HC Deb 17 May 1972 vol 837 cc508-9
13. Mr. Ashton

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what consultations he has had with the Sports Council regarding sponsorship in sport, particularly by tobacco companies.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

I am well aware of the Council's views.

Mr. Ashton

Can the hon. Gentleman explain why, in a year in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer is giving away £1,200 million, the British Olympic team has to rely on Rothman's asking for coupons to send the team to the Olympic Games? Is it not an anachronism that the Government should be printing health warnings on cigarette packets while encouraging the smoking of cigarettes to back up the British Olympic team?

Mr. Griffiths

I make it clear that the British Olympic team does not depend upon the charity of Rothman's or anyone else, but it would be entirely wrong to prevent that part of the community which happens to smoke from contributing if it so wishes.

Sir G. Nabarro

Is it not enigmatic that the policy declared by the Government is to dissuade smoking, particularly of cigarettes, but that the Government should then cause sporting interests to rely on cigarette companies to subsidise their sport?

Mr. Griffiths

Perhaps I can repeat to my hon. Friend that they do not rely upon the tobacco companies. But if a sports organisation wishes of its own free will to benefit from the support of tobacco companies, that is in the first instance a matter for that organisation.

Mr. Pavitt

Will the hon. Gentleman consult the Secretary of State for Social Services about the interdepartmental report to which the hon. Gentleman's Department contributed with regard to this subject? It is common ground between us all that we should discourage young people from taking up smoking, and surely it is indefensible that Rothman's should mount a campaign of this kind which is in contravention of Government policy.

Mr. Griffiths

I am already in contact with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services, but the hon. Gentleman should be careful before he makes these very large statements. There is no doubt that the £1 million or so which goes into sport from tobacco advertising brings benefits, including health benefits, to those who otherwise would not take part in sport, and these benefits need to be offset against the undoubted dangers which, I accept, can arise to young people.