HC Deb 30 April 1976 vol 910 cc759-99

Order for Second Reading read.

2.7 p.m.

Mr. Laurie Pavitt (Brent, South)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

I realise that I am introducing a controversial measure, although I am, perhaps, not one of the most controversial hon. Members. I would remind the House that it is at least an all-party Bill without any political bias. I take the point made in a previous debate by the hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir S. McAdden). Those of us who come to the House on a Friday in order to introduce a Bill find some difficulty when we look around for our sponsors, but I can assure hon. Gentlemen that the sponsors for this Bill were, from the Conservative Benches, the hon. Member for Wallasey (Mrs. Chalker) and the hon. Member for Chislehurst (Mr. Sims), who have both written to me with apologies because they have constituency engagements. My third sponsor from the Conservative Benches, the hon. Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir G. Young), is almost now in his place and I was aware that he would be here to support me.

My problem with the sponsors from the Liberal Benches is that they come from far away—the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel) and the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud). My other sponsors are the hon. Lady the Member for Moray and Nair (Mrs. Ewing), from the Scottish National Party, and the hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. McCusker) from the Ulster Unionists. I am sorry that I was not able to get a Welsh nationalist—there are only three of them and I did not see them on the day that I put in the Bill.

The purpose of the Bill is to take at least one step towards action against the holocaust of early and preventable deaths caused by cigarette smoking. The word "holocaust" is not mine, but that of the late Lord Rosenheim who was at the time when he used it the President of the Royal College of Physicians and chairman of the committee which produced the report which came out in 1971. He was one of the most distinguished physicians this country has ever had. He was also chairman of the World Health Organisation research committee. The late Lord Rosenheim said: Cigarette smoking can have three major consequences: cancer of the bronchus, coronary artery disease, chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Each is a tragedy in that it attacks relatively young adults and leads to tremendous morbidity, loss of work and loss of life". I hope that hon. Members will regard the Bill in the same way that I do—from the standpoint of health. When we discuss this subject in the House, I am always in some difficulty about emotional attitudes to whether smoking is a moral good or a moral bad. In my view, it is neither. It is a habit which people contract, and in discussing the subject in the country I find that there is always a tendency for people to want to argue about the issue dealt with in my Bill on that sort of basis.

People who smoke often feel a little guilty, believing that they must defend the fact that they are smokers and must find excuses for it. People who have given up smoking have a priggish attitude to it, saying "Look how strong willed I am; I have given up smoking." Neither view is germane to the Bill. I am not anti-smoking. From my point of view, if it were possible to assure me that there were no health consequences from smoking, the citizens of this country could become like smoked kippers from Yarmouth.

Since becoming a Member of the House, I have made health care and health treatment my special interest. In my view, in the National Health Service the greatest measure of agreement which is to be found among doctors and those engaged in the care or receipt of service is that we want prevention rather than treatment in the service.

In spite of that, although we can agree on the objective, it is difficult to take practical steps to secure it. The distinguished chief medical officer of health who retired two years ago, Sir George Godber, said that in terms of preventive medicine the greatest single step that could be taken would be to diminish the number of people who smoked cigarettes. His view was confirmed in the World Health Organisation report which was published last year and from which I quote: Smoking-related diseases are such important causes of disability and premature death …that the control of cigarette smoking could do more to prolong life and improve health …than any other single action in the whole field of preventive medicine". The purpose of the Bill is to take a small step in that direction, to introduce control of the kind advocated by the World Health Organisation.

I had the privilege of serving on the Medical Research Council for three years during which time we were much concerned with questions of that kind. The same opinion was expressed in the report of a working party of the Council, which stated: That smoking currently posed the major public health problem in western society". There can be controversy about all academic issues. In The Times today, Professor Hans Eysenck put forward a view about the question of smoking which my Bill does not specifically cover, although Clause I relates to a point to which I wish to refer later about the incidence of the tar content and nicotine content in cigarettes. The view put forward by Professor Eysenck is not new. He put it forward nine years ago and it was then well and truly refuted by eminent members of the Royal College of Physicians. In considering the evidence —and one should consider the evidence from all sources—it should be noted that, according to the report in The Times, Professor Eysenck was addressing a conference sponsored by the tobacco industry. Some of his research has been sponsored by the tobacco industry.

My Bill seeks to redress the balance of persuasion. Two sources of persuasion are at work and have been at work since the first Bradford Hill-Richard Doll report of, I think, 1951. There is the effort by the Government, through the Health Education Council, to persuade people either not to smoke or to smoke less. On that we spend less than £500,000. On the other side of the argument, the tobacco industry is trying to persuade people to buy cigarettes. People buy cigarettes not to put in a glass case but to smoke. About £70 million is spent on sales promotion. Therefore, this is very much a matter of a persuasive argument between David and Goliath.

There have been continual reports from sources of official medical opinion such as the Royal College of Physicians, the last being in 1971. After that report had made an impact through television and other branches of the media, 130,500 million cigarettes were sold in 1972. In the past 10 years, cigarette sales have increased by 13.36 per cent. Of the £70 million spent on promoting the sale of cigarettes, about £50 million—in other words, the major part—goes on the gift coupon scheme. Therefore, the Bill is the greatest single measure for redressing the imbalance between the two sources of persuasion to which the public are subjected.

I remind the House again of the size of the problem. During today's debate at least 60 people will have died who would still have been alive had they not smoked —one every six minutes. The annual report of the Chief Medical Officer of Health of the Department of Health states: A third of the total mortality is due to lung cancer and there are 80,000 premature deaths probably occurring in England, and in the whole of the United Kingdom probably nearer 100,000". It goes on to say that a large number of man hours are lost. Last year just over 5 million days were lost in production. Industrial stoppages are one of the economic problems about which we are all concerned, but 38.5 million days were lost through chronic bronchitis, eight times more. Much of the blame for this can be laid at the door of cigarette smoking.

The House debated this matter on 16th January. Although it has been made well aware of the overall slaughter of people in this way, a new factor to which I should like hon. Members to pay attention is that, although in the past few years the death rate among men from these causes has been static, the death rate among women has been rising at the rate of 15 per cent. per annum.

When I was a boy we used to whisper the words "TB" because it was a very unacceptable illness. A good deal of fear and psychological pressure resulted from the thought that one might have TB, and it was almost a social disgrace. Nowadays perhaps the biggest fear among women is the fear of cancer, and of all the cancers the one which causes them the gravest concern is probably cancer of the breast.

However, unfortunately, cancer of the breast mortality increased last year by 40 per cent.—incidentally, more people are being cured of it than die from it—and deaths from lung cancer among women increased by 188 per cent.

Recently, Professor Fletcher, of the Royal Post-Graduate Medical School, said: Women who smoke run a greater chance of dying from lung cancer than from breast cancer. In the last 20 years lung cancer has trebled. To emphasise this point, I quote again from the World Health Organisation's report: In women, whose cigarette consumption has been rising rapidly over the last 30 years, lung cancer mortality continues to rise as cohorts of women who have smoked heavily replace earlier lower-smoking cohorts in the cancer-prone age. I know that the House wearies of figures and statistics, so I shall now, as it were, put a little human body round the figures by telling hon. Members of what happened to one of my constituents, living in Harlesden. He started smoking at the age of 14. He was a lorry driver, and at 34 years of age he was admitted to my local hospital—which I share with the hon. Member for Acton and his constituents—the Central Middlesex Hospital. My constituent had a cough, and the cough showed a slight trace of blood in the sputum. Lung cancer was diagnosed, and he was sent to the Chest Hospital for an operation, but the lung cancer proved to be inoperable and three months later, at the age of 34, he died.

The tragedy fell on the family, for he had six children under 10 years of age. The wife broke down mentally as a result of the strain of her husband's death and the responsibility falling on her, and shortly afterwards she was admitted to another hospital, which also I share with the hon. Member for Acton and his constituents, the mental hospital for our area. The inevitable consequence was that her six children had to come into the care of the local authority.

