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Commons Chamber

Volume 984: debated on Friday 9 May 1980

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House Of Commons

Friday 9 May 1980

The House met at half-past Nine o'clock

Prayers

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Bill Presented

FREEDOM OF THE PRESS

(PROTECTION OF SOURCES)

Mr. Greville Janner presented a Bill to provide for the protection of sources used by the media; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time upon Friday 4 July and to be printed. [Bill 205.]

Smoking And Health

9.35 am

I beg to move:

That this House recognises the cost in personal suffering which arises from cigarette smoking; and calls on Her Majesty's Government to make new initiatives to alert the public to the dangers and costs of smoking and also to agree measures with the tobacco industry which will lead to a reduction in the promotion of cigarettes to the young.

I first declare my personal interest in the matter, in that I ceased my serious cigarette-smoking life at the age of 12 or 13, and have since smoked only on such dire occasions as the election counts, when I felt that some extra aid was necessary. However, I have always taken a somewhat relaxed attitude on the question of smoking. Perhaps, like many others, I did not take the matter as seriously as I should have done until I read some of the statistics that had been made available and I began to realise the importance of the topic and the need for the House to take a more direct interest in it.

The need for the debate and for the terms of the motion are spelt out quite starkly in the introduction to the third report from the Royal College of Physicians in London, which states:

" Cigarette smoking is still as important a cause of death as were the great epidemic diseases of the past."
The tragedy is that this represents a self-inflicted wound.

I am not one of those who would dictate to my fellow men and women what they must or must not do. I do not believe that at this time legislation is the right way forward and the way to deal with the problem, but I believe that those of us who are aware of the dangers of cigarette smoking should ensure that they are at least pointed out to our fellow citizens, and should try to save them from potential suffering—even though the final decision whether they should smoke must be theirs.

There is a special responsibility to the young, who may not easily perceive a danger that may be 20 years away when they take their first furtive puffs behind closed doors or in some secluded spot. A recent parliamentary question produced the answer that in the most recent survey the percentage of boys smoking one or more cigarettes a week rose from 4 per cent. at the age of 11 to 34 per cent. at the age of 15.

The report by the Royal College of Physicians that I mentioned earlier attempts to list the sorts of diseases that develop, or are likely to develop, from cigarette smoking. For example, it specifically names lung cancer—a disease that, unfortunately, is claiming about 34,000 lives a year. The report cites the evidence taken from a survey of the habits of British male doctors and shows clearly that where smoking has been discontinued death from the disease of lung cancer has declined, whereas among other men, where many fewer have given up smoking, such deaths have continued to increase. It is because of such evidence that the report claims that, for many, lung cancer is a largely preventable disease.

It is even more significant that other cancers are more common in smokers than in non-smokers—cancer of the mouth, throat, pancreas, kidney and urinary tract. Smoking related to cancer must be considered to be one of the most potent forces in producing cancer, if not the sole source. For that reason alone action should be taken.

It is not only cancer that affects the person who smokes. Under the age of 65, smokers are about twice as likely to die from coronary heart disease as are non-smokers. Heavy smokers are three and a half times more likely to be affected. The list of diseases rolls on. Bronchitis and emphysema are also more rife, although they are not always due to smoking. Doctors tell us that severe emphysema is almost never found in non-smokers. Complaints such as gastric and duodenal ulcers and pulmonary tuberculosis are much more common among smokers than among non-smokers.

The problem is not merely the appalling loss of life, but the damage to the day-to-day living of many millions of our fellow citizens. The enormous number of people who have to stay away from work as a result of these diseases has an effect on the economy. Millions of work days are lost each year. The recently published general household survey for 1978 produced interesting statistics. One of the questions asked was whether a person had been ill or away from work in the last fortnight before the questionnaire. It became clear from the answers that smokers were much more likely to admit that they had been away from work or been ill in that period. That is significant. The survey was an attempt to ask the people concerned, rather than use arbitrary statistics produced by a Government Department.

The hon. Gentleman is making an important point, for which many of us are grateful. Is he aware that about 40 million days each year are lost to productivity through chronic bronchitis alone?

I accept that. Before we had our present industrial relations problems bronchitis was always known as the English disease.

The terrifying total from smoke-related diseases is at least 50,000 premature deaths a year. Some say that the figure is double that. It is difficult to get large numbers into perspective, but if that figure is divided among our constituencies, it means that, on average, 80 constituents die and a frightening number of working days are lost each year because of these diseases.

I could give a long catalogue of the troubles that arise from cigarette smoking, but we need not take too long over a case that I believe has been proved. The catalogue is depressing because of the weight of the statistics, and, despite the changes, the numbers remain high. What should a responsible Government do if they prefer consent to compulsion? If they would rather not use legislation to stop the tobacco industry from advertising, they should certainly not remain inactive. Certain clear policies should be followed if we are further to discourage cigarette smoking to help to produce a healthier nation.

The first policy should be regular increases in tobacco duty, at least to keep pace with inflation, and preferably greater to provide a deterrent to smoking. Secondly, there should be stronger and more prominent health warnings on cigarette packs. The existing warnings may tend to be ignored more and more as they lose their impact through familiarity. Thirdly, there should be a progessive lowering of the emission levels for each cigarette group. There is an urgent need to reduce the present health hazards by securing a reduction in overall average tar yields.

Fourthly, the present imbalance of money spent on advertising and promoting tobacco, estimated at £80 million-plus, as against the £470,000 spent last year to discourage cigarette smoking, should be corrected. There is a clear need for increased and improved education and publicity about smoking and health. Fifthly, cigarette smoking is promoted in a way that can make it attractive to the young, whether by advertising in cinemas or on posters or blatant sports sponsorship, and that requires re-examination. All forms of promotion that encourage the habit should be avoided.

At a time when there is reasonably widespread agreement that direct taxation should be cut and the burdens partly transferred to indirect taxes, there appears to be little justification for cigarette prices not to be increased in line with inflation. Additional taxation over and above that, particularly for the more dangerous high-tar varieties of cigarette, would also make good sense. Despite his own habits, I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will take note of that.

Some people point out that revenue might be reduced as a result of such action because the amount of smoking would decline, and with it the overall return to the Treasury. However, most people would divert their spending to other commodities. We can, presumably, also expect more indirect taxation in the future. The overall loss to the Treasury cannot be equated with the loss of cigarette sales. In any case, that is a somewhat immoral reason for refusing to act.

All the signs are that the health warning is becoming ineffective. Something new should be tried. Human beings have an almost inbuilt reaction that inures them to the fact that they are damaging themselves. The general household survey also found that between the ages of 18 to 24 more people were likely to say that smoking could not damage health. That is a serious factor, as that age group has been subjected to many years of propaganda pointing out the dangers of smoking.

I do not believe in attacking an industry when it is experiencing difficulties. To its credit, the tobacco industry appreciates the problems that I have tried to outline, but I believe that it is appropriate to make some changes in this respect. I hope that agreement can be reached with the industry as soon as possible so that a more effective warning system can be devised.

What more effective warning can there be than a notice on a small packet of cigarettes? The person who buys that packet can read the warning every time he smokes. He cannot misread it. My hon. Friend may say that the warning does not have any effect, but if the warning were in bigger type it would not make any difference. We can warn people about the dangers of smoking, but we cannot force them not to smoke. That is impossible.

I am not saying that. I am saying that the current warning tends to be ignored because it has been in that form for a number of years. It has become accepted and familiar. I should like to see a more obvious warning that would take the attention of those who buy cigarettes. I believe that that is a perfectly reasonable attitude.

My third point about making cigarettes less dangerous may seem irrelevant to those hon. Members who would like to see all smoking stopped. We must accept that we do not live in a perfect world in which sweet reason or even common sense holds sway. Millions of people smoke, and they will continue to do so. That is their choice. On the other hand, we can try to educate them, not only to realise the dangers of the smoking habit, but to accept those cigarettes that reduce their chances of getting lung cancer. I accept that any cigarette smoking can lead to many diseases, whatever the tar content of the cigarette, but one that is less dangerous should be encouraged before one that is more dangerous.

I accept that that, in turn, places a great responsibility on the tobacco industry. I accept also that if that industry seeks to persuade people to adopt new brands it runs a commercial risk and bears a fair-sized burden of cost in promoting those new brands and trying to effect such a change. In order to do this, particularly in as short a time as possible, the industry can argue that considerable promotion and advertising of such brands will be necessary—hence the difficulties that have arisen between the Government and the industry over the future of cigarette advertising. I can understand that the industry will argue that it must advertise new brands if they are to have a chance of success. On the other hand, I can understand the Government's point of view that there is already too much advertising, particularly in places that attract the attention of the young.

In that context, will my hon. Friend refer to the new smoking material and the history of its demise? That demise followed the spending of an enormous amount of money. Having burnt its fingers once in a campaign that it thought would be backed by the then Government, the tobacco industry will ask why it should involve itself in further campaigns unless it can be certain of full support from the Government of the day.

I believe that the Government should do more in education. If we try to produce cigarettes with progressively less tobacco in them, this can be a long and expensive process. In the instance to which my hon. Friend has referred, it failed. If the Government want this kind of programme, they should keep in close contact with the industry and, as part of their own education policy, should try to press the idea of new and less dangerous cigarettes. I am aware that all this means money. I am aware also of the large amounts that were spent last time, but the overall aim should be to reduce the amount of smoking. What I have put forward is merely an acceptance of the fact that people who want to smoke will continue to do so, and therefore in the meantime we must try to make them accept cigarettes of the kind that will do them less harm.

Of course I do not expect the tobacco industry to destroy itself. No one could expect that. I hope that the tobacco industry will diversify and move in other directions. There must be, as soon as possible, an early agreement between the Government and the industry. One cannot expect any industry readily to take the means to extinguish itself—that is altogether too altruistic. On the other hand, the Government probably will not be able to achieve everything that they want unless they are prepared to legislate. If they will not legislate, they will have to make some kind of agreement. The time for talking should soon be over and a tougher agreement should be made and put into effect. I accept that more low-tar cigarettes will save many lives, but no cigarette smoking will save even more. In our imperfect world it is better to reap what advantage we can and not delay too long. Habits take many years to alter, and the sooner we start the better.

My fourth point about the unequal battle between the amount spent on advertising cigarettes and that spent on discouraging them, is primarily for the Government. It is fair to say that the industry itself seems willing to co-operate with measures that have the objective of educating smokers about the nature and extent of the alleged hazards, and the ways in which such hazards to health might be reduced.

I contend that there should be more effective health education in schools. Children must be actively encouraged not to smoke. It is difficult to prevent schoolchildren from buying cigarettes when there are such large numbers of outlets. Far too many vending machines are readily available. Perhaps the Secretary of State will look at that area in the negotiations that he has with the industry.

For many children—and not only children—forbidden fruits are even more attractive. In my schooldays—unfortunately now long gone—smoking cigarettes was very daring. That might seem rather old-fashioned in the so-called enlightened time in which we now live, but daring to smoke, like other vices, seems to start earlier and earlier, and this underlines the greater need for an intensified education programme. If some children start smoking at five, and if about one-third of all adult smokers began smoking at nine, the need for education is more obvious. We know that 80 per cent. of children who smoke regularly continue to do so when they grow up. It seems clear that the earlier in life that a person begins to smoke regularly, the greater the risk of his or her early death.

The fact that education or knowledge can be effective is shown by the reduction in smoking in certain social classes. For example, we have discovered that in social classifications " A " and " B "—those people who would be expected to read the kind of newspapers or articles that point out the dangers of smoking—the numbers who smoke have dropped off considerably. That clearly underlines the point. Where there is a true realisation of the danger there can be progress as a result of a proper education programme.

On the other hand, it is also clear that millions of people still smoke—the latest estimate is about 18 million. It is therefore clear that current policies of discouragement are not sufficiently effective. We should make a fundamental reassessment to ensure that there is an even greater impact on those who smoke.

Many people find that a cigarette is an aid to relaxation. Many also find that smoking is addictive. It will prove difficult to alter habits which, in many cases, began in childhood. As a start, we might encourage the provision of more nonsmoking areas. I should like to see hospitals and other health premises designated as non-smoking, or mainly non-smoking areas. For those who feel that they must have a cigarette if they are to avoid a nervous breakdown, areas could be set aside on the premises. I cannot see why non-smokers should be subjected to smoke in hospitals, where the aim is to make patients feel better.

Smoking restrictions are spreading. However, they are still inadequate. There should be many more non-smoking areas. I accept that some hon. Members might disagree with that and that this is a controversial subject. The smoker may argue that he or she is entitled to his or her enjoyment. However, I would argue that our enjoyment is reduced by the quantity of cigarette smoke that we are forced to inhale. The smoker can and does annoy and offend others. In that respect, the non-smoker does not. We have therefore tried to put forward our point of view. The smoker should restrict his smoking and should remember that he has a certain public duty to do so.

I am aware that smoking clinics are not entirely satisfactory. They no longer achieve the successes of the past. I should like to see further investigation into ways of discouraging smoking. The Health Service will benefit handsomely if the amount of money spent on looking after those who become ill as a result of smoking, is reduced. The Government and industry may find that that is the most controversial aspect.

Something must be done about the promotion of cigarettes. There has been considerable resistance to some of the ideas that have been put forward. However, I think that I understand the problems facing this industry. I recognise that it needs to advertise and to promote the lower-level tar brands. However, more must be done to avoid making smoking attractive to the young. In particular, smoking should not appear to the young to be socially acceptable.

Does my hon. Friend believe that it is the task of the Government to lay down what legal behaviour is socially acceptable? If the House were to adopt that principle the Government would be placed in an undesirable position.

I am not advocating that. Many things are socially unacceptable but do no harm. Thousands of people die as a result of smoking. In addition, there is an enormous cost to our economy. The House should address itself to that problem and embark on a programme of education.

I have listened carefully to my hon. Friend's speech, and I am impressed by his remarks. However, his argument is illogical. It may be a matter of debate whether alcohol is socially acceptable. However, it is beyond dispute that it can cause great harm. Where do we stop? Should we ban alcohol?

I am not advocating a total ban on cigarette advertising. If my hon. Friend is saying that we should not promote alcohol, I agree. Indeed, I am guilty of that vice. I am not advocating total prohibition. We are responsible members of society. We are supposed to be leaders of opinion. We should neglect our duty if we did not point out great dangers to society.

I support the hon. Gentleman's argument, but I disagree with the hon. Member for Knutsford (Mr. Bruce-Gardyne). The Government intervene in many ways. It is illegal for dogs to desecrate our pavements.

It is illegal to throw litter about. Such laws may not be properly enforced, but the Government try to protect their citizens against those things which the majority find offensive.

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his remarks. Cigarettes may be advertised in cinemas only when " X " films are being shown. However, many children manage to see such films. The latest study shows that 54 per cent. of cinema audiences are under the age of 21. A further 20 per cent. are between the ages of 25 and 35. An enormous number of those who go to the cinema are in a vulnerable age group, and should be protected.

There are other forms of promotion, such as gift tokens. They may not be so immediately attractive to the young. The firm of Philip Morris, manufacturers of Marlboro and Chesterfield cigarettes, has entered into an agreement with the National Union of Students to promote Chesterfield cigarettes. It has sent personalised letters to young people, inviting them to join Club Marlboro. Membership entitles the young person to discounts on records, tapes, entrance tickets to discos, sporting events, and so on.

I accept that the industry is embarrassed by this move, but this promotion has come to my attention during the past few weeks, and it is a matter for concern. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will not accept that company's attitude. A spokesman for Philip Morris said:
" Everything we do is done within the spirit of the code and within the letter of the code."
It is clearly not within the spirit of the code, and such activity should be dispensed with. I hope that my right hon. Friend will do something about it.

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will emphasise that that company does not comply with the terms of the voluntary code. Its advertising always creates the impression that smoking and healthy behaviour go together. Such image-making is deliberately in contravention of the existing code.

I hope that my right hon. Friend will note those remarks. Advertising, whether in cinemas, through promotions, or on posters, plays a crucial role in making smoking acceptable to the young. A new agreement must be made that removes some of those dangers. The Government's overall aim should be to reduce the number of smokers. In the meantime we must do all that we can to encourage those who smoke to smoke those brands that will do the least harm.

I do not suggest strong and immediate legislation. I accept that it will take time and that we must be fair to smokers and to those who work in the tobacco industry. We must work for time to allow habits to change, for education to be effective, for the tobacco industry to diversify and for tobacco planters to find something else to produce. In our society, Governments have to allow that time, even though it will mean that many people will still suffer from the effects of cigarette smoking.

I hope that I have said enough to justify my motion. If it is too mild for some, that is because I am a realist and am aware that smoking cannot be stopped overnight, but that a longer process of education is needed. However, I believe that the motion will have widespread support, even among smokers. I believe that it represents a further step in the policies pursued by successive Governments.

I hope that those who feel that the motion is too mild will support it nevertheless, and that those who are inclined to oppose it will reflect on the appalling toll that cigarette smoking has produced, is producing and, unfortunately, will produce. On that note, I commend the motion to the House.

10.11 am

I congratulate the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Fry) not only on the subject of his motion, but on the admirable way in which he presented it. My first impression was that the motion was too timid, but I think that the hon. Gentleman was right to frame his motion as he has, because I do not believe that any hon. Member, however much he may disagree with the stronger arguments of some, could disagree with the motion. It is important that the House should go on record as supporting the motion.

I am delighted that the Secretary of State is to reply to the debate. He has had a busy week and although I have not agreed with everything that he has been doing, I welcome the fact that he and his Under-Secretary, both of whom have played an important part in this matter, are here for the debate.

This is an appropriate time for the debate, because the Government are involved in discussions with the industry. I have a natural interest in that because my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, East (Mr. Moyle) and I negotiated the three-year agreement that is continuing, pending the outcome of the current negotiations. This is also an oppropriate time for the debate because the Finance Bill is about to go into Committee.

The most important reason for the debate is that there are still some who fail to face the facts of the dangers of smoking. I was a very heavy smoker until the facts came to my attention and I know how hard it is to give up the weed. I shall refer later to the fact that many smokers would like to be able to give up smoking. Many smokers argue that because they are still alive the medical evidence cannot be right. Of course, all heavy smokers have not yet died, but the assumption that they will not do so,

and probably early in life, cannot be accepted.

The right hon. Gentleman says that many heavy smokers die. But so do we all.

Yes, but often we die in old age. One of the tragedies of smokers is that at least 50,000 every year—there are claims that the figure is 85,00—die prematurely, leaving widows or orphans. That is a serious social problem.

We have a responsibility to put over the facts. Smoking contributes to many causes of death. Coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death in this country. In 1978, more than 92,000 men and 68,000 women died of that disease. Among those under the age of 65, it was much more likely that they would die if they were smokers. That is the straight answer to the point raised by the hon. Member for Knutsford (Mr. Bruce-Gardyne).

