HC Deb 09 July 1982 vol 27 cc608-15

Order for Second Reading read.

1.48 pm
Mr. Laurie Pavitt (Brent, South)

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

I want first to say a word of thanks to the hon. Member for Southgate (Mr. Berry) the Comptroller of Her Majesty's Household. As you know from your past experience Mr. Deputy Speaker, the Friday Whip has very special responsibilities. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for enabling me to have at least some time so that this most important issue may be brought before the right forum—the House of Commons.

At the same time, in moving the Second Reading of this measure, I have to apologise to some of my hon. Friends. In the course of winding-up the last debate, the Under-Secretary of Stale for Trade mentioned one of the problems that we have with private Members' legislation. I refer, of course, to the blocking of Bills. It is sad that the House has not yet found a way to stop worthwhile Bills, which would receive a large measure of support, from being blocked on a Friday. If a Bill attracts interests vitally opposed to it, the inevitable consequence is that, regardless of their worth, subsequent Bills will not be reached.

I apologise to my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) whose Maritime Safety Bill arises from the Penalee lifeboat disaster; to my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) who has a Bill on travel concessions for the unemployed; to my hon. Friend the Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. Stallard), who has a Bill on fuel standing charges; and to my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) who is also in the Chamber. Had his Bill been reached, we might have solved some of the problems arising on Friday's with Private Member's Bills.

I remind the House what the Bill is not about. It does not seek to prohibit cigarettes, pipes or any smoking habits of individuals. It does not even extend to a prohibition of advertising. It will be seen from the first clause that the aim is to control the sponsorship of advertising by, for example, sports bodies. That control is not obligatory but, in the light of the present appalling situation, it gives the Minister for Health power to stop people being persuaded to become addicted to the habit of cigarette smoking, if he desires to take such power.

The only interest that I have to declare is my interest in health. The House will know that my time here is spent on that major preoccupation. I am not so much concerned about death, in spite of the fact that the Royal College of Physicians reminds us that there are 95,000 premature deaths per year—even the Prime Minister accepts that there are 50,000 premature deaths. By premature death, I do not mean death that occurs about six months too soon, but 10 or 15 years too soon. I am talking about family men and women who may lose their lives merely because they contracted the habit of smoking at an early age, with all the resultant effect on health.

I have spoken on this subject in the House once a year during the past 16 years. My main concern is to stop young people contracting the habit of smoking. It is vital to do that. Recent statistics from the Social Science Research Council show that, of 1,000 young adult workers, about one will be murdered, about six will be killed in road accidents, and about 250 will die before their time because of cigarette smoking.

Other issues are involved. There are always pros and cons in any debate. One has to think of employment, economics, and other important issues. I am pleased to see the hon. Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Colvin) in his place. He has a great interest in zoos. On proceedings on a private Member's Bill last year, he tabled about 160 amendments on zoos, and of course, we did not get to the end, nor reach my Bill dealing with tobacco products. The hon. Gentleman is a good constituency Member and he is therefore worried about employment in his constituency.

Mr. Michael Colvin (Bristol, North-West)


Mr. Pavitt

As this is a short debate, I have decided not to give way. If I give way to the hon. Member for Bristol, North-West, I shall have to give way to other hon. Gentleman. I apologise to him, because I did mention his name and he is therefore quite entitled to rise to his feet.

Hon. Members

Give way.

Mr. Pavitt

I come to the important economic aspects, as shown by the Royal College of Physicians. Because of the smoking habit, some 50 million days are lost in productivity. This nation is not without its economic problems, so this is an aspect that we should consider. I draw the attention of the House, not so much to death, because we all die some time, as to suffering. I know that in health debates we are inclined to concentrate on cancer, because it is an emotive subject. I draw attention to the far more torturous disease of emphysema. I invite any hon. Member to accompany me to St. Thomas' hospital or to Westminster hospital to see people dying, literally by inches, gasping for every breath. No civilised society should accept that method of dying. I am sure that any hon. Member who has witnessed the tragedy, not just of the person who is gasping his last breath, but of the visitors who sit at the bedside of the dying person and watch the process, must be appalled.