I tell that story to show where the responsibilities lie. On the one hand, we have individual responsibility in these matters, but it goes further than individual responsibility, as that case well illustrates by the way the family took the brunt of the problem. In addition, the community, ratepayers and taxpayers, had to meet a heavy cost.

That case, among many others, stands in the records of Dr. Keith Ball, the specialist consultant in my hospital, and he extends an invitation to hon. Members to go at any time to his chest ward to see the results of the chest diseases which can develop. I am pleased to say that two hon. Members have already taken up that invitation, my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy) and the hon. Member for Acton. Both have visited the Central Middlesex Hospital and seen the facts for themselves.

The significant feature of that tragedy, however, is that the man had started smoking at the age of 14. I am sure that I carry the House with me when I say that the main effort should be directed at stopping youngsters from getting caught, and my Bill to deal with gift coupons is directly aimed at the under–25s because I believe that it is probably in this group that gift coupons have the greatest effect.

I believe that Mark Twain once said that it was very easy to give up smoking, and he did it at least two or three times a week. This is part of the problem. I do not know any smoker who has not at some time or other said that he would give up smoking or cut it down. But the impact of the gift coupon system is that a person says to himself "Yes, I shall do it when I have collected the next 200 in order to get something I have been waiting for". Indeed, some of the companies, when sending a gift, add as a little bonus, as it were, a few more coupons to start the smoker on the way again to the next gift.

I think here of the sort of family situation with which many people will be familiar. An aunt with a great love for her nephews spends a lot of time collecting coupons to obtain all manner of toys which are advertised, for example, in such remarkable catalogues as the one I have here, which must cost at least about £2 a copy to produce and which presents a most attractive incentive.

I know that the House prefers voluntary agreement to legislation. We all do. I bring this Bill forward, however, because of the history of negotiations to secure a voluntary agreement, which started 10 years ago. I quote here from what was said in 1967 by the then Minister of Health, Mr. Kenneth Robinson. He had been negotiating to achieve a voluntary agreement and he said: Two of the firms would agree to the ending of coupon schemes and to the limitation of mass media advertising expenditure on a basis agreed between them. The third firm would not agree to the ending of coupon schemes …After more than a year of negotiations, it is now clear that no further progress is possible by voluntary agreement.…In view of this, the Government have decided to introduce legislation in due course to take powers to ban coupon gift schemes in relation to cigarettes".—[Official Report, 23rd October 1967; Vol. 751, c. 1328.] Thus, in 1967 Her Majesty's Government made a firm declaration. I hope that the present Government will consider that I am helping them, nearly 10 years later, in the task of redeeming the pledge then given. It is that pledge which I seek to redeem.

I pay tribute here to one of the companies, Messrs. Gallaher, which was one of the two prepared to reach a voluntary agreement on gift coupons. This company was kind enough to let me have a copy of its market research report at that time giving the reasons why it felt that it would be right then to stop the gift coupon promotion scheme. I quote from the conclusion: The majority of the research information we have is consistent with the hypothesis that coupons tend to increase the number of cigarette smokers and the rate at which they smoke". In the summary of that excellent report, it is said that total sales of cigarettes have continued to increase in spite of the report by the Royal College of Physicians, and it adds: …The only other possible cause of which we are aware is the very great increase in sales of coupon cigarettes. The proportion of adults who smoke has tended to increase …coupons seem a likely explanation…Smokers themselves tend to feel that on changing to a coupon brand they begin to smoke more, and vice versa. I am grateful to the Gallaher company for its help, and I am grateful also to the whole of the tobacco industry for showing me the results of the research which it does. The tobacco industry spends quite a lot of money—I give full credit for it —on research in several places in this country seeking to find a carcinogen-free cigarette.

However, I have here also the report of the Imperial Tobacco Group—this is its second edition—on cigarette coupon schemes and cigarette advertising. It is fair to say that this report gives conclusions precisely opposite to those reached by Messrs. Gallaher. The introduction to the report reads: We can, we think, justly claim to know more about the industry than anyone else and we have sound commercial reasons "— I repeat those words, sound commercial reasons"—

for endeavouring always to seek the truth. The report points out that to eliminate coupons would enable a smoker to have a reduction of several pence on the price of each packet. What it does not say is that the £50 million spent on coupon schemes is an allowable expense for tax purposes, being set off against the amount of tax paid, so that the non-smoking taxpayer is subsidising the smoking taxpayers.

This is a simple Bill to give effect to the purpose which I have outlined. Clause 1 would abolish the giving of gift coupons with cigarettes. It does not apply to other tobacco products, and this is quite deliberate because there is some evidence that other forms of smoking, though never entirely harmless, carry considerably less risk. For example, between 1951 and 1965, half the British doctors stopped smoking cigarettes, and research showed a plumetting in the death rate from diseases of the lung. I am sure that many of them did not stop smoking altogether but switched to other forms of smoking.

A debatable point on Clause 1 is whether the ban on gift coupons should apply to all cigarettes or only to brands with a high or middle tar content. There is a good deal to be said for the latter approach, and I shall listen with great interest to what is said from the Front Bench on this matter. But when I considered it when drawing up the Bill I deemed it best to make the clause quite simple at this stage, leaving it open to the possibility of amendment when hon. Members have had a better chance to look at it, to study the pros and cons, and to see whether they wish to amend it so that the measure does not apply to all cigarettes, but just to those in regard to which there is a general understanding that the greatest health hazard occurs.

Clause 2 gives the Minister power to make regulations, and the clause is necessary to ensure compliance with the Act. I considered the possibility at this point of adding something on arbitration, but was advised that this would create difficulty in the context of a criminal offence, which should only be settled by the courts. But any orders a Minister cared to introduce would have the power to clarify areas of doubt, particularly if any court had interpreted the Act differently from the manner intended.

Clause 3 provides a definition of what constitutes a gift coupon. I make it clear beyond peradventure that this does not affect cigarette cards of film stars, racing motors, footballers, and so on, going into the packet. None of us would wish to deny this generation the pleasure that my generation had in collecting that kind of thing. Although it is arguable whether it helps in sales promotion, I do not think that it is one of the priorities with which the House should be concerned.

In Clause 3 there is also an expressed exemption for trading stamps, with the insertion of a reference to the Trading Stamp Act 1964.

What the Bill does not do is to interfere with anyone's right to choose to smoke, to smoke what he likes and as much as he likes. Nor does it introduce any form of prohibition, because I believe that prohibition is usually counter productive of what the prohibitors would like to have.

The Bill proposes no change in regard to matters such as advertising. There would still be an imbalance, with £20 million spent on persuading people to smoke and only £500,000 spent by the Health Education Council in persuading people not to smoke. The Bill proposes no change in health warnings on cigarette packets.

I welcome the appointment of my hon. Friend the Member for Waltham Forest (Mr. Deakins) to the Front Bench, and congratulate him on his appointment. I know that he has been interested in this question in the past, and I very well recall two Questions that he put to the previous Administration.

the Secretary of State for Social Services (1) if, in his Department's anti-smoking campaign he will ensure that the fact that tobacco is a drug will be emphasised (2) if in his Department's anti-tobacco smoking campaign he will ensure that the fact of the addictive nature of tobacco is emphasised."—[Official Report, 15th February 1971; Vol. 811, c. 329.] I therefore specially welcome the appointment of my hon. Friend to the Front Bench but, nevertheless, I assure him that I quite understand—as I have only just resigned from the Front Bench—that his job today is to speak for the Government.

The Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health and Social Security (Mr. Eric Deakins)

If my hon. Friend had carried his researches a little further back he would have found that in July 1970, after the June 1970 victory of the Conservative party, I made my maiden speech on a Bill connected with the misuse of drugs and drew some unflattering analogies between the smoking of marijuana and the smoking of tobacco.

Mr. Pavitt

That is an even further reason for my welcoming the fact that the Government have had the good sense to put my hon. Friend on the Front Bench, and the even better sense to have him on the Front Bench today to reply to the debate. I assure him once again that I quite understand that he must now speak in his official capacity, and I shall listen with considerable care to his statement of the Government's position in these matters.

