noel-Baker
I am in a difficulty. I do not want to upset the hon. Member's speech, but if he continues to ask questions I shall be tempted to answer them. The answer on this point is that I said that petrol advertising was misleading. If, for example, advertisers misled the public about the nature of the book which I am publishing today, I would think that unfair. Again, if a book were likely to damage young people or children I would take objection to its being freely pushed on the market by advertising.
§ Mr. Page
I want to come to that second point which is an important one in the debate—the question whether there are things so harmful socially that they should not be advertised and the public should not be persuaded to buy them. But, following on the theme of the rightness or wrongness of persuasion, depending on the article, we can divide advertising into two categories—the advertising of a new commodity which is not tapping any customers of some other commodity 1551 and, secondly, the advertising of a commodity in competition with others.
Surely promotion of a new commodity would not be possible in present conditions without advertising. The hon. Member for Swindon quoted the word "prefabricated" and spoke of a prefabricated market for an article. Indeed, that must be so and I do not think that the expression "fabricated" was used in any wrong sense. It meant no more than building the market for a product. If anyone is embarking on the production of a new commodity he must know that he will he able to build a market for it. otherwise he will not put his money and effort into the production of that new commodity. If we did not have advertising in that sphere, I am afraid that progress would be greatly delayed.
In the other sphere where advertising is competitive it may be said that it is removing the purchasing power from one article to another and, therefore, is not serving any useful purpose to the public. But surely the public benefits from competition for its support and that type of competition cannot be carried on otherwise than by competition in advertising. Must we say that no commodities must compete by advertising? Where do we draw the line on that? There seems to me nothing wrong or improper in competitive advertisements. If we did not indulge in them we should be depriving the customer of freedom of choice.
We recognise that persuasion is wrong in relation to some articles and in some media. For example, the television code, as hon. Members know, sets up a list of articles and services which must not be advertised on television, and quite properly so. We recognise that it would be anti-social to advertise these through the medium of television. That is one of the ways in which advertising is already disciplined and controlled. But is this really a matter for the advertising industry? And it is to the advertising industry that the hon. Member for Swindon has asked us to direct our attention in his Motion. Is it really the responsibility of the advertising industry to set itself up as a judge of the articles which should be advertised or should not be advertised?
There is the example of cigarettes. The hon. Member for Swindon quite rightly 1552 referred to the connection with is being found or believed to be found between cigarettes and lung cancer. He and other hon. Members may take the view that cigarettes should be banned in some way, but while cigarettes are permitted it is the advertising agent's duty to persuade the public to purchase them. It is not right to set up an advertising agent as a judge of morals. Nevertheless, that is not to say that advertising has no ethics.
§ Mr. F. Noel-Baker
I did not recommend the banning of cigarettes, but I think that some control is required over the selling and over the promoting of sales of cigarettes to young people. The whole purpose of my Motion is to say that I do not think the advertising industry can itself decide these questions and that some kind of independent inquiry is required. That is precisely why I ask for a Royal Commission.
§ Mr. Page
I think that we are together on the point that the advertising industry should not be called upon to decide this question, but I would not go the rest of the way with the hon. Member to ask that a Royal Commission should be set up to investigate just that point The points which have already been raised in the debate are the sort of things which might have been raised in Parliamentary Questions and answered and investigated by a Government Department.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Charles MacAndrew)
The two opening speeches were very long and I think that we must let other hon. Members have a chance to speak.
§ Mr. Page
In what I said I did not mean to imply that advertising had no ethics. Indeed, it should have ethics in the mode of persuasion which it uses. In that connection I would refer, in the extreme case, to that which the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stone-house) described as subliminal advertising. That would be a mode of persuasion which would be repulsive and revolting to all right hon. and hon. Members and is said to be so not only 1553 by the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, who are the advertising agents, but also by the Advertising Association, which embraces all those concerned in advertising, the advertisers as well as the advertising agents.
In addition to that extreme, the advertising industry imposes upon itself very severe discipline and restrictions, added to which there are legal restrictions. For example, there is the code which the outdoor advertisers observe. Added to that there is the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, which lays down rules and regulations for outdoor advertising. Even on top of that, at present the Minister of Housing and Local Government, the local authorities, the outdoor advertising concerns and advertisers in general are endeavouring to produce a voluntary code, satisfactory to all parties, to deal with the amenity problem of outdoor advertising.
I think that outdoor advertising has been given a bad name by the cinema posters which are now appearing, and I should like the House to know that those are no responsibility of any professional body of advertisers or advertising agents. Those cinema posters are sold with the films, and there is an obligation on the cinematograph exhibitors to exhibit the posters. They have their own sites on which to exhibit them. I understand that they do not go through advertising agents or any professional body.
About the only body which imposes a code on them is the British Transport Commission, and the Commission does not seem to impose it very effectively. I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House strongly resent not only some of the sex posters advertising films, but also some of the horrific posters. On behalf of those concerned with advertising, I repudiate that type of advertisement.
Medicines and treatments have been mentioned by the hon. Member for Swindon. There is a British code of standards dealing with them. I think that one of my hon. Friends might also discuss them if he catches your eye, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. In the Advertising Association itself there is the Advertisement Investigation Department and the Consumer Advisory Committee, which pay constant and continual attention to 1554 the propriety of advertisements. The hon. Member for Wednesbury mentioned the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, which has its Professional Purposes Committee looking after the same thing.
When advertisements reach the media of the Press, there is the Newspaper Proprietors' Association, the Newspaper Society and others who endeavour to prevent wrong persuasion from being used upon the public. This discipline of the industry is not only a protection against the dishonest or inefficient advertiser but also against the individual himself. All professional associations try to protect against inefficiency and dishonesty among their members. It was all very well for the hon. Member for Swindon to read out the names of those on committees who endeavour to apply discipline to the advertising industry. Of course they are members of the advertising industry. The members of the Bar Council are members of the Bar. Solicitors are members of the Law Society. Doctors are members of the B.M.A.
§ Mr. Page
Generally speaking, it is an effective discipline, but in certain cases it has been found to be not enough, and the law has had to add to it. For example, over and above all, there is the general law of fraud. Also, I refer again to subliminal advertising. This is a case where the law might step in. I agree with the hon. Member for Wednesbury that perhaps this is a case for legislation, but, generally speaking, I do not think that legislation is necessary for the advertising industry.
That is the protection which the industry tries to give against the bad advertiser, but it goes further than that and, in many instances, protects the individual against himself. It recognises that the ordinary man in the street cannot 1555 resist persuasion on certain subjects and ought not to be so persuaded. Again, I refer to the list of subjects in the television code. The newspapers have the same kind of principle in refusing certain types of advertisement, because they advertise things in which the ordinary man should not be encouraged to participate.
Nevertheless, this sort of practice ought to be used very sparingly. This is, perhaps, where there is a fundamental difference between the two sides of the House. Hon. Members opposite perhaps believe that the individual, for his own good, should be put under more control than we believe on this side of the House. We put freedom of choice as a priority objective, and we believe that if the individual is given that freedom of choice, nothing very wrong will happen.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. The first two speeches took two hours. We should allow the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) to continue without interruption.
§ Mr. Page
If the case against the advertising industry is based entirely on suggestions of fraud and dishonesty it is very weak. One can, of course, pick out the case of the little trees, but that was discovered very quickly. More than one case which the hon. Member for Swindon quoted was one in which he added, "They were prosecuted and fined". Thus, the law against fraud in advertising is fairly strong. Indeed, we passed an Act last year dealing with hire-purchase advertising which strengthened the law about hire-purchase advertisements. My part in that Bill was to try to strengthen it because it was quite impracticable as it originally reached the House.
It is an infinitesimal part of advertising which can hoodwink the public by dishonesty or fraud. There is, of course, a difference between the best presentation of a case and untrue presentation of a case. Surely, as hon. Members, we are every day presenting what argument we have in the best possible way to persuade other hon. Members to our way of thinking. That is what the advertiser is doing, frankly trying to influence the public. The question is: in doing so is he appealing to the wrong instincts and ought we to stop him?
1556 In the advertising industry we have a phrase "cost per thou". That refers to the newspaper which can offer the greatest number of readers. The question is whether one is to advertise in popular newspapers which produce the greatest sale in a doubtful way by appealing perhaps to the kind of human instinct to which we should not wish them to appeal I do not think the advertisers are taken in by that. There was an instance recently of a Sunday newspaper which changed from what I might call the "Sunday Dirt" to being a very respectable newspaper. In doing so, it increased its revenue, because it attracted the more responsible and the more profitable advertisers. The advertisers, therefore, are discriminating and do not necessarily use the media which appeal to the baser instincts of human nature.
Generally, I am sure hon. Members will agree, advertisements appeal to the general wish of the public to raise its standard of life—keeping up with the Joneses. Frankly, I see nothing wrong in appealing to that type of desire. It seems to me to be right and proper to do so. Apart from that, advertisements frequently appeal to artistry, to humour, to interest, even, in appropriate cases, to fear. Hon. Members will recall that it was a Socialist Government which produced the picture of the "Black Widow" in connection with road safety—and I think they were right. It was right to appeal to fear in that particular case. On this matter, I level an attack on my hon. Friend the Minister of State. I do not think that the Government use enough advertising. I think that the advertising on road safety is disgraceful—little placards on the backs of public lavatories or stuck on lamp posts—no sort of campaign to meet one of the greatest tragedies of our time. The Government should use advertising more for that purpose. They should use it more in a campaign against home accidents and factory accidents.
I compliment right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite upon what their Government did between 1945 and 1950, when they used slogans like "Work or Want", using advertising, in fact, in its most powerful form. At that time, they realised the influence that advertising could have. We might not have such a large surplus of coal today if a little more 1557 advertising were used by the National Coal Board. We could use advertising to great effect in the National Health Service, giving publicity to preventive measures in public health. We could use it to advertise opportunities in advanced education.
§ Mr. Page
We could use it for more prestige advertising. I am frequently asked why it is that large companies sometimes take half a page in The Times, showing beautiful pictures of great civil engineering constructions or aircraft developments, when everybody knows about those companies already. This is prestige advertising. By doing that, these companies attract the best brains in the country to their concerns. Indeed, I wish that the Government would do a little advertising of Government undertakings to attract the best brains to those undertakings.
§ 1.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Greenwood (Rossendale)
I must begin, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, by offering to you and to the House an apology which I have already conveyed 1558 to the Minister of State, for the fact that I shall have to leave the Chamber almost immediately after I sit down. I have a long-standing engagement in the North of England tonight, and I must catch a train from St. Pancras at 2.25. The advantage of that, however, is that my speech will be brief. I should not begin, however, without saying that I have no personal interest in the firm known as Greenwood's Advertising Agency which has been referred to in the course of the debate.
There is, of course, on this side of the House no party line on a matter of this kind, but I welcome the debate that my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. F. Noel-Baker) initiated today. He has produced a great deal of information which must have been disturbing to hon. Members in all parts of the House and he has drawn attention to a problem about which there is, at least, room for argument. There is room for argument about the form that advertising should take, about the economic consequences that advertising has, and, possibly, about the social influence it wields. I hope that my hon. Friend's speech will have helped bath the public and the advertising industry.
My hon. Friend conducted a great deal of research. It is not easy to ascertain all the facts about advertising, its ramifications, and the effects which it has. I am bound to say that the task is made more difficult by the aura of sanctimoniousness which hangs heavily over the industry. I have before me the "Notes for Speakers" published by the Advertising Association. They begin by a statement that they are not intended as speeches and are not intended for publication.Indeed"—says the Advertising Association,verbatim publication would seriously prejudice their usefulness to other speakers".Not being a member of the Advertising Association, I do not feel particularly inhibited by the injunction in the foreword to its speakers' notes. I have discovered some information which would interest some of my hon. Friends. I find, for example, from these "Notes for Speakers" issued by the Advertising Association that the present Prime Minister delivered himself of a comment on 1559 advertising which, I thought, was characterised by typical extravagance of phrase on his part. Apparently, he made a speech on 8th February, 1949, in which he said:Advertising is the essential defence of individualism, of private choice, of personal taste, of consumers' rights, of all things, in a word, that distinguish a free from a servile economy.Since that time, of course, Conservative policy and an advertising account have become synonymous in the mind of the Prime Minister. That is not surprising when we remember that the lead dishonest advertising was taken by the party opposite in the General Elections of 1951 and 1955.
Even the sanctimoniousness of the Prime Minister is exceeded in the code which was drawn up in 1924 by the Advertising Clubs of the World. Once again, I quote from the Advertising Association's "Notes for Speakers" The code is this:We pledge ourselves:1. To dedicate our efforts to the cause of better business and social service.The House will note that better business takes precedence over social service.2. To seek truth and to live it.3. To tell the advertising story simply and without exaggeration and to avoid even a tendency to mislead.4. To refrain from unfair competitive criticism.5. To promote a better international understanding based upon a recognition of our mutual responsibility and our interdependence.6. To conserve for ourselves and for posterity ideals of conduct and standards of advertising practice born of the belief that truthful advertising builds both character and good business.That would be a very impressive pledge indeed if it appeared ever to have been read by the advertisers of the soap powders, detergents, cold cures, toothpastes, beer and other commodities which have been referred to in the debate today. A sanctimonious code of that kind is no good at all unless it is put into operation by the gentlemen concerned in the advertising industry. One would have hoped that the industry itself would have found a solution to the kind of flagrant dishonesty which so often manifests itself in the advertising put before us.
