HL Deb 12 November 1991 vol 532 cc508-30

5.2 p.m.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon rose to move to resolve, That this House calls on Her Majesty's Government to amend the regulations to require United Kingdom tobacco manufacturers to print health warnings on packets of cigarettes which would not exceed in their import the health warnings currently required under European Community law.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, it is necessary to have a debate on this matter, not only because of the importance of the issue itself but also because there was no debate in the House of Commons. It is true that there was a cross-party Early Day Motion critical of the regulations and asking that they be withdrawn, but unfortunately there was no discussion of the matter in another place and therefore there was no vote upon the issue. Therefore, in my view it is incumbent on this House to make good that deficiency of debate. That is one of the reasons why I have raised the question today and I hope that we shall have a good, open and informative debate on the matter.

In my view, too many orders which affect the public and the best interests of British business slip through without proper debate. It is often only when it is too late that their baleful effects are understood by Members of Parliament and the country generally. At least on this occasion some of the arguments against the regulations can be deployed and placed on the parliamentary record.

The major argument against the regulations is not on the grounds of health but on the basis that they discriminate against British tobacco manufacturers and put jobs at risk. That is because the regulations impose upon British manufacturers the duty to print on tobacco packaging health warnings which are larger and more stark than those which our competitors are required to print. For example, the United Kingdom is the only EC member to propose the mandatory use of the words "smoking kills" on cigarette packets. Under the regulations the size of the health warning is 50 per cent. larger than required by the EC directive.

Before I deal with the likely adverse effects on the United Kingdom tobacco industry I should like to say a few words about one of the new messages, to which I have already referred. That message will state boldly and starkly, "smoking kills". The implication of that message is that everyone who smokes will be killed by smoking. That is patently untrue. Some smokers may die prematurely of what is commonly known as a smoking-related disease, but other smokers will not. Some smokers will die from other causes, not from smoking-related diseases. Furthermore, non-smokers who have never been near a cigarette in their lives will die of so-called smoking-related diseases.

As an example, perhaps I may quote a snippet which appeared in the Daily Telegraph on 1st November 1991. It is headed "Smoker is 106". The item goes on to say: Mr. William Cornish smoked his pipe as he celebrated his 106th birthday yesterday. Mr. Cornish, of Budleigh Salterton, Devon, has been smoking for 80 years. He said, 'It's never done me any harm"'.

It looks as though it will not do him any harm. He has done very well and has lived much longer than his three score years and ten. Clearly smoking has not killed him.

How far down the road will we go with this type of labelling? Excess alcohol causes death in many people. It is a major factor in murder and violence. Are all beer cans and spirit and wine bottles to be labelled, "drinking kills"? A couple of weeks ago I looked at the road accident statistics for 1990. I was surprised by the figures. Some 5,000 people were killed and no fewer than 337,000 were injured on our roads in one year. Indeed, 60,000 of the injuries were very serious and in many cases will result in paralysis for life. In the light of that carnage is it suggested that 6 per cent. of a car's surface should be covered with a label stating, "cars kill"? Of course not. Yet it would follow logically from the regulations which we are discussing today that cars should be so labelled.

Lord Gray of Contin

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. He will have heard the report on the radio this morning that in the city of Edinburgh pollution levels were monitored at 14 different points within the city and it was found that at 13 points the pollution levels were in excess of the level recommended by the EC in regulations. That is in the open air and, therefore, is one example of pollution for which smokers cannot be blamed.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Lord for that intervention. I heard that news this morning and that roadside tests showed a high excess of nitrogen oxide in the air in Edinburgh. That does not occur only in Edinburgh. People cannot see exhaust fumes, which are invisible, and therefore the effects are largely ignored. Nevertheless, they exist and the baleful effects are felt by people living along the roads and using the roads. Many bus companies are banning smoking on buses but I venture to suggest that some passengers may suffer more harm as a result of inhaling diesel fumes while waiting for a bus than while sitting on the top deck where smoking is allowed.

Animal fats are said to be the major cause of coronary heart disease yet no one suggests that every pack of butter, cheese, fatty bacon, and so forth, should carry a label declaring "animal fat kills". They would be laughed out of court if they did so. Nevertheless, according to the medical profession animal fats are the major cause of coronary heart disease. The fact is that the message "smoking kills" is incorrect and misleading. It is reprehensible that the Government should force tobacco manufacturers to adopt labelling standards which in the case of other products would be unacceptable, if not illegal.

I turn to the main arguments against the regulations. First, the regulations discriminate against the United Kingdom's tobacco industry and in favour of our overseas competitors. In the face of that it is remarkable that the Department of Trade and Industry has not uttered a word about them. What is it doing to protect our manufacturing industry? It is a manufacturing industry, whether people like it or not. Indeed, was the Department of Trade even consulted before the regulations were made? The Secretary of State—God bless him—waxed eloquently at the Conservative Party conference and at the CBI conference last week about exports and the way in which the Government wanted to help exporters to increase their exports. In this case they are doing the reverse; they are not helping our exporters but they are helping the importers.

I must be fair and even-handed. This is not a party political matter. The official Opposition has been silent about these regulations and presumably its silence indicates assent. I can only express my surprise that the Labour Party, concerned as it is and as it should be about unemployment, especially in depressed areas, has not raised questions about the effect of these regulations on employment.

The regulations go much further than the EC directive requires in respect of United Kingdom manufacturers. The EC directive does not allow any member state to prevent the import of any tobacco product which conforms with its directive. Therefore, we cannot ban the import of cigarettes because they do not carry the health warning required under these regulations. Imported cigarettes and tobacco products will carry less stringent health warnings, as regards their size and wording, than UK-manufactured products. If the warning means anything it is bound to encourage people to smoke foreign-made cigarettes and tobacco products rather than British-made products because the labelling will give the impression that foreign cigarettes are safer than British cigarettes. Nothing could be dafter than that. Even the Minister is smiling—I believe she agrees that the situation is daft, but we must wait and see.

The irony is that should United Kingdom companies transfer cigarette manufacture to outside the United Kingdom they will not be subject to these regulations. Therefore, the regulations provide an incentive for manufacturers to move their businesses abroad with the resultant loss of British jobs and adverse consequences to the British balance of payments. The positive surplus on the British balance of trade in tobacco is no less than £513 million per year; that is, half a billion pounds a year. I sincerely hope that manufacturers will not move their production abroad. I implore them not to do so but nevertheless the risk will exist. If Rothmans decided to move its production abroad 1,300 jobs could be lost in the North East, which is already a depressed area. Surely we do not want that; surely that is not what we are after.

