HC Deb 19 April 1991 vol 189 cc693-704
Sir Trevor Skeet

I beg to move amendment No. 1, in page 2, line 24, leave out clause 3.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to consider Government amendments Nos. 3 and 4.

Sir Trevor Skeet

The title of the Bill is the Children and Young Persons (Protection from Tobacco) Bill, but the primary concern of clause 3 is not children but adults—adults, not children, will be penalised. Under the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 and subsequent Acts, it is illegal to sell a packet of 10 cigarettes to a child of 16–I would be very much against that. It is also illegal to sell one cigarette out of a packet of 10 to a child, because the greater covers the lesser, so why repeat the point?

It is extraordinary that the Bill not merely dots the i's but crosses the t's. There is a refusal to accept that when something is already illegal it is not necessary to make it illegal a second time. This provision is not necessary. What will happen if it is illegal to sell cigarettes individually? Small tobacconists face a 2.5 per cent. increase in VAT and a recession. They also face the possibility of higher penalties—I understand that scale 3 penalties will be imposed—such as a £1,000 fine if they make the great mistake of selling one cigarette to an adult. Seen in that light, it is ridiculous. It deprives a low-income person of the right to go into a shop to buy a single cigarette.

We had an interesting debate on this matter in Committee. My hon. Friend the Minister said: On the clause stand part debate I shall advise the Committee to drop clause 3". Nothing could be more specific than that. My hon. Friend also said: It is a piece of self-indulgent rhetorical legislation that we should eschew. It is already illegal to sell cigarettes to children."—[Official Report, Standing Committee C, 13 February 1991; c. 99–100.] My hon. Friend the Minister gave clear guidance in Committee and dealt adequately with the points that were raised. I hope that he will also consider the points that I raise today and that we can find a way round some of the difficulties.

I should like to make a point about the hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds). On our trips to the middle east, old friendships were restored. I am delighted that the Bill will go on the statute book. It deserves to be called the Faulds (No. 1) Bill. It will contribute to the long line of legislation dealing with children. No hon. Member wants children under 16 to smoke, but the means by which we propose to achieve that differ.

The hon. Member for Warley, East believes that legislation should be supreme in this case. It is all very well to ask local authorities to prosecute. They can beaver away every day of the year trying to find a way to prosecute, but, unless they have evidence, there will be no convictions. In 1990, there were about 30 minor convictions for such offences.

Ultimately, we must have confidence that people will abide by the law, and more than 90 per cent. of retailers recognise their responsibility and want to comply with the law. What evidence exists of abuse of the law against selling cigarettes to children under the age of 16?

11 am

The Minister has tabled an amendment to deal with enforcement. It recommends that the penalty be raised to scale 3, which seems rather tough. Formerly, the maximum fine was about £400, which was imposed by clause 15 of the Criminal Justice Bill 1991. Under scale 3 it will go up to £1,000. I understand why, in certain circumstances, courts should impose the full fine. My hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, South-West (Mr. Page) recognised the fact that a severe punishment should exist, but I cannot see how the £1,000 fine would be appropriate unless a series of offences had been committed. Will my hon. Friend the Minister explain that point?

Another Government amendment goes some way toward helping us and says that cigarettes should include cigars. However, cigars cannot be broken in half and handed around in that way. Therefore, they would have to be excluded because their inclusion would cause serious difficulties.

This country is now part and parcel of the European Community. How does the Bill stand with regard to European legislation? The EC wanted to place an order that would be binding on the United Kingdom. Would clause 3 be acceptable to the Council of Ministers? Would it survive the microscope of Europe or would it have to be modified? As the matter has been partially dealt with, that is where we should deal with it finally. If the EC is about to legislate on the subject we should be cautious about legislating in the Chamber.

