HC Deb 19 April 1991 vol 189 cc704-17
Mr. Peter Lloyd

I beg to move amendment No. 13, in page 4, line 26, leave out clause 6.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to discuss Government amendments Nos. 14 and 15.

Mr. Peter Lloyd

I know that many hon. Members have been very unhappy about the extent and visibility of advertising for cigarettes on the front of shops. Their concern was made abundantly clear in Committee. I also recall that I made it very clear that I believe that the right way to control tobacco advertising and promotion is through further development of the successful system of voluntary agreements. Although complex, the system is comprehensive in its coverage and has always been honoured by the industry.

I am therefore extremely pleased to remind the House that a new voluntary agreement on advertising between the Government and the tobacco industry has been agreed in principle and should shortly be concluded. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health announced yesterday, the agreement will contain two key measures designed to reduce the visibility of shopfront advertising and to ensure that all such advertising carries appropriate health warnings.

First, the industry has made a major commitment to reducing the amount of shopfront advertising. It has undertaken to reduce the total number of external permanent advertising materials at retail premises by 50 per cent. over five years. Those reductions will be validated by independent audit and the results of the audit will be presented to the monitoring committee and will appear in its annual report. In making that reduction, the industry will seek to ensure that it is applied evenly over time by type of sign and by geographical location. Priority will be given to removing signs that are clearly visible from schools. The programme will be carried out in consultation with the retail trade.

Secondly, the industry has agreed to ensure that all existing signs that do not yet carry health warnings shall do so by the end of June. Under the current agreement, signs erected before 1983 did not have to carry a health warning. That provision naturally caused some confusion to the public and, not surprisingly, has been the subject of a number of complaints to the monitoring committee. This programme of action by the industry represents a major step forward in the control of shopfront advertising. It will involve the industry in considerable expense and loss of advertising space and that shows its readiness to make the voluntary system effective. It demonstrates that very real and rapid progress can be made through the voluntary system without recourse to legislation.

In addition to tackling the system of shopfront advertising, the new voluntary agreement will address a number of other areas of recent concern. For example, it will extend the present ban on poster advertising that is visible from schools to cover hoardings that are visible from children's playgrounds. Furthermore, as the House may already be aware, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health this week appointed Sir John Blelloch as the new chairman of the monitoring committee. I am sure that he will carry out that role with the same impartiality and vigour as did the previous chairman, Sir Peter Lazarus.

I hope that the House will accept this clear evidence that the voluntary system is continuing to work effectively. Since 1971 successive Governments have concluded voluntary agreements with the tobacco industry to control advertising and other aspects of its operations. This Government have extended and enhanced the system of agreements to provide an unprecedented level of protection to both smokers and non-smokers. The current agreement, concluded in 1986, represented a major step forward. It cut by half the amount that could be spent on poster advertising, abolished advertising in cinemas and ended the advertising of high-tar cigarettes. It also banned advertising in a range of magazines aimed at young women and banned poster advertising outside schools. It enhanced the long-standing requirements for the provision of health warnings and maintained the comprehensive controls on the content of advertising—something which cannot be done as effectively by legislation which is inevitably inflexible.

The 1986 agreement created the joint monitoring committee of which Sir John Blelloch has just been appointed chairman. The committee consists of representatives of the Government and of industry. It receives and investigates complaints on alleged breaches of the agreement and, where necessary, it seeks to rectify matters. It also commissions independent research into how aspects of the agreements are working. A separate agreement, concluded in 1987, controls expenditure by tobacco companies on sports sponsorship and regulates the content of promotional material for sporting events.

A third agreement, on product modification, has resulted in a significant reduction in the average tar yield of cigarettes. The Independent Scientific Committee on Smoking and Health reported that, together with the reduction in the number of people who smoke, the product modification agreement has contributed to a fall in smoking-related diseases.

The system of voluntary agreements has made a major contribution to public health in the past 20 years. The progress made through the voluntary system will now be consolidated with a further significant advance in the level of control over tobacco advertising. This development demonstrates just how flexible, responsive and comprehensive the voluntary system can be. Legislation, by contrast, is cumbersome and slow, and cannot respond quickly to new threats to public health or to anomalies in the existing system. Clause 6 is limited to one type of advertising and might well have proved difficult for the courts to interpret. Any anomalies or problems in the operation of the clause could have been corrected only by amendment to legislation. That is not so with a voluntary agreement which can be applied flexibly and effectively.