I have tried to show why I believe that the regulations are misconceived and more draconian than is necessary or desirable. I hope only that those who wish to see the British manufacturing industry treated fairly and not worse than its overseas competitors and who are concerned with preserving jobs will deplore the regulations and make clear to the Government that they should think again and withdraw them. I beg to move.

Moved, That this House calls on Her Majesty's Government to amend the regulations to require United Kingdom tobacco manufacturers to print health warnings on packets of cigarettes which would not exceed in their import the health warnings currently required under European Community law. —(Lord Stoddart of Swindon.)

5.16 p.m.

Lard Orr-Ewing

My Lords, I speak as a non-smoker but one who does not like to see an industry that serves this country well being picked on and clobbered. Under the departmental leadership of William Waldegrave and the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, the Government believe that it is necessary to introduce these new regulations to harmonise labelling in the EC. They wish to produce a minimum standard for the size of the warning label, doubling the area from 2 per cent. to 4 per cent. of the packet. I cannot think of a better description than that used by the Foreign Secretary; he said that the EC is tinkering. Why in logic is it necessary to have the same size this, that and the other? If the Government would get on with some of the major problems besetting the EC, such as the CAP, and concentrate on them we should all be much better off.

I can see the situation of someone in the Ministry saying, "While we are doing this, and goodness knows why we should hurry, wouldn't it be a good idea to make it even bigger? Why don't we do even better than all the pathological people who are mad against smoking and make the label 50 per cent. bigger than anyone le else's? We shall have even more people saying that smoking kills". I ask my noble friend to consider whether it is really necessary to introduce this regulation.

We have managed very well under the voluntary agreement. One of the good aspects of the industry is that a voluntary agreement has existed for 20 years. It was last renewed two months ago. On occasions I have believed that the industry has gone too far in agreeing to emotional labelling such as "smoking kills". That is not the case in 99.9 per cent. of deaths. One might put the warning on every car because cars kill far more often than tobacco. The regulations will override the satisfactory voluntary agreements that have existed for so long.

The UK tobacco industry has done pretty well. It employs a total of 13,000 people in areas of high unemployment. It has a balance of payments of £500 million. It collects for the Treasury £7.5 billion in tax each year. That is a high yield of tax. Incidentally, we pay higher taxes on cigarettes than any of the main 10 countries. Of the 12, Denmark is the only country which imposes higher taxes on its cigarettes than we do.

During the recession British industry is struggling to keep its head above the problems. One would hope that Ministers, and every civil servant who gallantly and conscientiously serves his Ministry, are doing everything possible at this time to help British industry wherever it is creating wealth, but not a bit of it. This trivial measure is brought forward to add to the problems of the industry.

We have been changing curricula in our schools. It would be rather nice to change curricula in the training of our civil servants. They should spend a month in France to see how the French look after their national industries. They could then come back and indoctrinate others. British industry, even if it is part of the EC, must give itself an extremely high priority. Each civil servant should be dedicated to ensuring the best for British interests over and above EC interests.

I understand that my noble friend has been in Brussels. The tobacco industry in the EC seems to be in a tremendous mess. It would make a very good Marx Brothers film if anyone were available to write it. The CAP receives £1,000 million per year to help tobacco growers in the EC, which are mainly in Greece but there are some in France and Germany. Much of the tobacco produced with the aid of that incentive is not very good to smoke and is not popular to European taste. Having subsidised its growth, we then subsidise it again and sell it to third world countries where there is no health warning and it is acceptable to less sophisticated tastes. It is astonishing. We spend £1,000 million per year in encouraging people to grow tobacco. We cannot sell a lot of that so it is sold to third world countries. That is a strange, hypocritical approach.

When my noble friend was in Brussels she looked at the matter of labelling and also at the suggestion that all advertising of tobacco should be banned. That is one example of tinkering or subsidiarity. That is a strange word which means that as much as possible should be done at the circumference of the circle and as little as possible should be done at the centre. I gain the impression that the centre grows in strength and numbers and that tinkering takes place all the time.

I asked the Minister to look at what happened when advertising was banned altogether. For example, the Italian industry has gone to the European Court of Justice on the size of labels. It is proposed to increase the area of the labels not from 4 per cent. to 6 per cent., which my noble friend is doing, but from 4 per cent. to 8 per cent. The proposal is for two labels on each pack. The appeal has been put forward to see whether that is legal.

When considering banning the advertising of tobacco one should look at the example of Norway. Norway stopped all advertising of tobacco 16 years ago; Finland banned it 13 years ago and Portugal banned it 10 years ago. It is strange but those are the only three countries in the EC where tobacco smoking has increased. Therefore, it does not seem to me that this is a worthwhile operation for the EC to undertake. This country has had voluntary agreements which were carried out fairly sensibly, although I found them to be rather extreme. In this country tobacco smoking has decreased by 25 per cent. That is a marked contrast. Why look in the crystal ball when one can read the record?

Lord Rea

My Lords, the noble Lord is mistaken in one sense. Indeed, smoking has decreased by 25 per cent. but in the past six years it has remained almost stationary at 31 per cent.

Lord Orr-Ewing

My Lords, I was quoting the figure over the past 10 years, but I note what the noble Lord says. If the Government discriminate against tobacco companies the companies will not remain competitive. As the noble Lord said, imports from the EC will be encouraged and increased. None of those imports will carry health warnings to the higher standards that we are now setting. They will carry their own local health warnings, which are much less severe. Several companies have production units overseas. If we continue to turn the screw they will transfer production overseas. I therefore ask why this should be done.

Many people have been led to believe through warnings and newspaper reports that people die from so-called passive smoking. In the United States in particular, where they love legislation and lawyers love business, people have tried hard to prove that someone has died from passive smoking, but have never yet succeeded. If it is proved I may revise my thoughts. However people are frightened into believing that by breathing in someone else's smoke they are liable to suffer from an oncoming cancer. That is untrue and not proven. It is just an emotional reaction.