The case on lung cancer is even more overwhelming. Britain leads the world in lung cancer deaths. It is the cause of 40 per cent. of all cancer deaths in men and of 10 per cent. of all cancer deaths in women. There is no doubt that smoking is the principal cause of lung cancer. It also affects cancer of the pancreas, the kidney and the urinary tracts. All are known to be much more likely in smokers than in non-smokers.

A fact that pregnant women often fail to recognise is that if they are smokers, and particularly if they smoke during pregnancy, they cause serious dangers to their unborn children. Thousands of children are either not born or are born deformed because their mothers have smoked during pregnancy.

I am glad that the hon. Member for Wellingborough emphasised the importance of education among young people. Among an average 1,000 young smokers, one will be murdered, six will be killed on the roads and 250 will die before their time as a result of tobacco smoking. The hon. Member was right to point out that the greatest danger is to the young. Those who smoke longest are in most danger and those who start as youngsters find it more difficult to give up than do those who start smoking as young adults.

The Secretary of State will accept that smoking imposes an enormous charge on the NHS. When I was Secretary of State the figure was £85 million—it may be higher by now—as a direct result of treating cases that were caused by smoking. We cannot slough off such arguments. The problem is what the Government should do. Some things are obvious. Education is the most important task. The facts must be made known. It seems that we shall have to start in the House, with at least one hon. Member. When I was Secretary of State we gave additional financial assistance to the Health Education Council and ASH and I pay tribute to the way in which they, on a budget that I accept was much too small, have been bearing the burden of education and producing material for use in schools and so on. I hope that the Secretary of State will be able to tell us something about how that aspect is to be treated in future.

On the point of education and starting in the House, has my right hon. Friend any information about any hon. Member over the past 15 or 20 years whose cause of death has been not smoking, but excessive smoking?

I have not done any research on that matter, but I should be surprised if excessive smoking had not been the cause of death of some hon. Members. In the House, where people work long hours, sometimes under considerable pressure, there is too much smoking. Sometimes there is too much drinking as well, but that is another question. Perhaps there is evidence, but I do not have it.

Evidence about the degree of smoking is contained in the last report of the Royal College of Physicians on smoking.

That is extremely helpful. In addition, anyone who wants to know the facts can get in touch with the Health Education Council or ASH, which have a great deal of information.

Should the Government consider banning smoking? I am certain that they should not. There is no point in having a law which one knows will be broken. That is like the application of prohibition in the United States. People who are hooked on the weed will go on smoking, irrespective of what the law says. I doubt whether anyone will argue that there should be such a ban. It would be an infringement of people's liberties. If people want to take poison they are free to do so.

Should smoking be banned in certain places? I supported the Ten-Minute Bill promoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. Sever) seeking to ban smoking in cinemas and theatres. There are also arguments— they were not in that Bill—for going beyond that and including cafes. A great deal more could be done voluntarily to deal with smoking in public places.

As Secretary of State I was in touch with a large number of organisations on this subject. I have no doubt that Ministers will have seen the approaches that we in the Labour Government made to British Rail, London Transport and large numbers of local authorities. The response was most encouraging. As public opinion changes—and it is changing rapidly towards more Government action—there will be a greater response.

Should the Government increase the duty on cigarettes? This is one of the most important approaches. It became clear from a meeting of the other Common Market Ministers in which I participated that control by price was the most effective way of dealing with the problem. I admit that that hits those with small pockets, but we have to consider what has happened over the years, and that covers our period of our government, too.

The cost of cigarettes has fallen in real terms. We have to ensure that cigarette duty increases, therefore. If the Chancellor were now to add 10p rather than 5p to cigarettes—I hope that he will put forward an amendment to the Finance (No. 2) Bill to that effect—he would raise well over £100 million in extra revenue. I believe that the public were expecting something more than 5p and would not have been surprised at 10p extra or horrified at an additional 15p. If the Chancellor had gone for a 10p rise he would have been able to put an extra £1 a week on child benefit instead of 75p, and if he had raised it by 15p child benefit could have risen by an extra £1·20. Alternatively he could have dropped his increase in prescription charges, and that would have made much more sense in health and welfare terms. The Chancellor displayed a strange sense of priorities, and I hope that he will still feel able to respond to the pressures upon him to raise the duty.

Would it not be helpful if both sides of the House could agree to join forces to persuade the Chancellor to take both tobacco and drink out of the cost of living index? Their inclusion in it imposes a restraint on any Chancellor in putting up the price of those items.

This is not a matter between the two sides of the House. However, I agree with the hon. Gentleman that such a move would be likely to enable the Chancellor more easily to do what he ought to, that is, increase the duty on cigarettes.

At an all-party meeting on the subject in the Palace of Westminster a majority of hon. Members present were in favour of what the hon. Gentleman suggested. However, others said that if we began to meddle with RPI, taking out this or that item, its credibility would be undermined. The right hon. Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins) advanced this argument during the debate on the Budget Statement, and the Chancellor said that he was prepared to consider it.

The most important question is whether the Government should seek a new voluntary agreement with the industry. I and my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, East entered into a three-year agreement in 1977. Hon. Members may argue about how effective it has been, but it certainly had some effect on the proportion of the public that smokes. Only now are we able to say that the majority of adults are non-smokers. When we non-smokers were in a minority we were in a weaker position. The agreement also had its effect upon cigarette output. High tar cigarettes have virtually disappeared. However, these are marginal aspects. The prime consideration is that in the last three years public attitudes towards smoking have changed enormously. That change enables the Government to make fairly hefty proposals to the industry and to be dissatisfied with only a modest response.

The Secretary of State agrees that public attitudes have substantially changed, and he knows that such a change is crucial. Governments cannot act against the will of the public, and if the public are moving in our direction we have a responsibility to provide leadership.

Let me give two striking examples. On 2 March this year The Sunday Times published an opinion poll showing that 73 per cent. of those questioned thought that all cigarette advertising should be banned. Many of those giving that view were smokers. We sometimes forget the number of smokers who wish that they were not and who want the Government and the community to help them in their difficult task of stopping. We have all met a number of people who have said that they have tried several times to give up but something has gone wrong—a row with the wife or something like that—and they have gone back to the habit. We must help those who want to stop.

The second example is that 18 months ago there was an anti-smoking programme on television in the " Reports Action " series put out by Granada nation-wide. It showed the dangers of smoking and told viewers who wanted to give up the habit to write to an address to get a kit to help them. The address was for ASH which expected 10,000 or 15,000 viewers to show an interest. Well over 600,000 smokers who wanted to stop smoking sought advice as to how they should do so. I believe that one of our responsibilities is to help that group of people. If 600,000 smokers watched the programme, we should think of all the other smokers who want to stop, but who did not watch the programme. That is a major point.

I am sure that the three-year agreement is at present wearing thin. The hon. Gentleman mentioned health warnings. We had a battle to get the health warning strengthened. However, I believe that people have become so accustomed to seeing the health warning in exactly the same terms, and exactly the same position on the packet or the poster, that they now virtually ignore it. That is why I agree that any new agreement must contain a stronger health warning, a larger health warning and a more direct and clear warning. It should not just be about the generalisation of causing damage to health but should also be more specific. Perhaps we can do what the Swedes have done and have a variety of different health warnings. But I fear that, because of the passage of time, the health warning has simply worn thin.

Certainly, the agreement has worn thin, and I need not go over the ground again. I thought the agreement reached between Philip Morris and the National Union of Students was disgraceful. It was in absolute conflict with the terms of the agreement which has been made with the industry, which stated:
" The essence of the code is that advertisements should not seek to encourage people, particularly the young, to start smoking ".
The agreement reached with the National Union of Students, whose members are by definition young, is an absolute breach of that. I was delighted to see that Sir Douglas Black, the president of the Royal College of Physicians, made a protest about it. I hope that many other hon. Members will do so as well. Not only is it a protest against Philip Morris, but I believe that the National Union of Students has shown itself to be naive in the extreme by becoming involved in a tactic such as that. Therefore, any new agreement must be a major step forward.

A few months ago, it was reported that the Government wanted a number of things. It was called a shopping list. First, they wanted an end to all outdoor posters. That is absolutely right. I do not know the figures, but it seems to me that there are now more cigarette posters on the hoardings than I have ever seen before. Whether the companies knew that the hon. Gentleman would table this motion, or whether there was some other reason, there seems to have been a great step-up in advertising. I am sure that the Government are right, and I hope that they will include posters on the London Underground as well.

Secondly, the Government wanted an end to all remaining advertisements on TV and in the cinema. That would cover cigars, pipes and so on, the dangers of which are nothing like as great. Thirdly, they wanted a cut in all other advertising. I am talking about the press, magazines and so on. I do not know whether it is proposed to have a phased cut over a year or so, or even three years. Fourthly, they wanted a tougher, more expressive and committed health warning.

That was a good shopping list. If they are able to achieve such an agreement with the industry, the Government will have done well. I believe that that is what they should do. For myself, I would go for a phased ending of all advertising, except at the point of sale, and an end to all forms of sports sponsorship. To me, there is nothing more grotesque than to see those who promote death-creating substances sponsoring sporting events, when they know perfectly well that the vast majority of sportsmen are non-smokers, or they would not be able to succeed in their sportsmanship. Therefore, I hope that the Government will seek that sort of tough agreement.

However, I am frightened that such an agreement may be a bit limp. One or two concessions may be made, there may be two or three small steps forward and we arrive at another three-year agreement which is not much better than the previous one. Frankly, that would be worse than useless. If the industry is prepared only to give something modest, I do not believe that the Government should accept an agreement beyond one year. It would be absolutely wrong to get ourselves in a position whereby, in a sense, things were frozen because of a three or four-year agreement with the industry, as a result of which this House would be denied the right to lead public opinion in a direction in which the industry did not want to go.

Why should the industry object to the proposals which one suspects the Government have put forward? The industry says that its only objective is to influence smokers in their choice of brands, and that it is not seeking to increase the number of people who smoke. It argues that the huge advertising campaign is about who smokes what. It that were so, I believe that advertising at the point of sale would be adequate, and that there would be no need for massive expenditure on poster advertisements. Frankly, I do not believe the argument which is used by the industry. I fear that its aim is to get more and more people to smoke, and that some parts of the industry want to get more and more young people to smoke, because they recognise that the earlier one gets hooked the harder it is to stop.

With the majority of the public behind them—and every opinion poll suggests that people want the Government to take strong action, including millions of smokers who want help in giving it up—I urge the Government to be firm and, in the words of the motion, " to make new initiatives ". I hope that will be done in the Finance (No. 2) Bill. I hope that more will be done to help the Health Education Council and ASH in mounting an active and virile education programme. I hope that they will take a tough line on advertising and try to achieve an absolute end to all sports sponsorship.

I believe that the Government will find support from all sides of the House. I know that some hon. Members will oppose them, but the Government will have support from all sides of the House and the public in pursuing that sort of programme.

10.37 am

I apologise for speaking, particularly in this debate, with a sore throat but, sadly, even non-smokers such as myself occasionally suffer from sore throats.

I wish to speak very briefly in support of the motion so eloquently and convincingly put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Fry). I believe that most right hon. and hon. Members will agree that smoking is bad for health and that it is certainly not good for health. I appreciate the strong feelings on both sides of the argument about whether smoking should be prevented, and by how much it should be prevented. I believe strongly in the basic freedom of people to smoke, should they wish to do so, so long as they are made aware of the dangers. Therefore, I am against prohibition. On the other hand, there is a much more basic and fundamental right, namely, the right to breathe fresh air and-the freedom not to smoke. I believe that it is the clear duty of the Government to uphold that basic right.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough was correct not to press the Government on legislation to prevent smoking, but I feel that they should make a greater effort to show people, especially the young, the dangers that exist in tobacco smoking. Secondly, I believe that the Government should consider legislation on non-smoking areas, particularly enclosed, confined public spaces, such as lifts, cinemas, waiting rooms and, indeed, the Committee Rooms and Dining Room of this House—a place where we are fortunate to have a specific Smoking Room set aside.

Finally, I both thank and congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough on raising and presenting this important motion. Like the right hon. Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Ennals), I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for attending this debate. I sincerely hope that they will not ignore the appeals of my hon. Friend and of those who, like myself, wish to have the freedom not to smoke, and that they will take measures to reduce the encouragement to smoke now given to the public and to the young of this nation.

In closing, I apologise to right hon. and hon. Members for having to leave the Chamber in a few seconds to attend to outside duties.

10.41 am

The whole House will welcome the speech made by the hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Browne) and will especially congratulate the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Fry) on choosing this subject for debate. I echo the words of my right hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Ennals) in praising the comprehensive manner in which the hon. Gentleman introduced this subject. The excellence of his speech, followed immediately by the comprehensive response by my right hon. Friend, reminds me of our late colleague Nye Bevan, who said " When you have listened to such a comprehensive debate as that, you have to be able to stand up and pretend to say the same things a different way time and again ". That is our problem. The argument has been made out so fully that all one can do is to seek to underline a few of the points that have been made.

I regret that the hon. Member for Wellingborough made a comparatively weak ending to his introduction of the motion. As he recognised, he could be accused of a little timidity. Knowing the industry as I do—I know it very well—and the tremendous pressures from the £80 million interests in advertising, I am sure that the hon. Gentleman was able to get a lot of advice on what he should do. It is to his credit that he has not been nobbled as far as he could have been in the advice that he must have had in the period between deciding to choose this subject and now.

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on choosing a controversial subject. It would be so easy for an hon. Member who was lucky enough to have his name drawn out of the hat to choose a subject that would be popular and socially acceptable—for example, services for the disabled. It says much for his courage that he has chosen a subject that puts him at the centre of controversy.

I have a long record on this matter. I start my comments with an appeal that I have often made in similar debates. I introduced the first Bill to put warnings on cigarette packets, in 1966. It did not take place then, and I have introduced other Bills on the same and similar subjects. There is no problem about finding the right formula for doing it. The British Medical Association has been campaigning for the last eight or nine years to have printed on packets the kind of words that would be significant in medical terms. I know that the Secretary of State has plenty of advice on that matter.

I appeal to hon. Members, in their approach to this subject, not to be swayed by their own personal feelings, one way or the other. Colleagues who smoke often feel that it is morally wrong and therefore they adopt a psychologically defensive position. Those who have given it up—I say this with respect to my right hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North, who does not fall into this category—are often so priggish that they are inclined to annoy the rest of us. This is a health debate. It is matter of vital concern. Therefore, we must ignore outside moral attitudes if we are to be effective.

We are concerned with human suffering that can be avoided. Those who know about health problems appreciate that there is a whole range of diseases, pain and sickness that we are unable to stop or avoid, but this is a problem that we can stop or avoid. Sir George Godber, a former Chief Medical Officer, alerted the House many years ago to the fact that smoking was a major problem for which we could have prevention rather than cure if only we adopted the right attitude. Sir George, despite his retirement, is still campaigning heavily. In a recent letter to The Times his advice to his previous Department was:
" If forceful, tough, voluntary restrictions are not accepted by the industry, then legislation would have to follow."
In response to the point made by the hon. Member for Wellingborough, I doubt whether the Secretary of State will be able to get strength and muscle into any agreement unless there is the possibility that he has not ruled out the idea that failing such agreement legislation will follow.

Some of my colleagues have referred to addiction. When I served on the Medical Research Council, it had two units looking into addictive problems. The area of concern is psychological as well as physiological. Some of us have friends who have been cigarette addicts and have, as a result, suffered the loss of a lung. A friend of mine has suffered that problem in the last four weeks. It is painful to witness the agony and post-operative depression that occurs in a smoker. At the bedside one wonders " How can I help this person? " One knows that the suffering is the result of that person's addiction to smoking over many years. Having lost a lung, such a person knows that he must not smoke, but the addiction, like any other addiction, is very strong.

Mark Twain once said that there was no problem about stopping smoking; he did it three or four times every week. That is what happens. On 1 January every year many smokers decide that they will either not smoke or that they will smoke less. It usually lasts until about 10 January, when they start smoking again.

Apart from the tributes that have been paid to the Health Education Council for its work and advice on the effects of smoking on health, and to ASH, I should like to pay tribute to a new unit that has emerged at the Kingston polytechnic. I refer to the work of Drs. Robert East and Bridget Towers. I hope that hon. Members will read the two booklets that they have published as a result of their studies. They are concerned with how to stop smoking and how to advise personnel officers in factories on promoting nonsmoking campaigns. I shall follow up the information that I have received.

I have the good fortune to share with the hon. Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir G. Young) the Park Royal estate, where there are many large concerns, including Guinness, United Biscuits, and Heinz with its 57 varieties. I shall be mounting a campaign with personnel managers in those factories in the hope that this excellent advice can be put into effect.

I am a bit scared of statistics. They roll off Member's tongues, because we are inundated with them, like water off a duck's back. I come back mainly to the question, not of lung cancer, which has the highlight, but of emphysema and bronchitis. I give these statistics with some diffidence. In 1978, 16,793 men and 5,870 women died of bronchitis and emphysema. The important point is that these people often had years of disability prior to their deaths. I invite hon. Members of all parties to visit a chest ward. I could make arrangements for visits to Westminster hospital, St. Thomas hospital or the Central Middlesex hospital to see people who are dying, who know that they have only two or three weeks to live, who are struggling for every breath they take and are coughing their hearts out. Human suffering of that kind should not be permitted in a civilised society. We should have the courage to do everything that we can to mitigate it.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North referred to some figures, but the House should know that there have been great changes in the statistics on deaths of females from lung cancer and lung diseases. The statistics show that, in the past, females have suffered mainly from cancer of the breast, but in recent years the figures for deaths from lung cancer have mounted, and the graph is rising, because the war generation females who smoked are now bringing in their harvest. There is now 16 times more likelihood of females contracting lung cancer than breast cancer. There will be a colossal change in the incidence of diseases from smoking among females in the next 10 years.

Like the hon. Member for Wellingborough, I wish to concentrate on the young. Figures have been quoted by my right hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North. If we could stop children from starting to smoke at the age of four, there would not be 34 per cent.—the figure he quoted—of children smoking at the age of 11 and 12, and we should be making a tremendous inroad.

I shall not repeat the case, because the point has been made by previous speakers, but the promotion of cigarettes through sporting activities in indefensible. Youngsters indulge in sporting activities, they identify with their heroes and they are being subjected to the promotion of cigarette sales. Here I part company from the hon. Member for Wellingborough, because the only way in which we shall secure a change is by ensuring, by legislation, that it is not permitted.

Before my hon. Friend leaves the question of young people—all hon. Members realise the importance of this—I am sure he is aware that the evidence shows that children are much more likely to smoke if their parents smoke, and are more likely to smoke at a young age if both their parents smoke.

