HC Deb 18 April 1986 vol 95 cc1175-95
Mr. Home Robertson

I beg to move amendment No. 5, in page 2, line 20, leave out 'Tobacco Products (Sales Restriction)' and insert 'Protection of Children (Tobacco)'.

We have discussed this amendment in Committee, and I am grateful for the opportunity to discuss the matter again. At present, the short title of the Bill is Tobacco Products (Sales Restriction) Bill, and on reflection I am not sure that that is entirely appropriate because it would take a broader measure than this to restrict the sale of tobacco, although many of us would like to do that. I look forward to the day when the smoking of tobacco will be seen as the unnatural and dangerous habit that it clearly is.

11.15 am
Dr. M. S. Miller (East Kilbride)

I draw my hon. Friend's attention to the latest letter than I have received from US Tobacco International, Inc. which manufactures Skoal Bandits. The company makes the point that it does not manufacture or market any cigarettes. Therefore, the present title is somewhat of a misnomer because it implies that such a company manufactures cigarettes. The Protection of Children (Tobacco) Bill would be a much better name.

Mr. Home Robertson

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I have received letters from US Tobacco International, Inc. and I intend to refer to it, perhaps on Third Reading if we make good enough progress.

The Bill's objective is not simply to restrict the sales of tobacco, although that would be an excellent objective from the point of view of public health, among other things. The Bill's purpose is specifically and rather narrowly to protect children and young people under the age of 16 from the dangerous effects of all forms of tobacco—both cigarettes and other tobacco products such as Skoal Bandits. We need to protect children against nicotine addiction because of their exposure to such products. It would be useful if the title could be amended in this way to make it clear to the public and everybody concerned that that is what the Bill is about.

Mr. Whitney

When we discussed this matter in Committee, I agreed to consider an amendment along the lines of amendment No. 5. I said in Committee that a change in the short title would normally be warranted only if, as a consequence of other amendments, the original title no longer adequately described to the Bill's purpose. However, taking account of the points made in Committee and of assurances from the hon. Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) that this amendment is not intended to extend the scope of the Bill beyond that which we have considered, I was happy to say that we would not object to the renaming of the Bill. Therefore, I support the amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Order for Third Reading read.

11.18 am
Mr. John Home Robertson (East Lothian)

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

I am perhaps as fortunate as the hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. Hannam). I enjoyed listening to his speech on the Third Reading of his Corneal Tissues Bill, with which we have just dealt. The hon. Member was 19th in the ballot for private Member's Bills and his Bill is the second to complete its progress through the House. I was drawn 12th in the ballot and, with a bit of luck, I hope that my Bill may be third on its way along the corridor to the other place. The hon. Member for Exeter referred to the business of getting private Member's Bills through the House as being like a game of snakes and ladders. I am delighted that the Government and Members of all parties have taken such a constructive view of my Bill, and that good progress has been made thus far.

The Bill has two objectives. The first is to deal with the obvious failure of current legislation to control the sale of tobacco products, especially cigarettes, to youngsters under the age of 16. As the Minister has said in parliamentary answers and in debates, up to £90 million a year is being spent on cigarettes by youngsters under the age of 16 in this country, of which up to £10 million is being spent in Scotland, the part of the United Kingdom about which I am naturally most concerned. That is clearly an outrageous state of affairs.

The Children and Young Persons Act 1933 for England and Wales and the Children and Young Persons (Scotland) Act 1937 are supposed to make such sales illegal, but the scale of the trade makes it abundantly clear that that legislation is, in effect, a dead letter. It may have been too complicated to achieve prosecutions so that the police and other public agencies have been unwilling to try to obtain prosecutions. As a result, the trade has grown steadily and a new generation of youngsters is becoming hooked on a very dangerous habit. The first objective of the Bill is to clarify that legislation and to make it easier to obtain prosecution where appropriate.

I hope that when the Bill reaches the statute book there will be a crackdown on this trade. I hope, too, that the Minister will be able to tell us today that his colleagues at the Home Office and the Scottish Office intend to give directions to the law enforcement and public prosecution authorities to ensure that something is done about this. It is essential that there should be an effective deterrent to traders who blatantly and openly sell large quantities of cigarettes and other tobacco products to young people who are exposed to great danger as a consequence.

The second basic objective of the Bill is to broaden the scope of the legislation on tobacco products to include items such as Skoal Bandits, a product resembling a miniature tea bag and containing finely ground, flavoured tobacco intended to be sucked in the mouth. Such products have been extensively available in the United States for some time and are now, sadly, being manufactured in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for East Kilbride (Dr. Miller) and marketed in this country and in Europe.

Some countries, notably the Republic of Ireland, have banned the sale of such products altogether. The Bill does not propose such a ban, but I believe that it is to be commended in view of the insidious nature of the product. Extending the definition of tobacco products to include such items will at least make it clear that it is illegal to sell them to youngsters under the age of 16.

The hon. Member for Richmond and Barnes (Mr. Hanley) and my hon. Friend the Member for East Kilbride have referred to the letter from Mr. J. R. Walter, director of marketing for Europe of US Tobacco International, Inc., who has evidently been reading the reports of proceedings on the Bill in Committee. Mr. Walter suggests that his company would not dream of selling its products to youngsters under the age of 16, taking an almost "holier than thou" attitude to the matter. He says: To the best of our knowledge Skoal Bandits are not currently offered through vending machines. The company has no plans to produce a vending machine pack. If potato crisps can be sold through vending machines, it should not be unduly difficult to sell items of this kind in the same way. Whether or not it is nominally company policy, it is clear that retailers are likely to use that manner of marketing as well as across-the-counter sales.

Mr. Michael Brown (Brigg and Cleethorpes)

Is the hon. Gentleman calling into question a published letter to all Members from the director of marketing? The letter states clearly: The company has no plans to produce a vending machine pack. Is the hon. Gentleman saying that he does not believe that?

Mr. Home Robertson

It is no doubt perfectly true as far as it goes, but it is easy enough to put a normal pack of Skoal Bandits into a vending machine which could be used by anyone entering the building or street where it is located. It may not nominally be company policy to sell the product through vending machines, but the company cannot prevent that. There is no point in merely paying lip service to the principle. Whether the company likes it or not, vending machine sales are likely to happen.