I shall not weary the House with many personal accounts. However, I shall give one example of a woman constituent of mine, aged 55, who died recently when still in the prime of life. She had carcinoma of the lung. She was an addict. I tried to deal with her problem. She knew that it was fatal to smoke. She had had one lung removed, and her only hope was to give up her addiction. It was an addiction, so it was a tremendous pull for her. She was a highly intelligent woman and she knew the consequences, but she could not escape from the addiction.

The ball game in cigarette smoking and health should shift more to the Department of Health and Social Security.

Mr. Colvin


Mr. Pavitt

I am sorry, but I shall not give way. I have been in the House for some time, and I have a reputation for courtesy. I apologise to the hon. Gentleman, but is is now 1.58, and this debate must finish at 2.30 pm.

This Bill is nothing new. It already exists, for the most part, on the statute book of the Republic of Ireland. It also follows legislation in Norway and Finland. Although there has been some lobbying of hon. Members by the tobacco companies about the effects of the banning of advertising in Norway, I shall give the House the facts recently published in Oslo. At a press conference to mark the tenth anniversary of the Norwegian Council on Smoking and Health, it announced the results of a nation-wide survey of smoking habits among schoolchildren aged between 13 and 15. In all age groups, the prevalence of daily smoking had risen between the 1957 and 1963 polls and again between 1963 and the poll carried out in 1975, the year when a similar Act to the Bill that we are now discussing came into force in Norway. The Act not only banned all tobacco promotion, but stepped up health education about smoking and increased help to smokers to give up. That Act went much further than this Bill.

The 1980 results show that the percentage of daily smokers in all three age groups has fallen well below the 1975 level, and, whereas in 1975, more girls than boys in each age group smoked daily, by 1980, the girls' smoking was slightly less than the boys', as it was in 1963.

I am worried about young people contracting the habit and this shows that legislation similar to this Bill has been effective. The most important matter is the way in which youngsters contract the habit and the Bill is concerned especially with the sponsorship of sport. It does not forbid such sponsorship, but it gives the Minister of Health wider power. The youngster who contracts the smoking habit is a customer for life.

The House will recall the recent television coverage of snooker championships. Since 1965, advertising has been forbidden by the BBC. The Guardian estimated that, for the tens of thousands of pounds that are paid in sponsorship in snooker championships, the same advertising on the other channel would have cost £3 million. Everyone wishes to help sport, but I point out to the Chancellor of the Exchequer—we shall be discussing the Finance Bill next week—that an extra penny on a packet of cigarettes would raise £30 million. He can discuss the matter with the Minister with responsibility for sport. There is no reason why he should not ensure that sports are fully sustained instead of trying, in a back-door way, to obtain something from commercial interests in exchange for a promotion campaign.

The purpose of advertising is to increase sales. The Financial Times estimated that last year cigarette advertising cost about £100 million. That was made up of £40 million on press advertising, £20 million on poster advertising, £10 million on television—for pipe and cigar advertising—and £30 million on sponsorship and other advertising. Press and magazine expenditure was 74 per cent. higher during January to July 1980 compared with the same period in 1979.

That is big money. When it comes to commercial profit and pressure, not only the tobacco companies but the advertising and promotional experts have an interest in the matter. The £100 million worth of advertising is part of the livelihood of advertising companies.

The argument was well put in an article that appeared in the New Statesman a few months ago. A rather dramatic front page carried the headline: Selling cancer: the days are numbered". The New Statesman is rather more optimistic than I am, after my 16 Bills in this place, to consider that the days are numbered. However, if the present trend continues and we run into the 100,000 or 150,000 holocaust, no Government of any colour will be able to stand aside and let it continue. I shall quote part of the article that appeared in the New Statesman, which highlights the enormous pressure on large commercial and industrial interests. It states: What the Sunday Times did not tell its readers was … £500,000 had been lost in … advertising because the tobacco company W. D. & H. O. Wills does not like what the paper says about cigarettes. The Sunday Times story of the transplant operation was accompanied by an article by the paper's medical correspondent … entitled 'How the lives of seven men were changed by a heart transplant'. The medical correspondent reported in one case that the patient smoked 60 cigarettes a day, at first Senior Service and later Embassy King Size, and they were helping to kill him. Another patient's heart was permanently damaged by smoking 60 cigarettes a day—Benson and Hedges were his favourite brand. I accept that there are commercial and economic considerations but I contend that Parliament should be the ultimate authority on these issues. There are pressures on what should be a free press, and surely The Sunday Times should be as free a press as any. It should not find itself losing £500,000 because it dared to tell its readers the facts about these matters.