My right hon. Friend is right. One area of concern can be remedied without legislation. An example should be set, especially when a child or adolescent is going through a certain amount of hero worship, which happens with both sexes. Smoking in the home, children seeing their heroes smoking on television and in films is all part of the pattern that creates the idea that it is a good thing to smoke, and children like to identify themselves with their parents.

I am concerned about smoking by nurses. About 50 per cent. of nurses smoke because they are under constant pressure and because there is a constant demand for their services. This is a matter of grave concern, and I commend the Nursing Mirror for the excellent approach that it is taking to try to bring the facts to nurses.

Patients often tend to reward nurses by giving them cigarettes.

I think that the whole House would commend the efforts being made by the nursing profession. I particularly commend to nurses the symposium that was held in Scotland, which was opened by Dr. R. F. Robertson, president of the Royal College of Physicians in Edinburgh. A number of papers were presented, and nurses attended and were able to contribute to the debate.

In the present negotiations, the industry will run rings around the DHSS unless it is really tough. I have a high regard for Messrs. Gallaher. Sometimes that company is a little bit of a rogue elephant in relation to the pressures of its competitors, but the management has been kind enough to let me look at its research from time to time. The company is spending £4½ million on research, as are Imperial Tobacco, British American Tobacco and Carreras. Any company that manufactures diesease-free cigarettes hits the jackpot, so the money being spent on research could be a good investment.

The last time that I looked at the results of Gallaher's research I discovered that when methods of reducing the incidence of lung diseases by various devices in the paper and filter of cigarettes are used, these is an increase in the number of coronaries. The incidence of coronaries can be decreased, but the incidence of lung diseases will be increased. That left me with the conclusion that the only safe cigarette is the one that never leaves the packet.

There has been legislation on cigarette smoking in Finland, Norway and Ireland. If the Secretary of State wishes to take action, he does not have to wait until next Session to do so. My hon. Friend the Member for Crewe (Mrs. Dun-woody) has a Bill before the House that will receive its Second Reading on 24 July. That Bill is drafted in the same terms as an Act that is on the statute book in the Republic of Ireland. It does not seek to ban advertising, but it gives the Secretary of State a tremendous monitoring responsibility, and it would enable him to do much.

In these arguments, a smokescreen of ambiguity is always erected by the industry, and particularly by the muscle men in advertising. I urge the Secretary of State to be as tough as possible and to give the House a statement of victory for the health of ordinary people. When he makes that statement, I ask him to consider giving the House a proper opportunity to discuss the matter further—and not simply allow the usual half hour of questions. The House will give him all its good wishes in his negotiations, and we hope that he will get the success that he deserves.

10.58 am

I join right hon. and hon. Members who have already spoken in congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Fry) on bringing forward the motion. It gives us an opportunity not to stay within the narrow confines of smoking and advertising. This is a much broader debate. It has already been said that the debate is about the health of the nation and the attitude of the Government towards that health.

I declare an interest. I am the patron of the European Organisation for the Control of Circulatory Diseases. As many hon. Members know, I am also involved with the House of Commons Gymnasium. I have been looking round the Chamber while the debate has been proceeding to see how many members of that Gymnasium are present. Sadly, many of those present today are not members of the Gymnasium, but I hope that they will follow through the natural logic and take part in its activities in the near future.

If we lived in a perfect world, I could lay down rules that would help to ensure perfect fitness for everyone. There would be no smoking and no drinking; everyone would exercise daily; and everyone would be a member of the House of Commons Bicycle Club. That would be a perfect world, and I am sure that the Under-Secretary of State would be delighted to be a part of it. We might be allowed a few peanuts daily from his ration.

But we do not live in a perfect world. We know only too well the problems that are related to smoking. We know about the incidence of lung cancer—the worst and most horrible disease. We know the number of people who die from heart diseases as a result of smoking, and we also know the effect on pregnant women if they continue to smoke a large number of cigarettes during their pregnancies. Those facts are completely irrefutable, but the Government walk into a minefield when they try to consider what can be done about the problem. We can point to the problems and health hazards that arise from smoking, but that can be done in many other areas, also.

There are people, not only in Britain but throughout the Western world, in particular, who belong to a lobby that knows best. I had the privilege—sometimes it was a privilege—of being a member of the Public Health and Environment Committee of the European Parliament for about five years. That Committee had many members who were absosolutely fanatical about protecting what they considered to be public health and the consumer interest. They were self-appointed guardians of public health and the consumer interest. I shall always remember one meeting at which we were discussing the environmental and consumer programme for the following year. This had been commissioned, and a report had been prepared. Within that report part of one paragraph read, quite simply:
" until such time as all television advertising can be banned completely."
Once one starts down that road, I wonder where one really stops. That is the minefield in which the Secretary of State is really operating, in whatever line he takes in his negotiations with the tobacco companies.

Does the hon Gentleman agree, nevertheless, that it was the European Assembly itself that changed the harmonisation rules on tobacco, the way in which cigarettes were sold, and the taxation arrangements, in such a way that in Britain we now have a system of taxation that is connected with weight and that makes it easier for people to smoke more nicotine than before? That was done by the Assembly, and the Public Health and Environment Committee did not even discuss it.

I fully accept the hon. Lady's knowledge in this area. If that is so, however, I consider that it is something that should have been raised in this House. Instructions should have been given to the then Minister to block such legislation. I certainly do not want to encourage smoking; I want to discourage it.

I return to my main theme. If we are to take individual items that affect the health of the nation, why do we single out tobacco? Why do we not move on, quite naturally, to the next item, which is alcohol? How many people die from alcoholism? Once one starts, where does one stop?

There is no question but that although lung cancer and the effect on heart disease and bronchitis from tobacco smoking is horrifying, the general effects of alcoholism on the health of the nation are just as bad.

I find the hon. Gentleman's argument very unimpressive. Of course we could produce a motion—I hope that we shall have legislation eventually—on the Blennerhassett report on drinking and driving. It is wrong to suggest that because we are talking today about smoking many of us are not concerned about excessive drinking, especially drinking and driving. I am convinced, as I hope the hon. Gentleman is, that we must be much tougher in that respect, in terms of the implementation of that report. Therefore, that argument does not wash. The wearing of seat belts is another example.

I fully accept all that has been said, but if we once start, where do we stop? We cannot act on this narrow front alone.

One of the areas in which the Department ought to be doing very much more is in the incidence of heart disease. If every year 150,000 people die from heart disease, something must be done. All I ask is, where does one make a start? Of course, we need a code of conduct, which requires to be implemented as strongly as possible, but there is a warning in this, because we could move into a State operation that includes everything that the Minister of the day, his officials and his Department believe to be wrong, creating a climate in which the individual has no freedom of choice. We are not dealing with that at the moment, but we are dealing with the tip of an iceberg. There are those in the Western world who would follow that course, because they believe that they know best.

I shall not give way, if the right hon. and learned Gentleman does not mind. There are many others who wish to participate in the debate.

I should like to raise two final questions. The first relates to advertising. Here again there is a problem. My wife is a relatively heavy smoker. Five or six years ago she was smoking a brand with a very high tar content. It is not at the point of sale that she has been convinced that she ought to go for a low tar content cigarette; it is through advertising. Therefore, if we ban advertising, or move towards such a ban, are we not making it difficult for those whom we shall never rescue from smoking? I wish that we could recover all 18 million or 19 million of them, but if we did that, should we not then make it more difficult for them to move down the scale in terms of the damage that may be done to them through smoking?

Does the hon. Member recall the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Ennals), that one would not ban at the point of sale? At the point of sale it would be most helpful to know not only about low tar content and nicotine content but about carbon monoxide, which is one of the biggest killers of the lot.

I am afraid that the hon. Member misunderstood what I said. If one confines it only to the point of sale, one does not arrive at a situation in which people will say " I really am looking for a very low tar content cigarette. What can you do to help me?" That is achieved through the continual process. I give credit to everyone who has done that over the years, including the tobacco companies, in advertising low tar content cigarettes.

Finally, I turn to the subject of new smoking material, which has been referred to in the debate already. I do not wish to become involved on either side on this matter, but it seems to me that we had a positive opportunity there to help those who smoke reduce the risk to themselves. I do not know what went wrong with it. There was a suggestion that the Government of the day could and should have given more support to new smoking material and than it might have taken off. Therefore, I ask my right hon. Friend what proposal he has within his Department to take up again the idea of new smoking material and to give positive encouragement to it.

As I have said, we live in an imperfect world. None of us believes that we can completely eradicate smoking. That is an impossible task. We should discourage people from smoking as much as we possibly can. I shall do all in my power to take part in any campaign that would do that, but it must be within the art of the possible and not the impossible.

11.8 am

As a family medical practitioner over 25 years, I shall refrain from the temptation to deal with the medico-economic and the medico-social aspects of the great problem that we are discussing. I congratulate the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Fry) on bringing this matter to our attention.

There remains considerable doubt about the person who deserves praise or condemnation for introducing the tobacco plant into Europe. Initially it gained popularity as a medicinal product, being used to treat fevers, and it soon became known as herbe panacea—the all-healing preparation. It was apparently very valuable, and no doubt sometimes effective when either ingested or inhaled, or even when applied externally for the treatment of internal disorders. Raleigh cultivated it on his Irish estates, and he, in the true American Indian fashion, smoked the drug in a pipe.

It was a novel and soon fashionable habit, which caught on rapidly. Its pleasurable effects soon made people who indulged quite dependent upon seeking the pleasure and possibly the safety of such pleasurable states almost addictively and compulsively. Even then it was not without its harsh critics, for it was regarded by many as damaging memory, imagination and understanding.

Even 400 years ago fears were expressed about tobacco's adverse effects upon the young. James I, by the early seventeenth century, was particularly critical, comparing its addictive effect with that of alcohol and summing up his atitude in the phrase " that stinking loathsome thing ". He increased the tax on its importation—he was a very brave man—by 40 times, from two pence to 80 pence. Perhaps we could emulate him, not going to quite that degree but certainly moving in that direction. He tried to make sure that only the rich could afford this category of importation. However, he feared to ban it outright, for he felt, no doubt correctly, that its legal prohibition would lead to widespread smuggling.

James I then fell to the temptation that has been with us ever since. He realised that, while basically tobacco smoking has undoubted deleterious effects, the phenomenon was on the increase, irrespective of what action he took. Being at the time, as his successors have been practically ever since, short of revenue, he found that by raising tobacco imports he was on to a very useful and increasing source of revenue, which people who liked the stuff were prepared to pay quietly and regularly. Thus began the scourge that has led to the present-day dangers and damage to health that we are pertinently and almost imperatively discussing today.

By 1620 this country's import bill for tobacco, mainly from our own colonists in the state of Virginia, who had found the geographical conditions ideal to grow and exploit the plant, was in the region of £600,000. At least for the time being, if people had to buy the stuff they were buying British, thus apparently ensuring that both the revenue and the quality were of a high standard.

As the seventeenth century progressed and some smokers were living to a ripe old age, whatever that happened to be in those days, it seemed that the original suspicions about the dangers of the drug, such as the disastrous effects that it was supposed to have upon the powers of procreation, were slowly disappearing, and the smoking habit more or less passed the safety of medicines legislation of those days. There is no doubt that tobacco smoking does not, or should not, pass the safety of medicines legislation of the 1980s.

Thus, the tobacco trade assumed full respectability nearly 300 years ago—a respectability that it was to hold almost unchallenged for well over 250 years of that long span. Now it is being severely challenged, but Governments—not only this Government but their immediate predecessors—are as crafty as James I, back in the early seventeenth century. Governments now are unfortunately acting in just as cowardly a manner. Then, when the tobacco trade meant that about 200 ships were gainfully employed in transatlantic trade, the importation and taxation of tobacco constituted a huge national asset.

The huge quantities now imported and the massive tax are certainly not a national asset. Such practice amounts to a huge national disgrace. The truth is that politicians, who have the power and the privilege to correct such a situation, are fighting shy of it. We have an abundance of words but little effective action, while the bill, in terms of the nation's resources and health morbidity and mortality, is as high and as disgraceful as ever. It gives me great pleasure to support the motion.

11.14 am

I, too, welcome the motion, particularly as it applies to a reduction in the promotion of cigarettes among young people, and I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Fry) on moving it. The more people who stress the dangers of smoking the better, so I shall not apologise for restating the case against cigarette smoking.

A report commissioned by Imperial Tobacco and Gallaher shows that advertising has no effect on the number of cigarettes smoked. The companies, which have probably presented the report to the Government, have omitted to analyse the effect upon young smokers, who are most vulnerable to advertising and are misled when they see smoking depicted as socially acceptable. This must undermine all the health education.

I fail to be convinced by the report. There are no grounds for complacency. We must remember that medical evidence shows that there is an increasing risk of lung cancer to smokers and that the risk increases directly with the number of cigarettes smoked. Even when people smoke between one and 14 cigarettes a day there is an eightfold increase in the chance of contracting lung cancer. If one smokes 25 or more a day, there is a 25-fold increase. Lung cancer is caused almost entirely by smoking. In 1978 almost one-third of the total deaths from lung cancer occurred in people under 65.

Certain substances that are used in industry, such as asbestos, may carry some risk of lung cancer. However, research has shown that a heavy smoker is the person most likely to be affected by traces of other cancer-producing substances to which he might be exposed. Whereas a non-smoker working with asbestos has only a slightly increased risk of lung cancer, the risk to smokers of developing the disease is increased 90 times.

We cannot be complacent, because Britain has the highest rate of lung cancer in the world. Doctors agree that smoking contributes overwhelmingly to the disease. I have given statistics relating to lung cancer, but smoking is also a cause of other major killer diseases, including chronic bronchitis and coronary heart disease. Equally alarming statistics could be produced in relation to those diseases. Other hon. Members have mentioned other diseases that are also smoking-related.

Forty per cent. of heavy smokers die before reaching retirement age, compared with 15 per cent. of non-smokers. That cannot be denied. It has been shown that people who smoke more than 30 cigarettes a day take twice as much time off work as non-smokers. Four times as many days are lost because of smoking as because of industrial action. Illness caused by smoking costs the Health Service £2 million a week.

Can the hon. Lady tell the House the amount of time lost through the common cold? Should we not take an equal interest in prevention of that disease?

Indeed.

This is the background against which the Government are renegotiating their voluntary agreement with the tobacco industry. The existing agreement states that the essence of the code is that advertisements should not seek to encourage people, particularly the young, to start smoking. Yet we have heard that Philip Morris has been concentrating on young people at university. We have also heard that the same firm is promoting Marlboro cigarettes by sending invitations to the public to join a club that provides discounts on records, tapes and tee-shirts and information on learning hang gliding, scuba diving and wind surfing. In order to join the club one must send 10 Marlboro cigarette pack tops. Surely such a club, offering such facilities, will have a particular attraction to young people. Although the starting age for joining is 18, it is still far too young.

It is no wonder the British Medical Association thinks that the present agreement is not working well. Philip Morris's action is another attempt to ally smoking with health activities. We can see that carried to the extreme in sport sponsorships. It is to that form of advertising, to which young people are subjected, that we object most. The Government must stop it. One recent issue of Radio Times showed 10 hours of television time devoted to events sponsored by tobacco companies.

In addition, tobacco companies still advertise in young people's journals. We must remember that 80 per cent. of people who smoke in their teens continue to do so when they are grown up. Even more surprisingly, a third of all adult smokers began to smoke before the age of nine. The earlier in life people start to smoke, the more at risk they are of an early death. Cinemas also cater for a very young audience. It is wrong that, since cigarette advertising has been banned on television, cinema advertising has increased. I think that it should be stopped altogether.

Some people say that the Government will not take strong action. They point to the huge revenues that come to the Exchequer from tobacco taxes and say that the longer people live the more the Government will have to pay in retirement benefits. That is a cynical way of looking at Government action. The Government must show that it is not true. They must be firm.

The Government must remember that in other countries—France, Scandinavia and Ireland—doctors insist that tobacco advertising should be allowed only at the point of sale. People also say that a reduction of smoking would cause unemployment, since 46,000 people are employed in the tobacco industry. However, it is to their credit that tobacco companies have seen the writing on the wall and are already realising that tighter controls in other countries will follow here. They are therefore diversifying, and it would be prudent for them to continue doing so.

Smoking will not, of course, cease overnight. The majority of people who have been smoking for years will continue to do so. However, a general household survey carried out by the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys shows that there has been a decline and that this decline continues. The survey showed that of 22,500 people interviewed, only 41 per cent. were cigarette smokers, with another 5 per cent. smoking cigars or a pipe. That means that the majority of people—54 per cent.—are now non-smokers.

Fortunately, also, there are signs that young people are being attracted to a more healthy way of life and that public attitudes to smoking are changing. This prevailing trend must be encouraged by the Government, particularly in relation to young people.

No one backs the Government more than I do in their commitment to free enterprise, but the Government cannot ignore the fact that health statistics in relation to smoking-related diseases in this country are shocking and alarming when compared with other countries. The World Health Organisation has said that a million more Britons will die by the end of the century unless cigarette smoking is curbed.

Activities of the Government in this respect must be part of the effort to provide a favourable framework for individual decisions on health matters. The desirability of Government action has already been established. There has been an agreement between the DHSS and the Tobacco Advisory Council. That agreement has now come to an end and must be renegotiated. The Government must take this opportunity.

The State always takes responsibility in decisions relating to health matters, but in the last analysis people must be free to decide for themselves. However, they must not be unduly influenced. In 1977 the Health Education Council spent £300,000 on anti-smoking propaganda, while the tobacco manufacturers spent £40 million on advertising. That is obviously not a fair balance.

This is not a moral issue as it relates to the smoker. He is entitled to smoke if he wishes, so long as he knows all the possible consequences. But it is a moral issue for the Government. They are morally obliged to see that young people in particular are not encouraged by these hidden persuaders. It must be remembered that however many people are employed in the industry, it is far fewer than the 50,000 people who die every year as a result of cigarette smoking. The Government must be firm with the Tobacco Advisory Council. They have a great responsibility in this matter.

11.24 am

I join in the congratulations to the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Fry) on the motion. I, too, am pleased that the Secretary of State for Social Services and other Ministers are present for the debate. That is an encouraging sign when so many hon. Members are concerned about the effect of smoking on the health of the nation.

A number of hon. Members clearly feel under attack by those of us who do not smoke. They ask " Are you not trying to stop us smoking, when you have little support for doing so? " The speeches made today have shown that there is abundant evidence that smoking, at the very least, injures health. The injury is less for those who smoke cigars and pipes, but it still exists.