I should have thought that many advertising agencies and distinguished 1560 persons in the advertising world would have welcomed, if not a Royal Commission, at any rate some form of inquiry which would help them to highlight the had practitioners in advertising, to bring to light the abuses which exist, and, perhaps, point the way to some improvement in the general level of conduct in the industry. I am sure that there are many distinguished figures in the world of advertising who would welcome such a review, because the industry at its best has made a contribution to raising the level of the public's appreciation of beautiful things. I should not wish the House on an occasion of this kind to get the problem out of perspective.
As far as I can tell, the first instance of advertising going in for good artistic work was when Josiah Wedgwood, at the suggestion of John Flaxman, invited William Blake to illustrate a catalogue of Wedgwood china in 1810. In our own time we have had outstanding examples like Jack Beddington who, when with the Shell Company, became the patron of artists such as Graham Sutherland, McKnight Kauffer, Barnett Freedman, and Edward Wadsworth, and men like Francis Meynell, Frank Pick and Ashley Havinden, who have made no less a significant contribution to the raising of the general level of the public's appreciation in matters of this kind.
I was wholly unimpressed by the argument of the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) about the effect that advertising had upon raising the standard of living and the desirability of keeping up with the Joneses. Keeping up with the Joneses is one of the evils of contemporary society. I was pleased to see in one of the newspapers yesterday a cartoon which showed a husband at the breakfast table saying to his wife:There is no need for us to keep up with the Joneses. They have just got done for embezzlement.Nevertheless, there is a great deal of advertising in the Press which gives genuine pleasure. For example, the Kosset cat is a most welcome guest in the Greenwood household. However, there is still a great deal which is extremely bad.
My hon. Friend the Member for Swindon referred to the Advertising Weekly. I want to quote from an article 1561 in the Advertising Review by Mr. Paul Reilly, the Deputy Director of the Council of Industrial Design. In the current number of the Advertising Review, Mr. Reilly says:Advertising agencies, particularly those that have grown to be larger and more powerful than many of their individual clients, should be in the forefront of this battle for our aesthetic consciences. Some, I know, do accept their responsibilities for the design of what they advertise, but there are many obedient servants who, not knowing their art from their elbow, do as they are bid regardless. How else can one explain the perpetual conflict between the editorial and advertising pages of so many consumer magazines? Here is a conflict that the advertising profession could help to resolve.I do not wish to go into detail of the economic consequences of advertising on our social structure. My hon. Friend the Member for Swindon and my hon. Friend the Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse) have dealt with that. I remind the House that the effects of advertising on television and the Press could be very serious and a serious threat to freedom of speech and freedom of expression. The transfer of accounts from newspapers to television is already placing many organs of the free Press in some jeopardy and danger of disappearance. If we were to have a third channel devoted to commercial television it would make the position of the Press worse and might also jeopardise existing programme contractors and make their position more difficult.
There is scope for inquiring into the influence that advertising has in matters of television and the Press. I want to follow a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Wednesbury about subliminal advertising. As soon as I read in the Daily Herald of the report that messages "Keep watching" had been shown on the screens of Television Western Wales, I wrote immediately to the Director-General of the Independent Television Authority. There is, of course, a conflict of evidence about exactly what took place, and Sir Robert Fraser gave satisfactory assurances about the view that the Independent Television Authority takes of matters of that kind.
Nevertheless, especially in view of the conflict of evidence and the fact that one of the main characters in the drama is now in the United States of America, it is at least possible that some experi- 1562 mentation in subliminal advertising was being conducted from the stations of T.W.W. That might possibly have been at the engineering level only, but it raises rather terrifying possibilities of a development of subliminal advertising of that kind. If there could be an inquiry, in any form, it might tend to allay public anxiety on this matter and perhaps help the Government to devise adequate safeguards for ensuring that commercial television was not used in that way.
Finally, I want briefly to refer to the forms which advertising takes. I do so only briefly because I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent. Central (Dr. Stross) will be able to expand this topic. I hope that we shall be able to devise some effective control of outdoor advertising. I find it a matter of great surprise that the Minister of Housing and Local Government, knowing that advertising was to be discussed this morning, has not found it possible, either personally or through his Parliamentary Secretary, to be present. I gather from the Minister of State that he is in a position to speak on those matters, but it would have shown a courteous interest in the subject if the Minister or Parliamentary Secretary had found it possible to be present.
Outdoor advertising is the most distasteful form of advertising. One cannot avoid it. It obtrudes itself and forces itself upon one whatever one does. I often think of the parody attributed to Ogden Nash:I think that I shall never seeA poem lovely as a tree.Indeed, unless the bill boards fall,I shall never see a tree at all.The hon. Member for Crosby spoke of a large number of codes which exist, but although there has been some improvement over the last few years, there is still much scope for improving the control of outdoor advertising on hoardings, street bins and in other ways.
This is a matter which has now dragged on for two years, during which the Minister of Housing and Local Government over and over again has assured the amenity societies and hon. Members that action was to be taken. Still no final decision has been made.
While neither I nor the Labour Party have any animus against advertising, we cannot ignore, and the best practitioners 1563 of advertising would not wish us to ignore, its possible social consequences. I thank my hon. Friend for having introduced the debate and for having done so, if not with brevity, at least with clarity, good humour and facility of phrase.
§ 1.49 p.m.
§ Mr. R. P. Hornby (Tonbridge)
I should start by declaring my interest in this debate, since I am connected with an advertising agency, as the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. F. Noel-Baker) pointed out. I very much welcome the debate, as do many people in the advertising industry, as has become clear from many of the quotations that have been made. I congratulate the hon. Member for Swindon upon raising the subject. I believe that he enjoyed the task he set himself, although those who think that brevity is the soul of wit might take a slightly different view of his speech.
If there are any doubts in the minds of hon. Members or people outside about the health of any industry—its efficiency, usefulness, code of morality, and ethics—it is obviously a good thing for that industry to be discussed, whether from an economic or other point of view. We have debates about the shipbuilding, cinema and textile industries; why not a debate upon advertising? On those grounds, I very much welcome the debate
In one sense advertising is an easy subject to debate in comparison with many others, and one which it would be strange to find little criticised, because the vast part of its work is before the public gaze, for all to see. Its work is there to be criticised, and the claims of one product as against another are there to be judged. It would be very strange if it were not widely criticised, considering the extent to which it surrounds us.
The Motion calls attention to the state of the industry, and many figures have been quoted in this respect. I do not want to elaborate very much upon them. It is a very large and growing industry, with an annual expenditure of between £300 million and £400 million. Although that seems to be a very large figure, as a proportion of the national income it is about 2 per cent., and is a slightly lower proportion than obtained in 1938.
1564 Its business is communication, persuasion and information, and it would be true to say that a very large part of the industry is completely accepted, both in its intentions and its economic purpose—and, put in another way, in the type of advertising with which it is concerned. No one can criticise the vast bulk of Government advertising by the Ministry of Health or Ministry of Transport, or in recruiting for the Services, and not many people would have anything to say about the technical literature, in the form of information, passed by manufacturers to retailers' agents. Generally speaking, it is accepted as informative advertising.
We also completely accept a great deal of the "Personal Column" advertising, which consists of passing information as between an individual who wishes to buy and another who wishes to sell. These forms of advertising constitute about one-third of the total bill, and we should remember that.
We should also remember that advertising has its useful by-products. It is responsible for about 40 per cent. of the revenue of the Press. That is a useful saving to the cost of printing and producing newspapers, periodicals, the provincial Press, and so on. It is responsible for subsidising our public transport systems to some extent, and for helping to meet the cost of the cinema industry. It also pays for one channel of television.
The Motion also refers to the influence and impact of the industry. I would not deny either of those attributes; it would be very strange if anyone did. Its business is concerned with persuasion, and if it failed to make an impact or to have any influence many manufacturers would very quickly tumble to that fact and cease to use it. Impact and influence are certainly among its objectives and must be recognised.
I now want to deal with some of the questions that hon. Members have suggested we should ask ourselves. The first is an economic one. Is advertising economically useful, or is it a waste of time, manpower and money? Although the hon. Member for Swindon had some reservations in certain cases, he conceded its usefulness in that respect, and when he spoke in July in the debate upon consumer safeguards he said:With modern conditions and modern marketing methods it is obvious that advertising is an essential ingredient. One cannot 1565 get a new product on to the market without modern advertising techniques."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th July, 1958; Vol. 591, c. 458.]Most hon. Members today would agree that advertising is an inseparable part of our modern mass production economy. That economy, requiring heavy outlays, first in research and then in capital equipment, and so on, requires almost as a certainty that once a manufacturer has developed a good product, and has decided to go into mass production on that product, it must be able to distribute it in very large quantities very quickly. That, basically, is the initial purpose of advertising, and its initial place in the distribution of goods.
This matter is not something which requires a Government investigation or Royal Commission. What does seem necessary is that much more attention should be paid by industrialists, financial journalists, and economists, to the problems connected with the costs of distribution. We talk a great deal about the cost of production, which is very important, but costs of distribution are equally important, and we should pay more attention to them.
I want to touch upon two other economic points. The first concerns the suggestion that advertising is an inflationary force. In many senses it is. One must classify as to some extent inflationary anything which creates more wants and which encourages expenditure, whether on betting, football pools, or something more or better for one's home or one's clothing. But because it may be inflationary at times it should not be argued that advertising, which many manufacturers regard both as their most efficient and cheapest method of distribution, should, therefore, be cut down. It is a strange way of tackling inflation to suggest that we should make our distributive system deliberately less efficient. Although it has its inflationary aspects, on those grounds we should not criticise advertising too much.
The second economic point concerns one or two individual types of advertising, notably detergents and petrol. Hon. Members have raised the question of advertising's influence upon the cost of those products. I want to quote what I believe provides the best answer I have seen, from an article which appeared not 1566 long ago in the Listener, on the subject of the very high level of expenditure involved in some types of products, between which there does not seem to be very much difference. The article says:It is clear that no individual oil company or detergent manufacturer could afford to stop advertising. If he did, he would go out of business. Each firm is compelled to advertise by the fact that its rivals do—just as the nationalised gas industry is compelled to advertise so long as the nationalised electricity industry does. In such cases the advertising is essentially defensive, a necessary condition of survival in a harshly competitive world. But would it not then be better to forgo the luxury of the money now spent on competitive advertising to lower prices The answer, in my view, is usually no. Competition does act as a spur, as an inducement to initiative, enterprise, innovation and as a protection for the consumer; and if advertising is the price we have to pay for retaining competition, it is usually worth paying.That is probably the best argument that I have seen in this respect, and the author is the author of "The Future of Socialism ", who once sat on the benches opposite—Mr. C. A. R. Crosland.
The next question to which I wish to turn concerns what one might call the social aspects of this problem. Is advertising harmful? Is it anti-social? Of course, where one comes across a completely bogus product that has been untruthfully advertised, then, obviously, harm has been done by the advertisement and by the manufacturer of that product. No one would attempt to deny that, and everyone should be concerned to try to see that such cases are eradicated either by the law or by the code of standards of the industry concerned, or preferably by both.
Obviously, in almost every type of business there will be cases which get through the net, however tightly it is drawn. The question to be asked is whether the net is tight enough at present. My hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) has referred to the safeguards that already exist. I think that they are worth listing, because there are a great many of them. In terms of the law, it seems to me that the most important concern the Pharmacy and Medicines Act, the Food and Drugs Act, the Merchandise Marks Act and, perhaps, the Advertisement (Hire Purchase) Act. There we have a fair framework of legislation attacking different parts of the problem 1567 as affecting the consumer and the advertising of goods to the consumer.
I suggest that the right way to attack the problem where it exists is not through a great umbrella Motion affecting the advertising industry as a whole, but in particular places where abuses occur, because, after all, for all its size and the composite character given to it in this discussion, the advertising industry is, in fact, an extension of the advertising and sales departments of a great many manufacturers and retail businesses. It is fairer to attack the matter in terms of medical goods or the purity and quality of food or clothing, and so on, rather than through this great umbrella Motion.
Secondly, there are the safeguards which exist inside the advertising profession itself. A good many of them have already been mentioned, but I will list them briefly because they add up, by comparison with a great many other industries, to rather a lot. The Advertising Association's Advertising Investigation Department is concerned with the checking of malpractices where they exist and of sorting them out where that can be done. The Newspaper Proprietors' Association and the Newspaper Society, representing the national Press, on the one hand, and the provincial Press, on the other, have a Joint Copy Committee which checks, as far as possible, the truthfulness of advertisements and thereby avoids printing advertisements which might be deliberately or in any other way harmful.
There are similar bodies for television, poster advertising and periodicals. In terms of poster advertising, one loophole has within the last few days come within sight of being closed, namely, the decision to set up a Kinematograph Renters' Society which will tackle the problem of the poster sites on cinemas themselves which have displayed some of the most flagrantly unpleasant posters from time to time and for which previously there was no body except, I think, the local watch committees, actively responsible for checking up on this matter.
Perhaps the most important of all is the British Code of Standards in relation to the advertising of medicines and treatments. I would draw attention to what was said by the judge in the Restrictive Practices Court on the Chemists' Federation case the other day, and which was 1568 quoted in The Times of 4th November. The judge said:The court was satisfied that this code was now accepted and enforced throughout the newspaper world and also in other advertising media such as posters and television.That is the view of the Restrictive Practices Court, and I think that it is an opinion worth stating.