In commending the Bill to the House. I am well aware that I do so against a very hard materialist background and that it would be foolish to ignore the realities of economic and commercial pressures. I am aware that my small Bill may be unacceptable to very powerful financial interests.

In saying that I am not trying to indict the tobacco companies as devils incarnate. They are controlled by ordinary human beings who are seeking to do a job of work in their chosen field and to operate successfully in it. But I ask the House—as the House was asked in considering the previous measure today—to have compassion. In this case I hope the House will have compassion for those gasping for breath with chronic emphysema, for the families of the bereaved, and especially for the health of our children and grandchildren.

2.36 p.m.

Sir Stephen McAdden (Southend, East)

The hon. Member for Brent, South (Mr. Pavitt) rightly anticipated what I was intending to raise immediately, as I did on the previous Bill. I refer to the absence from the House of the sponsors of the Bill. I know that the hon. Member for Brent, South is here, as is my hon. Friend the Member for Esher (Mr. Mather), but where are all the others? It is all very well to say that there are letters of apology, but this has always been the case. People write to say that they have married a wife or bought a farm, and so on. The reasons change with time.

Nothing that I say detracts in any way from my belief that the hon. Member for Brent, South is absolutely sincere in what he says. He has always been an ardent advocate of his own position. Sincerity is a great tribute to a man's faith and to a man's heart, but it is not necessarily a tribute to his head. Therefore, while I know that the hon. Gentleman is sincere in his approach, I believe that his approach is a wrong one.

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on being successful in the Ballot. I do not congratulate him on the Bill that he has introduced. I feel that much more useful legislation could have been introduced in the time available.

Mr. Pavitt

I was not successful in the Ballot. I presented the Bill.

Sir S. McAdden

I readily accept the hon. Gentleman's correction. I congratulate him on having the opportunity to put his Bill before the House, at the same time reiterating that I deplore the absence of the sponsors. It was pointed out that six people will die as a consequence of smoking while the debate takes place. The sponsors may have thought that they had better not come here in case they were among the six.

I have taken an interest in this subject ever since the late Sir Gerald Nabarro introduced a Bill on the subject. For some inexplicable reason I—one of the heaviest smokers in the House—was appointed to the Chair of that Committee. I listened for many hours to the accounts of the tribulations that would fall on heavy smokers, but as Chairman I was not in a position to say a word.

I noted the hon. Gentleman's remarks on the evil effects of cigarette smoking, which tend to attack in the main, he said, relatively young adults. Whatever might be urged against me, no one could say that I am a relatively young adult.

Mr. Eric Ogden (Liverpool, West Derby)

In heart.

Sir S. McAdden

That is very kind of the hon. Gentleman. I hope I am not tempting providence by saying that I am a quite heavy smoker of cigarettes. But I do not think it is part of the duty of Parliament to spend its time trying to save fools from their folly. If people are stupid enough to continue to smoke, as I am, in spite of all the warnings about the consequences, why on earth should the time of the House be devoted to trying to stop them receiving gift coupons with their cigarettes if they wish to do so? It is not compulsory for them to buy packets of cigarettes containing gift coupons. They can buy brands with or without gift coupons. But if they choose to have gift coupons, why should they not do so?

Other things are harmful in addition to cigarettes. This is the first step upon a dangerous road. It is recognised that the excessive consumption of alcohol is harmful. Shall we next Friday, perhaps, have a Bill seeking to prevent the use of Green Shield stamps in stores which sell alcohol? There is no logical reason why that should not be the next step along the road. Parliamentary time should not be taken up in arguing that people who want to buy expensive cigarettes—which cost an average 2½p each—out of their taxed income should have obstacles put in their way.

The hon. Member for Brent, South referred to preventive medicine and breast cancer. It is a pity that the National Health Service is not more active in promoting preventive medicine. It leaves a great deal of preventive work to charities and private individuals. My wife is president of a fund in the North Thamesside area which has been successful in raising over £100,000 from private individuals, who take part in coffee mornings and so on, to provide a unit for the early detection of breast cancer which the National Health Service is unwilling to provide. The National Health Service has a long way to go in preventive medicine. The continued supply of gift coupons with packets of cigarettes will not make much difference. There is much more useful and profitable work which needs to be done.

The hon. Gentleman seemed to look with disfavour at the report which appeared in The Times today because it is of a conference sponsored by the tobacco industry. Why? Does the hon. Gentleman consider that professional men who are invited to conferences, and professional men who conduct research, are such deplorable individuals that they will be swayed by the fact that the sponsor of the conference is a tobacco company? Does he suggest that the conclusions from research conducted by the tobacco companies are perverted and based upon the opinion of the sponsoring industry rather than on genuine research which should be encouraged?

The hon. Gentleman has in part wasted his opportunity. A much more useful Bill could have been introduced. The Bill is designed with the best intentions and with the innate sense of responsibility which exists among some hon. Members for saving fools from their folly, but that is not the job of Parliament. If people are rash enough to spend money out of taxed income on cigarettes, it is not the job of any Nosey Parker in the House or anywhere else to try to prevent them doing so.

Although the hon. Gentleman produced a large number of statistics, he produced no relevant statistics to prove that gift coupons in cigarette packets had led to an enormous increase in sales. Nor did he produce statistics to prove that because of gift coupons more people are smoking. Therefore, because of the lack of relevant evidence and the absence of sponsors to support the hon. Gentleman, I suggest that the House should refuse to give the Bill a Second Reading until evidence has been produced which is capable of convincing the House.

2.44 p.m.

Mr. David Weitzman (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington)

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, South (Mr. Pavitt) on introducing the Bill and on his extremely detailed speech which was drawn from many sources and should convince the House. I am glad that he limited the Bill to cigarettes. I must declare an interest. Since the age of 17 I have smoked a pipe—never cigarettes. I have enjoyed smoking a pipe for about 60 years and I am glad that the Bill imposes no prohibition on the smoking of a pipe. Some of my hon. Friends smoke cigars and my hon. Friend is a very good fellow for not having interfered with the smoking of cigars.

The hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir S. McAdden) asked why we should interfere with someone who is stupid enough to smoke. The Bill is a very modest measure which does not interfere with people who are stupid enough to smoke. It tries to stop the inducement to smoke given by the tobacco companies. I recollect a constituent of mine telling me that he used to smoke Black Cat cigarettes because coupons were given away with them in return for which he could obtain silk stockings for his wife. He said that he almost smoked himself to death to provide his wife with enough silk stockings.

There is always a difficulty in putting forward any proposition which interferes with freedom of choice, but if a product is harmful to others, or if a young person can be discouraged from contracting a bad habit, that must be taken into account.

We must not lose sight of the fact that a considerable body of medical opinion takes the opposite view to that put forward by my hon. Friend. We must remember the psychological effect of smoking. What can be better after a hard day's work, or perhaps after a day in the House of Commons listening to boring speeches, than going home, sitting back and enjoying a pipe or possibly a cigarette? We should seek a balance between restraint and allowing an individual to do what he wants to do.

There is considerable medical evidence on both sides of the argument. My hon. Friend referred to the danger of lung cancer, heart disease and chronic bronchitis. We already impose a certain restraint by the compulsory display of warnings on cigarette packets. Voluntary measures are also taken in many theatres and cinemas, and restraints are imposed in railway carriages.

I understand that in Norway on 1st July 1975 an Act came into effect which totally banned all advertising of tobacco products. I do not know what the hon. Member for Southend, East would say if a measure of that kind were introduced here. In addition, in Norway a health warning must be displayed on all packets of cigarette tobacco and cigarette papers.

In Sweden a report envisaged a long-term programme covering a 25-year period aimed at bringing up a generation of children in which smoking was the exception rather than the rule. According to the report, children born after 1975 will be the first non-smoking generation.

The French Government are introducing stringent legislation on smoking, much of which concerns advertising.

In Italy in 1955 a ban was imposed on advertising all tobacco products introduced into that country. It was extended but apparently had little effect. So on 1st January this year new restrictions were imposed on smoking in public places.