I wish to call in evidence a group of authoritative organisations which have called not only for control but for a total ban on tobacco advertising. This is a formidable body of experienced medical practitioners and medical and health organisations, who are totally committed to a ban. They are the Royal College of Physicians, the British Medical Association, the Health Education Council, the International Union Against Cancer, the International Union Against Tuberculosis, the World Health Organisation's expert committee on smoking control, the World Health Assembly and the all-party Expenditure Committee on preventive medicine. That is a formidable group of worldwide opinion committed to this cause. When we act—or, more correctly, do not act—in the face of such a body of opinion, when we do not introduce advertising control, we imperil the health of the nation.

I hope that Ministers will agree to condemn roundly the activities of the Philip Morris company's promotion of what I understand is called Club Marlboro. This is aimed at encouraging young people to smoke so that they can enter the glamorous world of people who go hang gliding, scuba diving and the rest.

Hang gliding is not the most popular pastime in Birmingham, Ladywood, but even if it were to grow in popularity, few people would be up to it after smoking Philip Morris products. I should think one needs to be pretty fit to jump off a mountain with a hang glider—or whatever the system of propulsion is. The two things are totally incompatible.

As my hon. Friends have said, tobacco advertising at sporting events is growing while the events themselves are promoting healthy activity. This is an alarming conflict. All sorts of sporting activities encourage young people, particularly, to be physically fit and to have a healthy life; on the other hand, while watching the sport they also see advertisements encouraging them to damage their health.

I suspect that other tobacco companies, in this country and elsewhere, will take a dim view of the promotional activities of Philip Morris. I hope that they, through their organisations, will make it clear to the Philip Morris company that they feel that they have a rogue elephant in their ranks. I hope that they will condemn that company's activity.

Various speakers have referred to the facts and figures, to the statistics, and to the reports that have been issued over recent years, all of which have pointed the way to promoting health by reducing the consumption of tobacco. I know that health Ministers have played their part, both in this Administration and in the previous Labour Administration, in encouraging those bodies that are trying to promote health education and discourage the habit of tobacco smoking.

Ministers could do a little more, and I am sure that they recognise that. One specific way would be to adopt the view that has been put forward this morning. They could approach the Chancellor of the Exchequer and explain to him what a considerable effect an increase in revenue would have on the health of the nation. That is a valid point. It is not something that can be undertaken easily, and it will not produce any simple answers, but it would be another tool to fight the campaign that has been mounted by the advertising of these products.

Certainly the revenue argument is difficult to equate, but it may be that if taxation were increased the revenue would increase. That would depend upon the amount of increase in the taxation level and the fall in sales. That is difficult to assess. However, it is by no means an overwhelming argument that the Treasury will lose heavily by an increase in tobacco duty. It may be that Ministers have some information on that which I do not have.

I hope that the Minister will roundly condemn the tobacco companies, which specifically aim their propaganda at the young. I hope that he will do what he can to encourage his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to introduce taxation measures.

11.32 am

I wish to address my remarks solely to the role of advertising in the tobacco industry. I do so against the background of declaring an interest as someone who has spent 20 years of my businness life in the advertising world. I am a non-smoker. I have, in the past, handled a cigarette brand, but have no present or recent past commercial interest in the advertising of cigarettes, nor do I have any constituency interest.

I hope that the House will accept that my remarks are an objective assessment of the role of advertising in the industry and its influence on the consumption of cigarettes. I thought that on this occasion I would not go either to ASH or to the Tobacco Advisory Council for data. I thought that, for once, I should consider the other published data and try to make an assessment as a marketing man.

The first impression that hit me was that the two most significant changes in the industry in the past 20 years were achieved through advertising. The first was the switch from plain to filter-tipped cigarettes. Having considered the data, I remain convinced that we would not have achieved the rapidity of shift from the particularly harmful plain to filter cigarettes without a significant volume of promotional expenditure through the media. Secondly, and the evidence is fairly strong, the shift from the high tar content in filter cigarettes to the low tar content—in the absence of any price differential—would not have been achieved with such speed without advertising. Those are my first two observations as someone coming new to this market.

I note from the codes of practice produced by Governments that the most recent code, which has now expired, states that the role of advertising is specifically not designed to increase the size of the market or to encourage people to smoke. The code of practice is specific about that. I shall turn to Philip Morris later in my speech. I consider that company a rogue elephant, but I recognise that it is a tiny section of the market—about 1 to 2 per cent. of consumption.

The strategy of the tobacco companies has been one of brand switch. I do not think that there would be too much argument about that as the primary purpose, although there could be arguments about whether that is the sole effect.

As one drives to the House, or as one goes about one's weekend duties, one notices that the content of advertising today is basically only a packet, with perhaps some creativity from Benson and Hedges, a company which does not bother even to portray a packet. Very little advertising is what I would call persuasive. My hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mrs. Faith) did less than justice to the existing code of practice when she suggested that advertisements showed social situations that made cigarette smoking acceptable. That was true 10 years ago, but it is not true today.

Other hon. Members have referred briefly to the Metra consulting report, which was financed by Gallaher and Imperial Tobacco. It is not a particularly bad thing for an industry to finance independent research. Hon. Members should know that the Department of Health and Social Security, quite properly, was involved in the report, in the sense that it was shown the methodology, that it asked for subsequent work in terms of detailed methods of assessment and, quite rightly, that it took an active interest in the work.

Hon. Members may say that it is a pity that the advertising industry did not, much earlier, consider the effects of advertising on a certain market, especially a market that is sensitive. That is a fair charge. The advertising industry should take that on board and recognise that this work should be of a continuing nature. It should be carried out in other industries as well.

The report would have been published whatever the results. We cannot get away from the fact that this econometric work, which is as sophisticated a work as has been done in any market, in any country, concluded that over a period of 20 years from 1958 to 1978 media advertising had had little or no effect on total consumption of cigarettes.

Perhaps, in a funny way, Government action has helped the plausibility of the analysis. With the ban on television advertising, one would have expected to see a major shift. I think that all in the industry, when making a major shift from one medium to another, do so for a positive reason and expect to see some positive or negative effect, but even with the ban on television, there was no change in consumption.

The analysis showed that price is a major determinant factor. If the price of the product rises to the consumer, consumption drops. The hon. Member for Crewe (Mrs. Dunwoody) was absolutely right to say that if hon. Members had been a little more genuine in their approach to looking after the health of the nation they would never have accepted the switch of duty back to the EEC basis. In fact, they gave a price encouragement. It is hardly surprising that the consumer responded by not cutting down smoking. The price factor remains the determinant.

The report also shows that partial restrictions have little effect. None of us knows whether a total ban would have an effect. The signs are that it probably would not, but that is an area for subjective assessment. The DHSS co-operated and asked for supplementary analyses for further validation of the research. It examined two alternative models and also further work on sensitivity timing around the time lapse effect of advertising, which is another determinant about which we as an industry know too little. All that work resulted in the conclusion that total consumption was not affected by the volume of media spending. The Government should take that report seriously. Not only the tobacco industry but the whole marketing industry takes it seriously—and we must never forget that we remain a country that relies on marketing.

I should like to pick out three key elements in the marketing function. If there were a vote on whether we should have advertising, I suspect that the majority of hon. Members would say that we should not. I recognise that I am in a minority. [HON. MEMBERS: " No."] I am most encouraged. Perhaps I am also beginning to take hon. Members with me in my argument.

Is my hon. Friend referring to all advertising, or only to cigarette advertising?

I was referring to all advertising, but perhaps I am too timid and self-conscious. I am greatly encouraged that hon. Members appear to have an understanding of the role of advertising.

The future of this industry, like that of any other, is dependent upon product development. The Hunter committee asked for product development work, particularly in the area of low tar cigarettes, An important dimension of the last code was the insistence on work to reduce tar content. The industry has responded to that stimulus. I hope that the Government will continue to give that stimulus to the industry. It is entirely appropriate.

It is a shame that the impression has been left with the public that the new smoking material is not a major advance. Little support was given to the industry in its efforts to gain acceptability for the new smoking material. I hope that when we reach a similar position in the future the assistance will be more positive.

The Government should recognise that the day may come when we produce a cigarette that is not harmful. We have yet to produce the perfect product in many areas, but there is continuing product development. That is the basis of our free society. Wherever there is a free market economy there is product improvement. This industry is no exception.

Until we reach the millennium of a smoking product that is not harmful we must recognise that, unless we are prepared to take the decision to ban cigarettes, the industry must have certain marketing functions available to it. In the absence of a ban we should aim at a move down to the lowest possible tar figure. That must remain the primary aim of those addicted to smoking. We cannot achieve that by point of sale publicity. Many of us in the industry have tried all sorts of devices at point of sale to achieve a brand switch, but things do not work that way. The primary function of point of sale advertising is to remind people of an existing product. If advertising is reduced to point of sale, the existing situation is frozen.

Some hon. Members wish to see a freeze on the existing situation, and then a ban on all advertising, apart from point of sale advertising. However, that will not help if the industry is to continue to develop new products and launch them. I am not privy to Gallaher's or Imperial Tobacco's special research files, but there may be a significantly lower tar product in the wings. If that is likely—and I believe that it is—the industry must have the facility to communicate to the public that there is this new cigarette that is significantly less harmful than those already on the market. That requires the benefit of mass media advertising.

I accept that the industry does not need the specific benefit of advertising to young people. I see no need for advertising in magazines and newspapers geared to young people. Cinema advertising is slightly questionable. It is basically restricted to " X " films and cinema proprietors are possibly not too strict over that. However, I would not argue too much about that area. My argument concerns the non-selective areas, such as posters and mass newspapers and magazines. If communication is restricted there, the only effect is to freeze an existing market situation, which makes it more difficult for the smoker who wants to be educated down to switch to the lower tar products.

The evidence, if we need further evidence is conclusive that the elasticity of demand for cigarettes is high. The greater the price increase, the more rapidly people stop smoking. I am sorry to say that it is to the shame of this Government and the previous one that the cost of smoking has declined. It has not kept pace with inflation, let alone increased. I read the newspapers the day before the Budget, and the forecast was 10p on a packet of cigarettes. The result was the rather pathetic 5p, which just about kept the price of cigarettes where it was last year. The Government should be prepared to bite the bullet and recognise that if they want to restrict smoking in the interests of the nation's health the decision rests firmly with them. They should not ask the tobacco industry to take a decision that they are funking.

I understand that the consensus in the all-party group is that there should be discussions through the usual channels to take cigarettes out of the RPI as a special exemption. I urge the Government to recognise that this is a key area where they can do more for the nation's health than anywhere else.

11.50 am

I join other right hon. and hon. Members in congratulating the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Fry) on introducing this important subject. Its importance has been emphasised very clearly by the presence of the Secretary of State for Social Services, his predecessor—my right hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Ennals)—and the Under-Secretary, who has played a great part in the negotiations on this matter. I hope that we shall hear some important pronouncements from the Secretary of State in due course, because plainly he regards this matter as being of great significance.

I do not know whether I should declare an interest, in that this year, for exactly half my life, I have been a non-smoker. I claim no great moral virtue for this. T abandoned smoking for the sake of my own health and the health of other people, and I hope that it has had a significant effect.

The motion before the House is divided into two parts. The first invites the Government to take the initiative in explaining to the public the dangers of smoking and the second invites them to agree measures with the industry to reduce promotion, particularly to the young.

On the first part, we have heard only one speech that in any way suggested that this function of Government should not be entertained. The basis of that argument is that as there are so many different evils that we cannot tackle immediately we should not tackle this one. I certainly do not endorse that argument. If there is a significant evil, and in particular one that will pass easily unrecognised by the public generally because of the effect of advertising, not to mention social attitudes, it is a relevant function of the Government to draw attention to that evil. If they do not do so the public may not be suitably impressed by campaigns of voluntary organisations, which do not have the Government's power, about the realities of the evil—not only the shortening of life but the pain and discomfort that is suffered in the life-shortening process.

One of my hon. Friends suggested, in an intervention, that it was illogical for the Government to do this when the common cold might cause as many casualties as smoking. But smoking is something that the Government can influence. I doubt whether it is possible to persuade people in some way not to catch common colds, but it is certainly possible to persuade them not to smoke cigarettes.

I turn to the second part of the motion, on which the debate has concentrated— the agreement of measures with the tobacco industry. I followed very carefully the remarks of the hon. Member for Northampton, South (Mr. Morris). I did not understand him to be objecting to the motion: on the contrary, he placed emphasis on the fact that the direction of advertising had resulted in a much greater use of filter cigarettes and low-tar cigarettes. This suggested that he would agree to measures designed to promote agreement with the tobacco industry so that at least the advertising could be concentrated in the right direction.

Certainly that is a view that I would take as a non-smoker and as one who recognises the dangers of smoking, particularly to excess. It would not worry me at all if there were no advertising of tobacco. However, I realise that we cannot hope for that, so we must proceed pragmatically. This is the best way of doing so, provided that the industry cooperates.

I wish to say a few words about cooperation. It seems to me that this matter is similar to that of tax avoidance. One blocks up one loophole and another arises. My right hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North said that there had been a recent increase in the number of tobacco advertisements on the hoardings. I suspect that once one bans a form of advertising, such as on television, one is likely to notice an increase in that advertising in other media. I believe that there has been an increase in the number of tobacco advertisements on the hoardings and in other ways, and that that is a natural result of banning such advertisements in another direction.

It is not so much that that worries me; it is the fact that the banning of particular advertising and its control and limitation by agreement appear to have led to the disguised form of advertising that a number of hon. Members have mentioned. I refer particularly to three areas, one of which is the promotion of lotteries, with vast prizes. Fortunately, it has been held by the House of Lords—it is very unusual for that House to reverse the Court of Appeal—that that is illegal. As we are not likely to have legislation to alter the law, we are unlikely to see any more of that proposal. That was clearly an example of tobacco advertising entering a new field as a result of the industry's inability to advertise on television.

I am following the right hon. and learned Member's remarks very carefully. Does he accept that the ingenuity of an industry, and particularly the tobacco industry, in devising methods of brand switching, which was what the lottery was about, is not something to be deplored? The only area that should concern hon. Members is the breaking of the code on overall consumption. I believe that those who have criticised Philip Morris in this respect are entirely right.

I am not convinced that whatever the purpose of the advertising—for brand switching or whatever—its results will not increase the impact of tobacco advertising as a whole on the public. I would need evidence before I was persuaded of that. That is one of the great dilemmas. The Government rightly seek to direct advertising and to point out the dangers of a particular product. In doing so, they direct people to the product. That problem must be overcome. Such activities are free from Government warnings about health hazards, and so on. The lottery has proved to be illegal.

I took a little time off during the past few weeks and watched the world snooker championship on television. It was an interesting and fascinating experience. I was frequently reminded that the championship was being promoted by a tobacco company. The chairman of that company presented a cup and a vast cheque to the winner and to the runner-up. No doubt it was pure coincidence that many of the television shots showed a player resting, smoking a cigarette. I do not know whether that cigarette was being promoted.

No doubt the right hon. and learned Gentleman noticed, as others did, that the non-smoker won the final.

I am sure that that proves a great deal. I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for reminding me of that point.

Those who object to restrictions point out that tobacco and alcohol distributors are doing some good. They point out that they are encouraging sporting and other events that might otherwise not take place. I recognise that dilemma. However, once again we find a balance of evils. In this case the balance is against the promotion of any form of advertising activity, whether disguised or undisguised. That should be taken into account in any agreement with the industry.

The disgraceful operations of one company, which has promoted the idea of Club Marlboro, have already been referred to. That club is plainly directed towards the young. I received a letter from one of my constituents, who happens to be a very old friend of mine and a prominent member of the Dulwich Conservative Party. No doubt both of those facts are in his favour. He is also a solicitor. I shall not say whether that is in his favour. He sent to me material that had been addressed to his son. His son is a young man, who has suffered all his life from asthma. The company could hardly have sent that material to a less suitable person.

The literature was totally unsolicited, and represented a strong inducement to the recipient to start smoking, or—if he already smoked—to smoke more. Indeed, I understood that the recipient would receive additional benefits in accordance with the number of packet tops that he returned. That is wrong. I hope that the Secretary of State will direct his discussions with the industry towards prohibiting such avoidance of the agreement.

I wish to say a few words about the philosophy involved in Government action. It has been said that if certain restrictions are adopted other benefits may be lost. I agree with that point. My right hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Ennals), along with other hon. Members, said that taxation has not sufficiently raised the price of a packet of cigarettes. We suffer from a dichotomy in our approach. Just as smokers are addicted to tobacco, so Governments of all political persuasions are addicted to tobacco tax. It represents a useful means of collecting extra revenue. However, one cannot increase revenue and reduce the amount of smoking. A reduction in the amount of smoking can be achieved only by an equation between the two.

Although I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North that we should go further, we must also take care. We must be clear whether we are doing it because we wish to increase indirect taxation and spend the money on other things, or whether our real purpose is to reduce the amount of smoking. In that case, the tax might be penal rather than gradual.

As I said, sponsorship is a matter of balance. We must consider the implications of allowing someone to do something that is harmful only to that individual. Indeed, that point has already been raised. One leaves out of account the cost to the Health Service and to the family. Again, we must be clear what we wish to do. It may be argued that one should not prevent a person from killing himself, if he so wishes. On what basis do we prevent the sale of cannabis, and make it an offence to smoke it? We do so on the basis that people are likely to do themselves harm and impose a consequential cost on the Health Service. Again, the approach is not wholly logical. However, we must accept that and put up with it. The problem must be dealt with pragmatically, and not on the basis of deep philosophical consistency. We shall not find such consistency.

It is not only a matter of philosophy and pragmatism; it is a question of what the law is. Would not my right hon. and learned Friend argue on behalf of a client that the question was whether what he had done was legal or illegal? Is not the difference between cannabis and tobacco that it is illegal to smoke and advertise the one but not the other? If we wish to ban smoking, should we not go the whole way and say that it is to be illegal?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for putting at greater length the argument that I was trying to compress. Of course, it would be possible to legalise cannabis or, as I would do, to reduce the penalty for smokers, though not distributors, from imprisonment to a fine.

I was concerned not with legality but with the philosophical approach. I can see no real difference between cannabis and tobacco, since each harms the person who uses it, and the harm to the public generally is of only an indirect and limited nature. However, while it is a criminal offence to distribute and use cannabis, we allow the smoking of tobacco to take place. Merely because there is a difference does not mean that we should not make major efforts to discourage the use of tobacco in the way that the motion sets out.

We should not say that because we do not treat cannabis, alcohol or anything else in the same way, we should not concentrate on tobacco. I warmly support the motion, and I hope that the Secretary of State will devote at least part of his speech to the avoidance methods to which I referred.

12.12 pm

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Fry) on his excellent speech, even though I did not agree with everything that he said and I have reservations about his motion. My main reservation is that the motion is strongly supported by the Government. It is unusual, though pleasant, to have a Secretary of State to reply to a Friday debate.