The letter is very carefully worded. It continues: Our product flavours are not aimed at children. I have two packets here. One is peppermint flavoured and the other is berry flavoured and very sweet, to judge by the smell. The flavours may not be specifically aimed at children, but sweets tend to be attractive to children. Whether or not the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) or the company acknowledges it, it is inevitable that such products will be attractive to children.

Mr. Michael Brown

I am sorry to be so persistent, but I think that the hon. Gentleman is rather more concerned than he needs to be. My investigations show that those are normal descriptions for snuff products. The description "peppermint flavour" is a normal description used by any tobacco company manufacturing snuff products. A person buying a packet of snuff would be asked which flavour was required. The company has merely taken the names of flavours used for snuff products.

Mr. Home Robertson

Methinks the hon. Gentleman protests a little too much. I understand that the Doorkeeper has some snuff. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would like to ask him for some cherry flavour. He is trying very hard, but I do not think that he is convincing many people.

Mr. Walters continues: US Tobacco does not encourage or condone the distribution of free samples of Skoal Bandits to young children. Again, the words are very carefully chosen. Whether or not the company encourages or condones it, there is evidence of free distribution of samples to young children, as the BBC programme showed. Whether or not it is company policy, it has been going on in other countries and it is likely to happen here.

On promotional policy, Mr. Walters states: The Company has not offered T-shirts in small sizes. It is not impossible for small people to get into large T-shirts. At the public swimming pool in the area in which I live with my family I have seen quite young children in T-shirts bearing the Skoal Bandit logo.

The letter refers to toy cars. It says: The Company does not utilize or authorise the production of any toy cars with our product name on them. One only had to watch "That's Life!" the other night and one would have been able to see a toy car with the Skoal Bandits logo emblazoned on it. [Interruption.] Hon. Members need not worry, I have nearly finished with the letter.

The letter refers to Government grants. It says: The Company has not received £1 million from the Scottish Office. As a new company establishing employment in the area, we do of course qualify for the normal grants available. I should be fascinated to know how much the company has got. I tabled a question to the Scottish Office last December, to which the Under-Secretary of State replied: There have been three offers of regional selective assistance over the past 10 years to companies in Scotland classified to the tobacco industry in the standard industrial classification. Details of grants offered in each year cannot be given as to do so would disclose information relating to individual companies."—[Official Repot?, 16 December 1985; Vol. 89, c. 62.] Many people would be fascinated to know how much money has been handed out in the form of public incentives to that company and other companies. It is public money and people have a right to know what is going on.

Mr. Forth


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is beginning to stray a little from his own Bill. I am sure that he will direct his remarks to the Third Reading.

Mr. Home Robertson

I am trying to deal with some of the points raised by this company in respect of my Bill.

It would also be pertinent to mention the advertisement and promotion of the product. The Minister was kind enough to send all of the members of the Committee a copy of the new voluntary code of conduct, the voluntary agreement between the Government and tobacco companies on the advertising of tobacco and tobacco products. Unfortunately, as I understand it, that code does not apply to Skoal Bandits. A separate deal of some kind applies to them. The comments I have been making raise some concern about the conduct of this company in respect of promoting Skoal Bandits. There is cause for concern about that.

My concern was borne out this time last week when I was speaking to the pupils of a primary school. Kingsmeadow primary school, in Haddington, in my constituency. I was giving the standard talk to schoolchildren about what Members of Parliament do. I was trying to say what splendid people we all are and what a useful job we do. I cited as an example my job of steering this private Member's Bill through the House. I mentioned that the Bill would have some bearing on the product called Skoal Bandits. When I said that, many little faces brightened up with recognition and they said, "Oh yes, we have heard of that product." They were primary schoolchildren, not 16-year-olds.

We have seen that the company producing Skoal Bandits is sponsoring motor-cycle races and we have seen the logo on various advertising material. The children already knew about the product, knew the name and found it attractive. That is getting a little close to home and I am worried about it. The first thing is to get the product name known by youngsters and others and it is only a matter of time before some of them get a little pocket money, see the product in a shop and buy it. At that stage we have the next youngster taking a potentially addictive product.

The product is certainly addictive if it is taken repeatedly over a relatively short period. It is extremely dangerous and can cause serious disfigurement and lethal diseases, including cancer of the mouth. That is obviously a matter of concern and I hope that the Government will, if necessary, reconsider legislative control of the promotion of this type of product.

Obviously, the British Medical Association and others will keep a close eye on the effectiveness of the voluntary agreement. We hope that they will succeed, but I am afraid that the track record of earlier voluntary agreements has not been terribly satisfactory. Obviously, we hope that this agreement will work a little better.

It is appropriate to thank everyone who has been involved in drafting and working on the Bill, in the House, in Committee and elsewhere. I am grateful to the Minister for his assistance and for the Government's active support for the principles in the Bill. I must stress that this is not one of those Bills produced by the Government and hopped around the Back Benches. It was the result of private enterprise on my part. I am grateful to the Minister for his active support of the principle when I raised the suggestion with him. I am particularly grateful for the original suggestion from the East Lothian local health council, which deals with such affairs in my own constituency. That organisation was concerned about the possible threat to youngsters in my area exposed to the type of advertising I have been talking about. It suggested that this legislation would be useful; that started the ball rolling.

I am grateful to the British Medical Association, to Action on Smoking and Health and to many hon. Members on both sides of the House for their assistance during the consideration of the Bill. I am also grateful for that curious commodity, good fortune, which seldom comes the way of an Opposition Back Bencher, or even an Opposition Front Bencher, these days.

As I said earlier, the Bill started life as No. 12 in the ballot. Here we are at No. 3, with the prospect of the Bill going to the House of Lords and hopefully landing on the statute book before long. As I said earlier, I hope that this legislation will lead to genuine action and a real crackdown on this pernicious trade and that we will see a diminution in the amount of tobaco products of all descriptions being sold to young people in this country.

11.36 am
Mr. Roger Sims (Chislehurst)

The Bill comes before us, as the hon. Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) mentioned, shortly after we have seen the new voluntary agreement on advertising and promotions. Whatever one's feelings may be about its shortcomings, one certainly welcomes the emphasis that it places on discouraging young people from taking up smoking.

The Bill also comes before us shortly before we expect to see a voluntary agreement on sports sponsorship. It is encouraging to see that, at last, the broadcasters are recognising the influence that the broadcasting of sponsored sport has on young people. They are also beginning to recognise their responsibility when the sponsoring is carried out by tobacco companies. I hope that as a result of the new agreement, when we see it, and the recognition by the broadcasting authorities, we shall see some changes. For example, snooker is enjoyed for many hours by many people, but it has virtually become a continuous advertisement for cigarettes. It is bound to influence young people.