I now come to the question of costs as affecting detergent advertising, which has already been mentioned. The following is a quotation from the speech of the Chairman of Unilever this year. He said:Take, for example, two of our best known products, the soap powder Persil in the United Kingdom and the margarine Blue Band in Holland. Both have been consistently and heavily advertised. The prices of both, though they have not fallen, have kept below the general rise in consumer prices. If we take the price of Persil and Blue Band as 100 in 1938, and the cost-of-living index in both countries at that time as 100 also, Persil in 1957 had risen to 148 against a rise in the cost-of-living index to 264, while Blue Band had risen to 267, against a rise in the index to 310.That, I know, is only one example of very heavy advertising which has been quoted, but it is, I think, an illustration worth considering.
Just one word—a very controversial one—on the question of tobacco and drink advertising. No one can contend that smoking is good for one. I smoke, but I cannot pretend that it is good for me. But, by and large, I say that it is my decision whether I give it up in the light of the reports of the committee on lung cancer which, incidentally, are often featured on the front page of a newspaper alongside, for instance, an advertisement saying "Players Please," or something similar.
The important thing in this matter is that the public should be as clearly and as frequently as possible warned of such dangers as seem to occur in these matters, whether it be the effect of smoking or drunkenness on one's health. It is very difficult to legislate easily and effectively on these things. The lesson of prohibition in America is worth thinking about in that respect. However, I believe that all concerned, the Government, the advertising industry and the newspapers, have a responsibility to ensure that the facts concerning the dangers of these practices are known as clearly as possible.
§ Mr. Lipton
Does the hon. Gentleman think that, in those circumstances, the Government should spend money on advertising the risks and dangers of excessive smoking, which is what I have been advocating for some time?
§ Mr. Hornby
As soon as the Government are convinced on the evidence that they have that the connection between smoking and lung cancer has been over-whelmingly proved, then I would say that they have a duty to promote educational advertising in that respect.
Another general complaint against advertising which has been raised in the debate concerns the techniques of the business. It has been said that it misleads by exaggeration, by confusing the issues. Of course, in almost every type of salesmanship, political salesmanship included, there is some degree of exaggeration and a tendency to concentrate on the factors that seem to show oneself in the best light and to minimise the factors which seem to show one's opponents or competitors in the best light. Of course, in limited space and time there is over-simplification. That is always likely.
I am sure that the right thing to do is to encourage more of the activities of the Association of Consumer Research. I think it has now changed its name to Independent Consumer Research. It is investigating claims and products and is publishing its reports in the light of its investigations. The hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Dodds) shakes his head. These bodies have been tried out in America and Sweden—
§ Mr. Hornby
It is always very tempting for hon. Members opposite to say that a "Minister of Consumer Welfare", and so on, could do these things, but the proliferation of these ministries which one can have unless one leaves it to private initiative, can really go too far.
Finally, we come to the question of taste. The suggestion is that much that appears in advertising, on the television 1570 screens, on the hoardings, is in bad taste. Clearly, some advertising is a great deal better than other forms. So are some pictures; so are some films, and so on. I think it probably true to say, as was said earlier by the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood), that much advertising has contributed quite a lot to the raising of standards regarding furniture, cooking, and so on. Perhaps the standards of typography may have been raised. Other forms of advertising have done the reverse.
Do we really think that a Royal Commission or an independent inquiry could really find all the answer to the question: what is good taste? It seems to me that this is a question such as one was asked as a schoolboy to write an essay on. If a Royal Commission, composed of 10 people, were set up, we should get 10 minority reports, each with a different answer, and then if we had them serialised by the Sunday Times, with a prize for the best one offered by the Observer, we should have all had some good, clean fun; but I do not think that we can legislate on what is good taste by setting up a Royal Commission. The standard of good taste will rise or fall depending on the sense of responsibility in industry as a whole, and upon the general educational standards of our country.
It has been said that a Royal Commission or an independent inquiry would be valuable at the present time. I know that it has been accepted as a good idea by many people in the advertising industry. Perhaps from the point of view of the industry it might be a good idea, so that the air might be cleared. But I do not think that is the only consideration which the Government should take into account. Because one industry would like an inquiry, or because there is public disquiet about some matter, it does not necessarily follow that it is a case for a Royal Commission. I think that there is too great a tendency at present to hive off problems to a Royal Commission or to a separate inquiry. The decision should rest fair and square on the Government to promote legislation, in such cases as it may be necessary, if unpleasant features such as subliminal advertising are brought to light. We should urge the industry as we urge the trade unions—the T.U.C. and the 1571 E.T.U. is a case in point—to take what steps it can internally to put this matter right.
Though there are advantages in discussing this subject, and though there may be advantages from the point of view of the advertising industry in having an inquiry, I think that the matter may be summed up, as it was by the Editor of the Yorkshire Post in a leading article last Tuesday, by saying that to have a Royal Commission on this subject would be a waste of time and public money.
§ 2.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Christopher Mayhew (Woolwich, East)
My hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. F. Noel-Baker) covered an enormous amount of ground and, in my opinion, in his splendid speech he made an unanswerable case for a Royal Commission. Necessarily, subsequent speakers have a duty to concentrate on some more limited and individual aspects of this question.
I wish to confine myself to the matter of television advertising and to two particular aspects of it. As has been said, this is an increasingly dominant form of advertising in this country both because of the amount of money put into it and its impact. It would appear that this year more than £50 million will be spent on television advertising. The queue of advertisers wishing to buy time on television is still long, even at the cost of 12s. per 1,000 viewers, which, I believe, is the present standard basis of reckoning.
The techniques are constantly improving so far as the persuasiveness of the medium goes and it can be said that, judged narrowly in terms of advertising, television is an extremely successful medium. But the subject I wish to raise relates to two evasions of the Television Act by the programme contractors in the matter of television commercials.
One is the breach of the legislation relating to interruptions of programmes, that is to say, paragraph 3 of the Second Schedule, where it is stated:Advertisements shall not be inserted otherwise than at the beginning or the end of a programme or in natural breaks therein.…The second breach of the Television Act is a breach of paragraph 2 of the Second Schedule which states:The amount of time given to advertising in programmes shall not be so great as to 1572 detract from the value of the programmes as a medium of entertainment, instruction and information".The paragraph regarding natural breaks has, I think, always been recognised as bad legislation, and was so recognised when the Act was under discussion. It is vague and it allows the principle that programmes may be broken into by commercials, which I should have thought unacceptable to any man who really wishes television to be a properly used medium of communication in this country. But dealing with the Act as it stands, I wish the Government to reply to my assertion that there are frequent flagrant breaches of its provisions.
Anyone may prove that by watching commercial television. There is no programme so serious that it is not broken into by commercials. There is no chain of arguments in a discussion programme so tightly drawn that it is not interrupted. Last Saturday I came across a particularly striking instance. A film of suspense was being screened from 9.30 to 11.15. It was a film called "Dead Reckoning", a "thriller", in which the producer and director had deliberately set out to create an accumulation of tension and suspense from the beginning of the film until the end. As these films go, this was not a bad one. Yet, between 9.48 and 10.58 p.m., that film of suspense was broken into four times in order to screen commercials which lasted altogether for 10⅔ minutes. To me this seems a flagrant breach of the Television Act and I should like some reply from the Government, who have a responsibility, as I hope to show.
I could quote many instances of this kind. There was the case of an interruption in mid-sentence. A very well known Q.C., Mr. Gerald Gardiner, was discussing the subject of capital punishment with, I think, Mr. W. J. Brown and he was actually interrupted in mid-sentence. I wish to know how that can be reconciled with the statement in the Act that a commercial shall be permitted only in natural breaks in the programme.
Of course, responsibility falls first on the Independent Television Authority and only subsequently on the Government. Part of the trouble in this as in the other breaches of the Act which I shall refer to comes from the false conception of its role which has been a 1573 feature of the administration of the Independent Television Authority ever since it came into operation. The I.T.A. was intended to maintain television standards in the interests of the viewers. It was intended as a watchdog to protect the viewers against abuses and evasions of the Television Act by programme contractors. But, in fact, that has not been the rôle which the Authority has accepted. On the contrary, right from the beginning it has said implicitly—and in practice it has carried out the conception—that the I.T.A. is a partner and a friend of the programme contractor, without reference to the interests of the viewer.
Earlier this year the Director-General said—there are many quotations of this kind that I could give—that "a practical application of the Television Act must be worked out in a system of partnership and in a spirit of friendship between the Authority and its programme companies". That sounds all very well, but in the nature of things the Authority will have to decide sometimes between partnership with the programme contractors and the interests of the viewers.
On this subject of a natural break, this is brought to a head, because whatever viewers may think of the standards of individual commercials, the overwhelming majority of viewers resent the interruption of programmes by these plugs at such frequent intervals. Therefore, it is the duty of the Authority to enforce the Act in the interests of viewers.
It conceives its rôle to be quite different, and, indeed, when we read the Annual Report of the I.T.A., we find that it reads very much more like a public relations job for the programme contractors than a report to Parliament of its work on behalf of viewers. It is not only I.T.A. that is to blame in this matter, because the Postmaster-General also has considerable responsibilities. Paragraph 3 of the Second Schedule to the Act says:…and rules (to be agreed upon from time to time between the Authority and the Postmaster-General, or settled by the Postmaster-General in default of such agreement) shall be observed—
I ask the Government to account for their stewardship under paragraph 2 of the Second Schedule. I have not been able to find this agreement, and I have not been told of any activity by the Postmaster-General under the Television Act to protect the interests of the viewers against excessive and illegal interruption of programmes by advertisers.
- (a) as to the interval which must elapse between any two periods given over to advertisements;
- (b) as to the classes of broadcasts (which shall in particular include the broadcast of any religious service) in which advertisements may not be inserted, and the interval which
1574 must elapse between any such broadcast and any previous or subsequent period given over to advertisements."
It is not only paragraph 3 of the Second Schedule which is being constantly evaded and broken, but also paragraph 2 which deals with the amount of commercial time which there should be at any one period. Here paragraph 2 states:The amount of time given to advertising in the programmes shall not be so great as to detract from the value of the programmes as a medium of entertainment, instruction and information.I agree that this is a badly drafted paragraph, because it leaves so much scope for individual interpretation, but I should have thought it reasonable, speaking as a viewer, to say that eight minutes of commercials in one hour could easily be held to—detract from the value of the programmes as a medium of entertainment, instruction and information.I should say that was so certainly. In any case, eight minutes is far too much. What are the standards we should apply? Instead of eight minutes, why not say five minutes? I should say that an hour's viewing would certainly have more entertainment or educational value if there were only five minutes, rather than eight minutes, of corruption—[Laughter.]—or rather, commercials. That Freudian slip should not be taken too seriously. Indeed, five minutes rather than eight minutes would be far more in keeping with the spirit of paragraph 2 of the Second Schedule.
What, in fact, do we find? We find up till this year far more than eight minutes' interruption by commercials in the hour at peak times. More than that, it is interesting to note that the I.T.A. this year had managed to bring it down to eight minutes. In the report, it is stated:In the light of the Second Schedule, Paragraph 2, of the Television Act, the Authority therefore asked "—1575 not, be it noted, required the programme contractors to cut it down from the excessive amount of eight minutes in the hour, as it should do, and as it is statutorily obliged to do, but—therefore asked the programme companies to consider steps to limit the amount of advertising which could be shown in peak hours, and at the beginning of 1958 arrangements were introduced which, with slight variations depending on the length and type of individual programmes, broadly limited the amount of advertising which could be shown in any one hour to eight minutes.On what basis does the I.T.A. say eight minutes in one hour? The only thing it does is to put excess profits in the banking accounts of the programme companies. It does not help the programmes or the viewers. It spoils the entertainment and detracts from its educational or entertainment value considerably.
The only effect of the I.T.A. saying that there shall be eight minutes instead of five is what we see in the papers today—the grossly excessive profits of the programme contractors. That is all there is to it, and this is the result of commercials that break into the programme. They do not improve the programmes, they do not improve the entertainment to the viewers; they create great irritation for viewers and excessive profits for the programme contractors.
I am asking only that the I.T.A. should enforce the provisions of the Second Schedule of the Act, and should revise its whole conception of its role, which is one of friendliness and partnership with the programme contractors, and should recognise that to do its duty under the Act, of safeguarding the interests of viewers, inevitably means putting a check on the programme contractors. Those are the two very limited points I wish to make in this debate. I could, of course, have gone, and would have enjoyed going, rather wider, and considering the impact of advertisements on the balance and character of the programmes, which is an extremely important question, but those are the two points to which I wish the Government to reply, if they will, and of which I feel that the House should take account.
May I also in the interests of viewers remind the House that the I.T.A. has said that it would allow these evasions on the part of the exhibition of advertisements by programme contractors because 1576 the programme contractors needed to find their financial feet? Now that they have not only found their financial feet, but are also making excessive profits, the I.T.A. should enforce the Act.
I am sure that television has a role to play in helping the housewife and the consumer with information about commercial products. I should like to see the B.B.C. taking this matter seriously. I should like to see the B.B.C. putting in visual form some of the admirable findings of Consumer Research Organisations. I should like to see a visual edition of the publication Which brought to the attention of millions of viewers weekly at peak hours.
Indeed, if I wanted to be more specific, I should like to see five minutes of that admirable programme called "Panorama" demonstrating for viewers which petrol will take their cars a little further, and which detergent does wash whiter or cleaner. It would not do any harm to see in "Panorama" fifty men's shirts in the studio, with Mr. Dimbleby inviting the chairman of the advertising agencies concerned to come to the studio and pick out which shirts had been washed by their particular detergents. Why not? Is there anything unfair in that? Are hon. Gentlemen opposite suggesting that they could not pick them out?