It is obvious that I am right to assume that the Government are fully behind the motion and that it is one which they think that they could have tabled. In those circumstances, I should like to ask why the Government did not raise the subject at another time when we would have had more hon. Members in the House. Many hon. Members in the Chamber today are non-smokers and are strongly opposed to smoking. A number have said that they used to smoke, but have given up. Of course, there is no one so enthusiastic or evangelical as the convert. He is always more likely to express distaste for those who are doing what he used to do.

Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that it is only by whipping Conservative Members that he will get them here to support the tobacco industry, or does he claim that those of us who are here voluntarily do not have a right to express our views?

The hon. Lady has got it wrong. It is not a question of supporting the tobacco industry. I have nothing to do with the industry. I want to speak about people who smoke and not about the tobacco industry. If we had held this debate on another day, we would have had a better balance.

My intervention will be much more gentle than that of my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe (Mrs. Dun-woody). It is important to recognise that the facts about the links between smoking and certain illnesses are relatively new. When I, as a young soldier, started to smoke, there was no evidence that it was damaging to anything but my pocket. I was not converted in a spiritual sense or in the belief that I was morally wrong. All the evidence shows that it is desperately dangerous to smoke.

Nevertheless, I repeat that converts tend to look upon those who still smoke as though they were social outcasts, which is rubbish.

I used to smoke cigarettes and when I found that I was smoking too many I switched to the least expensive cigars so that I would smoke less. I agree that smoking in excess is bad for anyone. But that is as far as I go. Despite all the figures, I do not believe that smoking in moderation is worse than anything else that people indulge in.

We are discussing tobacco, but excessive drinking causes tremendous problems and few would suggest that people should not have the occasional drink. Drinking is socially acceptable. It has never been suggested that we should ask whisky or gin manufacturers to put health warnings on their bottles. At the start of every Parliament attempts are made to initiate dramatic debates about smoking. I have been an hon. Member for long enough to know that at the start of a new Parliament there is always pressure, either on the Minister or from him, to do something about smoking. The right hon. Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Ennals) was apologetic earlier about the fact that he did not go far enough when he was Secretary of State. He suggested that my right, hon. Friend should go further. Whichever party is in power, every Secretary of State for Social Services believes that, as the virility symbol for the health of the nation, he should take action on cigarette smoking.

Of course, the Government and the Secretary of State do not seek to do anything themselves. They seek to get something done through the industry. It is important that people should be made to recognise that too much smoking is not good for them. The Minister should see that action is taken by Government to make that clear and he should not depend upon the industry taking the full weight.

Has the hon. Gentleman asked himself why the industry should wish to make concessions to the Government? They would do so because they would know that at some stage, if they did not, the Government would legislate when public opinion was ready. There is no other reason.

I accept that, but I do not believe that such legislation would ever get through this House. Certain freedoms in this country go beyond the kind of propaganda campaign, justified or otherwise, that is conducted over cigarette smoking. There is no possibility of getting through this Parliament a Bill imposing upon tobacco manufacturers the sort of restrictions that would not be applied to any other manufacturing or promotional concern. There are many other areas—I have mentioned alcohol—where Parliament could legislate if once we went down that road and interfered with these freedoms. I do not believe that that would prove acceptable to the House.

All Governments are schizophrenic and slightly hypocritical about this matter. We have already discussed the tax on cigarettes. It is ridiculous that cigarettes and drink should be included in calculations of the retail price index. The right hon. Member for Norwich, North seemed to agree with me on that. There should be an attempt to secure an agreement on both sides of the House to remove them from the index. The Government could then put up the price of cigarettes—if, for example, they felt it necessary to discourage young people from smoking too much—without affecting the RPI, the level of which motivates so many trade unions in formulating their pay claims.

The Treasury gains a great deal from the cigarette tax, and I suspect that there are people within the Treasury who are anxious not to increase the tax to such an extent that smoking is reduced. They have a vested interest in smoking being maintained so that the revenue is protected.

The motion falls into two parts. In the first it calls upon the Government to:
" alert the public to the dangers and costs "—
I take that to mean the costs in terms of health—
" of smoking."
I have no great objection to that, but such a warning is already carried on cigarette packets. It is ridiculous to suggest that the public are either blind or cannot read. Anyone purchasing cigarettes sees the warning, which is also printed on the advertisements.

However, in spite of the warning, people still smoke. If the Government want to spend more on advertising to suggest that the dangers should be more closely regarded—they might take advertising spots on television—that is a matter for them. But the amount spent on advertising to discourage smoking is so small as to be derisory. Therefore, the Minister should tell us whether the Government intend to divert money from the tax levied on cigarettes to finance the advertising. If they are realistic in their support for the motion that is what they will do.

The motion contains a specific reference to the young. Do the Government intend to conduct a special campaign in the schools—presumably through the Department of Education and Science? It is said that people are smoking at a younger age, but that aspect is exaggerated. I do not believe that a great many young children in schools smoke. No doubt smoking goes on in the sixth form, but it is a gross exaggeration to suggest that very young children—the ages of 5 and 9 were mentioned—are beginning to smoke. If the Government support the motion, what realistic action are they proposing in terms of education?

Successive Governments have been trying to get the industry to choke off its advertising. It is totally unrealistic to expect an industry to destroy its base. If there is a large demand for cigarettes they have to be advertised. Unless there is a ban advertising is inevitable.

The right hon. and learned Member for Dulwich (Mr. Silkin) went too far when he equated cannabis with cigarettes. Cigarettes now are safer than they were some years ago. An even safer cigarette ought to be developed. The tobacco companies put a large amount of money into research in that direction. They were not helped much. When they marketed a substitute for tobacco which was safer it fell by the wayside through lack of Government support. It is totally wrong to compare tobacco smoking with cannabis, which is not only dangerous in itself but can lead to the use of hard drugs.

Does the hon. Gentleman recall the smoking material marketed by Courtaulds and ICI? Those companies jumped the gun and the Government were faced with claims which could not be substantiated. Clinical evidenece shows that even the lowest tar cigarette will cause far more illness than cannabis.

That may be the hon. Gentleman's point of view. As for the substitute smoking material, the Government of the time knew many months, if not a year or two in advance, what was happening. They had a lot of warning and the companies put a lot of capital into the product.

The hon. Gentleman should not mislead the House. It was only in the spring of 1977 that the Government were advised by Professor Hunter that the new smoking material cigarettes were, to use his phrase, " no more dangerous " than ordinary cigarettes, and by that time the cigarette companies were lining up to market them. It was only at that time that the Government received that advice from Professor Hunter. It is wrong to say that the Government knew for a long time beforehand what the outcome of the assessment of the new smoking material would be.

I accept what the right hon. Gentleman says, but I do not believe that at the time an attempt was made to market on a large scale what was, at any rate, thought to be a safer cigarette, and I do not think that it received the support that it deserved. I believe that the Department should gear itself to supporting the tobacco industry if it should go along that path again. The Department should make clear to the industry that it will. There could well be a breakthrough in research towards a safer cigarette, even if it is not a substitute tobacco. I do not think that it is possible to retrieve that one. But if the tobacco industry, through its research, reaches the stage where it can manufacture a safer cigarette, I hope that the Department will support it.

It is a mistake to think that we can stop people smoking. I understand that advertising has been abolished in Norway, yet just as many people in Norway now smoke as before—[HON. MEMBERS: " No ".] Well, according to the figures, almost as many people in Norway are now smoking as there were previously. No Government, by interfering in advertising to the extent that they seek to achieve a ban, will prevent large sections of the community from smoking if people want to smoke.

My hon. Friend said that we cannot stop people smoking. How does he explain the severe reduction in smoking in the top A and B social levels, among doctors? Does not he agree that that seems to have arisen from the realisation of the dangers and that if those dangers were put across in a way in which the rest of the community could understand, we could see a severe reduction in smoking?

I did not say that we could not achieve a reduction in smoking. I believe that we could if we expressed views that were strong enough. I think that we can convince people that they should not take up the habit or smoke too much. All I am saying is that we will never stop smoking and that many millions of people will still smoke.

I understand that there is likely to be some pressure on the industry to cut down on poster advertising. I believe that the right hon. and learned Member for Dulwich was right to say that if we blocked up one means of advertising—we have already stopped it on television, so it is not as if there has been no progress—there is bound to be a move into another form of advertising. If my right hon. Friend seeks to reach a voluntary agreement with the industry, which is almost a force majeure agreement, that will simply lead to more money going into sponsorship. The strange thing about sponsorship is that if money is saved on poster advertising there will be more coverage on television as a result of sponsorship. I support sponsorship by the cigarette and tobacco companies. When money was given to the Salvation Army by the brewers, General Booth said " That does not matter. If the money comes into my coffers, I shall turn it to the good of the Lord ". The truth is that if tobacco companies have spare money and decide to sponsor sporting, cultural or art activities, that is splendid. I want to see more of it. If certain people think that it is bad because they are against smoking, they should at least acknowledge that the money has been put to good account.

The point I was seeking to make was that if we are to embark upon a voluntary agreement, it is essential to block all the possible loopholes and to make the agreement as tight as possible. Does the hon. Gentleman agree with that?

But that will not happen, as I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows perfectly well. The right hon. and learned Gentleman is saying that the Government should ban advertising right across the board. I do not think that will happen. We would have to legislate to make it happen, and I have already indicated that I do not believe that in this Parliament there is a majority for such a Bill—[HON. MEMBERS: " Test it."] I do not mind testing it. That is a matter for the Government. All I am doing is expressing the view that there is no majority in this House for legislation in that regard.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way again. He has been very indulgent. I have introduced a Private Member's Bill which would present an admirable opportunity for the House to decide whether it holds that view. But so far I have not even been able to obtain a Second Reading debate.

I sympathise with the hon. Lady. She will have to try next Session. As she knows, if she manages to get among the top seven in the Ballot, she will have a chance. She knows perfectly well that there is scope in a Private Member's Bill. But I do not believe that even a Bill sponsored by the hon. Lady would gain support, in this Parliament, for the total banning of cigarette advertising.

I have spoken longer than I intended, because I have given way on a number of occasions. As one who smokes, I believe that it is important that people should do so in moderation. But then there are many other things, from drink to sex, in which they should also indulge with moderation. I do not believe for a moment that many of the horrendous health hazards which are portrayed can be laid at the door of cigarette smoking. I believe that many other factors are involved. Plenty of people who do not smoke suffer from lung cancer—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Brent, South (Mr. Pavitt) is looking very well, and we are pleased about that.

We should bend our efforts towards producing a better and safer cigarette. In so far as the industry will co-operate, as it is doing and as it will do, and in so far as the Minister will support it, that could be useful. If that results from this debate, it will not have been a wasted one.

Order. There are 55 minutes left for Back-Bench speeches, and I understand that nine hon. Members would like to be called.

12.38 pm

I shall do my best to be brief. As a non-smoker, I can claim to be a comparative neutral on this issue, although I admit that there is a Northern Ireland interest. On the other hand, I cannot claim the virtue of being any kind of convert, because I never smoked at any stage. As a comparative neutral, I can look with a certain degree of detachment at what has been suggested so far.

Two propositions have been put for-word. The first is that there should be compulsion through legislation, with all its rigidity and loopholes. The second is the threat of the big stick if tobacco companies do not agree to conditions, about which we know little or nothing because apparently we are not permitted to know what is being discussed in private. I do not complain about that. I simply put it on the record as a fact.

The hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Fry) made the welcome statement that he would not seek to impose his views on his fellow citizens by means of legislation. In that I think he is very wise. We often embark too lightly on legislation to prevent citizens from engaging in activities that may endanger their lives or health. Seat belts was one such case. I have always thought that we should start at the other end of the scale and extend bans to activities engaged by citizens that place at risk not only their own lives but the lives of others. At the top of the list I would put mountaineering. How often have we read about and seen on television the determined efforts by rescue teams to save silly people who ought not to have engaged in the activity if they had any consideration for others?

The hon. Member for Wellingborough said that advertising must be curbed because it projects the idea that smoking is socially acceptable. I share the view expressed in the debate that the most powerful influence is in the home. If parents in any social category are seen to be passing round the cigarettes with the booze, it is hardly surprising that their actions are imitated by younger members of the household.

I think that so far we are in agreement. What would the supporters of the motion do about curbing such undesirable activities in the home? Is smoking to be permitted only after 10 o'clock, not in front of the children, or is some other such condition to be imposed?

I do not quarrel with the suggestion that more warnings should be given in schools. Unfortunately, we do not seem to have been successful in other aspects of education, particularly in the basic three Rs. I have my doubts about the effectiveness of such a measure, but again I should not object to it.

Those who have advocated tough measures and perhaps a ban on various forms of advertising have paid little heed to the problems that would arise because of the wide variation in the pattern and forms of advertising as between one company and another. To the best of my knowledge, no one has provided firm evidence that the level of advertising is related to the total figures of smoking.

The hon. Member for Wellingborough and others have made light of the effects and consequences of a drop in cigarette sales, and consequently in cigarette production. It is all very well to talk about diversifying and encouraging tobacco factories to think of other trading activities in which they might engage. That might just be possible in areas such as the South-East of England, at any rate, in times of prosperity, but what happens in an area such as Northern Ireland, which has good cause to be grateful for the enormous investment by both Carreras and Gallahers?

I am not claiming that considerations of employment or unemployment should or would justify our closing our eyes to the consequences of a product if that danger could be conclusively proved. However, I claim and say that we should be constructive in our approach to the problem. Instead of plunging into various forms of sanctions, we should encourage the Secretary of State to listen to the submissions of the representatives of a responsible industry—submissions which the Secretary of State and his predecessor, the right hon. Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Ennals), will know aim at an effective voluntary agreement, which has enormous advantages over legislation, as has already been illustrated.

As to the term of such a voluntary agreement, with respect, I differ from the right hon. Member for Norwich, North and put the view that a three-year term for such an agreement is not unreasonable. In my view, a one-year agreement would simply create a fluid situation in which the Government, the industry and all others engaged on the fringe of the operation would have no idea of the position at any given time.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the industry itself would prefer a longer period than a three-year agreement? It is my information that the industry would like a four and a half or a five-year agreement at least, so that it would know where it stood.

Does it not depend on the nature of the agreement? My point is that if there is an agreement it needs to be a good agreement. If an agreement is reached, with very little concession, I hope that it will be of short duration.

That may be desirable, but there is a difficulty, because—unless some right hon. or hon. Members have inside information that has been denied to other hon. Members—we have no means of judging what is likely to come forward, simply because we do not know what the input has been.

It is reasonable and fair that a three-year voluntary agreement, which would run roughly for the remainder of the lifetime of this Parliament—I am not looking into a crystal ball at this point—would be desirable, reasonable and sensible. It would provide a period of stability to enable the industry to continue its determined efforts to find and produce still safer cigarettes. That is a worthy aim and objective, since smokers will still smoke, no matter what we do, or say in this House about advertising, warnings, duties and restrictions. That being so, we are simply wasting our time designing Draconian measures. It is far better to encourage the industry to continue its efforts to produce safer products, which would be far more effective in achieving an overall reduction in health risks.

We know that the Secretary of State can be relied upon to form a balanced judgment and not to be unduly swayed by arguments based on emotion or prejudice.

12.48 pm

Perhaps I can declare a future interest. If—as I understand it will—the tobacco industry, through the Hunter committee makes funds available to continue and enlarge the process to which the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) referred, of developing less harmful forms of smoking and of scientifically monitoring the effects of those improvements, the Cancer Research Campaign, of whose appeal I am national chairman, may benefit from funds that would be made available.

I do not think that anyone would disagree with the proposition put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Fry), or with the moderate and statesmanlike way in which he advanced his cause, but I think that all hon. Members are aware that behind the innocuous nature of the proportion are grey figures who have helped to frame and bring about the terms of this debate. It might even be thought that one of the objects of holding this debate today was to render the tobacco interests more amenable to the voluntary proposals that are being made to them.

Quite apart from any rights and wrongs that there may be from a medical and scientific point of view, there is a great danger in seeking to put pressure on the tobacco interests. Eighty per cent. of the British market is held by two firms—Imperial Tobacco and Gallaghers—and of course, from the market leaders' point of view, nothing is more desirable or cost-saving than a cut in advertising. But that is terribly unfair to those who have smaller market shares and who are denied any means of adjusting the balance.

I commend Gallaher and Imperial Tobacco for their staunchness and unselfishness in not permitting themselves to be switched away from others within the industry, and on not encouraging the Government to seek to do a deal with the big boys only.

Manifestly, the most important outcome of the negotiations that the Government are now conducting with the tobacco interests will be the gaining of an acceleration in research into ways of reducing the damage that smoking does and measuring and assessing the results of those investigations. While the tobacco people have been extremely honourable in disclosing to no one—certainly not to me—the detailed course of the negotiations, I think it is fairly common knowledge that they are anxious to increase their input in this respect. That is the most practical way in which this House and the commercial interests with which we are negotiating can hope to improve the present situation.

I happen to be a sceptic—I am not speaking for any other interests—about obsessive health fads. In 10 years' time we may well find ourselves, as we did over cyclamates, for example—and what a farce that was—holding a different point of view from the received wisdom of the day. When, two or three years ago, the McGraw-Hill publishing company carried out a study of tribes in which people lived to be 150 years old, it found that the five best-known tribes of this nature had certain things in common. They all drank heavily; they all smoked heavily; they were all sexually promiscuous; but they lived on roots and grass. Perhaps the DHSS should be urging us to follow the recommendations implicit in that survey and adopt a diet of grass. It might be more effective.

I realise that I shall not take the House or the public with me if I try to question the received medical wisdom of the day. I do not, therefore, seek to do so. However, I remind and warn the House that the history of Government intervention in the indulgencies and vices of the public has not been one of universal success. When our country signed the 1922 Geneva convention, banning the distribution of habit-forming drugs, the level of drug addiction in this country increased within 12 months by a multiple of 15 In the American armed forces, for instance, where pressure against smoking and drinking is very much stronger than it is in ours, I believe that one finds—I do not speak with special knowledge of this matter—that drug addiction is far more commonplace than it is among our Armed Forces.

I therefore insert a word of warning at this stage. If we try to be too clever in nannying our fellow citizens—we are big boys now, and we should recognise it—we may find that we have driven out one devil but have let in seven devils worse that that which we had before.

In the industry with which the hon. Gentleman has had in the past a direct connection, that of the cinema, did he find that he purpose of cinema advertising was to encourage people to buy a particular product, or did he feel that it was simply shown in the cinema to persuade people away from consuming one type of ice cream to consuming another?

I am coming to the question of advertising in a moment. In practice, that is probably the point that is the most at issue in this debate. I do not think that either the hon. Lady or I, despite our strong links with the noble industry to which she refers, could claim to have the ultimate wisdom about the effects of advertising. I do not think that anyone has.