Mr. George Galloway (Glasgow, Hillhead)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Have you had any notification of the Government's intention to make a statement today on this morning's publication of the Amnesty International report on the position of Palestinians and others in Kuwait? Twice in the past few weeks and three times through letters to the Prime Minister, I have raised the issue of the imminent danger of a murderous pogrom against Palestinians in Kuwait, where British forces are situated. The current Government of Kuwait, which Amnesty International accuses of being involved, through their armed forces, in murder, torture and abduction, were reinstated to power partly with the help of the British armed forces. If a Sabra or Chatilla occur in Kuwait city under the shadow of British armed forces, it will have serious consequences.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I have heard what the hon. Gentleman says, but I have received no such request. The matter will no doubt be dealt with by the Government.

Mr. Hugo Summerson (Walthamstow)

May I say how much I support the amendment? I am extremely worried about clause 3 for several reasons. I was not on the Standing Committee but, in principle, I agree with the hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) about the need to protect young children from tobacco. However, I have read clause 3 carefully and see no specific reference to young people. It states: it shall be an offence for any person carrying on a retail business to sell cigarettes to any person other than in pre-packed quantities". It says nothing about persons under the age of 16. If it did so, I would support it, but as it does not I oppose it utterly.

In certain parts of the country there has long been a custom of tobacconists selling cigarettes singly, particularly in my part of the world in the north-east. It would cause great resentment if that practice were stopped. In my constituency there is a specialist tobacconist, to which people come from miles around, to buy and sample products. It would make life difficult for such specialists if they could not sell cigarettes singly.

My hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) said that children in his constituency were buying packets of cigarettes and selling them singly at lop each. As I believe that a packet of cigarettes now costs more than £2, my hon. Friend should teach those children a little about business matters.

Mr. Geoffrey Dickens (Littleborough and Saddleworth)

We should bear in mind the fact that the tobacco industry supports the non-sale of cigarettes to persons under 16 years of age. However, Government figures suggest that some £70 million worth of cigarettes are being sold to juveniles. By the same token, it must be recognised that the tobacco industry spends £1 million advertising the fact that shopkeepers should not sell cigarettes to those under 16.

The clause deals with selling cigarettes singly. In disadvantaged areas, many people like to take advantage of buying one or two cigarettes, especially at the end of the week. I fear that the clause will deprive them of that facility. As my hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, North (Sir T. Skeet) clearly stated, a law already exists covering the sale of single cigarettes to children. As it is already unlawful for children to buy cigarettes, the clause is unnecessary and its removal would not undermine the current sound legislation.

As a non-smoker who supports the tobacco industry, I feel that the industry has a difficult job to do. I support the withdrawal of the clause as it is unnecessary and hits disadvantaged people.

Mr. Maclennan

Hon. Members who have spoken on the clause have shown little common sense. The section of the community which is most likely to—and, according to the only evidence that we have, does—buy cigarettes singly in any great numbers, is that of children.

Mr. Summerson


Mr. Maclennan

The hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) did not produce a scintilla of evidence that there was large-scale purchasing of single cigarettes by adults, and nor did the hon. Member for Littleborough and Saddleworth (Mr. Dickens). If the evidence had been available it would have been brought before us by the tobacco lobby, which clearly has an interest in stopping as much of the Bill as it can. I do not believe that any such evidence exists.

Mr. Michael Brown

The specific point is that if a shopkeeper has been selling single cigarettes to children, that shopkeeper has already committed an offence under the 1933 legislation. Therefore, the only people who can possibly be affected by the introduction of clause 3 are people aged over 16, to whom the Bill does not generally apply.

Mr. Maclennan

That is not quite my point, but I will deal with it later. I was dealing with sales of single cigarettes to adults. I do not believe that there is any evidence of extensive sales of single cigarettes to adults. If there had been, I have no doubt that it would have been brought before the House during the passage of the Bill.

Mr. Dickens

I said that there was £70 million worth of sales to juveniles, which represented just 1 per cent. of all sales in the United Kingdom. If the hon. Gentleman wants evidence, he should ask who is buying all the other cigarettes.