It seems to me that there is a quite different approach to television and the consumer than the one to which we have become accustomed, and it would be quite a good thing for television to give the consumer good service on these things. It is perfectly practicable. I believe that scientific tests can determine degrees of whiteness in washing, and there would be no harm in showing the housewife which detergent, whether it be Daz or Persil, does wash whiter. I am curious to know. I am anxious to know the truth instead of what the advertisers tell us.
I should also like to see a five-minute film of the Silverstone racing track with five identical cars, all under laboratory test, run perhaps by the R.A.C., each car containing one gallon of petrol, one having Shell, one having B.P., one Benzole and so on, to see which goes furthest and which stops first. This would be an important television service to the consumer, and it could, in my 1577 opinion, like the weather forecast, be a regular service to tell the people the truth about these things, instead of confusing them by all the slogans, all self-contradictory, which we get at great expense from the advertising industry at present.
Those are the points that I wanted to make, and they add up to this. The Postmaster-General should perform his duties under paragraph 3 of the Second Schedule of the Television Act, and should insist that the I.T.A. should see that there is no break in the programmes. That is all I am asking for—that the maximum number of commercials in one hour should be five and that 55 minutes in the hour should be free from commercial advertising. The effect of all this would be a sharp fall in programme contractors' profits, but it would be in line with the Television Act. Those profits are excessive. It would also lead to better viewing and less irritation among the millions of viewers in this country.
§ 2.32 p.m.
§ Miss Joan Vickers (Plymouth, Devonport)
I think that I am the first amateur to intervene in this debate; I have no intimate knowledge of advertising. Hon. Members will not expect me to follow the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) in detail. He was speaking from an expert's point of view. I would remind him that in theatres, especially in plays which deal with murder, it is the usual practice to ring the curtain down at a critical moment in the action to let us see all kinds of advertisements for 10 minutes or even longer. This is still done in provincial theatres and has been the custom for many years.
I am sorry not to see the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. F. Noel-Baker) in his place, as if he does all the things that he told us about in the House today he must be an extremely brave husband.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) said, keeping up to the Joneses spurs us to higher standards of living.
My real interest in coming into the debate is this question of a rising standard of living, and of employment, neither of which has been particularly touched upon so far. I would like, first, 1578 to quote from something which was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) as far back as 1924 at the Wembley Exhibition:Advertising can play an important part in repairing the consuming power of the world. Advertising nourishes the consuming power of men. It creates wants for a better standard of living. It sets up before a man the goal of a better home, better clothing, better food for himself and his family. It spurs individual exertion and greater production. It brings together in fertile union those things which otherwise never would have met.That was as usual a very wise speech by my right hon. Friend.
The hon. Member for Swindon did not really prove that it is necessary to have a Royal Commission or an independent inquiry, as he gave us the numerous safeguards which the industry has already. He said that the industry was so anxious to have an inquiry. That is because it considered it has nothing to hide. If the industry really needs one, I suggest that it should set up a council of completely independent people whom it can consult about measures which may be necessary in the future. Such a body could advise the industry or the Government whether any measures are necessary, so that the Government or a private Member could introduce a Private Member's Bill if he was fortunate enough to be successful in the Ballot.
The advertising industry employs a great number of people. I was interested in what the hon. Member for Swindon said about billposting and posters. They create a great deal of employment as well as interest and amusement, particularly among people on railway stations. Many of these posters are very topical and have the effect of actually bringing down costs. I understand that some bus companies do not admit posters, which means that their fares are higher than the fares of other buses which do admit them. It is not always true that advertising increases the cost of a commodity. It is often helpful in bringing down costs of production.
We have heard a great deal today about detergents. I shall not suggest whether one detergent washes whiter than another. That depends upon how the housewife uses it. It is her use of the detergent which results in one article being whiter than another or not. Detergents have been of great help to the housewife, 1579 otherwise she would be forced to go on with the old methods of washing with soda and soft soap. A great many women have thus been relieved of an arduous task. Whether the detergent really washes whiter or not is not of very great importance. In any case, many of the garments are coloured, and whether they are cleaner than others depends upon the persons concerned.
Advertising gives people more choice in the shops. Anybody who has travelled recently in Russia will know how important this is. I understand that in Yugoslavia and Poland consumers are given freedom of choice. There is a limited control, because there is a very limited supply of goods which consumers can get. In East Germany, to which I have been, there are very few goods in the shops and no means of advertising.
Advertising is helpful, especially to countrywomen who often do their ordering by post. This system has proved entirely satisfactory for many years.
The hon. Member for Swindon mentioned advertisements for foundation garments on the Underground. I know that objections have been taken by women's organisations, who have got together on the subject and have passed resolutions. I am glad to say that in this way, which is the way we should do things, rather than through a Government inquiry, the posters on the Underground are to be moderated. Women's organisations are capable of taking action as and when necessary.
Reference has been made to advertisements in women's magazines. If we were to set up an inquiry into advertisements it would have to deal not only with the advertisements, but with the articles which are written up in those magazines about such things as cooking, dressmaking, and the knitting of garments, as they actually give the names of the dress shops and firms which make the products. An inquiry, if it did its work logically, would have to go into what has been said in all the articles which have appeared in women's magazines.
Nothing has been mentioned today about the export trade. I think that advertisements are very beneficial to that trade. Having lived overseas I was always interested to see the translations of words such as "Horlicks" into Tamil or Malay. This country depends on its 1580 export trade and the products sent overseas need advertising. The standard we have set up for overseas advertising is extremely beneficial to this country.
I agree with the hon. Member for Swindon that there is a need for safeguards in respect of certain commodities. He mentioned the question of smoking. In Exeter University there is at present an experiment going on into the question of smoking and lung cancer. The Government are not neglecting this problem, but are giving help, as also are voluntary organisations; but until we can get definite proof that lung cancer is caused by smoking I do not see how we can control that type of advertisement.
Then there is the question of Ryvita. It has been suggested that Ryvita is not less fattening than bread and the number of calories in it have been quoted. What is often forgotten is the type of commodity concerned. I suggest that doctors have been able to prove that Ryvita is a slimming food, although it is made up of the same calories as bread, because it has not the same fattening effect.
A great many quotations have been given about safeguards. The hon. Member for Swindon referred to a case in which a fine had been imposed for incorrectly advertising a grapefruit product and in another case fines had been increased. We have power to protect the public in this way.
I read an article in The Times quoting the British Dental Journal on the question of toothpaste. I agree with the hon. Member for Swindon that so far as one knows there is no proof that one toothpaste is better than another, but I think that the advertising of toothpaste encourages people, especially children, to clean their teeth. When they see advertisements for a pretty pink toothpaste they are attracted to it and it does not do them any harm, though I think it better for them to clean their teeth with that than with common salt, as the hon. Member suggested. In this matter there is ample safeguard, as if dentists felt really strongly about this question they would recommend people not to buy toothpaste. They could put notices in various clinics advising against the use of toothpaste. It is up to them to do so if they feel really interested in the point.
In the British Code of Standards relating to the advertising of medicines 1581 and treatments, there is a list of 22 different ailments in which safeguards in relation to treatment are required. For instance, on the question of slimming, weight reduction, or limitation or figure control, the publication says:No advertisement should offer any product or treatment for slimming, weight reduction or limitation, or figure control, if the taking of using of the product or following the course of treatment is likely to lead to harmful effects.That is a revision from the previous suggestion "that medicinal products intended to reduce appetite would usually be regarded as being for slimming purposes." The British Code of Standards is continually revising standards and giving further protection to the consumer. There are 22 of these safeguards. I shall not quote them all, but merely refer to the one about baldness, which says:No advertisement should claim or imply that the product, medicine, or treatment advertised will do more than arrest the loss of hair.…There are many safeguards and a list of 57 diseases and illnesses, treatment for which cannot be advertised at all. In this way and other ways we have plenty of safeguards for the consumers against the advertising industry, and I suggest that we should not set up a Royal Commission as a result of this debate.
§ 2.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Norman Dodds (Erith and Crayford)
Listening to this debate one would think from speeches made by hon. Members opposite that there was really no case for a Royal Commission. Anyone interested in seeing that the consumer gets a square deal will know that it is no good looking to hon. Members opposite if this problem is to be cleared up. Anyone present during the wonderful speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. P. Noel-Baker), who put it no higher than that there was a need for some Royal Commission to look into the matter, would have accepted that in the best interests of the people.
We have had some interesting speeches from hon. Members opposite. We have heard the advertising world defending its interests. We had the hon. Member for Tonbridge (Mr. Hornby) trying to ridicule the setting up of the Royal Commission because he said it would find it difficult, if not impossible, to discuss what is and 1582 what is not good taste. That is the old whitewashing device, to find something which may be difficult to deal with and gloss over the many things which need to be looked into. I should say to the hon. Member—he will be able to read it as he is not now present—that the Americans have such a safeguard. They set up an impartial Federal Trade Commission. Its principal purpose is far the control of advertising claims and statements. Such a thing here would make a tremendous difference if it were an impartial body whose job it would be to see that when advertisements claim something they amplify that claim.
I say to the hon. Lady the Member for Devonport (Miss Vickers), who quoted from what someone said in 1924, that that is a long time ago. Long after that date I became a publicity manager and for several years I was in the advertising business. It was the war that ended that. I can say from my own experience that the standards are very much lower now than they were in the 1920s.
§ Mr. Robert Jenkins (Dulwich)
The hon. Member has referred to something my hon. Friend the Member for Devon-port (Miss Vickers) quoted as having been said in 1924. I wonder if he has taken the opportunity of reading what his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice) said to the International Advertising Conference in 1951? As the hon. Member has given way, I shall not quote that, but if he read it he would realise that everything said by my hon. Friend was completely confirmed by the right hon. and learned Member.
§ Mr. Dodds
The hon. Member for Dulwich (Mr. Robert Jenkins) has made his speech and, as a consequence, I hope he is happy. At present I am dealing with speeches made by hon. Members opposite. If the hon. Lady should think it important enough to make that quotation, I think it a reflection for a gentleman to criticise her on that point. The hon. Lady said that speech was made in 1924 and standards then were not very much better than they are today.
The hon. Member for Crosby said that advertising does a good job of work and helps to raise the standard of living. He went on to say, "Frankly, I see nothing 1583 wrong in people keeping up with the Joneses". In other words, to encourage people to keep up with others is a rather good thing. The hon. Member for Tonbridg,e asked of advertising, "Is it anti-social?" He went on to give a list, as have other hon. Members opposite, of the safeguards, and said, "Of course, there will be cases that get through the net". It is about that that I am so concerned. There is a very big hole in the net, and it gets bigger every day.
Today, we have heard some airy-fairy stuff from the other side of the House about raising the standard of living. If anyone knows the truth about this kind of business, the National Citizens Advice Bureaux Committee has a pretty good idea. It set up a sub-committee on hire purchase and credit buying, and that subcommittee said:Following reports received by the National Citizens Advice Bureaux Committee from a variety of sources as to difficulties arising from hire purchase and credit buying, and the resolution passed by the National Womens' Citizens Association—we were appointed to study the question, to collect information, and to advise the Committee whether, and, if so, what action should be taken.As the hon. Lady the Member for Devonport sees so much good in advertising, she might be interested in the sub-committee's report. It says:…we have no doubt from the evidence that much financial difficulty and unhappiness results from the failure to relate the amount of periodical payments to the income which can reasonably be expected to be available for meeting them over the period for which they are due. The two factors most frequently mentioned as causing trouble are, (a) inability to relate commitments to household budgets as a whole; and, (b)"—and this is what I want to deal with:high pressure salesmanship.
§ Miss Vickers
The hon. Member may be interested to know that it was as a result of that report that the organisation concerned asked me to be one of their principal speakers at their annual meeting.
§ Mr. Dodds
In that case, the hon. Lady's speech might have made some reference to some of the unhappiness created by high-pressure salesmanship, in which the national newspapers play a tremendous part.
My hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) said that it was necessary at this stage for hon. 1584 Members to deal with a very limited part of the subject, so I will confine what I have to say to a point made by my hon. Friends the Members for Swindon, and for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse). They referred to the advertisements that are appearing—and there is a mushroom growth of them—in the national news-papers, encouraging people, by thoroughly dishonest methods, to fill in forms asking for details of these amazing bargains.
My hon. Friend the Member for Wednesbury referred to one such advertisement, and the National Citizens' Advice Bureaux Committee has given me a long list of individual items showing just what is happening as a result of these advertisements in the newspapers. Here is one. It says:Mrs. Z. had a granddaughter aged 18. The granddaughter was interested in sewing, and saw an advertisement for reconditioned sewing machines. She replied, and a man called, bringing a very old machine which he demonstrated to show that it was no good, and tried to persuade her to buy a new one at a cost of £40, deposit £5. The girl pointed out to him that she was under age and, therefore, could not sign an agreement. He persuaded her that it did not matter, and that it would be in order for her to sign, and no guarantor was asked for. She paid him £5.This is happening in a very large number of cases. A friend of mine wrote to twelve of these firms advertising in some of the most prominent national newspapers. Each of these advertisements is called the "bait", because prizes—which may be hairdriers, or a six-month supply of Daz—are offered in order to try to sell vacuum cleaners, washing machines and other household articles.
People who know anything about these things realise that the articles being advertised in the national newspapers are offered at prices at which they just could not be sold. In all cases, the pattern is exactly the same. It is that if the reader fills in his name and address on the coupon, pamphlets, brochures and all other information will be sent to him.
It is done in that way, because the advertisers know that if they were to advertise just how they intended to carry out the transaction, very few people would take any notice at all of the advertisement. Most people do not want representatives to call at their homes, following a reply to an advertisement. What they do want are further particulars 1585 to enable them to make up their minds whether or not they will buy.