I hope that the House will join me in congratulating my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health on his success in extending and maintaining the voluntary agreement on tobacco advertising. I also hope that it will acknowledge the readiness of the trade to agree to this more demanding arrangement. I know that the hon. Member for Warley, East has been sceptical about how much can be achieved by negotiation, but I hope that he is convinced by what I have been able to report that it would be in the interests of the public and particularly children to give the new voluntary agreement time to show itself effective. I hope that he, too, will support amendment No. 13.

If clause 6 is removed from the Bill, we shall need to consider the relevance of clause 7. The terms "local authority" and "premises" are defined elsewhere in the Bill. The definitions of "advertisement" and "tobacco sponsored event" relate only to a clause which I hope the House will agree to remove. Finally, "tobacco" is defined in clause 5 for the purpose of that clause. We are left, therefore, with a redundant clause, and we should remove it from the Bill. If the House agrees to accept amendment No. 13, I hope that it will agree also to amendment No. 14.

Amendment No. 16 is consequential and tidies up the title. It will be needed if the House decides to adopt amendment No. 13, which would remove clause 6.

Mr. Faulds

My Bill included a clause on shopfront advertising because this forms an ever-expanding message route to children, and one not blocked by the voluntary agreement which stops other tobacco advertising near schools. The clause sought to prohibit the advertising of tobacco brands or tobacco-sponsored events from retail premises.

As the House will know, the industry has been widely criticised for pretending to publish warnings about the illegality of selling cigarettes to children, while in fact providing a pathetically small notice—it appears in some shops and not others—that is dwarfed by the point-of-sale promotional graphics surrounding it. Such displays in favour of tobacco are plastered over the shops seen and used every day by children.

Throughout the discussions which I have had on the Bill with Ministers, it has been made clear that the Government opposed this provision on shopfront advertising because they preferred voluntary rather than regulatory control of tobacco advertising. I was, however, not prepared to delete the clause at the earlier stages of the Bill's passage through Parliament since I hoped that the debate on it might provoke both Government and industry into further consideration of the impact of shopfront tobacco advertising near schools. That, of course, is what has developed.

The clause won support in Committee, and the discussion there highlighted the problem most graphically. Not only did hon. Members of all parties speak strongly in favour of controls on shopfront advertising, but the Committee was shown photographs of shopfronts covered in tobacco advertising, some of it using cartoon-type characters very likely to appeal to children.

I am pleased that hon. Members' strong support for this element of the Bill has indeed produced some positive result, in the form of the negotiations that have taken place between Government and industry on expanding the voluntary code in relation to shopfront advertising, the outcome of which was announced yesterday, and on which the Minister has enlarged today. I must say that I think I personally owe him a considerable debt of gratitude. He has played a role—I am sure that this is the case with his colleagues in the Department of Health—in talking some sense into the tobacco industry in terms of the expansion of the voluntary agreement. I am most grateful to him for his efforts and his success.

In the light of this and of other concessions to my point of view made by the Minister, and for the sake of the Bill as a whole, I am prepared to let the clause drop. I look forward, however, to a really positive change in practice by the tobacco industry. I know that many individuals and national organisations, particularly PAT, will be monitoring the situation closely.

The Bill that I introduced was originally drafted by PAT. It came to the House with the support of a wide range of organisations and concerned parents throughout Britain. It tackles what it is fair to describe as an evil—the cynical breaking of the law in order not only to profit from children who smoke, but to encourage them to smoke. It also came with all-party support.

12 noon

The Bill has been carefully considered in Committee and concessions have been made on all sides. In some areas the Bill has been strengthened, and in others we have made compromises to temper it and so achieve maximum consensus. I have no doubt that it has returned to the House in a form that will encourage parents to accept that their children will be far better protected from tobacco in future. It is now in a form which should discourage offenders and ultimately lead to more and tougher action.

We all know that taking measures to reduce the sale of cigarettes to children will not, in themselves, stop children smoking. We know—this argument has been made a number of times today—that schools, parents and others, as well as the industry, have a responsibility to contribute. The Bill is based on the premise that all attempts to discourage children from smoking will not succeed while it is easy for them to purchase cigarettes and while it is easy for people to break the law and sell cigarettes to children. The Bill is a major advance on the unhappy and unsatisfactory status quo. I commend it to the House.

