HC Deb 04 December 1979 vol 975 cc226-7
Q1. Mrs. Renée Short

asked the Prime Minister if she is satisfied with co-ordination between the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department of Health and Social Security regarding aid to the tobacco industry in the Thirld world; and if she will make a statement.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

Yes, Mr. Speaker. There are close contacts between the Departments concerned. The aid programme supports tobacco growing in only three developing countries and to a very limited extent.

Mrs. Short

Does not the Prime Minister think that £3¼million of aid to help the tobacco industry in the developing world is very much more than we should be spending, bearing in mind that the Department of Health and Social Security accepts that smoking is a very dangerous activity? Would it not be better to use that aid to encourage the production of crops that would be useful to all the people of the developing world?

The Prime Minister

As I believe the hon. Lady is aware, as she has asked a number of questions, we give aid to tobacco crops only when tobacco is the best cash crop for the country concerned. To withdraw aid in those circumstances would be damaging to the country and would rob it of a good deal of foreign earnings.

Mr. McCrindle

Will my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister move very slowly before introducing domestic legislation which has as its aim the further imposition of the Government's will in the area of smoking? Does she not agree that the voluntary agreement which has been in existence between the Government and the tobacco companies has worked extremely well over the past few years and that the Government should be trying to build on that agreement rather than introduce further restrictive legislation?

The Prime Minister

I agree with my hon. Friend that the voluntary agreement has worked well. I believe that we should be very slow indeed in thinking of imposing any statutory regulations.