The other eleven firms followed the same pattern—a representative called at the home One of the troubles about all this is that, while there is a percentage of the public able to resist even a slick salesman, there is enough evidence indicated by those in the advertising world to show that if only a man can get into the house he has made a big step forward to selling the article.
Another big factor about this is that the articles advertised are not there for sale at all. The friend whom I have just mentioned got the representatives to come to his home. I have all the details here. On not one occasion was an article that was advertised at a certain price available for sale at all. In fact, the pattern seemed to be to indicate that the advertised article would not do the job, and then to persuade the prospective purchaser to sign on the dotted line for something costing four, five or six times as much as the advertised article—
§ Brigadier Terence Clarke (Portsmouth, West)
The hon. Gentleman has obviously made a complete investigation into this subject, and would know the name of the advertising agent who was putting across this sort of advertising. I suggest that no advertising agent is doing such a thing as that; that it is entirely the enterprise of some individual, and has nothing to do with advertising, as such, at all.
§ Mr. Dodds
The hon. and gallant Gentleman does not make any case at all. The customer—Mrs. Brown or Mrs. Bell—is not concerned whether advertising agents are employed or not. Her concern is with the newspaper in her home that gives the details of the articles for sale. The hon. and gallant Gentleman's point might be all right for us in this Chamber, but it has no validity whatsoever in relation to the ordinary people who buy newspapers.
What I am getting at is that, by now, the newspapers know that they are advertising offers that are not being fulfilled. That is my point. The newspapers have had these complaints over and over again. Therefore, all that is needed to protect them is that in the advertisements it should be made quite clear that if the potential customer is interested a repre- 1586 sentative will call upon him if the customer will fill in the paper. That means that there will not be the response.
I say that the newspapers themselves could make a very big contribution, if they wished. It has been said that they have got several safeguards, whereby their work is governed, but we know, and it has been said in this debate, that the newspapers are having a terrible fight against television. Years ago, in 1924, newspapers would not have fallen for this, but it is now a question of this or nothing. That is why I believe that many advertising managers of newspapers would welcome an inquiry so that there could be a code of morals or standards laid down, which they themselves would be very pleased to see. Therefore, I support the Motion.
I have given the Minister a letter about the Harris Tweed Association. I take it that the Minister is going to reply largely on the ground that it has been making claims not only in this country but in America. What concerns me, the Board of Control having smacked this firm very much, is this: I should like to know, has anything more than that been done? The big point is, has some effective action been taken? I will not call it a racket, but I will say it is patently dishonest in its claims. That is the difference between me and my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon. I think it is patently dishonest in the claims it has made, and since it brought in the name of a Government Department I should like to know that we are having these safeguards, so that we can know just what action has been taken.
Since more Members want to speak and my Whip is anxious to get in, and since, if I keep him out, I shall not be paired in future, I shall conclude now by saying that this case which has been made today makes me and our group more determined than ever to press for a Ministry of Consumers' Welfare. We have heard of safeguards for consumers. It is about time something was done on their behalf.
§ 3.1 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Board of Trade (Mr. J. K. Vaughan-Morgan)
I think that it would be for the convenience of the House if I intervened in the debate at this stage. I shall be as brief as I can, because I have no desire to keep anyone out of 1587 the debate. I shall reply to as many of the points raised as I reasonably can, though I must frankly say that the debate ranged fantastically wide and seemed to me to stretch the terms of the Motion to their very widest.
The hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. F. Noel-Baker) is not in his place.
§ Mr. Vaughan-Morgan
Yes, I understand. The hon. Member expressed his regret, very kindly and pleasantly, that my hon. Friend the Member for Seven-oaks (Mr. J. Rodgers) was not speaking in this debate. He went on to express his own view of the reason, and I think it is obvious to the House. My hon. Friend was very closely associated with this industry until a few weeks ago, and must obviously be biased in its favour, and it is thought right and wise that at his request I, who have no interest whatever in the advertising industry, should intervene on behalf of the Government.
The hon. Member for Swindon has not yet returned, but I think I should he right to begin by referring to his speech, and I think I should like to congratulate him on about the first quarter of it. The remaining three-quarters showed, I thought, a steady degeneration and ended up in a welter of trivia. The hon. Member has now returned, and, therefore, I will repeat what I have just said, that I congratulate him on the first part of his speech—[HoN. MEMBERS: "The first quarter"]—on the first quarter of it, after which I thought it degenerated into a welter of trivia, and of some of it, when he reads it in cold print, even he, I think, will be rather ashamed.
§ Mr. F. Noel-Baker
Will the Minister allow me to answer that rather curiously chosen language? I hope that when he reads in cold print what he has just said, and has taken the trouble to check up the evidence and the facts I gave, he will withdraw that rather offensive remark.
§ Mr. Vaughan-Morgan
Most of the hon. Member's remarks, I thought, were very largely irrelevant to the debate. He took an almost unconscionable time to express his case, and ended, I thought, with a rather curious attack on my hon. Friend.
1588 The hon. Member also raised the question of political advertising and perhaps I might deal with that point straight away. The name of Colman, Prentis and Varley was mentioned. It has been employed by the Conservative Central Office for ten years. The Conservative Central Office seems to have followed rather belatedly the London Labour Party in employing the services of a professional advertising agency.
§ Mr. Vaughan-Morgan
The difference is that in 1934 the London Labour Party employed very largely the use of posters, to which the hon. Member for Swindon objected today.
I may also say that Colman, Prentis and Varley has never been asked to play any part in the public relations of the party. It has never had contact with the Press, radio or television authorities. Throughout its employment it has been confined to giving technical advice on matters of copy and design. Nothing will induce me to believe that Transport House does not, in some shape or other, use the same facilities. I find it hard to think that Mr. Morgan Phillips spends his time in designing posters and leaflets for his own department.
The hon. Member for Erith and Cray-ford (Mr. Dodds) was kind enough to give me very lengthy notice of this matter of Harris tweed which has been very much in our minds. I have to phrase my words very carefully because it is a rather difficult legal point. The wording of the advertisement has been taken up by us with the Association. We think that the Association now understands rather more correctly than it did the functions of the Board of Trade in connection with the registration of certification marks and the Board's understanding of the meaning of the words "Harris tweed". To sum up the situation, tweed marked with the Orb mark is undoubtedly Harris tweed, but whether or not any other tweed can be legitimately described as Harris tweed is a matter for the courts, and perhaps I may be allowed to leave it at that.
The hon. Member also referred to advertisements in an American newspaper, to the effect that the Harris Tweed Association was created by special charter of 1589 the British Board of Trade, which of course is nonsense. The Association has assured us that this advertisement, which appeared in November, 1957, was without its authority and was immediately withdrawn. The agent who was responsible for the issue of this misleading advertisement died very shortly afterwards, and there has been absolutely no recurrence of the incident.
The hon. Member for Swindon devoted some time to the question of outdoor advertising. I have some sympathy with a good deal of that earlier part of his speech. I do not think that I need go through the whole story. We know that outdoor advertisements are governed by regulation under the Town and Country Planning Acts and that there are certain obvious exemptions. We all know about advertisements on enclosed land, and so forth.
My right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence, when he was Minister of Housing and Local Government, stated, in 1956, that he was not satisfied with the results of existing controls and had consulted with various bodies about improving them. My right hon. Friend the present Minister of Housing and Local Government, in 1957, after considering these observations, issued a draft of new regulations which would consolidate and revise existing codes. He outlined his proposals in an answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. R. F. Hesketh) on 20th May, 1958, in which he said that he is going ahead with limited agreed amendments. Although he did not mention it, my right hon. Friend has also had very useful discussions about advertisements on business premises.
I should like to turn to the question of liquor advertisements being directed towards young people. This, I thought, really illustrated the fundamental reason why the Motion cannot possibly be accepted. This criticism was directed at the wrong objective. Perhaps it is relevant to remind the House, as the hon. Member did, that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is carrying out an investigation into the increase in the number of offences in drunkenness. That investigation will cover all age groups and not only offences by young persons.
Had the hon. Member carried his researches back he would have found that a Royal Commission on Licensing 1590 looked into the matter in 1931, and came to the conclusion thatthere is cause for some alarm in this flow of advertisement",but could see no means of checking itwhich is not open to substantial objection".I may add that the Royal Commission came to the not very startling conclusion that the effect of liquor advertisementis definitely to increase, or, at least, to check the diminution of, the total amount of intoxicants consumed".But that does not imply an increase in drunkenness or a general deterioration in the public approach or a general lowering of standards in this matter, and the Commission did not suggest that it did. In the light of what has happened in the years since the Royal Commission reported, I cannot see that there is any ground for saying that liquor advertising has led to a general deterioration in drinking habits.
§ Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)
The Royal Commission, twenty-seven years ago, expressed alarm on this matter. Do the Government feel any alarm now and, if they do, have they any intention of doing anything about it?
§ Mr. Vaughan-Morgan
The hon. and learned Member cannot have listened to what I said. I referred to what the Home Secretary has done.
I want next to deal with the speech made by the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew), who spoke, in particular, about television. I think that there is no ground for a further inquiry about television advertising, since Section 4 (4) of the Act enables the Postmaster-General to make, if he thinks fit, regulations by Statutory Instrument amending, repealing or adding to the Second Schedule, which governs the conditions under which advertising is allowed.
While the hon. Member was speaking to a Motion to appoint a Royal Commission on this subject, he omitted to mention that he had already tabled a Bill further to amend the Television Act. In those circumstances, there is no ground to justify the appointment of a Royal Commission to discuss that aspect, and I am sure that we can discuss it when we discuss his Bill.
§ Mr. Mayhew
I did not ask for an inquiry. I asked that the Postmaster-General should implement the Television Act. Does the hon. Member agree that the Act is being implemented?
§ Mr. Vaughan-Morgan
I think that the hon. Member should pursue his inquiries direct by Question, in the usual method of this House, to the Postmaster-General. I am replying to a very generalised debate on the appointment of a Royal Commission on advertising.
May I add a word about subliminal advertising? It is worth mentioning that, although there is the disputed isolated instance, there is no evidence of it being used in this country, nor is it very likely, I think, to spread. I hope that some hon. Members have read, as I have read, the report which the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising has brought out on the subject. At the end of a report which, I must frankly say, I thought was almost unreadable, it is stated that it is the unanimous opinion that the use of sublirninal communication in any form is professionally unacceptable; and if there is any extension of such advertising, I think that Section 4 (4) of the Act can cope with it.
I want to devote a little of my time to the question of smoking and lung cancer because, as the House knows, I am closely bound up with this. It fell to me on 27th June, 1957, to make an announcement in the House. I remind those who have spoken on this subject, even one of my hon. Friends, that the words which were used on that occasion were most carefully chosen, and I do not think that we ought to go beyond what the Medical Research Council said.
That is extremely important. I feel it very strongly as a non-smoker. May I say, with the hon. Member for Swindon, that none of my family smokes, and, for my part, I shall do everything to stop my children smoking, short of interfering with the normal liberty of the subject.
Let us go back to what the Council said. It advised the Government that the most reasonable interpretation of the very great increase in deaths from lung cancer is that the cause is smoking tobacco, particularly heavy cigarette smoking. Let us not go beyond those words until we have more support. It was the Government's decision, quite rightly, I think, at 1592 the time, that those facts or that announcement, to put it in that way, should be brought to public notice so that everyone should know the risks involved in smoking, letting the individual make up his or her own mind about what to do.
On the question of what the Government have done, the local authorities were approached, as the hon. Gentleman knows. The matter was drawn to their attention, and they were asked to take steps to make known what the opinion of the Medical Research Council was. In August this year, they were asked to report, after one year, to my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of Health what they had done to make the risks known. Of course, as is quite obvious, the majority of local authorities feel that the right and most profitable field for propaganda is among schoolchildren and school leavers. They have been working in that way. My right hon. and learned Friend is now studying the reports which have been submitted to him to see what further action can usefully be taken.
If I may, perhaps, go a little outside the terms of this debate and hark back to that occasion, with which I was so closely concerned, I should like to repeat that the amount of coverage which was given to the subject by the Press, both then and since, was quite admirable. The day after the announcement, I sat in my office surrounded by Press cuttings; I almost got down to calculating the number of inches in each paper. I thought that the Press did a wonderful job in bringing before the public the facts I had given, and I do not believe that there is a literate man or woman in the country who does not know what the risks, as we saw them, are. I feel that we owe a very real debt of gratitude to the Press for what it did on that occasion, and, I would add to those interested in the matter, what it has been doing since.
§ Mr. Vaughan-Morgan
It is, of course, true that large sums are spent on advertising particular brands. I do not think that I have ever seen any advertisement actually saying that smoking is good for one. The money is spent on advertising particular brands, as I see it, weaning the 1593 consumer who really smokes from one brand to another. That is part of the pattern of competition. If the hon. Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton) does not like it, what does he suggest? Does he really suggest that tobacco advertising should be banned by law, or even, as the hon. Member for Swindon faintly suggested in a peroration on 9th July, that the sale of tobacco should be actually prevented? If so, I think that he should be rather more forthcoming about what his approach is.
§ Mr. Lipton
I can say it in one sentence. Is there any reason that the Government should not do more than they have done to counteract the effect of all this tobacco advertising which is persuading non-smokers to smoke?
§ Mr. Vaughan-Morgan
I do not believe that it is persuading non-smokers to smoke. I speak as a non-smoker myself. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman is.
As I said earlier, my right hon. Friend is now considering what further should be done. I am quite certain that the course we have chosen is the right one, leaving it to the responsibility of citizens to decide for themselves. We have given, and shall continue to give, special attention to the education of the young in this respect.