Mr. Sims

As a sponsor of the Bill, I am happy to agree with the proposal of the hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) that the two clauses be dropped. I do so for the reasons that he gave, although not with any great enthusiasm. I am prepared to give at least a tepid welcome to the terms of the agreement announced yesterday, on the "half a loaf" argument, although many of us would have preferred proposals along these lines.

I have noted the Minister's advocacy of voluntary agreements. I should be more persuaded if I felt that they would be adhered to. We have no great faith in voluntary agreements which, over the years, have been steadily broken both in the spirit and in the letter. It was part of a previous agreement that there should be no poster advertising near schools, for reasons that are self-evident and consistent with the themes that we are discussing today.

However, we know that, apart from instances where that was not complied with and poster advertisements were put up close to schools, there was an almost immediate and noticeable increase in shopfront advertising—not least, advertising on shopfronts adjacent to schools, children's playgrounds and so on—in exactly the way that the hon. Member for Warley, East described. Surely that cannot have been other than contrary to the spirit of the agreement.

Hon. Members may be aware of the survey carried out in Hackney, which commented: The 1986 Voluntary Agreement is being infringed daily in the London Borough of Hackney". The evidence upon which the report was based was not difficult to accumulate. The report cited four ways in which the code had been directly broken, and one in which the spirit of the agreement had been infringed. There was also a most interesting study of the position in Edinburgh, published in 1989 in Health Education Research. It commented on the limited remit of the voluntary agreement, which did not restrict children's exposure to shopfront advertising.

There is another area that is outside the scope of the Bill. I am bound to express my concern, and that of many in the field, at the way in which the spirit of the voluntary agreements are circumvented by the extent to which tobacco companies not only sponsor a whole range of events but especially sporting events, with the implied connection between the sponsor and good health, which is of course the reverse of the truth. There are also indirect forms of advertising—for example, the way in which the companies promote holidays and a variety of activities not directly connected with tobacco products but which nevertheless promote their products.

I am pleased to see two of the provisions, to which my hon. Friend the Minister referred, within the new agreement. First, priority will be given to reducing the number of permanent advertising signs on shops that are clearly visible from schools. Again, I hope that the spirit as well as the letter of that agreement will be adhered to, because a shopfront, although not clearly visible from a school, may be just around the corner where children will pass it daily. Surely that should be included.

I am especially glad that, from 1 July, all external signs on shops will carry a health warning. It has always seemed to me to be an extraordinary anomaly that other forms of advertising were required to carry a health warning, yet enormous advertisements outside shops did not. This voluntary agreement is a step in the right direction, and we shall watch carefully how it is implemented, both in its spirit and its letter.

Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South)

Speaking of health warnings, does the hon. Gentleman accept that they ought to be more conspicuous than they normally are? Secondly, is not it an anomaly that we are concerned that drugs are taken to enhance sporting performance, but that we do not seem to be unduly concerned about a drug that is one of the greatest dangers to health?

Mr. Sims

I agree completely on the hon. Gentleman's second point. As regards the first, as far as I know, the size of warnings on advertisements is not covered in the voluntary agreement, although, interestingly, the size and placing of warnings on cigarette packets is now covered by the European Community directives, which leads me to observe that this may be the last voluntary agreement. Many of us hope so. A number of European countries have a complete ban on such advertising, and EC directives to extend that ban throughout the Community are under discussion. One hopes that those discussions will come to fruition and that the original intentions of this clause, which we are now revoking, will come to pass.

Mr. Michael Brown

I would have spoken at some length on this amendment, had it not been for the speech by the hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds), the sponsor of the Bill. I was concerned about the inclusion of this clause and I now know the reasons why the hon. Gentleman pursued the matter in Committee. The subject cropped up in Committee and I think that it was the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton) who was concerned that the voluntary agreement had not been renewed. There was some controversy and concern, which I suspect was behind the inclusion of this clause in the Bill, that the new voluntary agreement was not even available in draft form, so I understand the hon. Gentleman's anxiety to include clause 6 in the Bill.

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be encouraged, as I was, by what the Minister said. Unlike my hon. Friend the Member for Chislehurst (Mr. Sims), I have always supported the idea of voluntary agreements. I thought that he was being a little churlish about the tobacco industry when he said that it did not adhere to the spirit of the voluntary agreements. It has a vested interest in ensuring that such voluntary agreements work. As he rightly pointed out, the tobacco industry knows that there is pressure from the European Commission.