Mr. Maclennan

Cigarettes are normally sold in packets. The evidence is that single sales relate to children. The most persuasive evidence put before the House was that of the 1985 Bristol survey. That evidence also showed clearly the extent to which children who smoke when aged 14 to 15 are hooked on the habit by buying single cigarettes. More than half of those children bought single cigarettes over a period. That is a problem.

The fanciful suggestion that we are depriving adults of the possibility of smoking because they cannot afford to buy more than one or two cigarettes at a time seems, when weighed in the balance against under-age smoking, to be seriously flawed. I well remember the words of the Tom Lehrer song about today's young innocent faces being tomorrow's clientele.

This is one of the Bill's more important clauses because one of our great difficulties in enforcing the ban is producing the evidence. Clearly, evidence of cigarette packets that have been partially broken into to obtain single cigarettes could be compelling evidence when seeking to enforce the rigours of the law.

Mr. Robert Banks

I supported the clause in Committee when we had a long and intricate debate on it. I received publicity in my constituency for my stand on banning the sale of single cigarettes. I have not received any letters from anyone complaining that they buy single cigarettes and would be deprived of doing so under the clause.

Mr. Maclennan

I am extremely grateful for the hon. Gentleman's helpful intervention. I am sure that his common sense attitude is the one which the House should display towards the clause. The provisions of the clause seem to be a sensible attempt to bolster the Bill's purpose. Those who argue against it must address the clear evidence that young people buy cigarettes singly and there are unscrupulous shopkeepers prepared to sell them singly, repeatedly, until children are hooked. That is one of the main causes of under-age smoking. The Bill tackles it effectively and I hope that the House will support it.

11.15 am
Mr. Peter Lloyd

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, North (Sir T. Skeet) who has just moved the amendment in a vigorous, common-sense and slightly teasing style, I had considerable misgivings about the relevance of the clause to the rest of the Bill, for a number of reasons. As he said, I put those reasons fully in Committee.

First, it is already an offence to sell cigarettes to children. Therefore, the clause partly duplicates the existing law. Secondly, in practice or in theory, depending on whether one believes that adults buy cigarettes singly, the clause limits adults' rights, albeit in a small way. As my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow (Mr. Summerson) said, it is not the Bill's specific purpose to prevent cigarettes from being sold in ones or twos to adults.

I was also concerned that the clause might contravene article 30 of the treaty of Rome as an unnecessary restriction of trade. The Government have given that matter further consideration and do not consider that they need to oppose the clause on the ground of the risk of challenge under the treaty. Apart from what has been said by one or two of my hon. Friends, including my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow, we are not aware that, at present, cigarettes are sold in packets of less than 10, and are not often sold singly to adults. However, there is evidence that they are sold singly to children. Unless such facts were to be introduced, we consider the risk of challenge under article 30 to be very small.

Hon. Members who were members of the Standing Committee will recall that we had a robust debate on the clause, which was ordered to stand part of the Bill by the casting vote of the Chairman, my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. Hill). In voting in support of the clause, my hon. Friend was following tradition and precedent, and I have no quarrel with his decision. However, I noted carefully the views of the supporters of the clause on both sides of the Committee, and I understood their special concern about children picking up the smoking habit by initially buying cigarettes in ones or twos. We want to put a stop to that, as I believe do all hon. Members.

The Bill's main purpose is to stop the supply of cigarettes to children under 16. We are addressing that problem in several ways. The Bill strengthens the law on illegal sales and increases the penalty for such offences. It also clarifies the role of local authorities in enforcing the law. However, I recognise that there is a strongly held view that some errant retailers contrive to believe that there is nothing unlawful about selling single cigarettes to children or, where they do understand that it is unlawful, they believe that they can get away with it.