Many housewives have tedious chores. They have to do the cooking, which is sometimes boring. I know that when my wife is bored or is cooking she smokes a cigarette. I believe that she smokes 10 per week. As a result of that she is more relaxed and at peace. It calms and comforts her. That must apply to millions of people who have boring tasks to undertake.

I am reminded of a tale where a man aged 70 or so went to see his doctor. He asked the doctor for an overhaul. At the end the doctor said, "I strongly recommend that at your age you give up all smoking and drinking". The man said, "Oh doctor, will I live longer?" The doctor replied, "No, but it will seem a hell of a lot longer". I cannot help but believe that if we continue to take this line, life will become very boring indeed.

The Earl of Longford

My Lords, like the noble Lord I am a non-smoker and in that sense, I am neutral. However, is he telling us that all the medical conclusions about the dangers of smoking are nonsense?

Lord Orr-Ewing

My Lords, of course I am not. I would not be so ridiculous. I am trained as a physicist. I look at results and deduce what is causing them. All my life I have looked at the facts, which is why I quoted the facts about advertising. Of course, I am not saying that all the medical conclusions are nonsense. However, people—and there are one or two in this House who are not here today—become pathological about smoking. They nearly spit. I have met people who have said, "Oh, you are smoking. How dare you come into this room?" That is the result of a campaign which we have all seen over the years.

It was said that sugar is bad for us and then it was said that sweeteners are bad for us. I had a constituent who had 6,000 tonnes of sweeteners on the ocean waiting to dock here when suddenly the government of the day decided that they were bad for health although I am glad to say that, in the end, they relented and allowed the consignment to dock. One hears that butter is bad or Flora is bad. We are always being told such things. I take them with a grain of salt, if not a grain of aspirin.

I ask the Government to reconsider this matter even at this late stage. Is it really necessary to make the life of this industry more difficult by carrying out these unnecessary measures.

Lord Rea

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, he referred to passive smoking and the lack of proof that anyone had died as a result of a person having smoked nearby. Has the noble Lord read the report about the research recently completed in California which was reported in the newspapers today? That shows that those who live in the same household as a smoker are 30 per cent. to 40 per cent. more likely to die of cancer than those who live in homes where there is no smoker. In one form of cancer death was 50 per cent. more likely. Yes, with statistics it is difficult to prove in any one case. Nevertheless, the statistics are sound.

Lord Orr-Ewing

My Lords, I note what the noble Lord says. I have not yet read the report but I shall read it. However, one case in the world does not prove that passive smoking is a serious danger. It is not.

5.30 p.m.

Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe

My Lords, it is possible that I shall find it necessary to leave before the end of the debate in order to address the annual banquet of the Bristol licensed victuallers. Noble Lords interested in racing will agree that to speak on tobacco at tea-time and on the drink industry in the evening is a notable double. Therefore I hope I shall be forgiven should I have to leave.

My interest in the subject is known but I shall rehearse it again. For 17 years I had the honour of representing the constituency of Bristol, South. At that time it contained a large concentration of people who worked in the tobacco industry and an even larger concentration of people who were pensioners of the tobacco industry. I am happy to tell the House that when the matter of my suitability was put to the test, the electorate returned me with substantial minorities —sorry, majorities. I fear I am speaking of my next point. I was only removed by a combination of hard Left militants who decided that I was not a fit and proper person to be a public representative.

I have never cavilled about the medical evidence on smoking. Shortly after I entered the other place I served on the Committee on the late Sir Gerald Nabarro's smoking Bill and moved an amendment which led to the display of the tar and nicotine tables, which should now be seen in all tobacconists. Needless to say, the tobacco industry claimed the credit for that after I had done the donkey work; that is life as we know it.

I have followed the industry carefully. I have always said that people who do not give up smoking should be guided to forms of smoking which are less hazardous. My noble friend Lord Stoddart very ably outlined the disadvantages of the British tobacco industry under the regulations. While people continue to smoke it is invidious that our indigenous tobacco industry should be penalised at the expense of foreign imports. I should have thought that that was so self-evident that my noble friend's remarks stand on that point.

I return to a theme I have raised in your Lordships' House before today. In our society there are a number of middle-class zealots who lead an extremely comfortable life. When they see others in society who are perhaps not so well placed as themselves, they ease possible feelings of guilt by engaging in campaigns against what they regard as social evils. In that way they feel that they expiate any pangs of conscience that they may suffer for enjoying an extremely comfortable life. Once again the regulations are the result of campaigning by zealots who are trying to ease their middle-class consciences.

In his introductory remarks my noble friend said that there had been no debate on the matter in the House of Commons. However, these matters tend to slip through. The tobacco industry is not everybody's cup of tea these days and not everyone feels able to stand up and say something about it. I sometimes feel that questions in regard to the tobacco industry are put forward as trail blazers for possible other measures.

In the last Session of Parliament we had the Bill, now an Act, regarding the protection of young people under age from the sale of tobacco. That Bill went through all its stages in the Commons and in your Lordships' House until the Third Reading, when for the first time I raised the point that the only way in which the Bill could be enforced was by inspectors taking round armies of young children and sending them into tobacconists' shops to see whether they could persuade the shopkeeper to break the law. I shall not weary the House with more details. But it seems to me that if it is necessary to resort to that kind of measure in order to ensure that the legislation is enforced, we are going down a very slippery road.

I do not believe that tightening up on tobacco legislation will be the end of the story. Next it will be the drink industry; those involved will become a persecuted group. As my noble friend said in his introductory remarks, it will be alcohol next, then certain foods and certain practices. We shall become not only a nanny state but will employ an army of people: to go round to ensure that the various laws are being enforced. The whole thing is becoming nonsense. We need to keep a sense of proportion. We are in danger of widening the legislation too far.

We are now informed that snuff must be labelled. Are we really being told that in the House of Commons, after all these years, the box of snuff which is kept in the Doorkeeper's Chair so that Members may have a pinch if they wish, must be labelled so that Members will pause for a moment to think, "Is it all right? Should I have another sniff?". What is society coming to? Things can be carried too far and I hope your Lordships will keep a careful eye on where we are going.

5.36 p.m.

Baroness Brigstocke

My Lords, I hope that I am not a pathological zealot. It is about time we heard from the alternate sponsor, health versus industry. As a member of the Health Education Authority I offer my warmest congratulations to the Government on choosing the strongest warnings from the European Community list. Perhaps I should also congratulate the Department of Trade and Industry. The Government consulted fully on the draft regulations and health organisations agreed that the warnings should be larger than the EC minimum.