As the hon. Member for East Lothian said, the Bill extends the definition of tobacco products and strengthens and clarifies the law on the sale of such products to the under-16s. Once the Bill becomes law, as we hope, it will be very important that it is complied with and enforced. The essence of our system of government is that the majority will comply with the law, and that it is necessary to enforce it in only a small number of cases. That is so over the whole range of conduct, whether we are talking about speeding or—dare I mention—Sunday trading. Whatever the area, unless the majority comply voluntarily with the law, we have anarchy or we shall have to move towards some sort of police state.

In this context, therefore, a heavy responsibility lies upon the tobacco industry and retailers. It is to the credit of the industry that a feature of the new voluntary agreement is that it will devote £1 million to a campaign in the retail trade to prevent the sale of tobacco products to those under the age of 16. One realises the difficulties that face retailers, just as they face publicans, particularly nowadays, in telling whether a young person is over or under 16, especially girls.

It is a sobering thought that 41 per cent. of children are smoking by the age of 16. The hon. Member for East Lothian mentioned the enormous sums of money spent on tobacco products by those youngsters. In a survey, 86 per cent. of those under 16 said that they had bought their cigarettes from machines or shops. There are far too many stories, such as the ones we have heard from the hon. Member for Richmond and Barnes (Mr. Hanley), about retailers being willing to break packs and sell single cigarettes, for us to be able to dismiss them. Although, of course, I am not making a general condemnation of tobacco products retailers, that suggests that a relatively small number are deliberately, knowingly and continually breaking the law. They must cease that practice. I hope that the campaign to which I referred will be vigorously pursued by the industry.

Difficult though it is bound to be for the police and local authorities to enforce the law, the fact that in one year there were but 45 prosecutions for selling cigarettes to those under 16 does not suggest that there is a dynamic enforcement campaign by the powers that be. One realises that the local authorities and the police have a wide range of responsibilities. All of us have experience and knowledge of many of the responsibilities and problems that face the police. Of course, we must keep the matter in perspective. However, an occasional blitz on tobacco retailers, supported by exemplary sentences by magistrates, would have some effect. I hope that in his winding-up speech my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will say that there will be a special push on that front. Perhaps it is as well, too, to remind retailers and the courts that tobacconists need a licence to sell tobacco products, and it is possible for that licence to be withdrawn.

I congratulate the hon. Member for East Lothian on the skilful way in which he has steered the Bill through Committee and the House, and, indeed, behind the scenes. I wish it well.

11.43 am
Dr. M. S. Miller

The hon. Member for Chislehurst (Mr. Sims) made a thoughtful contribution to the debate.

It gives me no pleasure to be attempting to turn away jobs from my constituency, as it may appear. I appreciate that we have fairly high unemployment and jobs are extremely important, but other matters must be considered. The health of the community cannot be jeopardised by certain occupations. One must accept responsibility in that respect.

The Bill is relatively modest. If some hon. Members are concerned about what they consider to be people's freedom to kill themselves as they please, I can understand their being heated about that. The Bill does not ban the production of tobacco products. It does not ban the production of the substance about which we are most concerned. Perhaps we should take a leaf out of the book of the Irish Republic and ban it, but that is not what the Bill does.

Surely those who are concerned about freedom should also be concerned about the encouragement or discouragement that is given to habits that are extremely dangerous to health. All that the Bill is trying to do is discourage people from taking up habits that are dangerous to them. There is no doubt that this is a dangerous habit. According to the figures that have been produced in the United States, in the past 10 years or so the number of people using substances similar to this has risen to about 7 million. Those people are mostly children. If one takes into account the differences in population in this country, that means that 2 million young people are at risk from the use of these substances.

Those substances are extremely dangerous. Skoal Bandit dipping snuff contains nicotine, which is a powerful agent for raising blood pressure. It also contains carcinogens, which are cancer-causing substances. The nicotine product is absorbed from the mouth and enters the bloodstream very quickly. If enough is taken, it produces a sustained rise in blood pressure. If that occurs at an early age, there is cause for great concern for the future health of the individual. The person will probably continue to have high blood pressure in adult life, with subsequent danger to the heart, and cardiac conditions will ensue. Carcinogenous substances are causative factors in various types of cancers of the mouth and jaw and other areas such as the back of the nose and the pharynx.

We would be remiss in our duty as legislators if, however much we are concerned about the right of people to take dangerous substances, we did not take two aspects into consideration. First, we must consider the extent to which we should make it clear to people that these substances are dangerous and discourage them from pursuing and adopting habits that are dangerous to their health. Secondly, we should consider the fact that the substance which the Bill pinpoints is attractive to a group of people who are not of an age to be able to determine such matters. If we are not in loco parentis, perhaps we should help parents to protect their children's health.

I have no compunction in sponsoring a Bill such as this, because I consider it my duty not only as a medical practitioner but as a legislator to take such steps that I think will assist parents without interfering too much with their rights, in their attempt to ensure that the children they have borne will grow up as healthy adults and not subject themselves to useless pastimes and dangerous habits that will do a great deal to undo—to use a tortuous phrase—the good that has been done by a century of progress in improving health.

11.50 am
Mr. Michael Brown (Brigg and Cleethorpes)

; I congratulate the hon. Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) on his skill in presenting this measure. I have no wish to prevent it from reaching the statute book. I welcome the measure, and although it is known in the House and outside that I take a liberal attitude towards the freedom of the individual even to harm him or herself—

Mr. Home Robertson

The Liberals are not here.

Mr. Brown

That is typical, of course.

Although I am known to have a liberal attitude to the freedom of the individual, I acknowledge the point made by the hon. Member for East Lothian. When talking about minors and especially about people under the age of 16, we have a duty to recognise that that freedom must be restricted. I accept the point made by the hon. Gentleman—that somebody who does not smoke nicotine products is likely to be healthier and less likely to endanger his health than someone who consumes tobacco products. In the absence of being in loco parentis, we have a duty as legislators. The House has taken the view in the past through legislation about children and young persons that it has to protect children from forming habits such as smoking, and if the law is weak and is not to fall into disrepute, it should be strengthened. The Bill seeks to do precisely that.