Something has been said about the advertising of medicines, ethical and proprietary, and I think that one or two hon. Members have given particulars of the legislation which already covers this subject.
Attention should be drawn to Section 6 of the Food and Drugs Act, 1955, which makes it an offence to publish a false or misleading advertisement about the nature, substance or quality of a drug.
Obviously, there is left wide scope for publishing advertisements, but all the interests concerned have joined to subscribe to the voluntary code of standards by which to regulate these things. The code lists about 60 diseases and conditions in connection with which it prohibits advertising and it sets out general principles. That code is likely, in the course of time, to be revised. The code is such that its prohibitions already eliminate all but occasional unsuitable advertisements. There are occasional
1594 advertisements which, while abiding by the letter, succeed in avoiding the spirit of the code. The fact that this voluntary code is occasionally evaded is no reason for abolishing it, or arguing that it is ineffective.
The hon. Member for Swindon gave a classic example of how effective it is. It is a good example of what can be done by voluntary regulation in a matter in which it must be often tempting to play on the credulity of the individual. What point would there be in trying to supersede arrangements which work well 99 per cent. of the time by complicated and cumbersome regulations? There is the additional safeguard that Government Departments concerned, especially the Ministry of Health, are constantly on watch to see whether a preparation so advertised is one which should freely be available without a doctor's prescription—and I draw that to the attention of the hon. Member for Swindon. There are preparations which are now under active consideration, and I ought not to say more than that today. I am certain that action on these lines, or a direct approach to the advertiser, supplementing the voluntary code offers the most promising line of advance.
The hon. Member complained about petrol and oil advertising and gave a tremendous advertisement for Shell. He said that petrols were all the same. As a consumer, I do not agree with him. I shall not give a boost to the brand which I use, but I think that there is a very marked difference. The oil industry is very competitive, and I cannot think of a better safeguard for the consumer. The companies are few, but each is greatly concerned to maintain and increase its share of the trade and to improve the quality of its products.
Certainly, the industry advertises on a large scale, especially about petrol, but when one considers the turnover of the industry as a whole, nearly £500 million a year, of which £180 million is on petrol before tax, one must agree that the current expenditure on Press advertising for petrol, about ⅛d. per gallon, is in no way disproportionate to the size of the operations. If we cast our minds back to the bad old days of pool petrol, we will all agree that competition and the advertising which feeds it has been of the greatest benefit to the consumer.
1595 Do net let us forget that the oil companies also show their public-spirited approach by including in their publicity budgets expenditure on items such as road safety. We ought to give them credit for what they do. The Government believe in free choice for the consumer in fuel and power on the basis of the relative economic and other advantages. I can think of few industries in which there are fewer grounds for interference or regulation.
I have dealt with some of the arguments brought forward by the hon. Member for Swindon in his very lengthy speech. There are others which I will study and give the consideration they deserve. As I have tried to explain, and as other hon. Members have said, the extent to which the public interest is already safeguarded should be appreciated.
§ Mr. Vaughan-Morgan
The hon. and learned Member has not been here. He has hardly listened to the debate at all.
§ Mr. Mitchison
I have listened to every word of the Minister's speech, in which he has declared that he has said certain things and which I do not believe he has said.
§ Mr. Vaughan-Morgan
We will leave it to HANSARD. I am trying not to repeat things that have already been said.
Lists of safeguards have been given, and I think we can leave the matter there for the time being. Safeguards can be and are being extended where necessary, and it will always be for the Ministers concerned to make certain that the powers which already exist are properly used.
I now want to deal with that part of the Motion which constituted the main theme of the speech of the hon. Member for Swindon, which refers tothe increasing power of the advertising industry and its influence upon our national life.…The hon. Member gave the House some figures about the industry and I want to mention a few things about its structure, even if I do repeat what the hon. Member said. There are three main bodies in the industry, and they have done a remarkable job in the last few 1596 years, both in raising the standards and generally improving the quality of the advertisements.
One safeguarding body which has not been mentioned is the Consumer Committee of the Advertising Association, which brings the consumer and the advertising industry closely together. This debate is a useful opportunity to draw the attention of hon. Members and the public to the existence of that Committee and to urge them to get in touch with the Association or the I.P.A. when they have a complaint. That goes for the advertising of Ryvita and all the other products to which the hon. Member gave a "puff."
§ Mr. F. Noel-Baker
The Minister cannot have listened to what I said. If he looks at HANSARD tomorrow he will see that I devoted a great deal of attention to the Consumer Committee of the Advertising Association. I cited it as an example of the fact that these committees are wrongly staffed and cannot do their job. The Consumer Committee is supposed to represent the consumers, but 12 of its 18 members are representatives of advertising interests, and are headed by Mr. Hooper, of Schweppes. If the Minister is going to take his present offensive line he might at least have listened to the arguments which have been adduced in this House.
§ Mr. Vaughan-Morgan
I listened very carefully to the hon. Member's speech. I had to; it was a very long one. I am sorry that I said nobody had mentioned this committee; the hon. Member did mention it. I was trying not to repeat what other hon. Members had said.
What is more, his point about advertising representatives being on that Committee was adequately dealt with by my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Page). All these disciplinary bodies include members of the profession concerned.
One hon. Member compared this country with the United States of America, and urged the appointment of a federal trade commission on similar lines to the American one. I do not know whether he thinks that American advertising is better than ours, but I am prepared to say that our standards are the highest in the world.
1597 As tothe increasing power of the advertising industry and its influence upon our national life,this is a very vague phrase, but I suppose it refers to the amount of money spent upon advertising. The House has been given figures of that expenditure, and I hope that I shall be forgiven if I repeat them. They are supplied by the Advertising Association. In 1938, we spent £98 million on advertising, and in 1948 the figure was £121 million. That figure has gradually risen. In 1956, it was £309 million and in 1957 it was £334 million, although the last figure is a provisional one. These figures certainly show an industry which is growing by leaps and bounds.
But let us look at the figures as percentages of our national income. In 1938, advertising expenditure represented 2 per cent. of our national income. In 1948, when rationing was in existence and the choice of the consumer was limited, it was 1.3 per cent. The figure increased from that until 1956 when it was about 1.9 per cent. of the national income. The provisional 1957 figure is about the same, so that, in fact, we are now spending less of our national income on advertising than before the war.
Experience in the United States is on rather similar lines, that is to say, it was 2.8 per cent. in 1939 and is 2.9 today, after a similar dip in the war and in the immediate post-war period. It is also quite interesting to extend the comparison to other countries with a comparable standard of living.
§ Mr. Vaughan-Morgan
I do not know them, but I am sure that they would be most significant and revealing.
The highest percentage is in the United States of America, which, incidentally, has the highest standard of living in the world. Then comes the United Kingdom and Western Germany with roughly comparable expenditure and roughly comparable standards of living, followed by Sweden with the next highest, and Denmark.
I will give the hon. Gentleman one concession, because there is one very 1598 startling exception, Belgium, where the percentage of national income spent on advertising is very low. It is 0.5 per cent., a figure which I find quite inexplicable, having been there, and on which I hope that some advertising tycoons and pundits will do some research to find out how it can be interpreted.
It is fair to say, as a generalisation, that the higher the percentage of national income spent on advertising the higher the standard of living. As I have shown, far more is spent in the United States than in any other country, and there is nothing whatever to suggest that the expenditure here is unreasonable or extravagant. Indeed, there is a strong case for more expenditure as the standard of living goes up, because, as an economy develops, so the demand for services rises. On those terms, I should have thought that we would welcome the alleged increasing influence upon our national life as a guarantee of a rising standard of living.
The fact is, as has been said, that our complex industrial society cannot function without advertising. There is no other way, particularly in conditions of mass production, of bringing producers and consumers together. I do not think that anyone can seriously have argued today that without advertising the present output of goods would be available to the public more cheaply or more conveniently than it is at present.
There may be differences of opinion about the value of a particular piece of advertising either to the customer or to the manufacturer, but in a free society the solution lies in the hands of those concerned. They have the power of choice, and it does not mean that advertising itself is undesirable in any way. Besides, there is the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Miss Vickers) about the very important part that advertising can play in our export trade.
Without substantial advertising on the home market our exports would be gravely handicapped, for in the case of many products our ability to export on competitive terms depends on the existence of a steady demand at home. I think that dispassionate opinion would agree that the advertising industry is doing a very good job today. Its standards, above all its ethical standards. 1599 have improved enormously in the course of the last generation. I think it true to say that, on the whole, the public enjoys the advertising, much of which is attractive and witty.
If hon. Members opposite do not read the New Statesmen, they should, because there is a most interesting letter in its issue of 8th November signed "Socialist Ad-man." It reads as follows:Ad-mass has grown on ed-mass. But that does not entitle any Socialist to adopt the superior attitude to advertising employed by your neat-sounding injunction to 'treat the voter as a citizen and not as a consumer.' There is nothing fundamentally wrong in crying one's wares. It is what you"—that is, the Editor of the New Statesman—and I are both in business for. But it is immoral—and in the long run unsuccessful—only when the goods or notions you have to sell are themselves shoddy.That is a really firm statement. But in fairness to the hon. Gentleman, I think I should add that the writer spoilt his letter by going on to say:That is where we can unstick the Tories."—What, then, is there so sinister about this industry as a whole that it needs to be the subject of a public inquiry? What do the hon. Member and his hon. Friends see wrong with this industry as a whole, because his Motion is directed to the industry as a whole? Do they dislike the industry because it is successful and because it is functioning well? Do they dislike it because it is an integral part of a private enterprise society and, in my opinion, of a free world? I thought that the hon. Member for Woolwich, East gave himself away when he used the word "Freudian". I think that this is almost a Freudian complex on the subject of a free world and private enterprise.
I do not believe that this industry needs further controls other than those existing controls which I have mentioned. But it does need continued freedom under the law to go on with the task of persuading people here and elsewhere to aim at higher standards of living. But because of a number of minor things—[HON. MEMBERS: "No"] Yes, minor compared with the size of the industry as a whole, to which the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends object—he wants a Royal Commission to be set up. I think that would be a waste of time and public 1600 money and not in the least a task for which a Royal Commission should be set up—and I want to say a word about that.
The subjects which have at various times been considered by Royal Commissions have ranged far and wide. There are the great moral and social problems on which public opinion is exercised and divided, such as marriage and divorce, capital punishment and gambling. Then there are the large and complex administrative problems which involved the collection of a great many facts and figures as well as points of view; such subjects as the government of greater London, the pay and conditions of the Civil Service, and the taxation of profits and incomes. There is also another, rather esoteric, group of subjects, such as the land problem in East Africa. which have been considered by Royal Commissions. But to my mind, advertising does not seem to fall into any of these categories, and I submit that on the case presented today there is no ground whatsoever for an inquiry, and still less for the setting up of a Royal Commission.
The fact that the hon. Gentleman alleged that a few people in the advertising industry would welcome an inquiry is no argument for the Government to recommend one. There are people who are always asking for a Royal Commission on something, including a great many subjects such as this. But, of course, circumstances might change in due course and such an inquiry might be justified, but one is not justified on the facts as we have had them today. There are no administrative difficulties, and the voluntary discipline which the industry has imposed on itself, added to the powers which the Minister possesses, should, in present circumstances, be more than adequate for controlling the industry.
The facts are widely known and will be wider known as a result of today's debate. There is no evidence whatever that the public is deeply concerned about the conditions in the advertising industry. There will, of course, always be minor facets of advertising which will be distasteful to one citizen or another; and here, although I do not wish to take the time of the House, I must get rid of one "chip" which I am carrying on my shoulder. As I sit, desk-bound, at the Board of Trade, I look out of the window 1601 and see London buses passing by bearing the slogan "Hop on a bus." They choose to do that at the very moment when London Transport have removed the bus which served the village in which I live.
§ Mr. Vaughan-Morgan
I am sorry not to give way, but I have given way a great deal; and I do want to allow other hon. Members to take part in a debate in which some hon. Members have taken a rather abnormal share of the time.
We certainly do not need a Royal Commission to lay down canons on taste. These things are far better left to the disciplines of public opinion, if, as I do, we trust public opinion. I think the debate has served a very useful purpose. The hon. Member for Swindon, in the first part of his speech, leaned over backwards to say that the majority of the industry was well conducted. There is no evidence which shows any general tendency to deceive, or that the influence of the industry today is in any way antisocial. I believe that the advertising industry as a whole is playing a great part in the raising of standards of living in this country, as elsewhere in the world.
It is time that we showed our disapproval of the continuing witch-hunt by some people against the industry, and the best way of showing our confidence and that of the public in the good that the industry is doing is to reject this Motion.
§ 3.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Willey (Sunderland, North)
I think the whole House would like me to pay a tribute to the Minister of State for sitting patiently with us throughout this debate. I must say that, when he first rose, I felt that he would have done better to have remained seated for the rest of the debate. It seems to me that his speech has relied on three sets of briefs. The opening part was on the brief from the Tory Party Central Office, to which I shall refer in a moment; the second was the obvious brief from the advertisers; and the third, the rhetorical part, was the usual rhetorical ending that we get from the Department, apart from the reference to the buses, in which the Minister of State displayed some originality.
I wonder why, if the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) had said what he said 1602 he did not say, but what he was reported as having said, he would have happened to be right. I ask this in all seriousness, in view of the nature of the hon. Gentleman's reply. I wonder whether he has been in touch with advertisers with regard to this debate.
§ Mr. Vaughan-Morgan
I have received an enormous amount of things from the I.P.A. and the Advertising Association, 99 per cent. of which I am afraid I have not read.