Smoking kills. Are noble Lords aware that it kills 110,000 people in the United Kingdom each year? That is around one in four smokers. I am not giving your Lordships anecdotes; I am repeating the results of serious medical research. Moreover, tobacco is the only major consumer product which is unsafe when used as the manufacturers intended. It must be right that cigarette packets should carry clear warnings of the dangers in the strongest possible terms.

When I was a teacher I became increasingly worried at the number of teenage girls and young women who smoked. The Health Education Authority recently produced a powerful campaign of short films to highlight what an unattractive and anti-social habit smoking is. Yet—I hesitate to use the word in this Chamber and am sorry if I give offence—do noble Lords realise that among young people aged 17, 22 per cent. of boys are regular smokers and 24 per cent. of girls? The figures at the age of 15 are more shocking. Among boys aged 15, 17 per cent. are regular smokers—that is, those who smoke one cigarette a week—and for 15 year-old girls the rate is still 24 per cent. We should do everything we possibly can to help them not take up the habit.

Unfortunately, recent research shows that it is not only smokers who suffer but also those who inhale the smoke, even though they may not smoke themselves. I ask my noble friend Lord Orr-Ewing to look at the front page of today's Guardian which states: Non-smoking women who live with a smoker have a 50 per cent. higher chance of developing one form of lung cancer than if their partners did not smoke". These are the latest findings from the American Association for Cancer Research. I fully support the Government's decision to make tobacco warnings more prominent. I consider it wrong of the noble Lord to try to reverse a decision made to protect the nation's health.

5.40 p.m.

Lord Mason of Barnsley

My Lords, the tobacco industry and Her Majesty's Government appeared to me to have a sensible and most respectable system of dealing with tobacco advertising through the well-established voluntary agreement system. There has been 20 years of co-operation between the tobacco industry and the Government, each bearing in mind the seriousness of the subject and the health risks involved. These talks on the agreement have covered health risks, the future of the tobacco industry and jobs, freedom of choice versus state moralising and consideration of the various pressures from the British Medical Association, ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) and the tobacco companies. There are a whole host of factors involved in determining how to warn smokers of any health risks inherent in smoking tobacco.

Somehow all this may fall apart. I believe that the Government are embarking on a course which will not only jeopardise the voluntary agreement system but also cause unnecessary friction between the tobacco industry and the Department of Health. I gather that the recent voluntary agreement, which can run until June 1994, contains provisions to cut advertising on shop fronts by 50 per cent. over that period. That is on top of the recent spend of £3.5 million on a campaign by the tobacco industry against illegal sales by retailers to children under 16.

Incidentally, as has already been mentioned, the banning of tobacco advertising by law does not necessarily stop people smoking. There have been tobacco advertising bans in many countries over the past 10 years. The result has been that in France smoking or tobacco consumption has risen by 5 per cent.; in Portugal by 7 per cent. and in Italy by 8 per cent. In Norway consumption has risen by 50 per cent. In the United Kingdom, under the voluntary agreement, smoking has declined over that period by 29 per cent. In Holland—another country operating the voluntary agreement—tobacco consumption has declined by 41 per cent.

What is unfathomable is the Government's determination to prove tougher on tobacco advertising than their European counterparts. These government regulations mean that the health warnings on British cigarette packets will be in stronger language, including "smoking kills", with the size of the warnings 50 per cent. larger than that decreed by the EC directive. I believe that this will result in some dire consequences of which the Government should be aware.

Lord Rea

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. I am sorry to keep intervening in this way, but my noble friend said something that is inaccurate. He said that the EC decrees that the warning should be only 4 per cent. of the space on the cigarette packet. The EC states that it should be at least 4 per cent. thus allowing member countries to have a larger health warning if they wish. Italy and the United Kingdom have decided to require that.

Lord Mason of Barnsley

My Lords, I am sorry to disturb my noble friend, but I never mentioned 4 per cent. in connection with the Common Market directive. I said, and I repeat, that the Government's recommendations are to increase the size of the warnings on packets to 50 per cent. above what the Common Market recommends and to use stronger language as well. I said that I believe that this will result in some dire consequences of which the Government should be aware. These regulations discriminate against United Kingdom-produced tobacco products, especially cigarettes, and will greatly assist cheaper cigarette imports from Europe, especially Portugal, Spain and Greece.

The wording and the size of the warnings go much further than is required or is necessary to implement the EC directive. They will be stark warnings, increased in size and much more prominent, but cigarettes imported in packets from Europe will not have such stark and large warnings. I believe that this stance will harm the British tobacco industry, threaten more tobacco workers' jobs and disturb what has been a most responsible and co-operative voluntary agreement.

But the real danger, as I see it, is to place in jeopardy the health of many young smokers, most of them school children and the young unemployed who are not really able to afford the higher priced quality, low tar, British cigarettes. They will be looking for the cheaper brands. That means the imported cigarettes of high tar content without the same serious warnings on packs compared with the United Kingdom cigarette packets. Those imports may well flood the country with a distinctly increased danger to the health of young smokers especially the 300,000 children under 16 years of age. It will all be brought about by Her Majesty's Government intent on introducing much tougher regulations than any other EC country.

In that regard I ought to warn that when the single European market is established, British smokers will be able to buy unlimited cigarettes, cigars and tobacco at less than half British prices. For example, Portugal produces cigarettes at 30 pence per packet compared with £2 per packet in the United Kingdom. The imports will be cheap, high tar and consequently much more dangerous, unhealthy and high risk than the British products.

I know and emphasise that these youngsters and others should not be smoking cigarettes. Adults can please themselves: they have the freedom and the right to enjoy smoking tobacco. It is not for us to tell them how to live their lives. Indeed there is already too much dictatorship on the issue. But the fact is that youngsters are smoking in large numbers. It is right that they should be aware of the consequences. However, these regulations, insisting on the more frightening slogans and the increased size of the warnings—greater than the EC directive demands—are destined not only to harm our own tobacco industry and cut jobs, but also, through the encouragement of imports of high tar cigarettes, cheaply produced and of poor quality, a badly researched tobacco product compared with the less damaging British product, to place thousands of our youngsters at greater risk. I do not know why the Government are pursuing this policy and how it can be seriously defended.