All hon. Members have received a letter from US Tobacco International, Inc., and the whole of that letter should be placed on record so that there is no doubt about the company's attitude towards the Bill. I have no interest to declare. I have no financial interests with any tobacco company, but I met people in US Tobacco before the Second Reading of the Bill. I had lunch with them, but the only thing I received from the company was a box of 25 cigars. One cigar was offered to me at lunch and, the box having been broken, I was given the rest. That is the extent of my financial and personal interest in any tobacco company.

Mr. Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras)

Can the hon. Gentleman tell us who made that tobacco product if the company that gave it to him did not?

Mr. Brown

The company that manufactured the cigars given to me is US Tobacco. It manufactures cigars and Skoal Bandits in Britain. It does not manufacture cigarettes in Britain, nor do I think it manufactures cigarettes in the United States. The letter, which should be placed on the record, will assist the hon. Member for East Lothian and the House to recognise that US Tobacco approaches this Bill and its responsibilities seriously.

I assume the letter that I have is the same as the one sent to other hon. Members. It reads: Dear Mr. Brown, Following our conversation"— that was a conversation that I had with people in the company between Second Reading and today— I am writing to give you some factual information upon a number of inaccuracies and apparent misunderstandings concerning my Company and our product Skoal Bandits, which were voiced in the official report upon the committee stage of the Tobacco Products (Sales Restrictions) Bill. As the manufacturers of Skoal Bandits we support this Bill, as it not only removes any potential misunderstandings or loopholes from the law, but should also serve to reinforce our long standing Company policy on age. Nothing could be more categorical than that statement.

The letter goes on: All bona fide Skoal Bandit retailers are aware of our policy of only directing our product at adults. Adults in this case being defined as aged eighteen or over. With regard to comments contained within the published minutes of the committee meeting, the following are factual points responding to specific statements made. Vending machine sales"— these have been spoken about this morning— To the best of our knowledge Skoal Bandits are not currently offered through vending machines. The Company has no plans to produce a vending machine pack. That was also touched on by an hon. Member. Our product flavours are not aimed at children. Nomenclature and flavouring has followed the traditional snuff products"— I made that point in an intervention— where, as evidenced in retail trade publication price lists, similar product names are available As I said earlier, those product names are used for the sale of snuff products.

The letter goes on: Falling cigarette sales—Skoal Bandits are not designed to meet falling cigarette sales. Our Company does not manufacture or market any cigarettes.

Mr. Home Robertson

In the course of my speech I omitted to refer to falling cigarette sales. U.S. Tobacco says: Skoal Bandits are not designed to meet falling cigarette sales. I have a slip of paper which I understand is enclosed in every packet of Skoal Bandits. It says: A new way to enjoy tobacco. New Skoal Bandits is tobacco with a big difference; quite simply, you can now get real tobacco pleasure without lighting up—Skoal Bandits is an individual portion of fine quality mint flavoured tobacco in a handy little pre-moistened pouch. So you can now enjoy the taste and satisfaction of real tobacco anywhere, anytime—even when or where smoking isn't convenient or allowed. If that is not suggesting that this product can replace the use of cigarettes I do not know what is.

Mr. Brown

I do not dissent from what the hon. Gentleman says. US Tobacco is making the point that, even if, with falling cigarette sales, some companies are trying to increase revenue by the manufacture of other products, it is not doing that. This company does not manufacture, and has not manufactured, cigarettes. Yes, it is seeking to capture the gap in the market caused by a decline in the consumption of cigarettes.

Perhaps the company is providing a signal service towards solving the problem of how to stop the habit-forming cigarette syndrome. In the past, many people have tried to devise a means of consuming tobacco or tobacco substitute products so that the danger of cigarette smoking is reduced. I accept that there is a health risk from the consumption of Skoal Bandits. I do not deny that, but—I have no medical evidence to support this and I may stand corrected by the hon. Member for East Kilbride (Dr. Miller)—although there is a health risk, there is less risk from consuming Skoal Bandits than if one were regularly to smoke cigarettes.

Dr. Miller

I should like to draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to the point in the letter about falling cigarette sales. It says: Our company does not manufacture or market any cigarettes. That is a non sequitur. No one is saying that that company manufactures cigarettes and is marketing Skoal Bandits to counter its falling sales. Cigarette sales are falling and companies which want to get into the act of selling tobacco will use other means of doing so. The disclaimer which the company makes does not make sense when related to the first sentence in the letter, because nobody is saying that the company has been making cigarettes and its sales have fallen. The company has set up an Aunt Sally and tried to knock it down. I hope the hon. Gentleman will not try to ensure that this Bill does not go through.

Mr. Brown


Dr. Miller

The company itself says that it wants the Bill. I would not be telling the truth if I were to say that this method of using tobacco is as dangerous as cigarette smoking, because it is not. Cigarette smoking is the most dangerous form of using tobacco. I accept that this product is not as dangerous as cigarettes, but it is still dangerous and could lead to cigarette smoking. In the main, it is young children who are taking it.

Mr. Brown

I have no intention of frustrating the Bill's progress. If I had wanted to do that, I would have used the skills which some suggest I have in Committee or on Second Reading. I merely want to correct some of the misunderstandings that were expressed in Committee. It could be argued that some regular cigarette smokers have changed to Skoal Bandits and that they have contributed to a net gain in the nation's health. Skoal Bandits might have contributed to the fall in cigarette consumption.

Mr. Forth

Does my hon. Friend agree that this form of tobacco consumption might be beneficial in terms of the problem of secondary smoking?

Mr. Brown

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Some hon. Members who support the Bill more enthusiastically than I do would be the first to argue that there are many public places where non-smokers have to endure secondary smoking. The consumption of Skoal Bandits is much less dangerous to them and, to that extent, they are socially beneficial to non-smokers. There has been much debate about the adverse effects of smoking on nonsmokers.

Mr. Hanley

I am aware that my hon. Friend does not want to destroy the Bill, but will he explain why the Republic of Ireland has recently banned all sales of Skoal Bandits?

Mr. Brown

The Republic of Ireland's social policy—on abortion, for example—and its economic policy provide good examples of what not to do.

Mr. Home Robertson

There seems to be one issue on which the people of the North and South of Ireland are united. I received a letter from health organisations in Northern Ireland yesterday expressing deep disappointment at the Northern Ireland Office's failure to co-operate with the Republic of Ireland to extend the ban to the entire island.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. We are getting into another debate. We must stick to the Bill, which concerns tobacco products being sold to people under 16. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will return to the subject of the Bill.