Therefore, I understand the attraction to many hon. Members, particularly the hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds), the Bill's sponsor, in having a specific provision on the face of the Bill to prohibit the sale of single cigarettes. I have also been influenced by my ministerial colleagues, particularly those at the Department of Health, who are in favour of the clause, and by representations that I have received from local organisations and members of the public.

Last, but certainly not least, I have considered the views of the Government's chief medical officer, who has told me of his support for the clause. Having had the opportunity to reflect on the matter and weigh up the strongly held views on both sides, and then having reflected again, particularly during this debate, my conclusion is that the clause should be left in the Bill.

Sir Trevor Skeet

My hon. Friend has the interests of children under 16 at heart, but he will have seen the figures produced by the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys showing that, in 1982, the percentage of boys who smoked at least one cigarette a week was 11 per cent. By 1988, the figure had dropped to 7 per cent. It is well down, so boys are smoking less. In the same period, the figure for girls dropped from II per cent. to 9 per cent. If the trend is in the right direction, do we require this hammer to deal with it?

Mr. Lloyd

If there are opportunities to reinforce that welcome trend, it would be irresponsible of us not to take them.

The Government no longer wish to oppose clause 3. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, North, who advanced some powerful and extremely familiar arguments against the clause, will likewise decide, on balance, not to press for its deletion. He quoted me as saying that there was something of self-indulgence in the clause. I used those words, and I think there is, but occasionally it is right for the House to indulge itself, and if it does so on this matter, children will he the beneficiaries.

Amendment No. 3 makes it an offence to sell upackaged cigarettes. Its purpose is simply to provide a penalty for that offence at level 3 on the standard scale. The maximum fine under level 3 is £400, but it will rise to £1,000 when the Criminal Justice Bill is enacted. A level 3 fine seems the right maximum penalty for the offence. We agreed in Committee that level 4 was the correct penalty for the main offences under the Bill of selling cigarettes to children under 16 and for failure to comply with a court order on vending machines.

I cannot accept that it is right to set a similar maximum penalty for selling one cigarette to an adult. That is surely a less serious offence, and the penalty should reflect that. Where a retailer is accused of selling cigarettes to children under 16—even a single cigarette—he can be prosecuted under clause 1 and face the higher penalty under level 4 of £1,000, rising to £2,500 under the Criminal Justice Bill. If a retailer sells a single cigarette to a child, there is nothing to prevent him from being charged under clause 3 and under the principal provision. We shall give guidance to local authorities in the circular that we propose to issue when the Bill is enacted.

Sir Trevor Skeet

There appear to be two levels of penalties—one for selling to a child and another for selling to an adult. Should not the clause say so?

Mr. Lloyd

It is perfectly clear. If someone is charged under clause 1 for selling cigarettes in packets of 10, in boxes of 200 or only one, the higher penalty is available to the court. If someone is charged under clause 3, only the lower penalty—level 3—is available to the court. If a single cigarette is sold to a child, a prosecution can be brought under both clauses and the court will decide what the fine should be. I believe that it is clear what is available to the prosecution. If evidence shows that someone has sold cigarettes to a child in ones, 10s or 200s, they should speedily consult their solicitor. If someone sold a single cigarette, he would have to plead hard at court to avoid substantial fines on both counts.

Mr. Faulds

I am very pleased that, since Second Reading, we have managed to achieve a consensus, in Committee and with the Minister, on the important point concerning single cigarette sales. Clause 3 was designed to end the practice of breaking open packs and offering cigarettes for sale singly, and often at an inflated price.

The House should be in no doubt that my motive is to help bring smoking by children and young teenagers to an end. Hon. Members sympathetic to the tobacco industry may declare that I intend more—that I really want to prevent adults from smoking. That suggestion has leaked through, but I must simply deny it. Adults who are smoking are to be pitied for their costly addiction. Let their doctors urge them to stop. Such advice is the province of the medical profession, which has offered it strenuously over decades.