5.49 p.m.

Lord Cullen of Ashbourne

My Lords, I shall be very brief because most of the things I had to say have already been said. I must declare an interest as a smoker, having been smoking steadily and regularly for at least 60 years. I have not reached 106 like the friend of the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, but I hope that I shall.

Noble Lords

Hear, hear!

Lord Cullen of Ashbourne

Like myself, people employed in the United Kingdom tobacco and related industries will be strongly opposed to these regulations. They have seen a progressive decline in their numbers since 1979 caused by a combination of excessive taxation of tobacco products and company rationalisations, the latter in large part caused by the former. In 1979 there were 40,000 people directly employed in the tobacco industry. Today there are 12,000—less than one third of that number. Now, at a time of very high unemployment, Her Majesty's Government would impose much stronger health warnings than those necessary to implement the directive. This can only put our industry into an even worse position vis-à-vis foreign competition.

At the beginning of this year import penetration by cheaper, lower quality, foreign cigarettes amounted to 8.5 per cent. It was expected to grow to 9.5 per cent. by the year end. One wonders how much higher it will be if these regulations are enforced.

I ask your Lordships to consider this matter from the point of view of employees in the industry. They know that cigarettes are the most highly taxed consumer product in this country and that they are taxed more highly than in any other EC country—except Denmark, as other noble Lords have said. They know that their industry was responsible for net exports of £640 million in 1990 and contributed £7.5 billion in tobacco tax to the Exchequer. Now, having seen their numbers decimated in the past 12 years they can only regard these regulations with dismay. I realise that Her Majesty's Government justify these regulations on health grounds. However, I have believed until now that the philosophy of my party was in favour of choice—the freedom to choose.

We all get pretty fed up with being told not to eat this, that and the other, with having well tried medicinal products removed from the market place and with pettifogging directives from the bureaucrats in Brussels. But for the Government to go even further than those bureaucrats—about whom the Government have been known to complain from time to time—is really too much to bear.

5.54 p.m.

Lord Rea

My Lords, I am very grateful to my noble friend for initiating this debate because it gives your Lordships a further opportunity to debate the issue of smoking versus health. Last Wednesday I spent a little time discussing how promotion of tobacco perpetuates the habit and I tried to persuade the noble Baroness not to oppose the draft European Community directive restricting tobacco advertising which was discussed yesterday in Brussels. I do not think that I was successful, but at least the issue will now go forward to be discussed and debated by the European Parliament. Members of the European Parliament will doubtless be subject to much subtle, skilful lobbying by the tobacco industry in the intervening months.

My noble friend always argues his case vehemently and well. Often he is alone in his viewpoint, but in moving his amendments to weaken my Bill to protect children and young persons from tobacco in the last Session he was joined—as he was this afternoon—by my noble friend Lord Cocks. During that previous debate I began to feel that I was faced with a pair of terrible twins. Now I see that they have been joined by another of my noble friends, Lord Mason of Barnsley —the twins have become triplets. To continue with the analogy, perhaps I should also note noble Lords opposite who have also supported his position, so that now I have in my demonology a group of quaint, querulous quintuplets. Quaint, because like dinosaurs they are out of date and living in a hostile environment (certainly a hostile environment outside this House) which recognises the ghastly impact of smoking on health.

I believe that it is my role as a doctor to point out that cigarette smoke is a slow poison which, as the noble Baroness said, eventually kills one in four people who smoke habitually over a period of years. I think with 100,000 people killed by a habit it is reasonable to say that it "kills", not just that it "can kill", because people who do not want to read the message will say, "Ah well, it can kill but it won't kill me, so it's all right". "Kills" is the message which has an impact. Cigarette smoke contains a unique mixture of a large number of noxious substances including carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, arsenic, cyanide, ammonia, acetone and many carcinogenic tarry substances. Smokers who inhale have to endure the assault of these substances in order to obtain the nicotine which gives them the pleasure and relief from tension which they seek. Too often, of course, the tension itself is caused by the craving for nicotine which occurs a few hours—and often for much longer than that—after the last cigarette.

To put the record straight I should say that I do smoke a cigar occasionally, but I am very careful not to inhale it. That is when the most serious damage occurs. I have a great deal of sympathy with smokers. I understand the suffering which many smokers go through when they attempt to give up. Luckily, I never became addicted to nicotine, perhaps partly because when I first inhaled a cigarette at the age of 14 I turned a nasty shade of grey green and was violently sick. I think my body was reacting rather sensibly to that cocktail of nasty substances which were temporarily in my lungs.

I wonder whether the reasons put forward by my noble friend and his friends for their objections to the slightly larger health warnings required by the UK regulations have anything to do with the real reason? I think the real reason is that the tobacco industry is afraid—and possibly through market research it already knows—that slightly larger and starker health messages will encourage more people to stop smoking.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, I am most obliged to my noble friend. May I assure him and emphasise that, when I spoke, I spoke for myself and not for the tobacco industry?

Lord Rea

My Lords, I accept that absolutely from my noble friend. These messages might stop more teenagers, for instance, from taking up smoking. That would be very serious for the tobacco industry. It is worth tracing the stages of the evolution of these regulations. Noble Lords may remember the position of the United Kingdom Government when the EC directive which gave rise to these regulations was debated in Brussels during 1989 by the Council of Ministers. The stronger messages suggested were opposed by our then Secretary of State for Health, Mr. Kenneth Clarke, who, incidentally, as most of us know is a cigar smoker who has previously been a cigarette smoker. We lost the argument and hence the present regulations are the embodiment of that EC directive.

The regulations only prescribe a minimum size of warning of 4 per cent. of the surface on the back of the packet. There is nothing in the regulations to prevent a member state, on public health grounds, from requiring a larger warning. Italy, as has already been mentioned does so already.

There was, as the noble Baroness, Lady Brigstocke, said, a period of public consultation in the UK after the EC directive was passed, before our regulations were finally drawn up and the requirement of a minimum of 6 per cent. of the packet face was included as a result, as she said, of these consultations with all the health professions, particularly the Health Education Authority. No one has so far mentioned the fact that the industry has been granted a judicial review of the legality of the regulations. The case will probably go to the European Court.