Let me remind my hon. Friend of the latest developments. Just before Christmas, when the Bill had been presented but not debated, the European Commission sought to introduce a directive controlling the advertising of tobacco. We debated that directive shortly before the Christmas recess. It was not accepted by the Council of Ministers when it met at the beginning of December, but the European Community may well return to the matter, and the European Commission may introduce another directive for the Council's consideration.

If I am to persuade Ministers that such a directive is not needed, it is important for me to be able to demonstrate, with my colleagues who believe in the voluntary agreements, that their spirit is being adhered to. The tobacco industry is concerned, as I am, about what may come from the European Community, so it is in its own interest to ensure that the voluntary agreement between it and the Government that is about to be signed is delivered. I hope that that will reassure my hon. Friend the Member for Chislehurst and the hon. Member for Warley, East.

Since then, matters have moved on, and the voluntary agreement is due to be renewed in draft. I am content for the clause to be deleted.

Sir Trevor Skeet

My hon. Friend the Member for Chislehurst (Mr. Sims) said that he hoped that Europe would move towards banning tobacco advertisements. I am sure that the Commission will take into account what has happened over the years. In the past 20 years, smoking in the United Kingdom has gone down by 30 per cent., in the United States by 20 per cent. and in the Netherlands by 40 per cent., but all those countries permit advertising.

However, smoking has increased in some Community countries: for instance, in Portugal and Italy it has gone up by 8 per cent. In Norway, it has dropped by 5 per cent. It may console the hon. Member for Warley, East to know that he is not sacrificing much. He is wise to delete clause 6. By doing so, he has eliminated much of the argument that we would have adduced if we had to fight the matter. I think that it is probably right to rest on voluntary arrangements.

Mr. Sims

Is my hon. Friend aware of a survey carried out in New Zealand? It showed that, in 18 countries where advertising was banned, the extent of children's smoking was reduced. That is what we are concerned about.

Sir Trevor Skeet

I am glad that my hon. Friend has referred to my old country, New Zealand. Some extraordinary things are going on there. Sponsored events will be phased out by 1993, but will be replaced by a Government-funded health sponsorship council. That would be a heavy charge on public funds, whereas the cost of the voluntary agreement is carried entirely by the tobacco industry. I should have thought that a voluntary arrangement would be much better than legislation.

12.15 pm
Mr. Alan Williams

I am at a disadvantage that other hon. Members might not experience. I have not seen the voluntary agreement and do not know what it contains. Does the hon. Gentleman know the terms of the voluntary agreement? If we do not know what they are, how do we know whether we are getting a good or a bad deal?

Mr. Peter Lloyd


Sir Trevor Skeet

The Minister will be summing up—

Mr. Lloyd

I allowed my hon. Friend to get up again so that I could properly intervene during his reply. As the right hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friend know, this is a matter for the Secretary of State for Health, not for me. I understand that the agreement is nearing completion and that it covers a wider range of topics than those to which I referred earlier.

The Secretary of State wanted to make available for the debate information concerning points upon which agreement had been reached in principle that he thought would be of interest to us. We shall have to wait for a few weeks before the full agreement is published. It will deal with the topics to which I referred earlier.

Mr. Alan Williams

I cannot intervene on an intervention.

Sir Trevor Skeet

No. It is, perhaps, just that I should continue to bat for a few more minutes.

According to The Sunday Telegraph of 2 December 1990, the Under-Secretary of State for Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough (Mr. Dorrell), said that the two countries that had achieved the 'biggest reduction in cigarette consumption were Britain and Holland, which had voluntary agreements. He went on: Not one of the countries which had imposed or proposed a ban on advertising had recorded a fall. That is a good commendation of voluntary agreements. They are very successful. Voluntary agreements can be altered periodically. The subject is normally discussed just before a Budget. Legislation is much more formal; it does not have the flexibility of voluntary agreements. Therefore, I recommend their continuance.

It may console the hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) to know that the National Federation of Self-Employed and Small Businesses says that it fears clause 6, since the estimated cost of replacing shopfronts ranges from £200 for a simple notice to £1,000 for a full display. That could prove to be extremely expensive for people who are going through difficult times.