Only yesterday, the Townswomen's Guild conference on drug and alcohol abuse heard from doctors that smoking is far more dangerous than hard drug addiction. That may appear odd, but apparently it is the case. It causes overwhelmingly more deaths and fills many more beds in our hospital wards. Dr. Claire Gerada, talking of the impact of drug addiction during pregnancy, said that a pregnant mother who smoked 20 cigarettes a day would do far more harm to her unborn child than a pregnant woman who injected heroin every day with a fresh needle.

But if we can stop smoking in childhood, we should make enormous inroads into the whole range of adult problems associated with tobacco. Most people take up the habit before the age of 18. At root, tobacco use is caused by addiction begun in childhood. I am sure that the whole House will share my ambition to choke off this life-denying habit before it takes hold.

Unscrupulous traders who seek to make an even higher profit from children smoking will break open packs and sell a cigarette singly, often with a match, to children who cannot afford the price of a packet. The argument—of course, it is plausible—was that the law already forbade the sale of cigarettes to children under 16, and thus a law preventing the sale of single cigarettes was unnecessary.

The Minister explained his conversion, and the Committee looked at further evidence, including a recent paper published in the British Journal of Addiction, showing that the habit of selling cigarettes singly to children is particularly prevalent in poor areas, and that the more cigarettes a child smokes the more likely the child will be to buy them singly.

Clause 3 will make it illegal for retailers to sell cigarettes except in the original pack of 10 or more. It is most unlikely that it will have any effect on the trade in cigarettes to the adult market. One retailer who wrote objecting to the clause admitted that he never sold cigarettes singly to adults. I cannot conceive that local authorities would seek to take action under the clause unless they very firmly believed that the trader was supplying children with cigarettes from broken packs.

In such circumstances, the clause will create a powerful additional offence, designed to bring an end to the deliberate recruitment of children to the smoking habit. On that basis, I am happy to accept the level 3 fine for this offence, since the level 4 fine, which will apply to the principal clause on cigarette sales to children, is still in the frame.

Miss Lestor

The hon. Member for Bedfordshire, North (Sir T. Skeet) says that smoking among young people and children is declining and asks why we need the Bill. But we do not usually remove from the statute book legislation designed to prevent people from breaking the law just because the incidence of the particular offence with which it deals has declined. The hon. Gentleman overlooks the fact that there are new children coming along all the time; we are not talking about the same young people.

Smoking may indeed decline among a certain group for two or three years at a time, but any graph will show that that decline is not constant. We are talking about the young people of the future as well as those of the present, and as my hon. Friend the Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) said, it would be interesting to discover what has happened to youngsters who took up smoking when they were under age and to ascertain whether they are now addicted. My hon. Friend rightly said that addiction may start very early on.

11.30 am

We have heard much about the possibility of our preventing adults from smoking if we make it illegal for cigarette packets to be broken open by retailers. One question that we have not considered—and we shall not be dealing with it in this debate—is that although we may say that adults are responsible for themselves and that it is up to them whether they smoke, their smoking has an effect on other people, and the fact that the rest of us inhale their smoke and their poison is receiving a great deal of attention from the medical profession.

As someone who has been as pure in my habits over the years as the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown), I object very strongly to inhaling other people's smoke. If hon. Members have any concern for our health in this place, they will recall that my throat was severely affected for a long time, and I was certainly not helped by the fact that I had to attend a large number of meetings at which people were allowed to smoke. Adult smoking affects not only the individuals concerned but the rest of society.

Although some adults buy single cigarettes, more appear to be sold to children. The point of the clause is that it would provide shopkeepers with a safeguard. In Committee, we discussed the difficulty that shopkeepers may experience in refusing young people who seek to intimidate them and the need for a notice explaining that it is against the law to sell cigarettes to young people. If we make it illegal for shopkeepers to open packets of cigarettes and sell the contents singly, we shall be providing them with another safeguard. A shopkeeper can say, "Sorry lads; I'm not allowed to sell you single cigarettes. I'm not allowed to open the packet."