I ask noble Lords to consider whether it is likely that someone buying his usual packet of Benson & Hedges and seeing a slightly more prominent health warning on the packet will switch to another brand, possibly imported from another EC country, with a smaller health warning. It is surely more likely, if there is any effect at all on his habit, that he will be encouraged to smoke less or even to give up altogether. That is exactly what smokers should do, and that is why the regulations are framed as they are.

6.1 p.m.

Lord Sefton of Garston

My Lords, perhaps I may say a few words before we hear from the Front Bench speakers. I have never before spoken about smoking and tobacco addiction. Many young people are taking to smoking and are not realising the dangers. They are doing so because we are making the appeal on the wrong lines. In all the debates on the subject I have never heard anyone suggest that the wickedness of the smoking habit is not so much the danger to the individual but the demeaning of the human being. It makes the smoker a slave. We should point out to young people that once they are addicted they will no longer be masters of their fate or defenders of their soul. The smoker surrenders his will to the habit. If society itself becomes addicted to a habit in that way, society becomes demeaned.

I wish to make two more points. We should all look carefully at our own habits. I smoked and I drank but I gave up smoking and drinking. I did so because I was not prepared to allow myself to become addicted. I wanted to decide my fate for myself. I stopped drinking and I stopped smoking. I was not much better in health, but, my goodness, I was better in my contentment of mind.

Perhaps I may say this to the medical profession. It shouts all the time about the dangers caused to the individual by smoking. The profession should have a look at itself. I have had bitter experience of the addiction caused by members of the medical profession who so easily prescribed drugs which they must have known were addictive. They must have known of the great dangers, but they continued to prescribe.

We do not require more regulations which warn people about the dangers to their health. Young people are not inclined to regard such warnings as important. They say, as one noble Lord has already said, "It will never happen to me". We should put the issue on a much higher level. We should try to persuade young people that if they do not become addicted to smoking or to that other terrible habit, drinking, the better for all of us. That would move the issue on to a new plane.

6.4 p.m.

Lord Carter

My Lords, it is one of the pleasant courtesies of the House that we thank noble Lords for putting down Motions and for drawing the attention of the House to important subjects. I am not sure that I can extend the usual pleasantries to my noble friend Lord Stoddart. I prefer to reserve my position until the end of the debate. I should like to see what my noble friend decides to do with his Motion, although I can make some helpful suggestions.

I feel that my noble friend shows an unusual enthusiasm for European Community measures. I have listened with great care to the arguments of those who support the Motion and I have found them rather confusing. Are we talking about harmonisation, price, employment in the tobacco industry and health, with perhaps just a touch of residual anti-European Community feeling? I found it hard to tease out a theme from those who support the Motion.

As has been well said, the dangers of smoking are well known and documented. Anyone who has watched a heavy smoker die of lung cancer will not need statistics to convince him or her of the dangers of smoking and such a person will not be impressed by nitpicking arguments about the size of health warnings. If we accept that smoking is dangerous, then anything which reduces the flow of information concerning those dangers must have some very powerful arguments in its favour. We have not heard those arguments today.

Perhaps I may refer to the employment point which was touched on today during Starred Questions. My noble friends will know that it is Labour Party policy to ban tobacco advertising. That is also likely to be European Community policy. What will happen to the employment argument when, after the general election, the next Labour Government introduce a complete ban on tobacco advertising? Do my noble friends support Labour Party policy in this matter? If they do, what will happen to the employment argument then?

We have heard a good deal about the size of the health warning, as if the argument broadly turns on that. We are talking about a difference between 6 per cent. of the surface area and the 4 per cent. EC minimum. I have looked at the diagrams at the back of the regulations. I do not have a ruler with me but, so far as I can see, a 50 per cent. increase in the size of the health warning is between a quarter of an inch and half an inch. I find it impossible to believe that such a difference will have the effect that has been argued.

We learnt in the Observer on Sunday that children of 12 are now targeted in the cigarette marketing strategy of a major tobacco company. Those who support the Motion might argue that the result of the changes they propose will be that somehow fewer children will be encouraged to take up smoking. That will be achieved by reducing the size and weakening the effectiveness of the health warning on the packet. Frankly, that belief is plain daft.

My noble friend Lord Stoddart introduced the Motion by saying that we had to debate it because there had not been any debate in the other place. We would certainly sit a good deal longer than we do if we felt that we had to debate everything that had not been debated along the corridor.

The noble Lord also produced what I thought was an extraordinary and pedantic point about the words "smoking kills". As he said, not all smokers die. Almost anything that stops children taking up smoking is worth saying. There are many examples of phrases that have been extremely effective but not absolutely accurate. The two that spring to mind are "Careless talk costs lives" and "Guinness is good for you".

We have also heard about employment in the tobacco industry. I say in passing that the Labour Party supports the regulations. If unemployment results there is the possibility of alternative employment. There is not much alternative if one is dying from lung cancer. Every change imposed on industry to improve public health has of necessity led to a change in employment. Perhaps I may point out in passing that agriculture has lost 100,000 jobs in the past 10 years. Many of the farmers and farm workers who lost their jobs are not now unemployed. They have found other jobs.

My noble friend Lord Mason referred to the health of young smokers, children and the unemployed. His argument seemed to be that he would prefer them to become addicted to better quality tobacco. If those who support the Motion are concerned about the phrase "smoking kills", surely they are not arguing that leaving the phrase on the packet will steer children and young people to poorer quality products. If the warning is effective it will stop them smoking altogether.

I am amazed that those who support the Motion are prepared to consider, if it is put to a vote and is successful, the possibility of headlines such as, "House of Lords votes to reduce size of health warnings on cigarette packets and to reduce the effectiveness of health warnings". It is no good my noble friend saying, as he may well do when he concludes, that he is not trying to amend the regulations but merely asking the Government to do so. If he thinks, as I am sure he does, that the Government have no intention of amending the regulations—I must say that I support them in that respect—then his Motion is tantamount to voting against the regulations, which, as we know, is quite contrary to the conventions of this House.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, perhaps I may draw my noble friend's attention to the Procedure Committee's first report of the 1991 Session. I shall not read it to your Lordships, but if my noble friend reads paragraphs 9, 10, 11 and 12 on page 2, that will put him right on the matter. It is not against the conventions of the House to vote on regulations of this kind.