Recent research shows that there is a new phenomenon of cancer risk for those who do not smoke. I had the privilege of serving on the Medical Research Council and I and other members of the council were always worried about the deaths of female non-smokers. Research has shown that one can contract a carcinogenic agent as a non-smoker by being a passive smoker and living in a smoke-filled environment. The article on the recent Japanese study reads: The study has shown that non-smoking wives who were exposed to their husbands' cigarette smoke developed lung cancer at higher rates than non-smoking wives of non-smoking husbands. The study carried out … at the National Cancer Centre Research Institute in Tokyo, followed up 91,540 non-smoking wives aged 40 and above from 29 health districts for a period of 14 years. The mortality rate for those married to men who smoked 20 or more cigarettes a day was twice as high as that of women married to non-smokers. Some of my hon. Friends and some Conservative Members, in the Campaign for Freedom, have put pressure on British Rail to have smoking permitted in dining cars. I wish that the campaign would recognise that just as one accepts that there is a case for the freedom of a person to smoke there is a case for the freedom of a person not to be forced to sit in a smoke-filled atmosphere.

Mr. K. Harvey Proctor (Basildon)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Pavitt

I am sorry, but I have already made it a rule not to give way as I shall never finish my speech if I do.

I ask those who are really concerned about freedom not only to consider the freedom of those who desire to smoke. I repeat what I have said many times. People are perfectly entitled to smoke, but I should prefer it to be done with consenting adults in private.

The industry's campaign to encourage female addiction to cigarettes is both callous and ruthless. I take as an example the advertisements in The Sunday Times and The Observer glossies last weekend in which a very nice, colourful advertisement appealed directly to women, pointing out that Kim, the cigarette for women, is Long and slender, light and mellow! I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe (Mrs. Dunwoody) will forgive this reference to her as she was when I first knew her many years ago.

I also condemn the devious way in which, with the ink hardly dry on the recent sports sponsorship agreement with the Government, the same brand of cigarette, which I believe is produced by British American Tobacco, subtly broke that agreement. Those who enjoy sports events will have seen the fine performance of Martina Navratilova, the winner of the Wimbledon women's singles. They will also have seen that the sportswear that she wore carried an advertisement for Kim, "the ladies' cigarette". That is a back-door method of evading the decision made by the House and the Government year after year.

I shall give another apt quotation on the subject of females. I assure the House that I have no power with The Times newspaper, but I recommend that hon. Members read the The Times Health Supplement in the Library as it carries a full middle-page spread on the tragedy afflicting women. It says that at the present time medical services in Western, industrialized countries are witnessing an epidemic of female lung cancer. In 1980, nearly 8,400 women in England and Wales died of lung cancer. And although the peak of the male lung cancer epidemic is over, the female peak is still to come. Between 1969 and 1978 lung cancer rates increased by more than 50 per cent among women while increasing by 8 per cent in men. Although it is unlikely that women will overtake men in the lung cancer stakes, current mortality rates suggest that, by the year 2010, lung cancer will overtake breast cancer—concurrently claiming nearly 12,200 lives a year—as the number one cancer killer in women. Therefore, in claiming that one of the main purposes of the Bill is to help the young, I should also say that we male chauvinist pigs should have some consideration for what is happening to women.

There is another avoidance of voluntary codes which emphasises the need for legislation. I was interested to hear the Under-Secretary of State for Trade on the subject of video. Another way around the television ban has been to put tobacco advertisements on video tapes of the type that the House discussed earlier today. I refer hon. Members to yesterday's edition of The Guardian, which states: "Video wriggles through TV ban".