To an extent, the clause will also deal with the case of the young person over the age of 16 who goes into a shop to buy two or three single cigarettes to sell to youngsters under the age of 16. I accept that the clause may prevent some adults from buying single cigarettes, although I do not think that the practice is very widespread. Nevertheless, the clause represents a useful way of helping shopkeepers to avoid breaking the law by telling youngsters, "I cannot open the packet of cigarettes, so you will have to go away." That is a good reason for retaining the clause.

Mr. Robert Banks

I agree with the speech that we have just heard. There appears to be uncertainty in the House —and certainly outside it—about the number of adults who go into shops to purchase single cigarettes. We just do not know, although I think that the number must be very small indeed.

One thing about which we can be certain, however, is that children go into shops to buy single cigarettes. One of the problems that retailers face is that they cannot always be certain that young people are under 16. Children grow up very fast these days and many of them look older than they are. A retailer may therefore sell a single cigarette in good faith to someone of 14 or 15 believing that he is just over 16.

The Minister's approach to the problem is highly commendable. We had a fine debate in Committee, at the end of which, on the Chairman's casting vote, he was rebuffed and failed to achieve his then aim of deleting the clause. Nevertheless, my hon. Friend went to the trouble of obtaining expert advice. I think that he would agree with me that if we retain the clause, we shall have a belt-and-braces policy on the sale of single cigarettes to under 16-year-olds. I most certainly support the clause, because it is all too easy for a child to obtain smoking material in the form of single cigarettes. That is where the chain starts, and that is what we want to avoid. That is the purpose of the Bill.

The sale of single unwrapped cigarettes should never be allowed. After all, we buy cigars that are wrapped and placed in tubes or other hygienic coverings.

All in all, we shall be doing children a great service by retaining the clause.

Mr. Michael Brown

In Committee, I started from the position then held by my hon. Friend the Minister. Even this morning, I had much sympathy for the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, North (Sir T. Skeet) and for the argument that he advanced. He asked why we needed the provision, given that it is illegal to sell one cigarette or 20, packaged or unpackaged, to children. As the Bill attempts to protect children and young people under the age of 16 from tobacco, and as it is an offence to sell one cigarette to a child under the age of 16, why do we need the provision? That was the point from which I started, but, on reflection, I concede that good arguments have been advanced on the other side.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate (Mr. Banks) said, the debate in Committee was finely balanced. Just about every member of the Committee spoke and we all cast our votes, with an equal number on each side of the argument. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, North will understand if I say that, now that we have had a second opportunity to consider the matter, I am prepared not to stand in the way of the clause.

The hon. Member for Eccles (Miss Lestor) made a good point, which I had not considered before. In Committee, I made great play of the need to ensure that retailers were protected when they innocently broke the law. My hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, North and I were anxious to emphasise that it is sometimes difficult for retailers to know whether they are selling to a 17-year-old or to a 15-year-old.

Mr. Alan Williams

I respect the integrity of the hon. Gentleman's argument, which fits in very well with the point that he made earlier—against the rest of us. He said that many of the £90 million-worth of tobacco goods allegedly sold to young people were initially sold to youngsters over the age of 16. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will accept that people in that age group are the most likely to try to buy single cigarettes. In other words, the hon. Gentleman has met the objection that he voiced in his first speech by his change of heart in his second.

Mr. Brown

I try to be consistent, and I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. If my hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, North withdrew the amendment, he would be conceding the point in favour of the arguments that he and I advanced in Committee. Bearing in mind the wishes of Ministers at the Department of Health, whom my hon. Friend the Minister has consulted, and the fact that, as my hon. Friend said, there is nothing wrong in the House indulging itself occasionally on such an important subject, I am prepared to withdraw my opposition to the clause.

