HC Deb 10 February 1987 vol 110 cc153-4
11. Mr. Sims

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will make a ministerial visit to Hong Kong and Singapore to observe Government policies on smoking.

Mr. Fowler

I am prepared to make that sacrifice.

Mr. Sims

In view of my right hon. Friend's heavy commitments, perhaps it would be just as well if he did not leave us again too soon. Is he aware that since 1973 there has been a complete ban on advertising tobacco products in Singapore, and that the Hong Kong Government are preparing legislation for a complete ban on all tobacco products? Since well over 1,000 people per week are dying prematurely from smoking-related diseases, does he think that we may have something to learn from policies in Hong Kong and Singapore on advertising, promotion, education and pricing of products? If my right hon. Friend cannot visit those countries, perhaps he could ask his officials to study their policies to see whether we have something to learn from them.

Mr. Fowler

I understand my hon. Friend's concern. In fact, the United Kingdom has a favourable record in comparison with Hong Kong. On the reduction of smoking, the percentage reduction here is as good as, if not better than, those in Hong Kong and Singapore. Certainly the United Kingdom has stronger and more varied health warnings on cigarettes and has stronger and more comprehensive restrictions on advertising. Clearly I shall consider any other lessons from both Hong Kong and Singapore.

Mr. Simon Hughes

Does the Secretary of State realise that there was great disappointment throughout the nation about the agreement reached by his hon. Friend the Minister for Sport—

Mr. Speaker

Order. That has nothing to do with Singapore and Hong Kong, has it?

Mr. Hughes

Yes, it has. On the arrangements for tobacco promotion, does the Secretary of State agree that the example set by Hong Kong and Singapore should be followed and that it is not satisfactory to wait for another few years before proper preventive medicine is practised by banning advertising here of tobacco and sport?

Mr. Fowler

No, I do not think that. In the United Kingdom we have followed a voluntary policy. It is a subject that has been dealt with in public areas, for example, by those responsible for management in response to public calls. I do not find that the case for making advertising in all areas illegal is one that has yet been made out.