Mr. Brown

The next paragraph of the letter deals with precisely that. It says: Free distribution of samples—US Tobacco does not encourage or condone the distribution of free samples of Skoal Bandits to young children. Any employee found to be knowingly sampling anyone under the age of eighteen will be dismissed. Our lawyers are currently investigating the allegations and claims made in the BBC programme 'That's Life'. That programme said that Skoal Bandits were sold to a 10-year-old boy in Keighley, Yorkshire, by a woman, the implication being that she was an employee of US Tobacco.

Mr. Home Robertson

There was no such implication.

Mr. Brown

The implication was in an interview. US Tobacco has investigated the incident and found that the person concerned was not an employee. If she had been, she would have been dismissed. The company welcomes the Bill because it will protect the company as well. The letter continues: The Company has not offered T-shirts in small sizes. During a recent promotion, which was linked soley to purchase of product, respondents were only able to secure T-shirts in medium or larger sizes. The Company does not utilize nor authorise the production of any toy cars with our product name on them. We maintain vigilance on these issues and in the past our lawyers have contacted companys producing and selling such toys, instructing them to desist. In the light of the recent allegations on `Thats Life!' our lawyers are again investigating. The Company has not received £1 million from the Scottish Office. As a new company establishing employment in the area we do of course qualify for the normal grants available. In replying to a question in the House of Commons. Peter Morrison MP, Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry stated in February that the assistance provided to tobacco companies in England, Scotland and Wales under the Industrial Development Act 1982 (as amended) in the year to December 31, 1985 was £349,000. That is the total for all assistance under regional development grants—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I called to order the promoter when he started to develop that argument, and I must do the same with the hon. Gentleman. He must return to the content of the Bill.

Mr. Brown

I apologise, but I am anxious to put the record straight, as selective quotation of the letter might have given the impression that the company does not favour the Bill. It was alleged in Committee that the Government gave the company £1 million to set up a manufacturing plant. That is simply not true.

Mr. Dobson

What is the truth?

Mr. Brown

The truth is that a total of £349,000 has been given through regional assistance to all tobacco companies in the United Kingdom, with the exception of Northern Ireland.

Mr. Dobson

Can the hon. Gentleman tell us whether the figure quoted by the Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry, includes grant given by the Scottish Development Agency?

Mr. Brown

I could find that out. The company says that the parliamentary answer said that the assistance provided to tobacco companies in England"—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman must pay attention to my ruling. He is now going over the Committee stage, which is wholly irregular on Third Reading. I must ask the hon. Gentleman to refer to the Bill. If he does not, I shall have to ask him to resume his seat.

Mr. Brown

I apologise, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You will realise that it is difficult to do that when the company is responding to criticisms that were made in Committee. I acknowledge your injunction, Sir, and I will have to rely on the last paragraph of the letter, which refers to the "That's Life!" programme. I hope that all hon. Members who have a copy of that letter read the last paragraph carefully.

US Tobacco, which manufactures Skoal Bandits, welcomes this Bill, as I do, because it clarifies the matter. I acknowledge, as does the company, that this House is responsible for ensuring that the law is obeyed in relation to selling cigarette products and tobacco-related products to children under 16 years of age. Skoal Bandits are omitted from the description of "tobacco products". I accept that Skoal Bandits are tobacco products and should therefore be included in the schedule to the Children and Young Persons Act. US Tobacco is not in the business of selling its product to children under the age of 16; indeed, it does not wish to market its product to persons under the age of 18. If anything, the company is more vigilant than would be the case under the Bill.

I submit that this company has an honourable record in the context of tobacco companies. It is not irresponsible and has a fine reputation in the United States. It provides a number of jobs in this country. The record of the hon. Member for East Kilbride in relation to tobacco and its dangers is proud and honourable. It is courageous for the hon. Member to take his principled stand on this matter, when he has within his constituency the factory that is manufacturing Skoal Bandits. I respect the fact that the hon. Gentleman has not changed his view, even though it must be said that US Tobacco is regarded by the Government with favour to the extent that it has received a grant from the Scottish Development Agency.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. We are not discussing a tobacco company or regional grants. I must warn the hon. Gentleman that he must take notice of what I say; otherwise I shall have to order him to resume his seat.

Mr. Brown

I apologise once again, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The point I am trying to make is that this company seeks to carry out its obligations and responsibilities honourably with regard to children under the age of 16. That the Government regard it in that light is borne out by the fact that the company manufactures that product in this country. Thus, I suggest that the House should take at face value the letter that the company wrote to all hon. Members who served on the Standing Committee.

I have made it plain that I do not want to prevent this Bill from reaching the statute book. I congratulate the hon. Member for East Lothian on introducing it. I am sorry, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I have strayed in my remarks; it was certainly not deliberate on my part. I normally strive to the utmost to remain in order, so I apologise for trespassing a little on your good will.

12.15 pm
Mr. Colin Moynihan (Lewisham, East)

Having just recovered from your announcement, Mr. Deputy Speaker, following the third reading of the Corneal Tissue Bill, that the Ayes had it, and having then gone on to read the Standing Committee report of this Bill, in which my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) referred to the incident of caning in his youth, I thought it high time to concentrate on the important details of the Bill.

There are three main points to make. I hope that the hon. Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson), in introducing the Bill, was concerned with much more than Skoal Bandits. Many other similar products are not necessarily marketed in the same way but are coming on to the market and have tobacco as part of their make-up. They are dangerous to young people and encourage them to take up smoking.

On this point I disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes when he says he believes that the use of these products might actually reduce the habit-forming syndrome, as he calls it. I do not believe that that is true; I believe that products such as Skoal Bandits may start young people on the road to smoking. If a product is given a sweet or peppermint tobacco flavour and young people acquire a taste for that product, the step from there to the habit of smoking is smaller than going straight to smoking cigarettes. I am worried that the availability of such products will be a dangerous step towards the habit-forming syndrome and will increase the incidence of smoking among young people.

Mr. Michael Brown

When my hon. Friend passes through the doors of this House he is subjected to temptation because there is a smell of snuff, a pinch of which I had before I came into the House. Is he suggesting that, because the snuff is flavoured in a rather delightful way, every hon. Member who is a non-smoker of tobacco, and cigarettes in particular, but who takes a pinch of snuff is increasing the risk of then smoking cigarettes?