I have one technical reservation. Clause 3(1) states: It shall be an offence for any person carrying on a retail business to sell cigarettes to any person other than in pre-packed quantities of 10". Those who travel on British Airways flights in the smoking section may be invited to partake of a cigarette after a meal or, on request, of a packet of cigarettes sold under the brand names of Rothmans, Benson and Hedges and so on. Such cigarettes are given, not sold. I have seen cellophane-wrapped packets of cigarettes on such British Airways flights, and I presume that they are also available in hospitality. Will that still be permitted? Will it be possible to give or provide cellophane-wrapped packets of five cigarettes in this way? Will it still be legal, on the ground that they are not being sold? If my hon. Friend the Minister cannot answer that now, perhaps someone from his Department or the Department of Health will write to me with an answer.

Mr. Peter Lloyd

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) for following me on my pilgrimage to the point at which I support the retention of this clause—that is the right conclusion, and the legislation will be the more effective for it. I think that I can satisfy him on the question that he asked. If cigarettes in packets of five, or in singles, are given away in this country in the circumstances that he describes, they will not be affected by this legislation, because we are talking about selling. If an airliner has taken off and is elsewhere, of course our law may not apply—but I should have to take further advice on that—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I thought that the Minister was intervening—

Mr. Michael Brown

I had finished.

Mr. Lloyd

I was also grateful for the support of my hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate (Mr. Banks). He has been utterly consistent: he took the same view in Committee as he has expressed today.

I realised once I had sat down earlier that I had not mentioned amendment No. 4. I hope that the House will find it useful if I say a little about it. Clause 3(3) was inserted in the Bill as a result of an amendment moved by the hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) in a helpful effort to ensure that retailers and hotel and restaurant owners could continue to sell cigars singly to adults. I assure the hon. Gentleman that, by tabling this amendment, the Government do not seek in any way to reverse what he has done or to prohibit the sale of single cigars to adults. The Government remain fully of the view that retailers and others should remain free to sell cigars in packets of fewer than 10.

I did say in Standing Committee, however, that the courts may have difficulty with the wording of this subsection even if we attempted to define cigars and cigarettes. The simplest way of avoiding confusion and removing any possible doubt would be to. delete it. By attempting to exclude one tobacco product—cigars—from the meaning of cigarettes in this subsection we leave more open to doubt and confusion, the issue of whether other tobacco products—cigarillos, cheroots and panatellas—are included or excluded.

What we want to achieve is a ban on the sale of unpackaged cigarettes but not other tobacco products—certainly not the ones that I have just mentioned. By deleting the subsection, we would be left with the ordinary meaning of cigarettes, which does not, in the Government's view, include what would ordinarily be described as cigars, cigarillos, cheroots and panatellas.

This is a small amendment, but it may be significant in some situations. We all know what we mean by cigarettes, and I believe that the courts will have no difficulty in construing the word in the same way. Attempts to define what is or is not a cigarette or cigar would serve only to confuse and lead to uncertainty, which in turn can lead to bad law and unwanted decisions. I recommend deleting the subsection from the Bill.

11.45 am
Sir Trevor Skeet

I am obliged to the Minister, who has mentioned two points that will lead to great difficulty in future. Gift packets can be handed out to all sorts of people over the counters in shops, too. I hope that my hon. Friend will thoroughly review that matter, because I am sincerely interested in the future of children and I do not want the Act abused.

Fortunately, it will not be the Minister or indeed anyone from the legislative system who will hand out the scale 3 penalties—they will be for the courts to decide. How the penalties are administered will be complicated, but the courts may find it less so after the guidance that the Minister has given today.

I am very glad to learn that article 30 of the Rome treaties will not be infringed, because this matter will not constitute a restraint on trade. That was one of my primary concerns, and on that basis I am quite prepared to beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments made: No. 3, in page 2, line 26 at end insert—

'(1A) Any person guilty of an offence under subsection (1) above shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale.'.

No. 4, in page 2, line 30 leave out subsection (3).—[Mr. Peter Lloyd.]

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