These are examples of what other countries are doing. My hon. Friend the Member for Brent, South has introduced an extremely modest measure—

Mr. Ogden

My hon. Friend has used the phrase "modest measure" three times. Surely he has read Clause 1(2)(a) which says that on conviction on indictment, for the offence of putting cigarette coupons in packets or attaching them thereto, a person is liable to a fine of any amount, or sentence of up to two years in prison.

Does he describe this as a modest measure when the penalty is any amount of fine, or two years in prison? Could any lawyer justify that?

Mr. Weitzman

I said and I repeat that my hon. Friend has introduced a modest measure. When my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Ogden) becomes a member of the Standing Committee on this Bill he can deal with the provision in Clause I and try to reduce the punishment.

Mr. Ogden

Make it 20 years.

Mr. Weitzman

This is a modest measure because it is restricted to gift coupons. The hon. Member for West Derby will still be allowed to have his cigarettes with cards of football teams—Liverpool and Everton and all that sort of thing. They will not be prohibited under the Bill, and the company which produces them will not run the risk of going to prison or suffering a penalty. If he thinks that the penalty in subsection (2) is too much, and there is some justification for that view, we can consider this issue carefully in Committee.

The people who will be charged with the offences will be companies, and corn-panics cannot be sent to prison. Sometimes the directors can, but this Bill does not contain the usual clause which makes directors liable. If my hon. Friend thinks a tobacco company in Liverpool can spend 20 years or any period in prison he is under a delusion.

Mr. Pavitt

Perhaps my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Mr. Weitzman) will explain to my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Ogden) the difference between indictment and summary conviction.

Mr. Weitzman

I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for West Derby understands the difference. I have no doubt that he has followed certain proceedings relating to certain persons with whom he may be familiar where the difference between summary conviction and indictment is shown.

The Bill does not define cigarettes and I hope that it will not include herbal cigarettes which some people smoke. do not think that we would want to condemn them to any restriction.

We must preserve an extremely careful balance. I accept that there should be as little restraint as possible on the individual, and if he chooses to smoke, we should let him. The hon. Member for Southend, East called such people stupid. I have been stupid for 60 years. We can at least preserve the balance.

We should have as little restraint as possible, but the restraint imposed by the Bill is one of discouraging tobacco companies to adopt measures to induce people to smoke if those people do not wish to. This is a sensible point of view, and to that extent I support the measure, in spite of the penalties envisaged.

2.56 p.m.

Sir George Young (Ealing, Acton)

I am proud to support the Bill introduced by my geographical, if not political, neighbour, the hon. Member for Brent, South (Mr. Pavitt), whose work on the all-party group of Action on Smoking and Health is to be commended. The House debated this matter at length on 16th January on a motion introduced by the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Mr. Kilroy-Silk), when my hon. Friend the Member for Reading, South (Dr. Vaughan) outlined the views of the Conservative Party on tobacco.

I shall deal with the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Sir S. McAdden), whose judgment I respect on all matters other than smoking. His thesis seemed to be that it was a consolation for many of us who spoke in that debate that the Chancellor should have put up the tax on tobacco in the Budget. The delegation that the Chancellor had from ASH was the only one he was pleased to see, as we were actually urging him to put up taxation. I hope he will continue with this trend in future Budgets.

My hon. Friend said that it is no part of the functions of this House to protect fools from their folly. I disagree. There is a general obligation upon us to prevent unnecessary suffering and the diversion of National Health Service resources to illnesses which could otherwise be prevented. The House has taken this view on crash helmets and on safety belts. It is perfectly consistent for us to support the Bill without in any way prejudicing views we have taken on other subjects. I see no conflict with my party's philosophy in supporting the Bill.

Total expenditure on tobacco promotion by the tobacco companies was £70 million, of which gift coupons took over £50 million. What we are debating is therefore more important than whether tobacco advertising should be restricted. In 1963 the amount spent on coupons was £8.8 million. It has risen to the current level of over £50 million. One reason for this is the ban on television advertising.

All voluntary attempts to curb coupon schemes are bound to fail, either because the tobacco manufacturers ask for conditions to which the Government cannot yield or because of competitive stresses between each other.

The tobacco companies have always claimed that there is a difference between coupon trading and advertising. A note on this matters appeared in the 1971 report of the Royal College of Physicians, which gave the manufacturers' view: The cost of coupon trading is not under the control of the manufacturers but is dictated by the free choice made by the smoker to purchase a brand containing a coupon to be redeemed at a later date for goods or cash. The increase in recent years in the total monetary exchange value of coupons simply reflects the increasing popularity of coupon brands. That seems a glib and superficial argument. I believe that the coupon brands have increased in sales because of the coupons, and that is the view of the manufacturers and advertisers. Other wise, they would not wish to spend promotion money in that way.

The current practice is also a breach of the code drawn up by the Advertising Standards Authority. The current code states: Advertisements for coupon brands, or including reduced price offers, should be so drafted as to avoid encouraging people to smoke more. Those of us who have seen advertisements entitled 'Spot the Kensitas' Smoker' would agree that such advertisements encourage people to smoke more. Therefore, that is a breach of the code. There are some schemes which give the smoker coupons with which to start his collection. That is an incentive to smoke more, which again is a breach of the code.

Coupons encourage people to continue to smoke when they might otherwise have stopped. They might have their eyes on some particular item in the catalogue and they will continue smoking until they have enough coupons. Again, that argument goes against the code—that coupons should not encourage people to smoke more.

I should like to refer briefly to the argument put forward by the promoter of the Bill about whether coupons should be allowed for the lower tar brands. The hon. Gentleman is right to exclude them from the Bill. It might be seen to be giving approval to cigarettes with a lower tar yield, but it would be wrong to sanction or approve any form of cigarettes.

The average smoker who contracts lung cancer will have smoked about a quarter of a million cigarettes. For these he will have collected about 62,500 coupons—about enough for a stereo and radio system from the "John Player Family Catalogue" at 66,000 coupons.

A husband and wife both contracting lung cancer could get a washing machine for 115,00 coupons. A family of five smoking for 40 years could get a Safety First Skipper 12 family dinghy for 289,500 coupons. I wonder whether the price being paid by that family for a relatively modest consumer durable is worth it. I fear that many people would have died from lung cancer before they had enough coupons to buy the goods on which they had set their hearts.

A recent Guards advertisement, which included the headline Guards save you time and money", lists various items, such as screwdrivers. To obtain a screwdriver, a smoker would have to buy 267 packs at a total cost of £89.43. That is not a sacrifice which any one ought to be asked to pay.

One of the problems about the debate is that we do not have sufficient evidence of the relationship between coupon schemes and cigarette consumption. I believe that they are a form of promotion. It would help if the Government could shed some light on the subject. Anything which can cut down premature deaths from smoking is worth supporting.

The Bill, as has been said, is a modest measure. It would be easy to implement and would involve no public expenditure. It presents no practical problems for the manufacturers. Indeed, it might enable them to cut their prices, which presumably they would wish to do.

For those of us who have constituents who smoke, there is a political problem in taking a hostile attitude to smokers. Whatever the attitude of smokers, however, I know of no one who wishes his own children to smoke.

The merit of the Bill is that it is the first step in, I hope, a long campaign to cut down smoking by young children and those who are not of an age to appreciate the risks involved. I hope that the House will give this modest measure a Second Reading and that the Government will indicate their support and facilitate its arrival on the statute book as soon as possible.

3.5 p.m.

Mr. Eric Ogden (Liverpool, West Derby)

My hon. Friend the Member for Brent, South (Mr. Pavitt) emphasised in his opening remarks that this is an all- party Bill. As the debate has progressed that point has been underlined. The normal alliances or oppositions across the Chamber are conspicuously absent today.

My hon. Friend the Member for Brent, South, with whom I normally agree on very many things, has been agreeing with staunch Opposition Members. It seems that the hon. Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir G. Young) is in an interventionist mood whereas his hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Sir S. McAdden), whom I know rather better because we have both been in the Chamber rather longer than the hon. Member for Acton, is in a particularly Conservative mood.