Mr. Moynihan

I know that, in his half-hour speech, my hon. Friend seemed to forget that the substance of the Bill is about young people under the age of 16 and the influence that Skoal Bandits and similar sweets could have on them in creating the habit of smoking cigarettes. We should be directing all our attention today to those people and not concentrating on people who later in life may decide to take snuff or to smoke. Although that is important, it is not central to the Bill.

What is relevant to the Bill is that, unless we extend the description of tobacco products, young people will have a greater incentive to start smoking cigarettes by first starting on sweet and flavoured snuff. That is why I strongly support the Bill, because it extends the description of tobacco products to cover not only Skoal Bandits but a whole host of goods which are beginning to come on to the market and which will have a dangerous effect.

Referring again to the intervention, I do not believe that we should under-estimate the extent of this problem. I understand that 30 per cent. of fifth formers are regularly smoking and that £90 million per annum is spent on tobacco products by those under 16. Thus, we have an enormous problem. While I strongly welcome the decrease in the incidence of smoking, what is particularly worrying is that at present there is an increase in the incidence of young people smoking. That is extremely important, and one reason why I warmly welcome the Bill.

Mr. Hanley

Does my hon. Friend not believe that perhaps the reason for increased smoking among the young is increased advertising at sporting events, although they are supposed to inspire the young to health?

Mr. Moynihan

I do not want to be drawn now into discussing a point that is not essential to the Third reading, but I do not believe that that is true. An effective voluntary agreement is the solution to that problem, not a total ban. Much as I hate smoking—I do not smoke myself and dislike the secondary effects—I believe a voluntary and effective agreement—persuasion, not compulsion—is the solution and the hallmark of representative Government on this issue.

Mr. Michael Brown

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Moynihan

I will not give way again, because several other hon. Members wish to speak and other hon. Members who have sponsored Bills want to bring them forward. I hope they will have time to do so.

I should like to draw attention to another main point which is relevant to the Bill. It is a key debating point because it covers prosecutions and how we can effect the implementation of the Bill. I am worried because in 1984 only 42 prosecutions for selling cigarettes to young people went ahead. There is no doubt that such sales are widespread. We must tackle the problem, but it is difficult to do more than merely persuade the retailers through debates such as this that they have a major social and legal responsibility to young people. The time has come for a well-publicised campaign by local authorities and the police. One cannot expect the campaign to run year in, year out, but I believe that a campaign similar to the television licence campaign would be effective. The problem is under-estimated both inside and outside the House, and it is vital that it should be tackled.

I would not adopt the idea of identity cards, which was suggested in Standing Committee as one way of tackling the problem of young people buying cigarettes, and would not expect a massive increase in the policing of retail outlets, but a well-publicised campaign would reduce the considerable danger of escalation. Unless the Bill is passed, there will be more products such as Skoal Bandits. I hope that the House recognises that so much money is spent on cigarettes by those under 16 and that the dangers of cancer of the mouth and tongue from these alternative products are so serious that we should pass the legislation as rapidly as possible. The House should give the hon. Member for East Lothian all possible support.

12.21 pm
Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)

I apologise to the hon. Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) and to the House for missing the Report stage. I came to the House as quickly as I could and was glad to be here for Third Reading.

The Bill is right in principle, but I am not sure that it will achieve the ambitions of the Bill's sponsor and those who closely supported him. Sometimes it is difficult to identify 16-year-olds. Well-grown nine-year-olds can take in people by looking a young 16. Young people can make themselves look older than they are.

Recently, I toured the cancer and heart wards at the Central Middlesex hospital with an eminent surgeon from near my constituency. We looked at people suffering heart disease. The surgeon was convinced that the heart disease and cancer in the patients we saw had been caused by smoking. He felt that some people started smoking before they were 16. I saw some horrific and sad cases. I am not in a position, nor do I seek, to quarrel with the medical profession. I realise from observation the dangers of smoking. I believe that widespread advertising to show people the dangers of smoking may be so agressive that it is self-defeating.

I smoked quite a lot between the ages of nine and 16 but did not smoke much after 16. I have not smoked cigarettes, cigars or pipe tobacco for many years. In January, my 80-year-old uncle died. He has told me that he started to smoke when he was a toddler. The post mortem showed that, although he had smoked all his life and had had a ghastly graveyard cough for 60 or 70 years, he was as clean as a whistle. There was no sign of cancer in the mouth, the lungs or anywhere else. It may be a little dangerous to generalize—

Mr. Dobson


Mr. Greenway

—like that twerp on the Opposition Front Bench who makes fatuous remarks from a sedentary position on a serious and proven point.

Mr. Dobson

Prove it, then.

Mr. Greenway

It is proven. I have seen it with my own eyes. I am describing a member of my own family. He was one of a large number of individuals who lived and died in the way I described. He did not suffer the scourge of cancer. It has been suggested that someone who lived and smoked as he did would have died from cancer.

Mr. Dobson

The hon. Gentleman should understand that the Royal College of Physicians does not believe that it is inevitable that a person will die of cancer-related diseases if he smokes. It says only that smoking kills 100,000 people a year. Anecdotes about 90-year-olds who smoke 100 cigarettes a day will not counter that fact.

Mr. Greenway

I do not just suggest that the Royal College makes that claim. The hon. Gentleman has no basis for saying that. If the hon. Gentleman had listened to me, he would not have made such an erroneous remark. I hope that he will listen carefully because I am speaking sincerely and am not seeking to defeat the Bill. It is right to express reservations. We are not here to rubber-stamp the measures of other hon. Members, however sincere they are and however strongly they feel. Generalisations on smoking and on non-smoking abound. It is right to allay some of the fears.

I respect the need to protect young people from smoking. I spent 23 years in the teaching profession and often punished pupils as severely as I could to try to prevent them from smoking. However, hounding people too severely can push them in the opposite direction. Seven hundred of my constituents work at Gallagher's in Northolt. They are thoroughly honourable and produce fine cigarettes and tobacco. I talk with them often about the arguments against smoking. They feel that the claims against smoking are sometimes excessive and often unproven. The onus rests with those making the generalisations, particularly about those under 16, to prove their point. I ask the Bill's promoters to bear that in mind.

Voluntary agreements which are thought to have the power to influence those under 16 can work both ways. If agreement is voluntary, it is voluntary. Some people will voluntarily respect it, and others will voluntarily oppose or ignore it. We must accept that. If people make a voluntary agreement, hoping to achieve a complete prohibition, in this case, of smoking, but fail to do so, they should remember that the agreement is voluntary and that they cannot enforce it. One must remember the meaning of "voluntary", and either seek complete prohibition honestly or remember the voluntary principle. When a matter is voluntary, sometimes one achieves one's hope, but sometimes one does not. Almost always, one compromises.