I introduced an identical Rill last year, and it arose from an exchange that I had with the former Secretary of State for Social Services, now Secretary of State for Industry. Between 18 months and two years ago he announced a voluntary agreement with the tobacco industry. He said: The main point about this new agreement is the unmistakable demonstration that the voluntary agreement system of trying to reduce smoking is a complete failure. Even after a year's hard fighting by Ministers, the cigarette companies have not conceded anything remotely capable of beating Britain's biggest avoidable cause of death and disease. Later last year the Daily Mirror ran an article entitled Warning to H.M. Government Ministers … Anti-smoking campaigns may damage your prospects". That referred to the fact that the hon. Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir G. Young) had been removed from his office and is now Under-Secretary of State for the Environment.

Clause 1 gives power to the Minister but does not provide for any immediate action. As I said, it is enabling, rather that practical, legislation at this stage. Action will follow only upon the laying of statutory instrument, subject to debate under the negative procedure. In May the British Medical Association issued a press statement. On Wednesday of this week doctors in session at their annual conference reaffirmed their complete opposition to sponsorship and advertisements and carried a new resolution, in addition to the resolution passed last year. They overwhelmingly deplored the use of sports sponsorship in promoting the sale of cigarettes. The original resolution states: this meeting notes with dismay that whilst welcome publicity is given to the ill effects of smoking, the Government takes no firm action to reduce advertising or increase taxation on tobacco in the full knowledge that this one aspect of preventive medicine would be so instrumental in reducing illness … and proposes that:

  1. (a) all tobacco advertising should be banned except at the point of sale;
  2. (b) greater emphasis should be made to the general public of medical conditions other than cancer of the lung …
  3. (c) smoking should be restricted in hospitals;
  4. (d) smoking should be banned on public transport".
That is the doctors of our nation speaking and the House should take note.

Again, the World Health Organisation made a powerful recommendation under the title "Controlling the Smoking Epidemic". It stated: The Committee recommends that non-smoking should be regarded as the normal social behaviour". As time is short I shall not read the whole recommendation. In the provision of NHS services, we still seek to prevent illness rather than to incur colossal amounts of public expenditure for treatment. A previous chief medical officer of the Department of Health and Social Services, Sir George Godber, said in one of his annual reports that the greatest single step in that direction would be to stop the holocaust that arises from cigarette smoking. I noted his words carefully, because I do not wish to impose the same strictures on the smoking of cigars or pipe tobacco. However, I am ruefully aware that in 1982 I am a very small David facing a multinational Goliath. But it should not be "Tobacco Industry Rules OK." This House should decide. The great amount of work that can be done to prevent illness and death will be speeded on its way if the House agrees to accept my Bill.

2.20 pm
Mr. Michael Colvin (Bristol, North-West)

I congratulate the hon. Member for Brent, South (Mr. Pavitt) on his perseverence in trying to bring in legislation to impose statutory controls on the advertising, sponsorship and sales promotion of tobacco products. I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's good faith. I suggest, however, that the Bill is no more than a misguided attempt by the anti-smoking lobby, of which he is a distinguished member, to drive a nail into the non-existent coffin of the tobacco industry.

The tobacco industry is well, although over-burdened, I hope the Minister notes, with taxes and duties. It is getting fitter every day. I sympathise with the hon. Gentleman's predicament. He has made sixteen attempts to get his measure on the statute book, and that is certainly a high figure. I believe that he would achieve wide support if he tried to persuade the Leader of the House to provide parliamentary time for a debate on this issue with a free vote. I say that because I think that the hon. Gentleman would lose, just as he will today. I shall try to persuade the House in the time that remains that this Bill would have exactly the opposite effect to that sought by its promoter.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Keighley)

The hon. Gentleman has not declared any financial interest in this industry. I wonder whether he has one and whether Accrep Ltd. has as a client any of the tobacco companies.

Mr. Colvin

I congratulate the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) on checking the Register of Members' Interests. The answer is "No" on both counts. I have a constituency interest. That may afford me the opportunity to say to the hon. Member for Brent, South that at this time last year, when you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, happened to be in the Chair, the hon. Gentleman's measure was preceded by the Zoo Licensing (No. 2) Bill in which I had a considerable interest, having been the one-man opposition throughout its Committee stage. That was pure coincidence. There was no attempt at what I believe is called, although it is an unparliamentary expression, a filibuster. I do not blame the hon. Gentleman for trying to make that point.