I do not agree with the hon. Member for Southend, East that we should leave fools to their folly. When he takes the view "Do not intervene unless you have to do so", that is a true Tory philosophy. I agree rather more today with the hon. Member for Southend, East than with the hon. Member for Acton or with my hon. Friends who have spoken so far.

I am grateful to a degreee, for I smoke a pipe occasionally and do take snuff, that both snuff and pipe tobacco have been excluded from the consequences of the Bill. However, I have no financial concern with tobacco industry. But I have a real concern about employment in tobacco company factories in Liverpool and on Merseyside. I claim some anxiety that the House should not try to make decisions for fellow citizens outside the House which those people are perfectly capable of making for themselves. We should not assume that people outside the House have less information, less evidence or less intelligence than ourselves. I do not believe in doing for other people what they are perfectly capable of doing for themselves. I disagree with the sponsor of the Bill, my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, South, and those of my hon. Friends who have spoken in its support.

Mr. Weitzman

I do not know whether my hon. Friend heard the example that I quoted of a constituent who smoked Black Cat cigarettes almost all day because his wife wanted him to get the coupons to supply her with silk stockings. Does he underrate the influence of women, especially wives, in these matters?

Mr. Ogden

A little later in the debate, if I may have a few minutes uninterrupted, I shall quote some of the remarks made by Mrs. Ogden, my wife, early this morning. Perhaps she is one example of the views that are held by women on this subject and on the Bill. My hon. and learned Friend will have to balance her comments with the other information that he has in his possession.

My hon. Friend the Member for Brent, South complimented my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State on the remarks that he made in a previous reincarnation about his personal view of tobacco smoking and the dangers stemming from the misuse of drugs. If we were selecting a jury I might have to object to my hon. Friend being empanelled. However, I add my congratulations on his appointment. I am in some doubt as to why the Under-Secretary of State for Social Services has been nominated, dragooned or persuaded to represent the Department of Health this afternoon if his duties are solely concerned with social services. However, I am sure that he is eminently capable of giving an honest and unbiased view of the thinking of the Government and his Department on this matter.

At one stage it seemed that my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, South was going more into the general debate that we had some months ago on the dangers of the misuse of tobacco and not concentrating too much on the Bill. I remind the House of what the Bill proposes. The Bill seeks to Prohibit the provision of gift coupons with cigarettes sold in the United Kingdom, and for purposes connected therewith. This is not to apply in Northern Ireland, only to part of the United Kingdom. Clause 1 reads: It shall be an offence to provide any gift coupon with or in connection with the sale within the United Kingdom of cigarettes. This "modest measure" as it has been called, provides penalties on conviction on indictment of a fine of any amount, or imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Mr. Weitzman) says that we cannot send a company to prison for two years. This would be a most difficult operation. If this cannot be done, why put it in the Bill? Some sort of exclusion should have been inserted.

We are being asked to judge the Bill as it is before us today not on how it might be changed in Committee. There fore, the fact that there may be fines imposed of up to £400, or indeed imprisonment of up to two years, for the heinous crime of putting a cigarette coupon inside a cigarette packet, or even attaching it thereto, because this might be an inducement, is an important matter. According to the sponsor of the Bill, it is wrong to put a cigarette coupon in a packet if that coupon is to be exchanged for a gift.

Sir George Young

How does the hon. Gentleman reconcile the libertarian view he is now taking with the authoritarian view which he took when supporting recent legislation providing for the compulsory wearing of seat belts.

Mr. Ogden

Perhaps I may deal with that aspect of the matter later. I hope that I shall not be called "authoritarian" or "libertarian" because those misleading phrases tend to set people on one side or other of the great divide. I was referring to a coupon that is inside the cigarette packet or attached to it. Whereas it appears that other forms of stamp trading are acceptable, I am the last to suggest that Green Shield stamps have any moral value, and it certainly would be wrong for my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, South to exclude Co-op stamps from the penalties simply because he is a member of the Labour and Co-operative Party. Yet I cannot see how one can separate the two inducements. Is it any different for a cigarette packet to contain cigarette cards, which are avidly hoarded by collectors and which might be an incentive to smoke more, than for it to contain stamps which will allow the acquisition of a coffee percolator, electric toaster or whatever? Surely it is a contradiction in terms to put cigarette coupons and Green Shield stamps or cigarette cards in different categories.

Mr. Pavitt

The Bill sets out my precise intentions. It relates to coupons included in the cigarette packet at the point of sale. If the Bill were to cover such things as Green Shield stamps, Co-op stamps and all the rest, it would have to range over much wider matters. I am seeking in the Bill to deal with only one matter.

Mr. Ogden

I shall take that explanation by my hon. Friend with a pinch of snuff because I am about to deal with the purposes of the Bill.

We all know that the Bill has been put forward in good faith by my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, South and his fellow promoters, for what they no doubt believe to be a proper purpose. The purpose of the Bill is to reduce the consumption of cigarettes The fear is that cigarette smoking is a real danger to health, whereas I believe that it is the abuse of tobacco that is the danger.

I could quote statistics illustrating that cigarettes taken at the right time have probably saved more people from heart disease than otherwise would have been saved. Therefore, the danger arises from mis-use of tobacco rather than its mere use.

Assuming that the purpose of the sponsors of the Bill is right, will the remedy in the Bill reduce total consumption of cigarettes, will it increase their sale, or will this change the pattern of consumption from low to high tar content? Let us see what information we have. I have collected such information as I can. I do not have the Gallagher report, because there are no Gallagher companies on Merseyside, but I shall refer to the Imperial Tobacco report.

This is a report by Information Research Services Limited which, so far as I am aware, is an independent research organisation. It was asked to undertake certain inquiries into the effect of cigarette coupons on the total consumption of tobacco.

I received the document at my home this morning. It says: The latest research information conducted by a national independent research company for the major British tobacco company presented in December 1975 gives the following summary of conclusions. It seems reasonable to give this argument because it is contrary to the more popular one. Cigarette coupons do not induce more people to smoke. Mrs. Ogden agrees with that. The average smoker of coupon brands consumes less weight of tobacco than smokers of non-coupon brands. Statistics show that whilst smokers of coupon brands smoke on average one or two cigarettes per day more than smokers of non-coupon brands, these are smaller than the non-coupon cigarettes so the effect is a lower tobacco consumption. Mrs. Ogden believes that to be true. In addition to smoking less tobacco, the smokers of coupon brands derive a benefit from a significantly lower tar delivery. The tar delivery of non-coupon brands is on average between 20 and 25 per cent. higher than that of coupon brands. Mrs. Ogden says that that is true.

In January of this year there was at least a tacit understanding and agreement between the Department of Health and Social Security and the tobacco companies that as a result of discussions and agreement on advertising control there would be no more legislation on the sale of tobacco this year. Conversations are taking place and will continue, but it was agreed that there should be an interim period.

The Government would be the last to say what hon. Members shall propose or dispose, but the Government Front Bench should make it clear that they have such an agreement with the tobacco industry and that the Bill would be counter to that agreement.

I have already mentioned my interest in continuing employment in Merseyside inside the tobacco factories. The principle of coupon trading is accepted in one form or another and further restrictive legislation would do no good. If the proposals were carried there would be no reduction in total consumption but it would remove one of the incentives to people smoking lower tar content tobaccos who might return to those with a higher tar content.

I have done some independent research of my own. I have been asking people that I have met over the past two weeks for their opinion. This morning I went to the headquarters of a political party in Smith Square. Occasionally I enter the Conservative Party headquarters for information, a light chat and to discover what is going on. Guidance and encouragement they certainly need.

But this morning I did not go there. I went to Transport House. I did not see the General Secretary of the Labour Party—although I believe he is a pipe smoker—nor did I see the National Executive Committee. I was asking for information concerning the local government elections. In a room containing 10 ladies who were working on the distribution of Labour Party literature for the municipal elections next week, I found that seven of the 10 were smoking cigarettes. That is a fact which I am reporting to the House.