One must warn, advise and persuade people against smoking, but one must not take away their right to choose to do so, especially when other people are not affected, and particularly if they have been warned. Providing they know the dangers to their health, they must be allowed the right to choose. That is an important democratic principle. After all, many young and old people have far worse addictions than smoking, such as drugs. Many people, even those under 16, depend on Valium or cocaine, and others are addicted to excessive alcohol and spirits. It is important to remember that, when we rightly rail against the evils of smoking.

Mr. Michael Brown

One of the substances which people under 16 are particularly fond of consuming and which is extremely bad for their health—I sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, East (Mr. Moynihan) is not present—is sugar. It is one of the most terrifying health risks to children under 16. Those who support the Bill should be equally worried about the consumption of excess sugar by those under 16.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The Bill deals with tobacco products. I have been tolerant with the hon. Member, but he is beginning to widen the debate about the merits of tobacco products. We are on Third Reading, and speeches must be related strictly to the provisions in the Bill. I remind the House, yet again, that we are dealing only with those under the age of 16.

Mr. Greenway

There is no question in my mind that we are dealing with those under 16, and I shall be careful to respond to your direction, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if I feel that I am straying.

Shakespeare said that forbidden fruits taste the sweetest. One of the difficulties of forbidding smoking is that it makes it attractive to the young. The main reason why young children smoke is because they know that adults and teachers dislike it intensely. We have little alternative but to forbid it, but it produces the major disciplinary difficulty in schools of overcoming children's attraction to smoking because adults object to it, for all the good reasons. Children smoke in lavatories and behind buildings. [Interruption.]

The hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) laughs, but I know that from my long experience. If he had more experience of wider matters, he would make more pungent, cogent speeches than he does. It is a serious matter, and if he is amused at my point, I can tell him of a school in which pupils aged over 16 were thought to have a big influence on those under 16.

The hon. Gentleman may know the school. The example of older children on younger children is real. If those over 16 are seen to smoke it encourages younger children to do so. In this particular school a new and able head decided that he would hit hard at those under 16 who smoked, and throw the book at them. He decided to allow those aged over 16 to smoke in a sixth form room, separated for the purpose, and away from another sixth form room where there was strictly no smoking.

The removal of the excitement felt by over-16s about defying school rules on smoking caused the practice to die. They no longer wanted to smoke. The object of the exercise was achieved much more effectively than by imposing excessive penalties on smokers, which is the approach that the House is in danger of inroducing with the Bill. I do not suggest that if we permit under-16s to smoke the habit will fade away, but excessive prohibition and compulsion make it exciting and we shall not achieve what we wish.

The moral is obvious. Our duty to conduct ourselves properly, to remain in good health and to make the best possible contribution to society is best achieved through freedon to choose. That is always more effective than trying to get people to do the right thing by endless and often mindless compulsion.

12.36 pm
Mr. Rob Hayward (Kingswood)

I support the Bill. I apologise to the hon. Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) for having been absent during the earlier stages of the Bill, but it was my only opportunity to register for the London marathon.

As a Member of Parliament for a Bristol constituency, my support for the Bill may not have been automatically expected, but there is no doubt that the tobacco industry nationwide opposes sales to young people. The extension of legislation to any tobacco product is advantageous, because I and many people believe that the best way to stop people smoking is by education. If we encourage children to smoke at an early age by providing what one might describe as ersatz products, we automatically introduce children to cigarettes.

With many hon. Members, I have received representations on the subject of Skoal Bandits. One of my constituents, a Mrs. Smith of 3 Butler House, has written to me expressing grave concern that they encourage young people into the habit of smoking, and I share that view.

My only reservation about the Bill—if the matter has already been explained I apologise for raising it again—is that clause 3(2) says that the Bill does not extend to Northern Ireland.

Mr. Home Robertson

The point was mentioned briefly. My first draft of the Bill included an amendment to the Health and Personal Social Services (Northern Ireland) Order, but the Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland who is responsible for health advised me that that was not the most appropriate way to deal with the matter in Northern Ireland. I have been assured that the Government will introduce a parallel measure for Northern Ireland through the appropriate mechanism.

Mr. Hayward

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that clarification. With those few comments, I express further support for the Bill and hope that it receives a fair passage through both Houses.

12.39 pm
Mr. Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras)

Most hon. Members recognise that we should step up the effort to stop the under-age use of tobacco products, which are undoubtedly being promoted deliberately by the tobacco companies, in some cases with the connivance of the BBC through the excessive showing of tobacco company-sponsored events, for which the companies should be charged. I welcome the additional restrictions that are proposed in the Bill introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson).

No one believes that an approach based solely on restrictions is likely to succeed. It is becoming clearer and clearer that the publicity campaigns held to date to induce people to stop smoking have succeeded with some groups but have signally failed with others. We need much more emphasis on publicity campaigns that will have an effect on the groups that have taken least notice to date, including young people. It has always been against the law to sell tobacco products to those aged under 16, and it is a welcome proposition that we should increase the efficacy of that law. We hope that the Government will exhort prosecuting authorities throughout the country to take the matter seriously.

The other purpose of the Bill is to bring Skoal Bandits within the ambit of the law. I believe that these products are wholly infamous. In our discussion on the Bill on corneal tissues there were references to bringing entrepreneurs into health. In this case, entrepreneurs are bieng brought into ill health. On the very day when the company launched its product in Britain, the chief medical officer of the Department of Health and Social Security and his equivalent in Scotland advised every doctor that the use of the thing was dangerous and likely to induce cancer that could disfigure and cause death. It is a barmy society that is prepared to countenance giving Government grants to build a factory to produce a product which the chief medical officer then has to advise doctors is likely to kill some of their patients. That is plain loopy. We should resist that approach. It is regrettable that US Tobacco has been permitted to set up its plant in this country at all.

Several hon. Members have referred to the contents of the letter from J. R. Walter, Director of Marketing Europe. All I can say is that the letter to hon. Members from US Tobacco is cant and humbug from start to finish.

Mr. Forth

What basis has the hon. Gentleman for saying that?