Lord Carter

My Lords, I am perfectly well aware of that fact. The Procedure Committee has dealt with non-fatal amendments, and this of course is just such an amendment. I say that because, even if it is carried, the Government do not have to take any notice of it. As we all know that the Government will not take any notice of it—at least, I hope that they will not—I still believe that, if my noble friend were to be successful, it would be a way of voting against the regulations. If he decides to press the Motion to a vote, I shall certainly advise my noble friends on these Benches to vote against it.

6.11 p.m.

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, the subject of tobacco labelling has been well and truly aired during the course of the debate as indeed has the sister subject of tobacco advertising, although it was not, strictly speaking, part of the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon.

It bears repetition to say that the dangers of smoking are very grave. Smoking is responsible for more than a hundred thousand deaths a year. I believe that the figure of 110,000 was quoted by my noble friend Lady Brigstocke. Such figures show that one-third of deaths in middle age are due to smoking. Smoking is implicated in lung cancer, in heart disease and in respiratory disease. There is no doubt that smoking kills; indeed, it is estimated to kill 25 per cent. of smokers. It kills over 20 times more people than is the case with road accidents. However, I should point out to the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, that we also take very seriously the need to curb the number of road accidents and the need to control air pollution caused by our use of motor vehicles.

Smoking is a serious issue and the Government are taking it seriously. An important part of our Green Paper The Health of the Nation is the section which says that smoking is the, largest single preventable cause of mortality". Therefore, the Government's aim is to reduce death and ill health caused by smoking.

In summary, I believe that I can fairly say that the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, simply does not want tobacco manufacturers in this country to print health warnings on cigarette packets which exceed in their import those required under European Community law. Perhaps I should clarify the choice that we made on the subject of the warnings which are being used as well as on their size. In doing so, I should like to take the opportunity to clarify for the record the suggestion that my right honourable friend, who is now Secretary of State for Education and Science, did not oppose stronger health warnings on labels. That was because he wished to retain what we considered to be a very successful system of voluntary agreements relating to labelling, just as we would wish to do on the subject of advertising. However, that is not now possible as the European Community directive is in force and we must comply with it. That means that we must make the best of the present situation.

In the regulations before Parliament we have said that all cigarette packets should carry the message, Tobacco seriously damages health on the front of the package and, on the back, additional warnings which, complying with the directive, will have to be rotated on an equal basis once every 12 months. The warnings which my right honourable friend the Secretary of State chose are: Smoking causes fatal diseases; Smoking kills; Smoking when pregnant harms your baby"; and, Protect children: don't make them breathe your smoke". Those warnings were selected from the list of 14 possibilities agreed at European Community level. They were selected because we believed them to be the most effective in making an impact. That view was supported by health experts during consultation on the regulations. We firmly believe that it should be impossible for smokers to ignore the terrible damage which their habit may do to their health and also to the health of those around them.

On the subject of passive smoking, the Government accept the advice of the Independent Scientific Committee on Smoking and Health that passive smoking causes several hundred deaths in the United Kingdom each year. I understand that the Australian courts have heard a case on the matter and have concluded that passive smoking does cause fatal diseases. I should add that tobacco is the only major consumer product which is highly dangerous when used as the manufacturer intended. Alcohol can be dangerous if taken in excess. Moreover, animal fats can, as the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, said, cause heart disease; but, similarly, that applies when they are consumed in excess.

Reverting to the choice of warnings, I have already referred to the four warnings selected by my right honourable friend for appearance in rotation on the back of the packages. In addition, there are two warnings which must be added to the rotating system and which apply to all European Community member states. These are: Smoking causes cancer and, Smoking causes heart disease". I believe that those two messages show how seriously the European Community takes the dangers of smoking. The clear intention is to maximise the impact of the health warning. The additional four UK warnings which we have selected do not exceed the import of these clear and unequivocal mandatory messages.

It has been suggested that the UK warning label will be made more striking than the EC's minimum requirements in size. That is because our warning will cover 6 per cent. of the surface of the cigarette packet, while the wording of the directive contained in Article 4 requires that such warnings should cover at least 4 per cent. of each large surface of the unit packet. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Rea, said, the matter is currently sub judice. We do not yet know all the choices which have been made by other EC countries, although some of them have chosen 4 per cent. as the surface size. However, we do know that Italy has chosen a much larger size and that that has been contested. I should like to emphasise the fact that these regulations are not the result of the Department of Health thinking up the idea of having the strictest and most impactful health warnings, as I think my noble friend Lord Orr-Ewing tried to suggest.

During the three-month period of consultation about the EC labelling directive, we received representations from the tobacco industry, retailers, health interest groups (both statutory and non-statutory bodies) and from a wide variety of consumer interests. There was a great deal of support for the directive's intention to use the most effective warnings, and health interest groups were keen to see the size of the warnings enlarged to make them as effective as possible. It was on that basis that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State decided to make the warning larger.

It has been suggested during the debate that that decision will mean unfair competition from other European Community manufacturers for UK manufacturers. I have been asked whether smokers in the UK will switch to foreign brands; I do not believe that they will. Home producers currently have more than a 90 per cent. share of the market. Smokers are notoriously loyal to their brands, hence the efforts to achieve brand identification in the industry's advertising campaigns which currently mystify some of us. It is difficult to believe that the size and nature of UK warnings will lead to an increased take-up of foreign brands, especially in view of the restrictions on advertising. That is also true in relation to the suggestion by the noble Lord, Lord Mason, that high tar cigarettes will now flood the market. That will not happen because this country is currently implementing the European Community tar yields directive which limits tar yields to 15 mg by 1992. There will be no high tar cigarettes anywhere in the European Community and therefore our imports will not be affected.

As regards exports to the European Community, the United Kingdom industry is again in the same position as the industries of other European countries. We can export goods produced for the home market to all member states without any alteration other than translating the warnings into the language of the importing state, or we can comply with the regulations of each importing state. Either way, the competition is equal and fair. I must emphasise that all member states agreed the directive on tobacco labelling and are now implementing it.

Perhaps I may digress slightly. My noble friend Lord Orr-Ewing referred to the tobacco subsidies under the common agricultural policy. That is a subject dear to my heart. I should like to reassure him that UK health and agriculture Ministers consistently argue for the removal of those subsidies. I did so again yesterday in Brussels. We shall continue to do so, and the good news is that the amount of the subsidies is decreasing.