The measured results of advertising do not support the argument that advertising of itself increases the number of people who smoke. One hon. Member referred to campaigns to stop advertising in schools. I well remember that in 1970, when there had been an anti-smoking poster campaign running for some time in some schools, tests were carried out showing that in the schools in which the campaign was being conducted not only did more people smoke; the rate of increase was sharper than in schools where there was no such advertising. The campaign was discontinued.

What happened in the schools may have been because of the incorrigible nature of the human race, but I repeat that whenever politicians try to interfere with human nature and change its course they fall flat on their fannies. I hope that we shall not lend ourselves to this unprofessional and childish approach today.

The big question, then, is this: if we reduce advertising, if we twist the industry's arm and persuade it not to advertise, will there be good or bad consequences for the nation's health? There will manifestly be bad consequences for the smaller tobacco manufacturers and those who work for them.

I agree that we must put the nation's health first, but let us consider what would happen if we seriously tried to interfere with the distribution process. Interfering in advertising is no different in principle from letting the air out of the delivery wagon's tyres; we are preventing the distribution of the product.

The first result of interference with the advertising process would be to ossify the public taste in the brands selling today. It is worth repeating that if we had had a ban on advertising, or severe restraint, 20 years ago in the 1960s, there would have been no filter tip cigarettes in the 1970s and no switch to low tar. That switch was much quicker in countries where full advertising was permitted than in countries where it was banned. Where it was banned, the switch to lower tar has not taken place, or has taken place much more sluggishly than it has here.

Statistical measurements over the past 20 years of the differences in life expectancy between those who do and do not smoke show that the work of the tobacco industry has halved the difference. There is not much clinical evidence about links between smoking and cancer, for example, but there is a strong statistical presumption that there is a link. The way in which one interprets the statistics is up to each individual, but at any rate there is a strong presumption.

If we are to accept statistical presumptions one way, we must accept them the other way. The statistical evidence is that the switches that have already taken place within brands of cigarettes, first to filters and then to low tar, have resulted in a statistical halving of the differences in the life expectancy between smokers and non-smokers.

What happens in countries in which advertising of tobacco products has been banned? I shall not read out all the figures, because there is not time—other hon. Members wish to speak—but anyone who wants to see the chart that I have here is welcome to have a copy

Without exception, in the countries in which there is no cigarette and tobacco advertising or where it has been banned—I am thinking of Poland, Chile, Finland, France, Italy, Norway, Singapore, Thailand, Yugoslavia, the USSR, Hungary and Czechoslovakia—cigarette smoking has increased faster than in this country, where advertising is permitted. In fact, cigarette smoking declined slightly last year. I heard a little whisper of " Rubbish " from the Government Front Bench.

indicated assent.

I do not use the term " friends " now in its parliamentary sense. My hon. Friend the Minister knows that I hold him in the highest regard and affection, but he has been on record as questioning the findings of the recent Metra study carried out in association with his Department. That study showed that cigarette advertising persuaded people to change brands but did not bring about an increase in cigarette smoking.

The Minister's whole argument is based on statistics, yet he whispers " Rubbish " when I read him statistics that are fully open to investigation and exploration by his Department. I beg him to treat this matter not as one for fanatical obsession but as something deserving cool and objective judgment. I ask the House to apply no other standards.

If, as I believe, cigarette and tobacco advertising does not increase the rate of smoking and its absence does not diminish the rate of smoking—the facts can be more easily communicated in some forum other than this debate—it is reasonable to ask the Department to think again.

On top of these matters are the issues that have been repeatedly referred to during this debate. There is the libertarian aspect, to which I attach great importance. I did not come to Parliament after 30 years of endeavour in order to try to stop my fellow citizens doing things which were otherwise legal.

What principle would we establish? Where would we stop in trying to interfere with products, which, if used to excess, can be dangerous? Alcohol, of course, is an obvious example, but there are plenty of others that are less obvious—man-made fibres, aerosol sprays, butter, milk, fish and chips. All those things show statistical links with one serious illness or another.

I do not want us to drift down a slippery, Scandinavian-style slope, which has proved in those countries to have had the opposite effect to the one intended, which has proved over and over again, where these restrictions on one's fellow citizens are applied, to produce not the desired objective but the opposite one, and one that has many other evil consequences.

I join other hon. Members in welcoming the fact that the Secretary of State has joined us for this important debate. I ask him, when he replies, to address himself not to an untenable millennium in which none of us smokes—I do not smoke cigarettes myself—and none of us has acquired any other less pleasant habits in compensation; not to address himself to the popular view, to which the right hon. Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Ennals) referred, namely, that 70 per cent. of people, including smokers, think that tobacco advertising should be stopped; but to address himself to the scientific and professional view that, if it is desired to reduce the number of people who suffer ill health or who die as a result of the tobacco habit, there are more professional ways of achieving that objective than interfering with the advertising process.

1.4 pm

I do not intend to follow the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. Stevens) through the labyrinth of his argument. I cannot altogether accept such an endearing ability to cling to one's prejudices in the face of the facts.

Most hon. Members today have made it clear that, at a minimum figure, over 50,000 people die every year from the effects of tobacco consumption—and this is a preventable disease. It is as simple as that. If a communicable disease were rampaging through our population at that rate, this House would be filled today with over 600 Members demanding immediate public health measures. The difference here is that we are dealing with an extremely powerful industry. Because there are other hon. Members who wish to speak, there is not time to discuss whether it is a responsible industry.

I hope that at some point we shall talk about the attitude of the tobacco companies towards the Third world, because it is plain that they are unloading high tar cigarettes on to people who do not have access to the information available to Western countries, without any thought of the effect. Anyone who saw the recent television programme on what was happening in Brazil will know that the tobacco companies, like all large multinationals, are interested primarily in making large profits, and only secondarily in the effect that their products might have on the population with whom they deal. Let us not have too much mealy-mouthed nonsense talked about whether the tobacco companies are responsible in their attitudes to people. There is clear evidence that they are not.

It is important that the voluntary agreement, such as it is, continues in an effective manner. The Government have a responsibility here. I was astonished at the Government's priorities, which led to their putting a small amount of taxation on to the price of cigarettes, but a large amount on prescriptions from the National Health Service. That set of priorities says, in effect " We shall do nothing to dissuade you from taking in a substance that is noxious and may lead to your early death, but we shall do much to stop you from having access to drugs that might make you better ". That seems to be a strange set of priorities, but we must leave that matter for another time.

When the Minister replies to the debate, it is important that he should state plainly that his talks with the industry will lead to a voluntary agreement that will stick. I have tried to introduce a Private Member's Bill, which would give the Government power to go beyond the existing voluntary agreement. It is a simple Bill, which provides for a total ban on advertising of tobacco products and on the sponsorship of sporting events by tobacco companies. I cannot see an argument for those of us who agree that the young should be protected from encouragement to smoke saying that, nevertheless the tobacco companies should continue to sponsor sporting events. We cannot say to the young " Come and join in sport. It is something that you will enjoy and which is good for you ", and at the same time try to persuade them to smoke. That is what sponsorship does. It is the constant promotion of the name of a tobacco company.

Much nonsense has been talked about advertising today. A large advertising agency recently took a two-page spread in a national newspaper to encourage companies to use its services simply because it wished to demonstrate how, if a company spent a certain percentage of its overall income on advertising, the consumption of its product would rise. If the advertising agency said that in relation to its general attack on companies across the board, why should that not be true of tobacco companies?

I disagree strongly with the view that the EEC has taken action on public health. I found it depressing that in the Agriculture Committee of the EEC, when I tried to get a ban on the subsidies that are paid to tobacco growers in the Community, I received no help whatsoever. The Community actually hands out money to those who grow tobacco, without any consideration of the effect that that might have at any other level.

The change in the Community's taxation of cigarettes means that cigarettes are now easier to obtain at a lower rate than they were before.

It is not only the EEC—I make no complaint there—but the British Government, who provide overseas aid for countries that grow tobacco. A fair proportion of our £75 million aid for Rhodesia will be ploughed into tobacco production.

That may be so, and I am happy to argue with the Government on that as well. One cannot take the attitude on one side of the scale and not balance that attitude on the other.

It must be made clear to tobacco companies that the general attitude of the public is changing markedly. If they are not prepared to continue with the voluntary agreement, there will be great pressure for legislation. The case that is being made ever more strongly against tobacco products will not be allowed to go by default. Young people are much more sensible in their attitudes.

I should like the Government to give more money to the budget of the Health Education Council. The inequity is that the advertising industry spends £40 million on cigarette advertising, while the unfortunate Health Education Council has to try to redress the balance slightly with a budget that is often under £1 million.

I hope that in accepting the motion we not only express our thanks to the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Fry) for bringing forward an important subject, but state that we are, above all, determined to see that our young people are given the chance to judge for themselves on the basis of fact and not prejudice, habit and the highly paid activities of advertising, whose sole interest lies in making a profit on a highly dangerous product.

1.11 pm

I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for Crewe (Mrs. Dunwoody), whose vigorous speech reflects the diligence with which she pursues the issue inside and outside this Chamber.

The argument centres on the extent to which we feel that the State should interfere in our private lives, either by regulation or by persuasion. That is a sensitive issue on the Conservative Benches. One side of the argument was clearly indicated by my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Lewis) and touched on by my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. Stevens). However, we should not merely do our own thing. As individuals, we have responsibilities. We must accept restrictions on our activities because they affect other people or because it is the State's responsibility to impose restrictions to protect us, for instance, with regard to legislation on clean water, ingredients in foodstuffs and procedures for approving drugs. Smoking comes under both headings.

There are social reasons why smokers should consider the effect of their activities on others. Smokers are, after all, a minority, and it is reasonable that they should consider others. Some do, but others do not. Those of us who do not smoke do not take pleasure in having smoke blown in our faces on various occasions. Attitudes have changed over recent years. It was not so long ago that when a cigarette packet was passed round one felt slightly uncomfortable about not smoking. The custom now is that a person tends to ask permission to smoke and realises that he is the odd man out. That tendency should be encouraged. However, that is purely on the social side. The basic issue concerns health.

The evidence is there for all to see. My hon. Friends the Members for Rutland and Stamford, and for Fulham, may not be prepared to accept the evidence, but it is not a matter of opinion or accepted wisdom. These are facts. One thousand people a week die prematurely through smoking. Even while we are discussing the matter a handful of people will have died prematurely through smoking. That fact cannot be ignored. The evidence is clear that if tobacco had been discovered only recently, it would not have had a hope of passing all the tests and going on the market, but it is there. Millions smoke it and thousands earn their living by producing or selling it. It would be impossible to ban it overnight.

Obviously there is a heavy duty on the Government, with the information that they have, to seek to educate and persuade. They should educate the young not to start smoking and persuade those who do smoke to reduce their consumption or stop altogether. This should be done in the interests of those people themselves, their families, who will suffer from their illness and possibly premature death, and the country, which will be deprived of their working capacity and will have to pay for their care on the National Health Service.

In 1976 a Sub-Committee of the Expenditure Committee conducted an investigation into preventive medicine, and published its report in February 1977. I was a member of that Committee, and when faced with the figures spent on treating illness, we felt it worth while to look at areas in which modest expenditure could prevent illness in the first place. We looked at the question of tobacco and made several recommendations, a number of which I shall mention.

We recommended that legislation should be introduced to ban all advertising of tobacco and tobacco products. That aspect has been fully debated today. I understand the arguments that have been put forward by my hon. Friends who have experience in the advertising industry, but it seems strange that in every other case the advertising industry advertises products on behalf of clients for reasons that we all understand—to advise people of the availability of certain goods and persuade them to buy them. I cannot accept that advertising tobacco is any different. My hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, South (Mr. Morris) said that it was not persuasive advertising. But what is advertising if it is not persuasive? What is the object of the operation?

Our second recommendation was that there should be stricter control of advertising through sponsorship. I heartily endorse everything that has been said on this matter in the debate. I believe that it is wrong that motor racing, cricket and snooker should be associated with smoking cigarettes. The argument that if we prevent the tobacco industry from sponsoring them the sports concerned will not flourish is not accurate. There is evidence that other sponsors will step in and fill the gap—the insurance companies, for example.

Another of our recommendations referred to increasing the duty on cigarettes and thus increasing the price. That argument has been well ventilated today. I shall be interested in the Minister's reply, but I suspect that this debate is not over, by any means. The Finance Bill is on its way to Committee, and there is an opportunity for second thoughts. A realistic figure for increased duty could be put forward even now.

The Sub-Committee recognised that cigarette coupons should be abolished. I shall be interested to hear whether there have been any discussions with the industry on that aspect. We also recommended that cigarette machines should be installed only on premises to which children did not have ready access. However, the number of machines has diminished for technical reasons. It was difficult to keep up with inflation and constantly adjust the machines. Has any progress been made on that matter?

We recommended a stronger health warning on cigarette packets. Everyone has become accustomed to the present warning and there is a strong case for having something more dramatic and perhaps more to the point.

We also recommended that the present trend of providing non-smoking areas in public places should be encouraged. I hope that that will continue. There are some encouraging signs. It would help if more cinemas and public places made non-smoking areas available.

I was interested to hear the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. Sever) refer to his Private Member's Bill. I wish him well. I tried to introduce a similar Bill during the last Parliament, but I did not receive as much support from the right hon. Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Ennals), the former Secretary of State, as I had hoped. However, perhaps the hon. Gentleman's Bill will have more success.

Like other hon. Members, my hon. Friend seems to assume that because one is a non-smoker one does not like to be in a room in which other people are smoking. I am a non-smoker, but I have always travelled in smoking carriages. I like the smell of cigarettes. It does not worry me. Indeed, I enjoy it. Has any scientific measurement been taken of the number of non-smokers who do not like to be in rooms in which people are smoking, and the number—like me—who do?

If not unique, my hon. Friend is probably unusual. Perhaps he is none the worse for that. Much of the evidence shows that where non-smoking carriages have been introduced, more people use them. Indeed, many smokers use them, because they prefer clean air. I am not trying to prevent my hon. Friend from going into a smoking carriage. I simply suggest that some of us prefer not to. When people go to a cinema or to a restaurant, they may reasonably request not to sit in a smoky atmosphere.

More than half the population do not smoke. Indeed, substantially more than half the population would prefer not to smoke. They support measures such as these. I recognise that difficulties may arise in restaurants, because people like to smoke after a meal. However, even in Government canteens I have noticed a welcome tendency to earmark one end of the room as a nonsmoking area. That should be encouraged.

An important recommendation was made in the report on preventive medicine. It pointed out that anti-smoking education should be directed to specific target groups. The House should direct its attention to that important issue. We should educate and inform people, particularly those in the vulnerable age groups. We should try to persuade them not to smoke.

My hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Stamford referred to the fanaticism of converts. I am not a convert. However, I claim no credit for the fact that I did not begin to smoke. I hope that I am not a fanatic. Fanaticism must be borne in mind. We all know of individuals who are so vehement and persistent that no matter how valid their arguments, we are put off. Hon. Members will know of organisations and individuals who lobby with such fanaticism that their efforts are counter-productive.

I do not suggest that any of the organisations involved are guilty of that fault. However, I wish to utter a word of caution to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State and to organisations such as the Health Education Council and ASH. Those organisations do valuable work. I hope that they will receive more Government support. Their activities should be directed towards educating, informing and persuading. They should not appear to lecture, hector or nag. That can be counter-productive. Public relations are important. We are up against some of the best public relations people in the business. Although we have fewer funds to offer, we may be able to help.

I thought it unfortunate that reference was made to alcohol, as if a direct comparison could be drawn.

Alcoholism is a serious problem in which I take a particular interest, but it is not comparable with the smoking problem. Alcohol gives pleasure to many, is of positive good in some areas and may be prescribed for medical reasons. Unfortunately, about 2 per cent. of those who use alcohol abuse it. The problem is not the product, but the abuse of it.

I am not trying to steer the debate on to alcohol. On the contrary, I suggest that we should confine ourselves to smoking, because, despite the claims of some of my hon. Friends that cigarettes are all right in small doses, all the evidence is that cigarettes are harmful per se. There is a strong responsibility on the Government to try to reduce the consumption of cigarettes. In that they will have my full support, and I am pleased to support the motion.

1.25 pm

If we were discussing a new product, not on the market, which was likely to kill upwards of 50,000 people a year—to kill 250 of every 1,000 young people who used it—was likely to lead to the loss of 50 million working days a year, and was addictive, not a single hon. Member would suggest, even in the name of personal freedom, that such a product should be allowed to be sold in this country.

However, we are talking about a product that is on sale. It is not possible or realistic to suggest that the sale of cigarettes could be banned, but we must consider what we can do to reduce significantly the consumption of cigarettes. I listened carefully to the debate, but I did not hear any reference to where we want to end up. I have heard many suggestions about ways of reducing smoking, but no suggestion about where we should like to be in relation to smoking over the next 10 to 20 years.

Our primary objective should be to pursue policies that will significantly reduce smoking by young people so that within a couple of generations it will be a habit indulged in not by about half the population but by only a tiny handful.

I appreciate the Government's difficulties in seeking to achieve a voluntary agreement with the tobacco companies, who have a vested interest in making profits from their products. The threat of legislation is the most powerful weapon in the Government's armoury in order to ensure that the companies come to heel and agree to satisfactory proposals. If they do not, legislation is the Government's responsibility.

Hon. Members referred to increases in the price of cigarettes being kept below the rate of inflation. I believe that the price should at least keep pace with inflation. I cannot understand the arguments of those who support the advertising of cigarettes and sponsorship by cigarette companies. Children see such sponsorship on television. For example, the cricket season has just started and teams will be playing in the John Player League and competing for the Benson and Hedges Cup. Those are devices used by the tobacco companies to project their image not just to adults but to children, in an attempt to make smoking the norm.

The danger of advertising is not that it will encourage smokers in the short term but that by keeping smoking in the public eye—the mass media are seen by children—and by making smoking the norm it will encourage young people to take up the habit. I suggest that we might more effectively discourage children from smoking if we changed the health warning on packets of cigarettes and included a warning that they should not be sold to children.

It would also be beneficial if we could make cigarette packets look less attractive, because the smokers who pull out the attractive gold packets are conforming to a norm in feeling that it is agreeable to produce such pretty boxes It would be much better if the boxes were dull and unattractive. That would deter people from smoking.

We should go further in limiting smoking in public places, particularly on public transport and the London Underground. We should consider ending the duty-free concession on cigarettes for holidaymakers who return loaded down with boxes of 200. We should consider ending the loyal toast, which is used on ceremonial occasions not as an expression of affection for the Queen but as an excuse to start smoking. Above all, all Government Departments should coordinate their action on smoking and not simply leave the matter to the DHSS, with other Government Departments having a vested interest in the continuation of cigarette sales because of the revenue.