§ Mr. Willey
Quite frankly, I wondered whether the Minister had been in conference with the advertisers, because certainly a good deal of this speech seemed to be a briefing speech for advertisers. The hon. Gentleman seemed as touchy on that brief as on the Central Office brief, and it is necessary for me to reply to some points which have been made on behalf of advertisers.
The case apparently is this, and I have an open mind about these matters. So far as liquor is concerned, the hon. Gentleman referred to the Royal Commission which met in 1931, and apparently stated that there was cause for alarm which still remains with us, and, for that reason, says the Minister, we want no further action. I cannot see the logic of that. With regard to television, and the very constructive speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew), the hon. Gentleman told the House that the Postmaster-General has an initiative which he has failed to exercise, and that, therefore, we should have no inquiry. Again, I cannot see the logic of that.
On the subject of smoking, the Minister of State said that the Government are paying for propaganda to be conveyed to school children and school leavers, and that that propaganda was being countered by advertising, so that, therefore, there is no cause for concern. I should have thought that there is some cause for concern, at any rate, about the Government's own advertising. One or other of these forms of advertising must, presumably, be right, but the Minister of State knows well enough that it was a Government-aided body—the Central Council for Health Education—which went to the expense—the taxpayers' expense—of 1603 printing 20,000 posters, and it was the general secretary of the British Poster Developrnent Association which barred that poster. It said that the poster was barred because its censorship committee, not the Government's—felt that the poster was a gross exaggeration.
§ Mr. Vaughan-Morgan
I did not mention that point because I thought that it had been raised earlier. It is true that one of these posters was objected to, but I understand that the other posters, the factual posters, have been accepted.
§ Mr. Willey
It is very disturbing that when a responsible organisation produces a poster a private censorship committee can say that it should not be used. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] The censorship body has said it was misleading. I am as concerned as any other hon. Member to know who is right. We had better have an inquiry to see who is right. The Minister of State referred to petrol, but my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. F. Noel-Baker) quoted in his aid the managing director of one of the largest petrol concerns that he would welcome a Royal Commission. The Minister of State's reply, on the brief for the advertisers, made out no case at all, except that he established in the mind of a simple person like myself the idea that there is a case for an inquiry.
The rest of the hon. Gentleman's speech on the Departmental brief was irrelevant. Like the hon. Member for Crosby, the Government have not read the terms of the Motion. This is not a Motion against advertisers, and my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon has not made out a case against advertising. Every speech made so far seems to have recognised what the anonymous writer said in his letter to the New Statesman—which the Minister has chosen to advertise—that advertising serves a very useful purpose and is an essential part of life as we know it. It is for that very reason that we want an inquiry. Advertising is not something that we can dispense with but something which helps to shape our lives.
I therefore turn to the speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon. I pay him this tribute: I congratulate him first of all upon emulating Privy Councillors in the length of his speech. He has set a very good precedent for back 1604 benchers. I do not want to appear disrespectful, but I hope that some Privy Councillors will emulate my hon. Friend in the eloquence and the substance of what he had to say. He made an unanswerable case for an inquiry. All he pleaded was sufficient disquiet, but in fact he left people like me profoundly disturbed.
I began by mentioning something that we all know a little about, political propaganda. When I heard about Messrs. Colman, Prentis and Varley, I thought that I would not be so disturbed if Mr. Colman. Mr. Prentis or Mr. Varley was a Member of this House. We have in this House a democratic conception of political propaganda, but I very much doubt whether people outside direct contact with political life share that conception. That is what concerns me. The simple point I make about political propaganda is that it depends upon balance. Every hon. Member would be disturbed if he felt there was not to be a reply to what he said. That is the virtue of propaganda in a democratic society; the converse can be said and will be said. We know quite well that in a healthy democracy we must have a balance between the political expressions. Of course, there is not a perfect balance. We know the many advantages which Government supporters have, but there has to be balance and, in the people who are conducting the political propaganda, there must be a sense of responsibility. There has to be a recognition of the limits and we have to exercise control over ourselves. The same criteria apply to advertising.
I could linger a little longer to make this clear about political propaganda. I can see that one of the hon. Members from an Ulster constituency has less appreciation of this than we have here. naturally, because there is not the same balance of political opinion there. Of course he can afford to sneer, but this is a serious matter for those of us in the rest of the United Kingdom. We know well that if this balance is upset, if these limits are not recognised, we get a form of society we do not like. We know that, abhorrent as the ruthless exercise of power is, so is the unchallenged exercise of means of communication in totalitarian countries.
1605 I am making no allegations about the advertising business, but it was recognised by an hon. Member opposite that this balance does not apply. Here we have a means of persuasion, but not a means of counter-persuasion. The hon. Member was good enough to say that such organisations as Which? and Shopper's Guide are very important. They provide some counter, but not a sufficient counter. We have to recognise, at any rate, that we must therefore exercise a continuing survey of such a business as the advertising profession.
§ Sir S. Summers
Apropos of his argument, could the hon. Member explain what is the balance or retort to the policy of the closed shop?
§ Mr. Willey
Although I make no complaint about this, I have little time in which to reply and I must keep to advertising. We have to have a continuous regard to the advertising business. I am not going to talk about Messrs. Colman, Prentis and Varley, but advertising in fact impinges the whole time on politics. To give a simple example, as one of the "top people," I read The Times. Regularly I see full page advertisements about guided missiles. Am I ever likely to buy a guided missile as a result? Are any of the "top people" likely to buy a guided missile? What is this advertising for? It is directly at the taxpayers' expense to create the impression that the big boys in aircraft are jolly good scouts who take a lively interest in the subject and can depend on taxpayers' support.
We shall be returning to this matter next week. We know that shipbuilding is facing difficulties. In the West End I have seen an enormous poster advertising British shipbuilding. Do I think that people who hang around that poster will order a ship as a result of seeing the poster? No, it is prestige advertising. Like the aircraft industry, that industry knows it will be looking for a subsidy. This is a political question.
Another simple factor which arises from advertising on the scale on which it 1606 is now carried out is that that very scale affects the size and shape of industry. On both sides of the House we are interested in monopolies. The main instrument of monopolies is the cost of advertising. No hon. Member opposite would deny that. The main way in which to keep a new entrant out of any industry is to have very high advertising costs. The main road towards monopolisation within an industry is to saddle that industry with very high advertising costs. All the examples are there. The industries of which we have been speaking this afternoon, the heaviest customers for advertising, are all industries that are highly monopolised.
Another factor that is equally simple, that equally affects us, and that is disturbing the Americans today, is that advertising is affecting our way of life. It is creating the consumers' needs. In many cases, it is not meeting them, but creating them. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Crosby, who has a confessed interest in advertising, may say that that is a very good thing—
§ Mr. Willey
And he is entitled to say it, because he has a particular interest in, and respect for, his own profession. I do not complain of that. I hope that he will continue to prosper in advertising, and will think that he is serving a good purpose. I am merely questioning the purpose. We know what has happened in America. We have new needs created, which may or may not accord with consumer choice but which have been impressed on the consumers by advertising.
The very shape and size of some of our manufacturing industries have been drastically affected by advertising. [Interruption.] I should have thought that that was a matter that would, at any rate, merit inquiry. The Minister of State knows very well, just as we all know, the difficult economic circumstances in which we are existing today. How much should we allow ourselves to be knocked about by advertising? Advertising is a very big industry. A sum of £400 million is a very large amount of money. Advertising is an industry in itself.
An hon. Member opposite referred to the costs of distribution.
1607 As I understood him, he said that we should have a Royal Commission on distribution generally, but, he added, we ought not to have a Royal Commission on advertising, because this was only part of the picture. I ask him to vote with us, because he stands no chance at all of getting from his own side a Royal Commission on the costs of distribution. He will be told that that is a political matter.
Let us, however, have a Royal Commission on this particular sector. I hope that every hon. Member will agree that the proportion taken out of our national resources by the costs of distribution is something that we should keep under constant review. If, as is conceded, a substantial and growing element within these costs of distribution is the cost of advertising, a good case could be made out for looking into that.
It is no good the Minister of State saying that we have some safeguards. It is in spite of those safeguards that we are disturbed by the cases quoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon relating to health, foodstuffs and other advertisements. For myself, I do not know anything about it—I am only a victim of advertising—but I am disturbed when I hear of advertising techniques.
I met a scientist the other day who told me that scientists have been able to make a duck into a bird that is certainly not a duck. I confess that that is very disturbing. What advertisers are doing—and they admit it—is to try to make us into people socially different from what we are. They are conditioning our demands and needs, and they are also conditioning our outlook on life.
I do not want to be unfair or unkind to anybody who practises this very important profession, but I hope that the Government will not be as adamant as they appear to have been. There is bound to be an inquiry sooner or later, and it would be far better if the Minister acceded to our request now.
§ 3.59 p.m.1608
§ Mr. F. Noel-Baker
On a point of order. I should be grateful for your ruling, Mr. Speaker, if you would tell us what protection we can expect from the Chair in ensuring that the House takes a decision on this vitally important matter.
§ Mr. Speaker
I have to have regard to the hour at which the Question was proposed from the Chair and the number of hon. Members who want to speak. I would direct the hon. Member's attention to what he said himself in the course of an intervention at one o'clock, when he said there was not time enough for hon. Members to speak, and he asked whether there was any way in which the debate could be prolonged. I have given that matter thought. If the debate is now adjourned, the Question will remain on the Order Paper and may be revived in more favourable circumstances. The debate now stands adjourned.
§ It being Four o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
§ Mr. Willey
On a point of order. Without disrespect, Mr. Speaker, I fully acknowledge the reasons you have given for the Ruling you have just given to the House, but on a point not only of order but of information for our better guidance, may I ask whether the Chair has, on any previous occasion, ruled that the Question should not be put after a full day's debate? After all, under our rules of procedure this is the longest time that we can give to a debate on such a Motion as this.
§ Mr. Speaker
It has been refused before, I am informed. It is quite true that normally on a Friday I would grant the Closure, but in a debate which ran the normal course and occupied the whole day; but I have to take into account all the circumstances of the matter. I do not think that it makes any practical difference actually, but I feel that I ought to say that in order to maintain the position of the Chair.
§ Mr. Stonehouse
May I ask for your guidance, Mr. Speaker? How can back benchers secure protection in this question of ensuring that a decision is 1609 reached on an important matter of this description. It would appear—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I think I heard the Adjournment moved, in which case points of order are out of order. To secure a decision of the House, the matter rests as much in the hands of hon. Members as it does in the hands of the Chair. The Chair has to make up its mind whether in the circumstances it is right to grant the Closure or not. This has been a peculiar debate, and on its course I feel I would not be justified in granting the Closure.
§ 4.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Stonehouse
On a point of order. As you have rightly said, Mr. Speaker, we have had insufficient time for this debate—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The Adjournment has been moved, The Question is, "That this House do now adjourn." Mr. Ridsdale.
§ Mr. Speaker
I understand that there is a point of order. Mr. Dugdale. I hope it is not one on which I have already ruled.
§ Mr. Dugdale
Are we not allowed the right to oppose the Adjournment of the House? When you put the Question, "That this House do now adjourn," many hon. Members on this side said "No"
§ Mr. Speaker
Certainly, but an hon. Member has the Adjournment, and I called him. It is Mr. Ridsdale. He caught my eye and is entitled to speak to the Motion.
§ Mr. John Hynd (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
On a point of order. May we be clear on this, Mr. Speaker? When you rose to put the Question "That this House do now adjourn," a point of order was raised, but after the point of order a large number on this side of the House cried "No" against the Question. What opportunity is there to vote on the Question?
§ Mr. Speaker
The whole matter is laid down in Standing Orders. As there is a half-hour debate on the Motion for the Adjournment of the House, I called the hon. Member for Harwich (Mr. Ridsdale) to speak to the Motion, and it is his turn to speak.
§ Mr. Stonehouse
In view of the fact, Mr. Speaker, that you saw my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. F. Noel-Baker) on his Motion "That the Question be now put" before calling the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Sir S. Summers), is it not a fact that you should have put the Motion to a vote at that time?
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse) has only recently joined us. I hope that he will take my word for it that that is right. I do not wish to quarrel with him.
§ Mr. Stonehouse
With great respect, Mr. Speaker, it is as a new Member that I ask for your guidance. I am sincerely asking for your guidance because it appears to me, as a new Member, that we have had a long and involved debate on a very important subject which the House has not had an opportunity of debating for some time. It appears to me that if we had proceeded to a vote on this subject hon. Members would have been able to make a decision, perhaps in favour of establishing a Royal Commission. Surely, after such a full debate as we have had today, with a very long reply from the Minister of State, Board of Trade, back benchers were entitled to record their vote on the subject.
§ Sir Wavell Wakefield (Marylebone)
Further to that point of order. As an old Member of the House, may I ask whether it is not a fact that some of us have been sitting here nearly all the time that the debate has been in progress? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Yes, and we were anxious to speak. I have been here nearly the whole time. Is it not right that many of us who wished to speak would have had an opportunity to do so if there had been time?
§ Mr. Speaker
There were large numbers of hon. Members who desired to speak, but the Question was put at a late hour from the Chair. It was seven minutes past one o'clock and that left out of the whole day only a short time to share out between hon. Members, especially if one excludes Front Benchers. But I think that this was a just decision. I do not think that it infringes the future course of events, but it indicates to hon. Members that in opening a subject of this complexity they ought to leave more time for other hon. Members.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)
I rise to a point of order. I am sure, Mr. Speaker, that we would all regret it if the Chair were brought into collision with a considerable section of the House because that part of the House felt that it had not had the opportunity of deciding the feeling of the whole House. I am sure that it would be your wish that no Question should fail to be put from the Chair if it was thought that it had been adequately debated.