The National Federation of Retail Newsagents represents about 32,000 independent retail newsagents. It represents only small businesses—the shop round the corner. The federation is doing its utmost to ensure that the people who run these shops act responsibly. It says: As recently as last October this Federation provided a distinctive window display poster to each of its 32,000 members with the wording: 'Your Newsagent Cares—Tobacco goods will not be sold to persons under sixteen years of age from these premises.' That is a step in the right direction and the best way to go about it. If arrangements can be reached with the companies concerned—they are participating by trying to enforce them through their agencies—the Bill is far more likely to work. I pay tribute to the work done by the hon. Member for Warley, East. The Bill may not now be in the form in which he introduced it, but it will now be effective, since in due course it will be administered by the Government and the judiciary.

Mr. Knowles

I join my hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, North (Sir T. Skeet) in congratulating the hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds). For a Back Bencher to get a Bill on the statute book is a considerable undertaking at any time, but to manage it on a subject which can be deeply divisive and to get the Committee to pull together has been no mean achievement.

I should also like to offer him an apology. I mentioned earlier the libertarian and anti-libertarian arguments, and he presumed, because he had sponsored the Bill, that I was including him in those comments. I can think of few Members who are less likely to support anti-libertarian measures. I would have had more doubts about other members of the Committee, but on such issues one normally knows exactly where the hon. Member for Warley, East stands.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. To put the matter beyond any doubt, I should make it clear that we are not yet on Third Reading. We are debating a particular amendment.

Mr. Knowles

I should also like to comment on the points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Chislehurst (Mr. Sims) about sponsorship. He seemed to take particular exception to the tobacco industry sponsoring sporting events. The industry sponsors two categories of event; sporting events and cultural activities such as concerts. In many such cases, the costs are high, and one cannot charge the economic price; so such events need sponsorship. If one unilaterally chopped out sponsorship from the tobacco industry—and there is a lot of it—that would mean the end of many sporting and cultural activities. One would have to bear in mind that that would be the net effect. My hon. Friend might consider that it would still be worth doing, but I would disagree.

I am certainly happy about the removal of clause 6. The effect on small retailers would have been devastating. We have to be careful: when one seeks to achieve an end by imposing restrictions, if they do not work there is a tendency to impose totally draconian measures without returning to first base. That can be a danger. A few years ago, the Surgeon General of the United States said that passive smoking caused 2,000 deaths a year in the United States. His evidence was challenged and he had to withdraw that statement, yet one still sees that quoted as his opinion.

The difficulty is that, all too often, people start off from a set position and they do not look at the evidence purely on the facts before them. Their minds are already made up. It reminds me of the old joke about the drunk using the lamp post more for support than illumination; that all too often tends to happen in matters such as we are discussing today.

Mr. Michael Brown

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Another example from America supports what he is saying. In the 1950s and 1960s, they wanted to put fluoride in the public water supply. In the 1970s and 1980s, evidence was adduced that persuaded more and more authorities that that was wrong. There is often a time lag before one gets the medical evidence that sometimes upsets the established wisdom of earlier decades.

Mr. Knowles

My hon. Friend is correct. We can recall the alleged health effects of various products. One year, fats are good for you; the next year, they are bad for you. One year salt is good for you; and then it is bad for you. If one wrote all those theories into law, we would be chopping and changing the law even more than we do already.

My hon. Friend the Member for Chislehurst spoke about advertising. Again, it is hard to reach a conclusion. In Italy, where tobacco advertising has been banned since 1962, smoking has risen dramatically. The same is true of Portugal. Evidence shows that if one starts from a pre-set position, one can always find evidence to support one's point of view. That is the difficulty.

Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Port Glasgow)

If such a ban on advertising were to be introduced, would the hon. Gentleman, as a self-confessed heavy smoker, feel such deprivation?

Mr. Knowles

The answer is both yes and no—yes, in that I am a long-term smoker. I know the brand I like and I am unlikely to change. So I would not necessarily miss the advertising, because my mind is made up about brand loyalty. However, I should object on principle that I could not discover other brands. I am loyal to a particular make of car, but that does not mean that I do not want to consider advertisements for other cars.

The same argument applies—it is the basic libertarian argument about deprivation of information for what is seen as the greater good. My worry is that we start selling principles for what seem good reasons, but then there is no stopping. If an argument applies to one issue, it must apply to another, and so it continues down the line.

I have already said that I am suspicious of anti-libertarian arguments. As one would expect, I could not put it in better terms than those used by Macauley. He said that the Puritans banned bear-baiting not because it gave pain to the bear, but because it gave pleasure to the spectators.

Mr. Peter Bottomley

I find that last sentence by my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, East (Mr. Knowles) difficult to follow. Some of my hon. Friend's earlier remarks were more interesting.