Bearing in mind that the Bill was to come before the House today, I asked them what they thought of the Bill. I told them that it would prevent and prohibit the inclusion of cigarette coupons in their cigarette packets. Most of those who were smoking were using low-tar cigarette-coupon cigarettes. They said "We know all about the low tar and high tar. We are smoking these cigarettes because they are low-tar, not because there are coupons. We collect the coupons, and they are useful, but none of us has chosen a particular brand because it has or has not got coupons." The publicity about high tar and low tar had been noted.

These Labour Party supporters and workers in the Labour Party Headquarters asked me to tell the sponsors of the Bill to leave them alone. They said "Tell them we have minds of our own, that we have lived a while." One of them was ready to retire and another was just starting work. They said "We know the facts of life and of living. We know the danger of the abuse of cigarettes. We are not daft. Tell them that we are perfectly capable of listening to advice and making decisions about our own health, welfare and well-being but we do not welcome Members of Parliament deciding for us what it is our right to decide for ourselves."I have passed the message on.

Mr. Pavitt

I thank my hon. Friend very much.

Mr. Ogden

The purpose of the Bill may be laudable, but it would not result in what my hon. Friend wants. It would result in an increase in the consumption of higher-tar cigarettes. It would affect employment in my constituency. The Bill assumes that people outside the House are less intelligent than we are and cannot make decisions for themselves, something which we should recognise they are perfectly capable of doing for themselves.

3.22 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security (Mr. Eric Deakins)

I begin by assuring my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Ogden) that my new responsibilities cover health as well as social security. That is just as well in this debate, because I am trying to strike a balance, as I think hon. Members who have spoken on both sides of the debate have been trying to do.

The hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir S. McAdden) suggested that people should have the right to spend their money as they chose. That is correct, but there is a need to bear in mind the other side: that the costs of treating people who suffer from the diseases caused by smoking fall on the community as a whole. The hon. Gentleman also rightly pointed out the need for more preventive medicine, which is something we fully support. We must strike a much better balance between preventive and curative medicine.

Sir Stephen McAdden

Has the Minister thought about the catastrophic effect on the Chancellor of the Exchequer if we all stop smoking?

Mr. Deakins

I shall leave matters of taxation to my right hon. Friend and not be drawn on this occasion, although the hon. Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir G. Young) referred to the recent increases in taxation.

My hon. Friend the Member for Brent, South (Mr. Pavitt), who introduced the Bill, talked about the need to redress the imbalance between the amount spent on health education about the dangers of smoking and the amount spent by the industry as a whole. There is indeed a big imbalance which needs to be corrected. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Mr. Weitzman), who made an interesting speech based on 60 years of pipe smoking, also felt, as did most other hon. Members who have spoken, that there was a need for balance.

My hon. Friend the Member for Brent, South has not only presented the House with a Bill designed to remove one of the potential inducements to people to smoke more than is good for their health but has given the House the opportunity to take stock of the stage the Government have reached in their efforts to limit the hazards of smoking.

On 17th July 1974 my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department of Health and Social Security included gift coupons in one of six proposals he put to the tobacco industry. The proposals were made with a view to securing voluntary agreement to new measures designed to bring home to the public the serious dangers to health of cigarette smoking. The proposals were the minimum which the Minister considered necessary in the interests of public health and consisted of a main proposal designed to redress the serious imbalance between expenditure on the promotion of cigarettes and education about their dangers, and a number of other proposals subsidiary to it. The industry responded to those proposals in February 1975 and has given further consideration to them subsequently.

The main proposal was that the tobacco industry should voluntarily contribute a sizeable percentage of its total expenditure on promotion towards public education about the danger to health of smoking. In February 1975 the industry rejected the proposal as being unreasonable and has not changed its views since then.

The tobacco industry was asked to abolish cigarette advertising in cinemas. In February 1975 the industry agreed to withdraw advertisements from "U" programmes, and later in the year agreed to extend this to "A" and "AA" programmes as well. Therefore, at present, cigarette advertisements still appear in cinemas but during "X" programmes only.

The Minister proposed that tighter control should be exercised over the way sponsored events were used by cigarette manufacturers to promote their products. The ban on television advertising was being circumvented by the names of brands of cigarettes being given to sponsored events or shown on racing cars. Sponsorship keeps the name of the product in the public eye and associates it with something healthy and attractive, particularly to the young. In some cases the sport has a spin-off directly aimed at children—for example, model racing cars painted with cigarette brand names and insignia. This means that the names of cigarette brands are associated in chil- dren's minds with pleasure before they are old enough to appreciate the dangers of smoking. Although the industry has not yet agreed to withdraw insignia and brand names from racing cars, Imperial Tobacco Ltd. has agreed to do this unilaterally.

However, the industry has agreed to discuss with my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department of the Environment, who has responsibility for sport, a voluntary code of practice on sports sponsorship by tobacco companies acceptable to the Government, industry and sport, and to restrict the growth of expenditure on sports sponsorship.

The tobacco companies were asked to show tar group descriptions on cigarette packets and advertisements. Agreement was soon reached on showing tar yields on Press and poster advertisements within five broad groups ranging from "low" to "high". At first the industry was reluctant to include tar group descriptions on packets for practical, legal and commercial reasons but in August 1975 made arrangements for the relevant tar group to appear on cigarette packets, either on the tear tape or on the side of the packet below the health warning.

The industry was asked to include a stronger warning on packets and advertisements in a more prominent position. The industry replied, in February 1975, that the change in wording would not be difficult provided that the amount of wording was the same but that to change the position would involve a redesign of the whole packet and this would be a major, lengthy and expensive operation. The Minister wrote to the industry on 3rd March 1975 and proposed that the new warning should be


The industry offered to change the warning on packets and advertisements to Warning by HM Government: Smoking is dangerous to your health. It was not prepared to accept an unattributed warning. The view of the Independent Scientific Committee on Smoking and Health—the Hunter Committee—is being sought on an appropriate warning and attribution for the future.

At the July 1974 meeting the Minister of State said that if gift coupon schemes increased total consumption the Government would welcome their abolition. If, on the other hand, they were simply a weapon in inter-brand competition, there was a case for limiting them to brands in the two lowest tar groups to reinforce other steps being taken on tar levels.

The industry was not prepared to end gift coupon schemes, and at the February 1975 meeting it said that to limit them to the two lowest tar groups might be counter-productive, since the public might take the view that it was thought that these brands would not sell without coupons. In its letter of 5th June the Tobacco Advisory Committee agreed that the tar yield of the coupon-carrying brands in the middle-to-high tar group, which is the highest group containing coupon brands, should be reduced to middle tar. This, although welcome, was hardly a major concession since only two brands are affected. Altogether, 39 cigarette brands contain coupons.

It has been argued that coupon schemes are not a form of promotion but are simply a form of voluntary savings scheme to which the consumer contributes by paying more for his cigarettes. The fact that the tobacco companies call the catalogues of goods "gift catalogues" and that smokers refer to the goods as free gifts suggests that the consumer is encouraged to see coupons in a different light. It is possible that the manufacturers would reduce their prices if coupons were abolished, but it is quite likely that smokers choose to pay a certain price for their cigarettes, no doubt influenced by brand advertising, and would continue to pay that price with or without coupons

The discussions with the industry during 1974 and 1975 led to some modest gains. Their principal outcome, however, was a feeling on both sides, both Government and industry, that the time-honoured method of negotiation on smoking and health, of bid and rejection, counter-bid and counter-proposal, advance on some fronts and stalemate on others was no longer a sensible way of proceeding.

A new strategy was needed which would set aims that could be agreed by both sides and which could give some stability to the industry in its future planning and to the Government in their development of health education and preventive services. The nature of this new strategy was announced by the Minister of State during the debate on 16th January last on a motion on smoking and health moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Ormskirk (Mr. Kilroy-Silk). The strategy, part statutory and part voluntary, is based on co-operation with the industry and has sufficient flexibility within it to meet changing needs.