1612 I fully realise that there has been criticism of the length of the opening speech. But is that a reason for denying the House an opportunity of reaching a conclusion on the matter, when we take into account the fact that many important debates in the House start at 3.30 and finish at 7 o'clock, and others start at 7 o'clock and finish at 10 o'clock and in my thirteen years' experience of the House it is nearly always the fact that many hon. Members who want to speak are excluded and have no opportunity of doing so?
The real question is whether the Motion before the House has been adequately ventilated and hon. Members have had an opportunity of making up their minds. I respectfully submit that the length of one speech should not prejudice the right of the House to reach a conclusion on a matter of this sort.
§ Mr. Speaker
I thank the hon. Member, but these matters are laid upon me to judge and I have to decide whether there has been adequate discussion of the subject in all the circumstances. I formed the contrary conclusion in this case, and I have come to it honestly, not with any desire to influence the course of events, because as far as I can see it makes no difference, but to state the principle. I would point out to the House that if it wishes to challenge my Ruling on this matter, as it is perfectly entitled to do, there is a way of doing it—and only one way; it cannot be done by points of order.
§ Mr. F. Noel-Baker
On a point of order. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) has echoed your strictures, Mr. Speaker, on the length of my speech.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I very much regret that it was necessary for me to make so long a speech and I have every sympathy with hon. Members who were excluded from the debate, because it has happened to me very often in the past and it may well happen to me again. I was in a dilemma. I had to decide whether it was my duty to expand the case, if I were to do it justice, or whether I should finish my speech earlier in the interests of allowing more hon. Members to take part in the debate. I am sorry if the decision which I took inconvenienced the 1613 House. [HoN. MEMBERS: "What is the point of order?"] The point I am trying to make—
§ Mr. Speaker
I cannot hear what the hon. Member is saying. I am not blaming him or criticising him for making a long speech; it was an admirable speech if I may say so, and I have no feeling in the least about its length. But I have to judge the effect on the time remaining for debate, and the debate cannot start until the Question is proposed from the Chair. It meant that there was less than three hours, minus the time occupied by Front Bench speakers on both sides of the House, for hon. Members to talk. I thought that that was an inadequate time in the circumstances and I therefore gave my Ruling as I have stated it. I did it with the best of intentions, but if any hon. Member is challenging that Ruling, there is one way, and one way only, in which he can do so.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, and I apologise if I appear to have become heated. I did not intend any discourtesy either to you or to hon. Members. I am, however, in a dilemma. You have decided that we cannot vote because there has been inadequate discussion. I understand that perfectly well. Our feeling, however, is that the Government are hiding behind the rules and behind the Chair and—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I want to say, first, that no representations have been made to me on this matter by anybody. It has nothing to do with the Government. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."] I do not think that the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. F. Noel-Baker) meant to imply that it has. I want to make it perfectly clear, however.
§ Mr. Speaker
I would point out to the House that to raise points of order continually is not playing very fair with the Chair. The Chair is bound to settle points of order if they are impeding business, but once before we had an experience of an Adjournment debate, which an hon. Member had secured in the Ballot, being rendered nugatory by 1614 points of order. I hope that that does not become the general practice, because it would lead to reprisals and take away a much valued principle of the House to give the ordinary hon. Member a chance to talk on some constituency subject.
§ Mr. Callaghan
On a point of order. I am sorry to rise again on a point of order, and I sympathise with the hon. Member for Harwich (Mr. Ridsdale), who might well have been on his Adjournment debate by now, but I would point out to him that there are some hon. Members who feel that a five-hour debate has also been prevented from reaching a conclusion, and it is, therefore, an important matter. There is a remark which you made, Mr. Speaker, on which I should respectfully like to ask for your amplification. You said that you did not think that it had much mattered that you had not put the Question because the result would have been no different, anyway. May I ask you, with respect, what you meant by that?
§ Mr. Speaker
I ask the House to allow the hon. Member for Harwich to proceed with his Adjournment Motion. I advise the House to consider the circumstances this afternoon, to consider all I have said and all that has been said by hon. Members. If the House feels that I have erred in this matter—I myself do not think that I have—I hope that it will put down a Motion and let us have a proper discussion. I really cannot assent to our going on like this.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
Yes, Sir. I should like to complete the point I was trying to put in asking for your guidance. I apologise to the hon. Member for Harwich (Mr. Ridsdale). You said that, in your opinion, there had not been adequate discussion of this matter. I and 1615 some of my hon. Friends on this side feel strongly about the matter, and my own opinion is that we should either have a Division, which, in our opinion, we should carry, or the Government should help us by giving us additional time for a complete debate and then a Division.
§ Mr. Speaker
I would only say to the hon. Member that he himself appealed to me at an earlier stage on the ground that there would not be enough time for this debate, asking whether I could think of some way in which the debate might be carried on to another day. The only way in which it can be carried on to another day lies in the course I have taken, namely, that the debate should be now adjourned. It will then appear and come back when it gets a chance; it will remain on the Order Paper.
§ Mr. Dugdale
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I ask whether you will let us know the last occasion on which a Ruling of this kind was given, preventing the House coming to a decision on a Friday?
§ Mr. Speaker
I cannot deal with that now. If the right hon Gentleman challenges my Ruling, he is as able to make researches as I am.
§ Mr. Ridsdale
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order for hon. Gentlemen opposite to prevent my raising what I consider to be a very important matter for my constituents in this Adjournment debate? I should have only 30 minutes, and the attitude of hon. Members opposite is not only illiberal but undemocratic.
§ Mr. Speaker
That is not a point of order. I leave it to the House to judge whether it is a proper thing to do, but I cannot interfere if hon. Members rise and put points of order to me which are points of order; I have to listen to them.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The House is really in the hands of hon. Members in this matter, as is the Chair, at any time. It has to be a matter for hon. Members as well as for the Chair.
§ Mr. Willey
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. With all respect to the Chair, I raise this point of order because, as you know, I am one of the many hon. Members who come here regularly on Fridays. I am putting this point of order on behalf of Members who attend on private Members' day, which I believe to be a very important part of our Parliamentary procedure. What worries me about the Ruling you have given, as I understand it, is this, that we are—
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member is apparently challenging my Ruling. He does not agree with me. I can understand a difference of opinion on the matter, but I have given my Ruling The hon. Member must take the proper course. He cannot raise it as a point of order.
§ Mr. Willey
Further to that point oh order. I withdraw any implication that I challenged the Chair. I am not challenging the Chair and, of course, I accept a Ruling from the Chair. I want merely to elucidate the Ruling and how it will affect Members who attend on private Members' day. This is important. As I understand—and that is what I thought I said—the Ruling from the Chair was that it depends on an hon. Member speaking for a long time in moving a Motion and a large number of hon. Members wanting to speak on that Motion.
That seems to limit the categories of Motions which may be put before the House on a Friday. The point of order which I was raising was that, as the Ruling obviously depends on the nature of the Motion, is it the position that there are matters which are too controversial, or which invoke too great an interest, to be discussed on a Friday?
§ Mr. Speaker
Normally, the practice which I have always followed is that if a debate on a Friday starts at the proper time and follows the normal course and the Question is put from the Chair at a reasonable hour, it is good enough to permit the Closure at the proper time of four o'clock. This has been a little 1617 extraordinary and I felt it my duty to point that out. I hope that the House will now allow the hon. Member for Harwich to proceed.
§ Mr. Skeffington
On a point of order. By what authority was it, Mr. Speaker, that when my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) sat down a few seconds before four o'clock—had he waited any longer he might himself have talked out the Motion—you called upon the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Sir S. Summers) instead of putting the Question, which would have been the perfectly normal procedure?
§ Mr. Speaker
That is quite obvious. The Chair puts the Question if no other hon. Members rise to speak. When the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) sat down, a number of hon. Members on the other side of the House rose, including the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Sir S. Summers). The hon. Member for Swindon then moved the Closure, which I did not accept. The Chair cannot put the Question if there are other hon. Members who desire to speak to it, unless the Chair has power to do so if the Closure Motion succeeds.
§ Mr. J. Hynd
Do I understand it to be your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, that if in future at four o'clock an hon. Member rises, the Question will not be put?
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member should not understand anything of the kind. Normally, I should permit the Closure at the proper time. I have constantly repeated this and I have answered the questions of hon. Members. Hon. Members may not agree with me, but I have reached my decision, right or wrong, and I hope that the hon. Member for Harwich may be allowed to proceed.
§ Mr. Callaghan
On a point of order. I am sorry, but I am still not clear about the Ruling. I am sure that you will agree, Sir, that you have introduced a new Ruling for Friday debates. It is that whether the Question is put depends upon the length of the opening speech. [Hon. MEMBERS: "No."] Apparently, I have not fully understood the import of your Ruling. If the decision on whether the Question is put depends on the length of the opening speech, can we have some 1618 guidance on what you consider to be a reasonable length for a reasonable speech?
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member is as good a judge as I am of what is a reasonable length. We might have different views about it, but I form my own idea. It is impossible to lay down a limit in hours and minutes. I find that my views and those of hon. Members on what is a reasonable time frequently differ, but that is not to say that I do not have to make up my mind on when the Question should be put from the Chair.
§ Mr. Callaghan
On a point of order. I am sorry to have to follow up that point. You and I, Mr. Speaker, would probably agree about what was an inordinate length for a speech. Do you not put the Question when you think that the views of both sides have been adequately debated, adequately thrashed out? I have not heard the whole of the debate, but from that part which I heard it seems to me that the views of both sides have been put. Is there any precedent for saying that the House is incapable of coming to a decision after four or five hours of debate, especially when one considers the number of important matters which have been decided, under Standing Order No. 9, between seven o'clock and ten o'clock at night?
§ Mr. Speaker
The procedure under Standing Order No. 9 is governed by the Standing Orders, as is this matter. The rule is that the Speaker should withhold his assent to a Motion if he thinks either that it is an abuse of the rules or that a minority have not had a proper chance. I have forgotten the exact words of the ruling. Who is the minority in this case? I have to go by the number of speeches, and certainly the bulk of speeches has come entirely from one side. Therefore, in my view, there was a large body of unsatisfied speakers of the other view. Obviously, if there were not some guidance on these matters it would be difficult to prevent one side monopolising most of the time on a Friday. I do not think that that would be in accordance with what the House thinks right.
§ Mr. Mitchison
There is one matter which puzzles me, and may well puzzle other hon. Members. I understood that 1619 one of the reasons for your decision, Mr. Speaker, was that on looking at the number of Members in the House you could foresee the result of a Division. With great respect, Mr. Speaker, it would be very useful to us if you could tell us how far this principle is to apply. There may be occasions in connection with Public Bills, on an ordinary day of the week, when the decision can be foreseen. Is that to be a reason for not allowing, or for shortening, a discussion?
§ Mr. Speaker
Not at all. That has nothing to do with the question. I threw that remark in in the hope that it would induce hon. Members to accept my decision with better grace. The truth is that it does not depend upon that at all. It would have been very easy for me to allow this matter to go to a vote, but I felt that I should point out the ruling practice of the House in this matter, on Fridays. I hope that we shall new be able to proceed.
§ Sir S. Summers
About 12 minutes ago, Mr. Speaker, you advised the House that those who took exception to your Ruling had a perfectly proper procedure available to them. Since that time, under the guise of points of order, elucidations have been sought and arguments have been advanced upon a topic which you have ruled to be closed. What protection has my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich (Mr. Ridsdale) against points of order which you have ruled should not be raised at this time?
§ Mr. Speaker
The difficulty is that I do not know what an hon. Member will say when he rises to a point of order. That is where hon. Members have all the cards in their hands, and where they ought to play them fairly with that knowledge. I have to listen to points of order, but I think that anyone listening to this discussion—and I am sorry that it is hopeless for the hon. Member for Harwich (Mr. Ridsdale) now—would come to the conclusion that I have tried to answer the points of order. Many of them are merely differences of opinion between hon. Members and myself as to whether have acted rightly. We have a genuine difference of opinion about 1620 that. But there is a procedure laid down for them in that respect, and if they are quarrelling with my Ruling they should put down a Motion. I have ruled on all the points of order.
§ Mr. Ridsdale
In view of the fact that this is the second time in a very short time that the Opposition have prevented hon. Members on this side of the House from raising—
§ Mr. Maurice Orbach (Willesden, East)
How many hon. Members opposite were in the House? About three.
§ Mr. Ridsdale
—extremely important constituency points upon matters affecting the freedom of the individual, can you say whether I shall be given an opportunity of raising this matter again on the Adjournment, in view of the filibustering nonsense of hon. Members opposite?
§ Mr. Speaker
I have already expressed myself upon the question of preventing hon. Members from exercising their right to raise matters on the Adjournment. The only advice that I can give now is that the hon. Member should ballot again and see whether he is lucky. I hope that the House will not resort to this practice again.
§ Mr. Stonehouse
On a point of order. With great respect for the Ruling which you have given this afternoon, Mr. Speaker, may I ask, as a comparatively new Member, for your guidance on a matter which appears to be fundamental to the rights of back benchers in relation to the subjects which they raise on Fridays? Am I to understand from your Ruling, Sir, that it will now be impossible for back benchers to raise any controversial subjects in debate on Fridays?
§ The Question having been proposed after Four o'clock and the debate having continued for half an hour, Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.
§ Adjourned at twenty-nine minutes to Five o'clock.