One of the reasons why there is less smoking in this country and a faster reduction in smoking than in many others is because two remarkable medical statisticians in 1953 first discerned that it was highly likely that smoking tobacco was harmful to health. The two doctors continued in other areas—they did the work on radon and established an epidemiology of illness and diseases. Because of their discoveries, the medical profession in Britain took up the tobacco issue. We should pay tribute to Dr. Charles Fletcher, who was one of those who did much to raise public awareness.

We are discussing the dropping of clause 6. I shall tie my remarks to the voluntary agreement and its substitution for the use of the law. It is necessary to remind ourselves of the difference between smoking and alcohol. There is room for voluntary agreement on both those issues. Alcohol is not necessarily damaging, although it is if used in excess. It is also associated with other illnesses. One in 10 people is an alcoholic and many people have diseases or conditions which make alcohol harmful— pregnancy is one such condition.

There is no argument at all for tobacco, although one must be tolerant of those who still use it. I shall not talk too much about it, because I should confuse Auberon Waugh if I talked about tobacco as well as alcohol. I was able to stop smoking because I realised that I was addicted. We cannot expect all adults to be able to do that easily. Kipling told us of those who give up smoking easily as they do it often enough. There is agreement that we should try to stop succeeding generations of people from picking up an avoidable habit.

Most public service is about trying to promote well-being. That may involve welfare or material resources, but together they promote well-being, which is what brings most of us into Parliament. It may also take us into the civil service and public services, such as health and education, and into advertising or other private sector occupations.

One aspect of promoting well-being is to get rid of the unnecessary distress, disadvantage and handicap which results from young people doing what so many of us did when we were their age, which is to pick up smoking in a fairly casual way, because it is forbidden, because friends do it or because of boredom.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I must say once again that we are not on Third Reading; nor are we on Second Reading. I am waiting for the hon. Member to address himself to the amendment.

Mr. Bottomley

One of the disadvantages of being at the far end of the Chamber is that I may not have said loudly enough that I was referring directly to whether clause 6 should be dropped and to the effect of the voluntary agreement on young people.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. Despite what the hon. Member says, I am still waiting for his words to reflect what is in the amendment.

12.30 pm
Mr. Bottomley

I hope that my speech will not contain too many paragraphs that link in to my first thought, but I must not transgress your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker, or be tempted into making a longer speech than I choose to make.

The issue is whether the voluntary agreement will be a sufficient substitute for clause 6. The worst type of advertising that children see is the example of their parents smoking. Any parent who wants children not to start the habit should consider smoking only when or where the children are not present.

Children go, with or without their parents, into confectioners' shops and local newsagents' shops. The diversion of tobacco companies' funds to small retailers has made a big difference to the impact on young people. One cannot ban young people from smoking. If one tried to ban, it would provide a challenge. Most of us can overcome such a challenge and do whatever has been forbidden. Clause 6 matters, because we need an environment in which, although not involved themselves, people understand why they should have sympathy for those adults who still need to buy tobacco.

Dr. Godman

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that advertising gives young people in particular the idea that this addiction has a spurious legitimacy? Advertising provides youngsters with the rationalisation that smoking cigarettes is acceptable.

Mr. Bottomley

There is a slight twist. We should praise confectioners, newsagents and small retailers. They have been co-operating more and more openly in not selling cigarettes to young people. I draw an analogy with the anti-drink driving campaign. Young people who were twice as bad as their fathers became only half as bad, having quickly changed their habits. That happened because of signs in pubs and clubs stating that low-alcohol and alcohol-free drinks were available. The places where people obtained drink were made allies, letting people achieve what they wanted to achieve.

I hope that the voluntary agreement works. My hon. Friend the Minister announced that Sir John Blelloch would be the chairman of the monitoring committee, and we send our best wishes to him. Does the voluntary agreement apply in Northern Ireland? If my hon. Friend the Minister cannot answer immediately, perhaps he will make the matter plain later. The Bill should be followed by Northern Ireland legislation as soon as possible.

We are not concerned in clause 6 or in the Bill as a whole with the libertarian versus anti-libertarian argument. We are concerned with how to create conditions whereby fewer young people in succeeding generations pick up the smoking habit. All the arguments are against picking up the habit. I ask people to find ways of monitoring each cohort so that information is published as regularly as the children's pocket money surveys, once or twice a year.