The statutory part involves the use of the 1968 Medicines Act. The Minister stated his intention to lay an Order under Section 105(1)(b) of the Medicines Act so as to ensure that those tobacco products consisting of, or containing a substitute for, tobacco or containing an additive would need a product licence from the Government. Such a licence would be granted on advice from a statutory committee on the safety of the product, which would be established under Section 4 of the Medicines Act. Before making the Order, the Act requires that there should be consultation with interested parties, in the main the tobacco industry, the Independent Scientific Committee on Smoking and Health—the Hunter Committee—and the Medicines Commission. These consultations have been taking place and the Government hope to lay a draft Order for consideration by Parliament shortly.

Letters have been sent to the Tobacco Advisory Committee, representing tobacco manufacturers in the United Kingdom, and to the body representing the importers, the Imported Tobacco Products Advisory Council, setting out the matters for voluntary agreement. These voluntary agreements will not be static but will remain flexible to take account of new developments and new medical or scientific evidence.

The main matters for voluntary agreement are as follows: The aim is to achieve a steady reduction over the next few years in the maximum and mean yields of cigarette smoke components considered by the Hunter Committee to be a danger to health. The industry is to be asked to consider a strategy based on advice from the Hunter Committee to reduce substantially, over a period of time, the tar level of cigarettes. Plans for the reduction of nicotine, carbon monoxide and other smoke components considered on independent medical and scientific advice from the Hunter Committee to be harmful will also be worked out in consultation with the industry.

Voluntary agreement is to be sought to the promotion and advertising of cigarettes by the industry to be directed towards those cigarettes considered on independent medical and scientific advice to be less dangerous. It is envisaged, for example, that for cigarette brands with a tar yield above a certain level coupons might be withdrawn. Subsequently all advertising could cease, followed later by the withdrawal of the product. The period over which this phased withdrawal would take place will need to be discussed fully with the industry. As I have mentioned, the industry has already agreed the modest first step of withdrawing coupons from any brands above middle tar level, but the Government are quite clear that they wish coupons to be withdrawn from all but the two lowest tar groups. If this were done, it would cover 17 brands.

Mr. Ogden

I do not wish to add to my hon. Friend's difficulties, but can he say who the Government are? There have been recent changes in the Government. Is he saying that those in charge of his Department a little while ago had this in their minds or is he saying that those now in the department have in the last fortnight gone to town on this and have made up their minds? Is he saying that there is now a departmental point of view which is neither the view of the Government nor the view of Back Benchers? Who are the Government?

Mr. Deakins

I can reassure my hon. Friend on that matter. There have been some ministerial changes in the Department of Health and Social Security. Three of the five Ministers are new to the Department, although the Secretary of State was a Minister in a previous incarnation in the 1966–70 Labour Government. The person in charge of policy in this matter is my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen), who is Minister of State, Department of Health and Social Security. What I am saying has his entire agreement and blessing. My coming to the Department has made no difference. The withdrawal of coupons from all but the two lowest tar brands will go some way to satisfying my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, South, who said that there was something to be said for this approach.

I turn to the question of health warnings on packets and advertisements. On the question of a stronger health warning in a more prominent position on packets and on advertisements, the industry has indicated that it is prepared to consider a revised warning based on advice from the Hunter Committee.

I turn to the question of other information on packets and advertisements. The advice of the Hunter Committee is to be sought on what other information, beyond the tar yield group, about the product bearing on health should be made known. The question of health warnings and information about yields being included in advertisements at the point of sale is also to be discussed with the industry with a view to reaching voluntary agreement. At present, such advertisements are not required to carry such information.

Mr. Pavitt

Will my hon. Friend ask the Minister of State to discuss the matter with the British Medical Association, which has a strong view on it?

Mr. Deakins

I shall ensure that my hon. Friend the Minister of State is made aware of my hon. Friend's point; I am sure that we shall follow the advice he has given.

I turn to the question of the content of cigarette advertisements. The Government have decided to wait for a full year's experience of the effectiveness of the new code for the advertising of cigarettes which has recently been introduced by the Advertising Standards Authority. It is a very comprehensive document. It is therefore proposed that any discussions on the new advertising code should be left until the results of the new code over the next 12 months can be judged. I am sure that the industry will note what the hon. Member for Ealing, Acton said about the advertising of coupon cigarettes.

My hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department of Health and Social Security stated in the House on 16th January: I have made it quite clear to the industry that if progress through voluntary agreement, when judged in the light of the reports I have promised from the Government and from the independent medical and scientific committee, is thought to be insufficient to protect the public from the risks to health from smoking, the further statutory provisions of the Medicines Act which are open to us will be applied to the whole range of tobacco products."—[Official Report, 16th January 1976; Vol. 903, c. 814.] The Medicines Act would therefore cover the proposals in the Bill relating to tobacco coupons.

However, the Government, while recognising the aims behind the Bill, must inform the House that it would not fit within the voluntary strategy they are currently pursuing which the industry has agreed and over which they are determined to move as fast as it reasonably can because of the serious health aspects of the problem. The Government therefore urge my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, South to withdraw his Bill in the light of my statement, of the strategy being followed by the Government and also of the progress which has been made so far with the strategy.

I conclude by congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, South on ensuring that the subject of smoking and health is once more debated in the House. It is a matter of serious concern, and we are grateful to him for the opportunity he has afforded the Government to give the House an up-to-date account of the progress being made.

3.39 p.m.

Mr. Michael English (Nottingham, West)

I understand from my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, South (Mr. Pavitt) that it may be his intention to try to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to do exactly what my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State has suggested he should do. I hope to afford him the opportunity of doing that just before the conclusion of the debate.

My hon. Friend the Member for Brent, South has rather stolen my thunder. He is such a nice man anyway, and he is undoubtedly so completely sincere, especially on this subject and on health in general, that when he whispers in my ear before I am about to be severe on him that he proposes to withdraw the Bill, I find it difficult to be as nasty to him as I intended to be. But it is a Bill which begins with a rather forbidding word. It is a Bill to "prohibit". That is the very first word of the Long Title.

I am not sure that I wholly understand the peculiarities of human morality at any time in history, still less today. Earlier today we dealt with a Bill which gives rights to an unborn child. A few years ago we dealt with a Bill which took away the right of an unborn child to survive to birth, whereas in previous years exactly the opposite was the case —it had the right to survive to birth but one could damage it as much as one liked. Moreover, we had an interesting event quite recently when the Home Secretary said that in future he would allow people in gaol to commit suicide if they wished to do so, which in fact he did.

I know that my hon. Friend would not advance the extreme case that every cigarette smoker was ipso facto a person of suicidal intent. He will be the first to admit that that is not so, since only some people die as a result of cigarette smoking. That being so, why does my hon. Friend wish to prohibit gift coupon schemes? The House well knows that it is his declared aim, for the best of motives, to prohibit the sale of cigarettes. But the consistency of this sort of action is not obvious to me.

Both in this case and in the case of seat belts, to which reference has already been made, there comes a point at which one wonders why some of the nicest people one knows are the most authoritarian in seeking to prohibit for all persons conduct the results of which affect only themselves. I do not even know whether it is possible. I do not believe that Governments or legislatures can sit on high and prohibit all possible ways in which human beings can commit folly. Even if it were possible, I should seriously doubt that it was desirable.

I am sure that my hon. Friend will say "Yes" to that but go on to say that these people not only injure themselves but that they cost the community a lot of money through the National Health Service. I suppose that it is probably true that even the literally intentional suicide to which I referred cost some medical time and effort in attendance upon him in gaol during the course of that rather sad event. The argument is not as simple as that. One cannot simply say that we should not waste taxpayers' money.

I suppose that I ought to declare all sorts of interests in this subject. In the first place, like the hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir S. McAdden), another member of the Chairmen's Panel, I am a heavy smoker and, like him, I am sometimes stuck in a Committee Room unable to smoke. Moreover, I am a heavy smoker of a high tar cigarette, made, I hasten to add, in my constituency. I have a packet here which I can show to my hon. Friend. Moreover—this is a matter of some importance—about 6,000 people in my constituency are engaged in the manufacture of tobacco products. Many of those products, including the cigarette which I smoke, do not carry gift coupons because among other reasons, as the Minister said, the tobacco companies are not encouraging the sale of high tar cigarettes by gift coupons.