I should like to try to make it clear why the voluntary co-operation of the tobacco industry and those connected with it on advertising and promotion practice is better than statutory regulation. I should like to explain why advertising is a good thing and the impact that a ban would have on consumption and the education of the public on health matters related to smoking. I should like to mention the sponsorship of sport and the economic importance of the tobacco industry not only to the United Kingdom but to the developing world in which I am sure Opposition Members have as much interest as Conservative Members.

I appreciate that the Bill is only an enabling measure. Nevertheless, we should start by discussing the ultimate—a statutory ban. That is what the Bill would enable the Minister, at a future date, if he so wished and with parliamentary approval, to introduce. The advertising of tobacco products has been criticised by the anti-smoking lobby in recent years on the ground that advertising not only sells brands but supports and expands the consumption of tobacco products. This point was made by the hon. Gentleman in introducing the Bill. The industry has responded through agreements reached with the Government over the control of advertising and sponsorship. The nature of these agreements—a new one is due shortly—ensures that people, especially children, will not be encouraged to smoke and that there will be a continuing trend towards the lower-tar market. In addition, the educational value of advertisements has led to greater consumption of filter-tipped cigarettes, which take a growing proportion of the market.

Despite the notable success of those agreements, the anti-smoking lobby persists in its condemnation of advertising, sure in its belief in the fallacy that advertising means increased total consumption. The evidence from countries with bans surely suggests that not only would an advertising ban prove ineffective at reducing total consumption, but it would prove destructive by slowing the trend towards lower-tar cigarettes. In other words, the Bill would have the opposite effect from that proposed by the hon. Member for Brent, South.

My hon. Friends and I sympathise with the emotional content of the hon. Gentleman's speech and we have the greatest sympathy for his constituent in hospital, but if the hon. Gentleman wants to reduce the health risk he would be far better advised to withdraw the Bill.

Advertising does not stimulate or maintain cigarette consumption levels. Research evidence is that the influence of advertising expenditure on large, mature consumer markets is negligible, other than at the brand level. Cigarette advertising is not aimed at turning nonsmokers into smokers. It is exclusively brand advertising, through which the manufacturer attempts to entice smokers away from other brands, to win them over to his brand and to keep the smokers loyal to that brand.

The voluntary agreements that the industry has entered into with the Government illustrate the industry's responsibility and have been extremely effective. Advertisements do not encourage people to start smoking or to smoke more, they do not glamorise smoking or make health claims and they do not depict sporting or other famous personalities.

There is a bonus from the voluntary agreements. The Government get from the tobacco industry about £3 million of support a year for research into health and smoking. I argue that that independent research would not be available if it were not for the good relationships between the industry and present and past Governments on voluntary control.

Mr.. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe)

How much does the hon. Gentleman think it costs the NHS to treat the 30,000 people who die of carcinoma every year? Is it more than the £3 million that is donated by the tobacco industry?

Mr. Colvin

The contribution that the industry makes to the NHS and to the Exchequer generally is considerable. It contributes about £4,000 million a year through taxation and duties. That is enough to pay nearly half the cost of the NHS. I asked the Minister for Health in a parliamentary question about the cost to the NHS of treating sicknesses and diseases related to smoking. I believe that the figure given in the reply was £120 million. Other ailments treated in hospitals may have a remote connection with smoking, but we cannot point the finger at smoking alone and say that it was the sole cause of those diseases.

I argue that there are many benefits to be gained from self-regulatory agreements. Because they are voluntary, such agreements promote co-operation between the Government and industry, thereby avoiding the need for cumbersome legislation.

Mr. Pavitt

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. A precedent has been set. May I draw your attention to the fact that a full debate took place two years ago. The subject has been well ventilated in the House. Therefore, will you consider accepting the closure.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bernard Weatherill)

I could not accept a motion for the closure after only just over three-quarters of an hour of debate on the Bill.

Mr. Colvin

Have Opposition members read the draft of the document entitled "Labour's draft programme 1982"? In it there is an undertaking to ban advertising of tobacco and tobacco products—

It being half-past Two o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.

Debate to be resumed upon Friday 23 July.