We should start publicising the fact that things are getting better. There is a market in information. Peer group pressure should be reinforced, so that, no matter whether a young person is mighty or lowly, rich or poor, black or white, from the country or from the town, they look forward to the year 2000 and beyond, powerful enough within themselves not to pick up the smoking habit and to set an example to their parents, just as many young people do in other respects.

Mr. Robert Banks

I warmly welcome the removal of the clause and the introduction of the voluntary agreement. I had grave reservations about the clause, because it would have forced shopkeepers throughout the country to remove their canopies and other fascias, causing a colossal upheaval, not to mention a great deal of expense and work. It would have been a drastic and unfair measure, and I welcome the fact that the voluntary agreement will avoid it.

When tobacco companies display cigarette brand names on the fascias or blinds of shops, they are merely competing for a market share. The sight of a brand name such as Marlboro displayed on a shop would cause few children to rush off and to buy that brand. Such advertising does not encourage children to smoke but draws to the attention of those who already smoke the name of a particular brand of cigarettes, and creates an image. There is a danger that the image created by tobacco companies promotes the concept of smoking. I welcome the fact that the voluntary agreement stipulates that advertisements should not be displayed in the immediate vicinity of schools, because such image-making advertisements can put people into the mood to smoke.

My hon. Friend's measure should also be welcomed by shopkeepers and retailers, as it will save them from a measure that would have caused them huge problems.

Mr. Peter Lloyd

My hon. Friend the Member for Chislehurst (Mr. Sims) said that voluntary agreements were often not kept. However, my information shows that they have been well observed across the board. I make a point of saying so not merely to place on record what I believe are the facts but because it is important that breaches of the code are reported to the monitoring committee, which exists to investigate complaints and should be used for that purpose.

My hon. Friend said that, under a previous voluntary agreement, it was agreed that hoarding near schools should not be used for cigarette advertising but that shop windows in the same neighbourhood seemed to display even more such advertisements. If that is so, the part of the voluntary agreement relating to hoardings was certainly being observed. My hon. Friend said that the spirit of the agreement was not being fully observed. That is not a strong argument for anyone who hankers after a legislative approach. It argues for an extension of the voluntary agreement to cover shopfronts as well, which the new voluntary agreement does.

I am grateful for the support of my hon. Friends who have spoken in favour of the voluntary agreement approach. My hon. Friends the Members for Bedfordshire, North (Sir T. Skeet) and for Nottingham, East (Mr. Knowles) showed how far from simple such matters were, and made the interesting point that smoking had declined more slowly in EC countries that had banned advertising than in those that had not.

People who believe that advertising is effective should consider whether the more powerful message for many people who see cigarette advertising is contained in the health warning it carries, not the advert itself. Without trying to predict what conclusion such consideration would lead to, I say yet again that the voluntary agreement insists—this will satisfy those who believe that advertising for cigarettes is powerful, but advertising that carries a health warning is also effective—that all shopfronts mentioning cigarettes should provide a health warning. The voluntary agreement that came into effect in 1986 carried that requirement only for new advertising added to shopfronts, and advertisements placed before 1983 did not require health warnings. That has all changed, and all advertising on shopfronts must, in future, carry a health warning.

Mr. Alan Williams

If I have followed the logic of the Minister's argument correctly, he is saying that companies have been profligate with shareholders' money because they are wasting it on advertising which damages sales rather than helping them. I should have thought that the only reason companies spend enormous sums of advertising is because their market research shows clearly that the advertising shows a good return.

Mr. Lloyd

I am trying to make two points. The first is the effect of advertising and the effectiveness of the health warning in bringing to the public's attention the health hazards of smoking are complex matters. Secondly, however one judges advertising or the value of the health warning, the warning must be present on all shopfronts where cigarettes are mentioned. I should have thought that the House would agree that that was a welcome development.

My hon. Friend the Member for Eltham (Mr. Bottomley) asked whether the voluntary agreement applied in Northern Ireland. I am glad to say that it does.

I thank the hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) for his kind remarks and for his readiness to consider clause 6 and accept the Government's advice that it should be removed from the Bill. I know that he was extremely concerned that, at that time, there seemed to be no prospect of an agreement with the trade on a renewal of tighter arrangements on cigarette advertising. As I said in Committee, I believed that discussions would produce a satisfactory result, and considered that to be the way forward. I am glad that sufficient progress has been made for at least some of that development to be revealed today, to give the hon. Member for Warley, East the assurance that he wanted and that it was right for him to want.

Amendment agreed to.

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