What I object to in a Bill of this kind is not the undoubtedly genuine high motives of such Members as my hon. Friend but the absence of so many other considerations. This is true not only of my hon. Friend's Bill but of others. To start with, if one prohibits advertising, gift coupons or the like, either one achieves the desired effect of reducing the sale of cigarettes or one does not. There is no evidence whatsoever that the object has been achieved. The sales of cigarettes fluctuate, but they fluctuate much more in proportion to the price to the consumer, as a result of the actions of, say, a Chancellor of the Exchequer. Sales of cigarettes go up as the real value of taxation falls. A Chancellor of the Exchequer increases the tax; sales drop, and then they start slowly to rise again as inflation nullifies the effect of the rise in taxation.

There is no evidence—indeed, there is considerable evidence to the contrary—that such things as gift coupons or the various methods of advertising have any effect on the sales of cigarettes in total, though that is presumably what my hon. Friend is worried about. Advertising, gift coupons and so on only have an effect on the sales of particular brands of cigarettes. My hon. Friend will be well aware, as will other hon. Members, of the rise over recent years in, say, the sales of Players No. 6 or Embassy cigarettes because they contain gift coupons which are popular. They have always been popular, ever since the days before the war when cigarette packets contained little cigarette cards and children collected them from their father's packets of cigarettes.

If there is is no effect on the total sales, why does my hon. Friend wish to prohibit not only advertising but the use of gift coupons? I have asked my hon. Friend privately in times past about this question, and he has been courteous enough to take me to meetings of his society, ASH. The members have explained to me that there real object is to make the smoking of cigarettes seem to be a nasty thing to do. Their object is to try to persuade people that they should not smoke in public but go, presumably, into somewhere such as a public lavatory in order to have a quiet smoke, They should do it in a private place, as if it were the sort of thing that is not done in a public place. This is, as I understand it, their object.

It seems to me that this, too, is misconceived. It is misconceived because it does not do anything about the real problem. I asked Sir George Godber, a great medical friend of my hon. Friend, why the real problem is not being tackled. Surely the real problem with cigarettes, if there is one, is one of addiction. There is hardly any doubt that nicotine and the allied substances in cigarettes are drugs of addiction—to what degree I do not know. I am not a medical man and would not presume to judge. But they are drugs of addiction, possibly to a greater extent than substances such as marijuana and probably to a lesser extent than heroin.

Mr. Pavitt

I assure my hon. Friend that the Medical Research Council and the Central Science Research Council have working parties investigating these problems at the moment. I agree that they are extremely difficult problems, but they do not fall within my Bill.

Mr. English

I agree that they are not within the Bill, but does not my hon. Friend think that he should be dealing rather with problems of addiction? As he says, research is being done, but, as I understand from his friend Sir George Godber, who was formely at the Ministry, very little success has been achieved in all this research. I am sure my hon. Friend will agree with that. Yet he and his colleagues in ASH want to make the addict—a person who by definition, if he is an addict, is not as culpable as someone doing something to which he is not addicted—they wish to make the addict, who is less culpable, a pariah in public places.

My hon. Friend's organisation, ASH, says quite openly that people should smoke round the corner, as it were, in private, all by themselves, as if they were performing their natural functions. It literally wishes to make people into pariahs for something which is presumably, by definition, not their fault in the sense of culpability. Surely, my hon. Friend should be ascertaining whether there is sufficient research into addiction and introducing legislation to provide for more research and more funds for research into addiction. I do not know that the Medical Research Council necessarily spends its money wholly wisely.

If my hon. Friend is dealing with the problem of addiction, he should also consider that the prohibition of advertising and gift coupons will have no effect. The Americans long since tried to prohibit the sale and consumption of alcohol, which is much less addictive. It may be a psychological addiction for a few people but almost certainly it is not a physiological addiction. That attempt failed miserably. How much greater is the problem of my hon. Friend and his colleagues in trying to prohibit the advertising and promotion of a drug which in some ways is physiologically addictive. They are trying to tackle the superficial symptoms and not the basic problem, and they will fail.

But let us suppose for a moment that my hon. Friend and his colleagues succeed. I have never seen a piece of draft legislation on this subject which considers the people who are engaged in the industry. If for the sake of society we decided that tobacco should be prohibited, what would happen to the industry? We have enough problems with industries which we wish to be prosperous, such as the car industry, and which are declining. Here is an industry which is prosperous but which hon. Members, for sincere motives, wish to cause to decline. They do not consider what would happen if their actions succeeded—perhaps because they do not believe they will succeed, but, as they are sincere, I must attribute to them the belief that they have considered the possibility that they will succeed.

In my constituency alone some 6,000 people are employed in one factory in the tobacco industry. That factory is the largest single employer in Nottingham, which is the tenth city in the United Kingdom. There are distributors throughout the country, and about 600,000 points of distribution are involved. There are also shareholders in the tobacco industry who, unlike shareholder banks and insurance companies, presumably cannot afford the loss of money. Possibly more than a million individuals are involved in the shareholdings of tobacco companies. If my hon. Friend succeeded in his aim to eliminate smoking altogether, he would eliminate the financial future of most of those people. In this day and age we cannot act in that manner.

Some of the advocates of the cessation of smoking in the United Kingdom are even worse than the worst examples of nineteenth century, laissez-faire Manchester School economists. They would simply wipe out a whole industry with no thought for the people involved in it.

If the Government or the legislature wish to wipe out or reduce cigarette consumption they should think about how to do the job properly. They should obviously consider that people whose jobs are eliminated for health reasons which become reasons of state deserve a degree of compensation. I have never heard any reference to this. Those who believe sincerely in the abolition of smoking seem to think that people who are engaged in what is considered to be a nasty occupation do not deserve compensation.

Mr. John Parker (Dagenham)

When the State abolished the slave trade, no compensation was paid to those engaged in it.

Mr. English

My hon. Friend is not strictly accurate.

Mr. Parker

Not to those who took part in the slave trade from West Africa to the West Indies.

Mr. English

My hon. Friend now agrees that slave owners were actually compensated. He is proving my point wholly if he is comparing the tobacco industry in this country with the slave traders of the past. He illustrates perfectly the argument I was making. There are sincere people who believe that smoking is wrong and harmful, and it is their sincere feeling that those who are engaged in the industry are taking part in something nasty. By comparing my 6,000 tobacco workers with the slave owners of the nineteenth century and before, my hon. Friend is totally proving the point that behind some of the believers in good there is a feeling that anyone who opposes them is evil on a scale unimaginable.

I must end to give my hon. Friend time to withdraw his Bill as I promised I would.

3.57 p.m.

Mr. Pavitt

I shall respond to the speech by my hon. Friend the Minister and in doing so refer briefly to the debate. I say to the hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir S. McAdden) that I very much regret that while we totally agree about preventive medicine, he paid no attention to the medical evidence I gave him. When lung cancer is increasing among women at 188 per cent. and breast cancer at only 40 per cent. it is obvious which should have the higher priority.

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir G. Young) for supporting the Bill as a sponsor. I respect the points of view expressed by my hon. Friends the Members for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Ogden) and Nottingham, West (Mr. English). They speak with a constituency interest, and do so quite effectively.

I referred to the possibility of people's lungs being like Arbroath smoked kippers, but more red herrings than any other fish have been drawn across the trail in the debate. I can assure my hon. Friends that there is no question of making the habit a social evil or pariahs of those who indulge in it. But smoking presents a very difficult psychological problem of addiction for the community. It would cost the National Health Service a large amount to deal with my hon. Friend's nervous breakdown were he to give up smoking, but I am not trying to convince him or anyone else over the age of 25 to do so.

The employment considerations have been taken into account and the trade unions representing the tobacco workers in the Nottingham area have been prepared to discuss these matters. Already the tobacco industry is diversifying its investment. Imperial Tobacco has more than 54 per cent. of its investment in interests other than tobacco.

In view of the assurance by my hon. Friend the Minister that negotiations are to continue, and since I would not want to inhibit them, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion and the Bill.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Bill withdrawn.