If we wish to discourage smoking and, in particular, the start of the smoking habit by young people, we must use all means at our disposal. If the new warning labels make smokers give up, or help people not to start to smoke, we should be delighted. All government tobacco measures aim to reduce smoking. We have had considerable success in recent years. Some figures have been quoted, but I should like to give nine. In 1974, 45 per cent. of the adult population smoked but in 1988 (the latest figures available) that was dawn to 32 per cent.

As to the impact on industry, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Carter, for clarifying his party's position. It is hard to believe that consumers will switch brands merely because the warnings in other countries are somewhat smaller. It must be said that our health policy will inevitably adversely affect the tobacco industry. Following the figures relating to the decline in consumption that I have quoted, that has clearly already started; but it is our clear aim to reduce the incidence of smoking.

I acknowledge that it is impossible completely to reconcile the aims of the tobacco industry and the nation's health interests. The Government's strategy aims to reduce the prevalence of smoking, and tough warnings are a part of that strategy. This is a small but significant step in the Government's action to discourage tobacco use. In that context, our action is fully justified. I urge the House to reject the Motion.

6.25 p.m.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, first I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate. It has been a useful, good debate. Opinions have been put on record which had not previously been put on record. That is altogether good in a democratic society in a democratic body. At least I think that we are a democratic body!

Baroness White

My Lords, quasi-democratic!

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, that is a good point. The noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing, emphasised the need to assist manufacturing industry during a recession, and of course these regulations will not do that, as I hope I and other members of your Lordships House have shown. He made many other points and raised the issue of passive smoking. He advised us—correctly, I believe—to take the claims of injury through passive smoking with a pinch of salt. I remind him that salt is also supposed to be bad for us; and so he had better not take too much of that or the doctors will be advising him that he is injuring his health.

My noble friend Lord Cocks said that the anti-smoking campaign was conducted by well-heeled middle class zealots who were easing their consciences. That was a good description, and it needs no further comment from me. He also referred to the nanny state and the host of inspectors who will be required to enforce the increasing number of regulations. I had believed that the Conservative Government were against more regulations, but apparently they are not because they impose more and more all the time.

The noble Baroness, Lady Brigstocke, has an interest because she is a prominent member of the Health Education Authority. She referred to the 110,000 people a year who die from lung cancer. I remind her that 710,000 people a year die in this country, and that means that 600,000 people do not die from lung cancer. Furthermore, the statistics refer to premature deaths from lung cancer. That means that any man under the age of 73 or woman under the age of 79 who dies is included in the statistics as having died of a smoking-related disease.

I ask my noble friend Lord Rea to explain why the Japanese, who smoke two and a half times as many cigarettes than the English, have an incidence of lung cancer less than half that of the United Kingdom. That is something that needs explaining. I hope that the medical profession will concentrate upon that discrepancy as well as on why smoking causes lung cancer.

Lord Rea

My Lords, my noble friend invites me to explain. The low Japanese figures are due to their diet and nutrition, which gives them the lowest heart disease rate in the world. It also helps them to have a lower cancer rate for a number of cancers compared with the rest of the world. However, they have a higher rate of some other cancers because of something they eat which is bad for their stomachs. On the whole, diet is the reason.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, I am most obliged to the noble Lord for that reply. It is the most revealing reply I have yet heard. He is now confirming that it is not only smoking that causes cancer but bad diet. We should take note of that and reflect upon it. I certainly shall do so.

The noble Baroness, Lady Brigstocke, also declared that smoking was an anti-social habit. There is the rub. Do we make regulations and are we making these regulations because smoking is an anti-social habit or because it is a health risk? I believe that she was mistaken to bring up the fact that she and other people —but not everyone—believe that smoking is an anti-social habit. Before long, if we bring in regulations to satisfy everyone's view of what is anti-social, we shall end up doing nothing at all. That would be most unfortunate for people.

My noble friend Lord Mason rightly drew attention to the additional danger, especially to young people, of the high tar risk from imported cigarettes. I hope that the Government will take notice of that because it is relevant. The noble Lord, Lord Cullen, has been smoking for 60 years. He still looks extremely well, he is going strong and I sincerely hope that he reaches his target of 106 years.

The noble Lord, Lord Sefton, referred to addiction. Of course, he was right to do so, but on the other hand he said that he was not so addicted that he could not give up smoking, because he did. He also mentioned other addictions. Frankly, as my noble friend said, the medical profession has been responsible for persuading people to become addicted to various drugs. Let us not forget the great valium scandal where the medical profession quite wrongly prescribed tens of millions of tablets of valium, to the detriment of some patients.

My noble friend Lord Carter said that a Labour government would bring in a ban on tobacco advertising. He asked what I would do under those circumstances: would I support Labour Party policy? I support Labour Party policy when I believe it is sensible. I am not a hack who will support anything that my leaders like to hand down from time to time. After all, parties change their minds. I shall reserve my position on that, if he does not mind, and will answer him when the time arrives.

Finally, the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, made a good job of explaining the Government's position. I thank her for going into so much detail. The House deserved the explanation and I congratulate her on giving it. For that reason alone, it was worth having this debate. The noble Baroness knows that I do not agree with much of what she said, but at least she did us the courtesy of treating our arguments seriously as arguments which had to be answered. I do not agree with her on the main point she made in the debate that the regulations will not hurt British manufacturers. I believe that they will hurt them and that is why I brought forward this amendment tonight. I thank the noble Baroness and all those who have taken part in the debate.

Now comes decision time. I have to decide whether it is right that I should ask the House to vote on my amendment to the regulations. I have considered this very seriously indeed and have taken into account the conventions of the House. It is not against the conventions of the House for a vote to be taken on the regulations. That is clear and I am sure that the House accepts it.

On the other hand, while I do not wish to rock anyone's boat, I also have to take into consideration what my noble friend Lord Rea mentioned. The tobacco industry has been granted a judicial review. It may very well take a case to the European Court and in one sense that makes the issue sub judice. Therefore I do not believe that it would be helpful for me to press the amendment to a vote this evening. I hope that the House will forgive me for detaining it and for not pressing the matter to a Division but I feel that that is the right decision.

I thank the House for allowing the debate to take place in a reasonable, friendly and in some ways entertaining atmosphere. With those few words, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.