Mr. Dobson

The hon. Gentleman need only compare what is happening with what is contained in the letter. I do not propose to burden the House by going through it in detail again. Other hon. Members have already done so, some of them have been ruled out of order, and I wish to remain within the rules of order.

We have also heard preposterous arguments that it may be less dangerous to use Skoal Bandits than to smoke cigarettes, and therefore Skoal Bandits are all right. Someone who has habitually played Russian roulette with two live rounds in the chamber might as well propose to use only one live round instead. It would be sensible to oppose playing Russian roulette at all, and we should oppose tobacco products altogether.

The Bill is a welcome measure extending present and new controls to cover Skoal Bandits. The advertising used by US Tobacco shows at what market the product is aimed. In the very box that the stinking—literally stinking—things are sold in, we read: Like your first beer Skoal Bandits can be a taste that might take a few days to acquire and get the most out of. You'll need time to work out how often to take Skoal Bandits, and how long to leave it in. Time to adjust to this new way to tobacco satisfaction. It's up to you, but whatever you do, stick with it. The real stuff!

That advertising is in line with the promotional efforts of the tobacco companies, which are determined, as always, to recruit new, young users of tobacco products. The industry is unique in that it kills 100,000 consumers every year, and it is therefore obliged to encourage new recruits. I welcome the measure and its limited restrictions.

12.46 pm
Mr. Whitney

I have no wish to prolong the Third Reading, but I want to make a few comments.

First, I congratulate the hon. Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) on his success in the ballot and on reaching this stage with his important Bill. I acknowledge his generosity in thanking us for the help that we have given him. We in the Department have been pleased to help him in his endeavours.

The Bill has secured a large measure of agreement, although with some slight tepidity. We share the desire to protect youngsters from the evil consequences of tobacco in all its forms and to dissuade adults from supplying it to them. The Government are fully committed to that objective. We want to reduce the appalling incidence of preventable disease and premature death associated with tobacco, and the Bill is an important step toward strengthening the law on the illegal sale of tobacco products to youngsters under the age of 16.

The extent of smoking among young people was referred to by several hon. Members and is of major concern to the Government. My hon. Friend the Member for Chislehurst (Mr. Sims) has some doubts about the efficacy of the Government's activities in relation to the voluntary agreement, but the voluntary agreement's record has been good in significantly reducing smoking among adults. Other countries have adopted other measures, such as statutory prohibition, which have proved less efficacious than our voluntary scheme. We have even greater hopes of the new voluntary agreement.

We share a concern about the disturbing tendency among the young to smoke. That is one of the reasons why we are spending about £2 million a year, through the Health Education Council, on health education programmes against smoking. Many of the programmes are aimed at children. The Government have funded a £1 million pilot media campaign in two television regions to discourage teenage smoking. The campaign has a weight equivalent to spending about £6 million nationally. It is the first time that an anti-smoking promotion of this weight has been used on television.

The new voluntary agreement on tobacco advertising includes several provisions specifically designed to protect young people, and as part of it a further £1 million is being spent by the industry in a campaign telling retailers that it is illegal to sell cigarettes to young people. I hope that that will reassure my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, East (Mr. Moynihan). It is a happy coincidence of circumstances that we have the new agreement, and, subject to whatever might happen along the corridor, that we will have the Bill on the statute book.

We have also had to concern ourselves, at some risk to parliamentary convention, with the new threat posed by oral tobacco, now on sale in many parts of Britain, and the associated risk of mouth cancer. The main brand being promoted is Skoal Bandits. The Government deplore their introduction to the UK, and, as we have heard, their promotion, especially the potential attractions of the product for children, has been one of the main concerns expressed by the House. We are worried not only because of the established link with mouth cancers, but because of the threat of dependence on nicotine.

The Government have listened carefully to calls for stronger action against this product. Since the Committee stage, officials from my Department have been in contact with the manufacturers of Skoal Bandits, U.S. Tobacco International, Inc. I am pleased to inform the House that the company has accepted that certain health warnings ought to appear on the packs and on the advertising material and that the rules governing promotion and sale of the product should be considerably strengthened. The details are yet to be negotiated, but I thought that hon. Members would wish to be aware of the new position. The precise nature of the warnings will require consideration, but our aim will be to make clear that these products may cause oral cancer and that they should not be considered a safe alternative to cigarette smoking. I hope that the House will welcome these moves as wholly consistent with the Bill's objectives, and with the speeches of most hon. Members today.

Mr. Michael Brown

Has not the company's approach been most co-operative and shown that it does not engage in humbug? Will my hon. Friend confirm that his Department has had a good relationship with the company?

Mr. Whitney

I am happy to confirm that the statement that I have been able to make is on the basis of the exchanges that we have had with the company. I welcome that outcome, as I hope does the rest of the House. We now look forward to concluding those changes and working out the details of the negotiations on the voluntary agreement.

It is necessary to update the seperate Acts for England and Scotland that deal with the sale of tobacco. These date back to 1933 and 1937—long before medical evidence of the dangers of smoking had emerged. Nor were they drafted with oral tobacco products in mind. Therefore, it was necessary to update the Act, and this has happily been achieved in the work that we have done on the Bill.

The Government may seek to make a modest change to the Bill when it is considered in the other place. This concerns the possible inclusion of a statutory presumption in the Scottish Act to make it clear that the products covered by the Act, and so labelled, contain tobacco. This change may be necessary because of the differences between the criminal procedures in Scotland and England, and it would make it easier to obtain convictions under Scottish law. I hope that the hon. Member for East Lothian in particular will recognise that point.

Mr. Home Robertson

I am grateful for that clarification, and anything that will make it easier to deter this pernicious trade is welcome. Is it the Government's intention to institute an effective crack down against this massive trade, and is advice to be given to the prosecution authorities and the police, when and if the Bill reaches the statute book, that they should institute prosecutions where they find that such trade is continuing?

Mr. Whitney

I hope that the Government's attitude is extremely clear from the measures that I have already outlined with regard to young people and smoking. I have no doubt at all that once a new measure is on the statute book my hon. Friends in the Departments concerned will take every necessary step to ensure that the new law is applied appropriately.

I believe that we have reached the point at which I should again congratulate the hon. Member for East Lothian and his colleagues on the way in which the passage of the Bill has been achieved so far. I have been very happy to collaborate with the hon. Gentleman, because to a large extent we share the wish to make progress in this area. The hon. Gentleman may wish to take us still further, but on the Bill we are entirely at one and I have no hesitation in commending it to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.

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