According to the survey carried out a few years ago, 43 out of 50 tobacconists admitted that they sold cigarettes to children of under 16 years of age—and that is illegal. In 1978 there were 11 prosecutions of tobacconists for selling cigarettes to children. The easy availability of cigarettes to children of 10, 11 and 12 years of age—not just those who are almost 16—through vending machines is a problem that the Government should tackle to ensure that the law is enforced. It would be desirable for signs to be placed in tobacconists as well as on the packets, saying that cigarettes should not be sold to children under 16 years. Signs to that effect should also be put on vending machines.

Arguments about point-of-sale advertising miss one key fact. In many cases tobacconists are a child's first exposure to cigarettes. Children go into these shops to buy their chocolates and they see cigarettes next to the chocolates. Such advertising should not be permitted.

The prime objective of our health policy should be to deter children from starting to smoke. Everything possible should be done, by health education, by enforcing the existing law and by publicity, to prevent the next generation from becoming as addicted to cigarettes as the present generation.

1.33 pm

I cannot support the hon Member for Battersea, South (Mr. Dubs) in his wish to abolish the loyal toast. At least some of us raise our glasses at the end of the meal out of loyalty to the Crown, and not for any reasons of getting on to the cigarette course thereafter.

I have sat here throughout the debate, and to me it has proved beyond doubt that smoking is one of the leading causes of statistics, if nothing else. I declare an interest, in that 6,000 of my constituents are directly dependent on the prosperity of the tobacco industry.

The campaign against smoking has been operating for 30 years. That is how long ago the first articles concerning the link between smoking and health appeared in the medical journals—articles by Wynder, Hammond and Horn. What has been the effect of the campaign? To judge from my contact with people, the vast majority of the population over the age of 15 are aware that cigarette smoking is harmful to health. Many adults in this country still smoke and pay high tax on tobacco products. The sum totalled about £3,000 million in 1979.

We are asked in the motion to call upon the Government to take new restrictive initiatives. There is a view that there should be some further control of advertising. I do not believe that there is evidence to support the suggestion that banning advertising would reduce consumption. The reverse is the case. Other hon. Members have mentioned the Metra consultants' report of 1980 and the econometric studies that it contained. There is evidence from other countries which was referred to my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. Stevens).

There is also the December 1977 White Paper from the Department of Health and Social Security—Cmnd. 7047—from which I should like to quote briefly. It states:
" There is little direct evidence one way or the other about this and, if a ban had only a minimal effect on total consumption, it would doubtless be regarded as an unnecessary restriction on the liberty of the individual."
I believe that that is true. It goes on to say that
" further evidence may become available to help in reaching a decision ".
Perhaps my right hon. Friend will say whether any further evidence has come to light since that White Paper.

Why do people continue to smoke cigarettes? The 1964 report of the Advisory Committee on Smoking and Health to the Surgeon General in the United States said:
" Medical perspective requires the recognition of the significant beneficial effects of smoking particularly the area of mental health ".
As a non-smoker myself, I am the first to recognise the need of smokers to smoke in order to cope with the stresses and strains of modern day life.

Over these many years, attempts to persuade people to stop smoking have by and large failed, hence the motion today. Consumption of cigarettes, compared with the 1960s, is very much higher. What are the proposed alternatives? Some right hon. and hon. Members seek a total prohibition of advertising. Such a Member is the right hon. Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Ennals), who admitted that he would not wish to ban smoking itself. He described that as an infringement of liberty. But is it not also an infringement of liberty to ban people from advertising any product that they wish? It seems to me to be a strange principle if one can use it in one direction but not in another. To my mind, a ban on advertising would be totally unacceptable in principle and unworkable in practice.

Another possibility—one which I personally favour—is the safer cigarette. In fact, there is no need for the wholly safe cigarette, even if one could be manufactured. Ernest Wynder, the eminent American research scientist, said in the 1960s that research showed that a smoker had to smoke for 40 years before he ran a significant risk of harming himself, and that what was needed was a cigarette that could be smoked for 80 years before doing the same amount of harm.

The Independent Scientific Committee, set up by the Government under the chairmanship of Lord Hunter, has endorsed Wynder's view and has recommended manufacturers to reduce the tar yield of cigarettes. They are doing so gradually but continually, and are increasingly marketing low tar brands. Basically, the change has been achieved by brand advertising. Advertising is needed. Doing business without advertising is a bit like winking at a young lady in the dark—one knows what one is doing, but no one else does.

Advertising is needed to introduce new lower tar brands. It is needed to retain the loyalty of smokers to certain brands which have had their tar yields reduced, it is significant that in countries where advertising is severely restricted or banned, the change from plain to filter cigarettes has been slow and sales of low-tar brands have been negligible.

I support the change to safer cigarettes because that will allow smokers to have the benefits which they derive from smoking, the Chancellor to have the revenue from the tobacco tax, the tobacco workers in my constituency, and others up and down the country, to retain their jobs; and because safer cigarettes will significantly reduce the ill-health associated with smoking.

1.39 pm

I should like to join almost all who have spoken in the debate in congratulating the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Fry) on gaining such a high place in the Ballot and thanking him for introducing the motion so that we could debate smoking—an all too rare event in our proceedings. The last time that we had a debate on this subject was in January 1976 when the last round of negotiations was just about getting under way. The motion and the debate are well timed in that the current series of negotiations is now going on.

We appreciate the Secretary of State attending today. I do not think that any Opposition Members would in any way want to say of the Under-Secretary of State other than that we admire his tenacity in these matters and his commitment. However, when dealing with a powerful industry such as the tobacco industry, there comes a time when the clout of a Cabinet Minister is required, and we have probably reached that stage.

We have had an interesting and stimulating debate. I do not think that any hon. Member who has taken part has been prepared to deny the proposition that cigarette smoking is an unhealthy way of spending one's time. The majority of speeches have called for positive Government action to reduce the amount of cigarette smoking in this country. I believe that those speeches reflect a fair view of the balance of opinion in the House as a whole.

Why must we act on this matter? The medical profession has been consistently and more or less unitedly advising for the last 20 years that cigarette smoking is the biggest avoidable cause of ill-health. When a profession as well known for its individuality as the medical profession unites on such a proposition, any Minister who has charge of the Department of Health and Social Security must take notice.

Turning to the statistics, we are all willing to accept that about 50,000 premature deaths occur each year as a result of cigarette smoking. To put that in perspective, one must compare it with about 6,000 road deaths in a similar period. There are also 15,000 dead unborn babies of mothers who smoke during pregnancy. The figure that I used to use when I was at the Department was that 26 million working days were lost every year as a result of tobacco-related diseases.

In the last debate it was frequently said that whether a person smoked was a private matter, but that where he smoked was a public matter. That may be wise advice, following the points made by the hon. Member for Dorset, West (Mr. Spicer), but it is not accurate. The estimated cost of dealing with all this death and disability by the National Health Service during one financial year is at least £100 million. Therefore, we all have a major financial interest in making sure that the consequences of death, disease and handicap from heavy cigarette smoking are resolved, apart from the human suffering which must engage all who contemplate the problem.

I do not want to talk too much about that aspect of the matter, because it has been covered adequately by the hon. Member for Wellingborough and others. However, before passing on to other aspects, it is fair to say that there are some constraints on action.

Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Ennals), I was a smoker in times past. Therefore, I can testify from a personal experience that the habit is particularly hard to break. However, the surveys show that about 83 per cent. of smokers recognise that smoking is an unhealthy habit, and they are open to persuasion. Therefore, we can use, and we have been using, the weapon of persuasion with success on the existing body of smokers. But we must make sure that we do not overdo it. If we move to ban the habit by law, the horrible example of America during prohibition is before us. I agree with what has been said by most hon. Members in that respect.

The hon. Member for Basildon (Mr. Proctor) made the point that a large number of people entered the industry in all good faith in times past. They should not be persecuted. We must give time for firms to diversify, and for people who work for those firms to learn new skills, to retrain and redeploy. At the end of the day, if we have no cigarette firms and tobacco workers I shall shed no tears. Against that background we must work out a strategy for the future.

First, we must identify the pressure points at any given time. During the course of the 1977 negotiations we specifically aimed at reducing the tar content of cigarettes. On this occasion, the Government are rightly seeking to put their main pressure on the control of advertising. Having identified those pressure points, the Government must then do their best to reach an agreement with the industry in those areas in which they wish to take action.

I hope that from these negotiations a series of three or four-year agreements, each somewhat tougher than the previous one will be pursued. I accept the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North that the quality of the agreement has a bearing on the time that it should last.

That will give the industry a period of stability of a few years each time, within which it can plan contraction and diversification. I am glad that this Government are following the strategy that we initiated when we launched a three-year agreement in 1977, which should have ended on 31 March this year. I hope that the Government will be tougher this year than we were in 1977. I can give notice that the Labour Party will be tougher in 1984 than the present Government will be this year.

This is a critical time at which to hold this debate, because, obviously, the negotiations are not going according to plan. The agreement that I and my right hon. Friend negotiated was due to end on 31 March this year. Therefore, we would have expected an announcement during the course of March about progress over the next period. We have not yet had that announcement, so the debate is taking place at a time when the maximum influence can be brought to bear.

Most of the discussion has centred on advertising. Incidentally, I was fascinated by the contribution of the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. Stevens), and I wondered at the end of his speech why an aggressive and ruthless firm such as Philip Morris bothered with any advertising, since—if the argument of the hon. Gentleman is followed—it seemed to have a maximum restriction on the size of that company's market.

Two lines can be followed on advertising. One is to adopt the technique, which the Department has adopted with regard to the pharmaceutical industry, of imposing a financial restriction on the amount of money which the industry can deploy in advertising. That is certainly better than nothing, but it still leaves the industry free to concentrate the remaining advertising resources on the sector that it considers most effective.

My preference is that the industry should be persuaded over the next three years to eliminate all advertising except at the place where cigarettes are bought. I make that last exception because I believe that, given the industry's commitment over the last three years to introducing low tar cigarettes, smokers should have advice in the most attractive way when they buy cigarettes as to which are low and middle tar brands.

Common sense says that cigarette advertising increases the market. But even if one accepts the argument of the industry itself—that advertising only persuades people to switch brands—that argument is not good enough, because implicit in that argument is a belief that advertising maintains the size of the market. I believe that what both Front Benches and most hon. Members want to do is to make sure that the market for cigarettes is gradually but remorselessly reduced.

Will the right hon. Gentleman concede that if he dropped his common sense and looked at some of the research, that would be a sounder basis on which to move forward? It is our common sense in this rather emotive area that has led us astray so often.

I am afraid that my 14 or 15 years' experience in this House has taught me to believe that common sense is the guideline to follow, and not any elaborate research or statistics.

The real argument for doing away with advertising is that it currently creates an ambience among the young. If young people go about and see cigarettes advertised, they believe that smoking is an acceptable social pursuit. For that reason alone, I believe that such advertising should be abolished.

Reference has been made to the Philip Morris advertising and that company's approach to the National Union of Students. I am sure that the NUS organises in technical colleges. Therefore, this advertising must be directed at under-eighteens. Has the Secretary of State found that this infringes the code of conduct of the Advertising Standards Authority on these matters? If so, has he made representations to the Advertising Standards Authority in the hope that this may be prevented?

In 1977 our main thrust of negotiation was directed at reducing the tar content of the cigarettes being sold. Apart from the industry promising that it would direct the main burden of its advertising towards cigarettes which had 17 milligrammes of tar or less, it also promised that by 31 March 1980 cigarettes of 29 milligrammes or more would not be sold any longer. Has the industry kept faith with that promise?

One of the problems that we had in the 1977 negotiations was that, having concluded the main agreement, we were faced with the future of tobacco taxation. What then happened was that, when certain alterations were made in the taxation of cigarettes, the industry announced that it felt that it had been dealt with in bad faith. In that context it would be helpful to know whether the Government have now applied to Brussels for a further extension of the derogation from the EEC taxation regulations on the taxation of cigarettes in Britain. In 1977 the EEC introduced taxation on the ad valorem value of cigarettes. We said that we wanted to have a certain proportion of our tax—ideally, we should have liked it to be all our tax—related to the tar content. We were able to get a certain derogation for two and a half years, until the end of this year, to have part of the tax related to the tar content.

The derogation is due to end on 31 December this year. Are we seeking to extend it? I am not seeking an indication as to what level of taxation we shall be applying. I just want to know whether we shall have the freedom to apply a proportion of our taxation to the tar content after the end of this year. I believe that we should proceed along those lines. When we do so, my recommendation is to make sure that all cigarettes with a tar content of more than 15 milligrams are subject to this form of taxation.

The health warning should be strengthened and placed on the front of a packet. It should be more explicit as to the diseases caused by cigarette smoking. For example, it might say: " Cigarettes cause bronchitis, heart disease and lung cancer". The carbon monoxide emission content of cigarettes should also be placed prominently on the packet.

We also committed ourselves in 1977 to an agreement limiting sports sponsorship. I appreciate that that is not the right hon. Gentleman's direct responsibility and that the matter does not fall for renewal until towards the end of this year. But, in view of all the expressions of concern in this debate, I should like to hear from the right hon. Gentleman whether negotiations are under way with a view to more vigorous restrictions on sports sponsorship, in order that the grotesque relationship between cigarette smoking and various forms of healthy outdoor activity can be broken.

One of the points that I made on 24 January, when we had a debate on the Royal Commission report, was that we should have a whole Government policy, that the Department of Health and Social Security should not battle on on its own but should receive the support of all the other Government Departments. It was my experience when I was at the Department that that was far from always being the case.

The Treasury has had a fairly bad press in recent weeks for its commitment to backing up smoking, but so long as my right hon. Friends the Members for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) and Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon) were there there was a shining exception to the Treasury's reputation in these matters. Every time we asked the Treasury to support us, it did so, whilst I was at the Department.

I must join in the regret expressed on all sides in this debate that in the last Budget the Chancellor did not keep the cost of cigarettes moving up at least in line with the cost of living. On the contrary, he imposed what I regarded as a very modest increase in taxation, and then rubbed salt into the wound by raising prescription charges to £1 per prescription. I regard that as a ridiculous way of raising money. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman wants to impose a bigger tax on cigarettes, I shall not oppose that.

I do not believe that any new industry grants should be conceded for new tobacco factories. Having battled against tobacco companies to try to reduce the amount of cigarette smoking, I find it sad when people in other Departments recommend tobacco executives for honours. That sort of thing should be watched.

When we come to action, I must confess that I believe that a voluntary agreement is the best form of controlling the development of cigarette smoking. It means, first, that the Government and the industry are working together; secondly, that the industry recognises its responsibilities to the community; thirdly, that the agreement can be operated in its spirit rather than in the letter. That means that administrative action can readily be taken to correct abuses, anomalies and unforeseen circumstances by agreement during the course of the agreement. It makes the whole thing more flexible.

However, if there is failure to secure a voluntary agreement, that means that the industry is turning its back on its responsibilities to the community, that it is prepared to risk causing disease and even death in the interests of making profits from its products. Therefore, in no way must the Secretary of State give up his objectives in order to secure a voluntary agreement with the industry. Let him stick to his principles.

If the right hon. Gentleman must legislate to maintain his principles, he should be prepared to do so. I have seen no draft legislation of the sort that he might introduce in those circumstances, but if he comes to the conclusion that he must legislate we on the Opposition Front Bench will want to do all we can to get the legislation through the House. I make that quite clear. If the right hon. Gentleman feels that he has to legislate and does so, I believe that he will carry the majority of the House with him. My advice to the right hon. Gentleman is: let him be resolute.

2 pm

I should like to join the many right hon. and hon. Members who have spoken in congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Fry) both on his success in the ballot and on the excellent speech with which he moved his motion.

The motion has given the House the chance to debate a matter that everyone has acknowledged is a serious one, which concerns us all. This has also been a rational and sensible debate. That is not always the case outside the House. Cigarette smoking is a subject that arouses strong emotions. Those whose work, as doctors perhaps, brings them into contact with smoking-related disease and death are increasingly angry that Parliament and the public, while apparently recognising the dangers, are able to move only slowly to combat them, while those whose livelihoods depend upon the production and sale of tobacco products, sometimes feel threatened by the mounting campaign against smoking and seek to defend their position.

One gets the same contrast at the individual level. It has been acknowledged by almost everyone who has spoken, whatever his view about advertising, and so on, that individuals who choose to smoke are entitled to continue to do so if they wish. In a free society, that must be a matter for personal choice, yet there are increasing numbers of people, as my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Mr. Browne) said—he has apologised for not being able to stay for the end of the debate—who find smoking by others increasingly unpleasant and become resentful at what they see as the inconsiderate behaviour of the minority of smokers, who seem quite unaware of the discomfort that they cause.

All these issues generate emotion, but we have had a rational debate today. A Secretary of State who steps into this arena sometimes finds rakes waiting to spring up and hit him smartly in the face, but the House has dealt kindly with me today in a valuable debate.

The hon. Member for Carmarthen (Dr. Thomas), who is no longer in his place, took us back to King James and Sir Walter Raleigh. T would start a little more recently and begin with the first report of the Royal College of Physicians which, 20 years ago, pointed out authoritatively the serious risks of smoking. Since then there has been a whole range of reports and surveys across the world, which have served only to underline and elaborate that original message.

As the right hon. Member for Lewisham, East (Mr. Moyle) said, smoking is recognised as the greatest preventable cause of illness and premature death. Many hon. Members have quoted the figures. Apart from the suffering and distress caused to the smoker and his family, there are the heavy demands on the National Health Service. I would not quarrel with the right hon. Gentleman's figure of £100 million for the cost.

There is also the cost of supporting the dependants of a smoker who has died prematurely. There is the number of working days lost through smoking-related diseases. All these aspects are now well known and have been referred to repeatedly today. When I say that they are well known, I mean well known, not just to doctors, researchers and members of Parliament but increasingly now to members of the public—as the right hon. Gentleman said.

Part of the case for making efforts to warn people of the dangers and to persuade them not to smoke is, as the right hon. Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Ennals) said, that many of those who are anxious to give up smoking feel that they need help and support to break the habit. The whole House was struck by the figure—I had forgotten it, but now remember it—when the right hon. Member for Norwich, North said that 600,000 people had answered the offer made in a Granada Television programme of a kit to help them to give up smoking.

Greater awareness of the danger is, albeit slowly, leading to a decline in the numbers who smoke. In 1948 about 65 per cent. of men were smokers; today's figure is 45 per cent. For many years, while the numbers of men smokers was declining the number of women who smoked was growing, but more recently there is a welcome sign that the number of women smokers is also falling.

