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Advertising Control

Volume 980: debated on Monday 3 March 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade what action he intends to take in the light of the working party's report on advertising control.

My right hon. Friend is considering carefully the domestic, international and legal implications of the report's recommendations in consultation with interested ministerial colleagues.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the principle of self-regulatory control in advertising is probably good? Is he certain that there is a need to alter the present practice, apart from the requirement to comply with a particularly meddlesome EEC directive? Why do we not merely veto it?

I am not certain that we need to alter the self-regulatory control arrangements in the United Kingdom. The report's principal recommendations claim to strengthen and maintain the ASA arrangements rather than undermine them. We shall consider the report carefully, but we have no intention of moving suddenly to the projected European system of heavy-handed statutory control.

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that in essence, all the recommendations are for a statutory back-up of the self-regulatory system? Will he accept that we could easily accommodate the domestic demand for a back-up system and an amended directive in the same piece of legislation? Will that be forthcoming in the next Session?

As I explained to my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones), we are considering the implications of the report. The hon. Gentleman is correct. It would be possible to consider the Commission's proposals' which can be reconciled with the present United Kingdom legal and institutional arrangements in advertising in the light of a statutory back-up to the ASA approach, and we are doing that.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the report essentially gives a clean bill of health to the self-regulatory system of the advertising industry and that the proposals for change are quite slight? Will he inform the House of the cost of the working party and the report?

I cannot tell my hon. Friend how much it cost. He is correct that, in general, the report is not excessively critical of the present position, although, as ever, there may be room for improvement. I shall try to discover a clear figure for the cost and let my hon. Friend know.