There is still a long way to go. The World Health Organisation's expert committee on smoking, which was mentioned by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. Sever), last year reported:
" In countries where smoking has been a widespread habit, it is reponsible for 90 per cent of lung cancer deaths, for 75 per cent. of bronchitis deaths and for 25 per cent. of ischaemic heart disease deaths under 65 years of age in men."
The pooled results of a group of American surveys indicate:
" Of every three men who at the age of 40 were heavy smokers, one will have had a major heart attack (which as likely as not will have been fatal) before he reaches the age for normal retirement—65; on the other hand 6 out of 7 non-smokers will have reached that age without having had a coronary attack."
The American Surgeon General has declared:
" If present trends are not reversed during the next decade lung cancer will become the leading cause of death from cancer in women exceeding deaths from cancer of the breast ".
One could go on citing report after report, but the message is now clear that it is the greatest preventable cause of illness and premature death in the Western world.

One of the gloomier messages from the World Health Organisation expert committee's report was that Britain shows up very badly in the international league. In a comparison of death rates from lung cancer in over 30 countries, Scotland leads the field, with England and Wales following up in second place, ahead of all other countries in that list.

One of the figures quoted in the debate, which was provided by Richard Peto of Oxford University, working under Professor Sir Richard Doll, indicates that among an average of 1,000 young adult smokers, about one will be murdered, about six will be killed on the roads, and about 250 will be killed before their time by tobacco. Faced with these incontrovertible facts, the duty of a Health Minister is clear—it must be our purpose, by alerting the public to the dangers of smoking and by taking other measures, to reduce the incidence of smoking-related disease.

I come now to some of the anxieties that have been expressed today by my hon. Friends the Members for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Lewis), for Dorset, West (Mr. Spicer)—who apologised to me for being unable to stay for the rest of the debate—for Fulham (Mr Stevens) and, latterly, for Basildon (Mr. Proctor)—about the fact that we are a nation of free men and free women who rightly attach high importance to the freedom of the individual to live his life as he wills.

How far are a Government justified in taking action to seek to persuade people to abandon a course of conduct which that Government believe to be harmful? Particularly, should this question be asked of a Government who have been elected to reduce the interference of the State in the lives of the people and to leave individuals greater freedom to make their own decisions? I am sometimes a little envious of those outside the House who find the case for individual choice so unimportant that they would cheerfully step in and legislate, interfere, control and ban without a qualm.

It has been evident from many of the speeches in the House today that the issues raised pose a real dilemma, which admits of no easy answer. My hon. Friend the Member for Chislehurst (Mr. Sims) spent a considerable part of his speech on this subject. He is well placed to do so, because he was a member of the Select Committee that has been referred to in a number of speeches and that recommended some fairly stringent measures against smoking. It is interesting that four of my hon Friends joined in the unanimous recommendations of that committee, which included a total ban on advertising.

As I said. I have no difficulty in starting an examination of the dilemma from the point that it is the duty of the Government to try to reduce the toll of disease and premature death. I would tell my hon. Friends who express anxieties that I believe that that is fully in the tradition of Conservative Governments, from Disraeli onwards.

As the advances of medical science have identified the causes of the spread of infectious diseases, and of illness caused by bad nutrition, bad housing or inadequate health care, so successive Governments have always felt it right, for the well-being of the people, to take such steps as are necessary to try to reduce and eventually eliminate such diseases. Whether the means be major public works, as with the development of sewage systems—one always remembers that Disraeli was chided by his opponents for having " a policy of sewage ", but that is now the foundation of our public health service—by compulsory administrative processes, as with the notification of communicable diseases, or by major institutional change, such as the institution of effective health care services, successive Governments have never found it difficult to justify action to reduce disease.

Yet clearly there are other factors relevant to cigarette smoking of which Governments must take account. Whether to smoke a cigarette or not must in the last resort be a matter of individual choice. It would be unacceptable for us to legislate to make illegal the personal decisions of 20 million citizens. It is significant that no hon. Member, however strongly he feels about smoking, has suggested that today. I like the philosophy of the nineteenth century actor who is reported to have said: " I do not mind what men do as long as they do not do it in the street and frighten the horses." It is a matter of individual choice.

However, the individual interest is not the only legitimate interest. The lives and livelihoods of a large number of people depend on the tobacco trade as we were properly reminded by the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) and my hon. Friend the Member for Basildon.

Faced with those factors it has been the view of successive Governments that they should seek to achieve their health objectives by voluntary agreement, while maintaining a gradual but sustained and steady pressure to reduce the amount of smoking. In other words, this is a field where our tradition of proceeding by persuasion and consent rather than legislation and compulsion has a great deal to commend it. It would be wrong to force sudden abrupt changes on an industry on which tens of thousands of families depend. So long as progress by agreement is possible, it would be wrong to introduce legislation, for instance on advertising, although no Government could rule that out for all time.

I do not share the view of those who regard voluntary agreements as valueless or the efforts to achieve our ends by persuasion rather than compulsion as doomed to failure. On the contrary, the previous three-year voluntary agreement with the industry made a valuable contribution to the objectives that I have outlined. It also illustrated the industry's willingness to respond responsibly to public concern about the dangers of smoking.

As part of the sustained pressure to which I referred, negotiations have been in progress between the Government and the industry with a view to reaching a new agreement. We had hoped to reach a conclusion by March, but that was not possible. We have therefore allowed the existing agreement to run on, and made an announcement to that effect.

I believe that it is essential that we make further progress on a number of fronts. Contrary to reports in the press, I assure the House that although the negotiations are taking longer than originally envisaged they are very much alive. Both sides—Government and industry—share the objective of reaching an agreement that meets the aim of Ministers in the Department of Health and Social Security to reduce the prevalence of disease caused through smoking while not forcing too abrupt a change on the industry's operations.

As a number of hon. Members recognise. I am not in a position today to give the House details about those negotiations. We all agreed at the outset that it would be better to conduct the talks confidentially, as has been done in the past. When agreement has been reached I shall make an announcement to the House in the usual way. The question of the debate asked for by the hon. Member for Brent, South (Mr. Pavitt) is for the House and my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to decide.

I pay tribute at this point to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State—who has borne the brunt of the negotiations for the Government—and to the representatives of the industry who are taking part in these negotiations for their helpfulness and courtesy in the conduct of what must be for them a particularly difficult exercise.

Negotiations with the industry, however, represent only part of the Government's policy on smoking. Freedom of choice for the individual is a reality only if each individual has as much knowledge as possible of all the relevant facts. Health education must be a key element in our policy. As I have said, thanks to the many reports and surveys and the work of health educators generally, smokers are now more aware that their habit is, in general terms, a danger to their health.

Not everyone has the full understanding of how extensive those dangers may be, or how widespread they are. For instance, while most people know about the danger of contracting lung cancer, and many are aware of the link between smoking and respiratory disease, few realise how much heart disease is due to cigarette smoking. Many women who use oral contraceptives do not realise that smoking increases the risk of thrombosis, and many mothers do not realise that smoking during pregnancy can have serious effects on the health of their babies. The right hon. Member for Lewisham, East quoted some figures. Many workers exposed to the risk of industrial diseases do not realise that smoking can greatly increase the risk of contracting those diseases. In all this health education has a key role to play.

We shall be reviewing future needs with the Health Education Council, and once the current negotiations are over we shall make our dispositions. We have recently indicated our continuing support for the work of ASH—Action on Smoking and Health—with a grant of £80,000 for 1980–81.

Above all, it is to the health professions themselves that we must primarily look. It is in the direct face-to-face contact between doctor and patient, as an increasing number of hon. Members have found in their contacts with the excellent Dr. Gage, that real health education can be at its most effective. Doctors can warn the smoker or potential smoker of the risks that he or she may face.

My hon. Friend's motion makes particular reference to the need to reduce the promotion of cigarettes to the young. It is a frightening fact that over one-third of boys and nearly as many girls will have adopted the habit of smoking by the age of 15, and the studies indicate that about 80 per cent. of these children and young people will persist in the habit when they grow up. To dissuade youngsters from ever starting smoking is an objective that must have overwhelming support in the House. Advertising is obviously the subject of negotiations with the industry to which I have referred, and while I have taken careful note of the points made in the debate, I cannot say more at this stage.

I question the proposition put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham, who said that all countries in which advertising had stopped had noticed a rise in consumption. I urge him to study the statistics for Norway, which banned advertising in 1975. Consumption there has fallen by 5 per cent.

The Metra report has been mentioned in the debate. Its authors studied the relationship between short-term fluctuations—some of them substantial—in the industry's expenditure on advertising over a period of 20 years and total consumption of cigarettes. They found no correlation. What they did not, and could not, study was the effect that a substantial and sustained change in the scale or the nature of advertising and other forms of promotion might have on the number of young people starting to smoke. We may in time learn something from the experience of other countries—though we must be cautious about the findings.

Smoking at a young age is not the result of an informed and rational decision. Those who start young do so because they learn the habit from family or friends, or because of the general climate of approval created by society at large. These are very complex questions, and not enough is known about the reasons, motives and pressures that prompt so many young people to start smoking. Nor is it only about the young that our knowledge is deficient. More needs to be known about the complex of psychological and social pressures that encourage and reinforce the smoking habit.

My hon. Friend the Member for Basildon asked what further steps we could take to obtain more information about this. I have therefore decided to sponsor a new national survey by the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys about attitudes towards smoking. The information gained from the survey will be used to develop better anti-smoking publicity, so that increasingly bodies like the Health Education Council will be able to direct the right message to the right target.

The suggestion that the survey was needed was made by a joint committee of the Social Science Research Council and the Medical Research Council. A series of pilot interviews will be conducted during 1980, and the main interviewing of a 4,000-strong national sample will take place early next year. I hope to have the results towards the end of 1981.

It must be our objective to try to persuade the young not to start smoking, and to persuade existing smokers to give it up, but large numbers will wish to continue to smoke, despite all the advice. There is therefore a need to reduce the risks to those who will not give it up. I would like to put on record my appreciation of the industry's co-operation in terms of product modification. Without doubt, that was one of the most valuable achievements of the agreement made by the right hon. Member for Norwich, North. I thank also Lord Hunter, chairman of the Independent Scientific Committee on Smoking and Health, and his colleagues. They have done valuable work. The committee's recent report is currently among the topics being discussed with the industry.

The right hon. Member for Norwich, North and my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, South (Mr. Morris) mentioned tobacco substitutes. I was very dismayed at what seemed to be a sustained campaign from some quarters when new smoking materials were launched two or three years ago. They sought to undermine and to bring to naught the lengthy and expensive research and development that the Government had encouraged. In particular the campaign that sought to dissuade people, by saying that to smoke a cigarette with a tobacco substitute was no better than to jump off the thirty-sixth floor of the Post Office tower instead of the thirty-ninth, was misconceived. It was a false analogy.

I very much regretted the commercial failure of the new smoking materials. I can tell my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Stamford that in the longer term such developments will have a real contribution to make to the reduction of smoking-related diseases.

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me. I wish to speak only for a few more minutes. I acknowledge the relevance of taxation. It is certainly true that during the past 18 years or so since publication of the first report of the Royal College of Physicians, the level of tobacco taxation has not kept in line with the movement of retail prices generally. Indeed, the right hon. Member for Norwich, North conceded that point.

In the Budget my right hon. and learned Friend was able to make a substantial increase in the level of tobacco duty. The House will recognise that as the prime target of economic policy is the containment of inflation, my right hon. and learned Friend had to pay particular regard to the effect of his decisions on the retail price index. In the longer term, we recognise that price has a major impact on consumption. That will be borne in mind when the levels of duty are considered.

Several hon. Members mentioned the retail price index. I draw their attention to the remarks of my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary. On the Second Reading of the Finance Bill, yesterday, he suggested that that subject might be discussed with advantage by a Select Committee. I hope that that suggestion will be taken up.

My hon. Friend the Member for Belpet (Mrs. Faith) and the right hon. and learned Member for Dulwich (Mr. Silkin) asked about smoking in public places. Non-smokers are now in a majority. The emphasis should be shifted. Instead of setting aside places for non-smokers in public places, special places should be set aside for smokers. This is not a matter for direct control by the Government. It is a matter for all those who control forms of transport, public places, theatres, cinemas, restaurants, and so on. The Government will continue to give advice and encouragement to those who manage such places. We shall encourage a shift of emphasis.

I had wished to intervene on the subject of new smoking materials. The taxation policy of the former Labour Government played an essential part in that failure. If there had been a greater financial difference between ordinary smoking materials and new smoking materials, new smoking materials might have had a chance.

The hon. Gentleman would not expect me to commit myself, or even to express a view on that matter. I believe that a major factor in the failure was the campaign to denigrate the product. That was unfortunate.

A number of Members, including the right hon. Member for Lewisham, East raised the question of the Philip Morris campaign for Marlboro cigarettes. The firm's poster and press advertising is passed by the Advertising Standards Authority, but the promotions to which the right hon. Gentleman referred—Club Marlboro and the NUS—are not subject to the ASA code. In my judgment, they are blatantly out of accord with the whole spirit of the agreement that has been made. My Department is in touch with the firm and I hope that it will abandon both promotions.

I was asked about carbon monoxide yields. There are technical difficulties in measurement, and we shall have to overcome those before we can consider insisting that such yields should be shown on cigarette packets. We are looking at other ways of trying to get the necessary information.

On the question of high-tar brands, yielding more than 20 milligrams, they form only about 1 per cent. of cigarettes sold in the United Kingdom. Of the brands listed, only one yielding more than 29 milligrams appears in the latest table.

I assure the right hon. Member for Lewisham, East that the question of EEC regulations is under consideration. I hope that I have touched on most of the points raised in the debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough has performed a notable service in giving the House an opportunity to debate a subject of increasing importance to all of us in Parliament. I have no hesitation in recommending the House to accept his motion.

2.26 pm

With the leave of the House, I wish to thank all those hon. Members who have been so kind to me. I particularly appreciate the fact that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has taken part in an important and interesting debate.

One significant suggestion made in the debate was that cigarettes should be taken out of the RPI. There seems to be general agreement that that would be a good move, and I hope that it is put into effect as soon as possible.

On a slightly discordant note, I disagreed with the odd suggestion of the hon. Member for Battersea, South (Mr. Dubs) that the loyal toast should be discontinued. I agree with what my hon. Friend the Member for Basildon (Mr. Proctor) said. There have been many occasions in foreign countries when I have wished that there was a loyal toast, because it would have spared me having cigarette smoke poured over me while I was eating dinner. The loyal toast is not the least of the benefits of having a Royal Family.

There appeared to be two main areas of concern and disagreement in the debate—sports sponsorship and whether cuts in advertising would lead to a reduction in cigarette smoking.

On the first point, I accept that many sporting bodies have received money from cigarette companies and can run functions that would otherwise not take place. But if that is the only way that sport can survive at present, we should ask ourselves whether we can find an alternative.

On the question whether cuts in advertising lead to cuts in consumption, one cannot know what would have happened if there had been no ban. Often, the question of a ban can encourage people to pay attention to the proposed subject of the ban and lead to a temporary increase in consumption. It is an area in which one can argue indefinitely, but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Chislehurst (Mr. Sims) said, advertising is aimed at encouraging people to buy. Otherwise, why would one bother to advertise? That is the argument which those who say that there should be no restriction on advertising have to answer.

The basic point is clear. Too many people, especially young people, smoke. We must do all that we can to deter future generations from following the path that present and past generations have taken. If the motion helps the Government and the nation towards that objective, it will have done some good.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House recognises the cost in personal suffering which arises from cigarette smoking; and calls on Her Majesty's Government to make new initiatives to alert the public to the dangers and costs of smoking and also to agree measures with the tobacco industry which will lead to a reduction in the promotion of cigarettes to the young.

Employment (Changing Demands)

Resolved,

That this House takes note of the growing pace of technical change in industry and business; is aware of the resulting pressures on employees at all levels of responsibility to keep their professional knowledge and acquired skills up to date with the new demands of their jobs; looks to the Government to adopt policies in housing and for protection of pension rights to promote job mobility and personal career planning; but calls in particular for measures to encourage employers to anticipate change and to provide their employees as far as practicable with the necessary facilities for retraining in order to maintain their efficiency and power to earn.—[ Sir Brandon Rhys Williams.]

Orders Of The Day

Control Of Interception Bill

Order for Second Reading read.

Second Reading deferred till Friday 4 July.

Cruise Missile Sites Bill

Order for Second Reading read.

Order. There cannot be a point of order. The Bill is not even before the House. Objection to it has been taken.

This is a general point of order. Is it in order for a Government Whip anonymously to shout " Object " to a Bill that would stop the annihilation—

Order, it is perfectly in order for any one of the 634 other hon. Members to shout " Object " Second Reading what day?

Health And Safety At Work Etc (Amendment) Bill

Order for Second Reading read.

Second Reading deferred till Friday 4 July.

Coroners Bill

Considered in Committee.

[Mr. RICHARD CRAWSHAW in the Chair]

Clause 1 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 2

Power To Hold Inquests In Areas Other Than That In Which The Body Lies

Amendments made: No. 1, in page 1, line 16, leave out from beginning to end of line 23 on page 2 and insert—

  • '(1) If it appears to a coroner that an in quest ought to be held on a body lying within his area but it is expedient that the inquest should be held by some other coroner he may request that coroner to assume jurisdiction to hold the inquest and if that coroner agrees he, and not the coroner within whose area the body is lying, shall have jurisdiction to hold the inquest.
  • (2) If the coroner who has been requested to assume jurisdiction declines to assume it the coroner who has made the request may apply to the Secretary of State for a direction designating the coroner who is to hold the inquest.'
  • No. 2, in page 2, line 24, leave out '(4)' and insert '(2)'.

    No. 3, in page 2, line 33, at end insert—

    ' (5A) Where jurisdiction to hold an inquest is assumed under this section it shall not be necessary to remove the body into the area of the coroner who is to hold the inquest.'.

    No. 4, in page 2, line 38, leave out ' (4) ' and insert ' (2) '.—[Mr. Budgen.]

    Clause 2, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

    Clause 3

    Provisions Supplementary To S 2

    Amendments made: No. 5, in page 3, line 2, leave out from ' inquest ' to ' section ' and insert ' under '

    No. 6, in page 3, line 17, leave out from ' inquest ' to ' to' in line 18 and insert ' under section 2 above '.

    No. 7, in page 3, line 25, leave out from ' jurisdiction ' to end of line and insert ' under '.—[ Mr. Budgen.]

    Clause 3, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

    Clause 4 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

    Clause 5

    Citation, Construction And Extent

    Amendment made: No. 8, in page 4, line 5, leave out from ' Act ' to end of line and insert

    ' extends to England and Wales only except that the repeal in section 30(2)( a) of the Merchant Shipping Act 1979 extends also to Northern Ireland '.—[ Mr. Budgen.]

    Clause 5, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

    Schedule 1

    Consequential Amendments

    Amendment made: No. 9, in page 5, line 18, at end insert—

    ' 5A. In section 21(1) of the said Act of 1926, for the words " upon the body", there shall be substituted the words " touching the death " '.—[Mr. Budgen.]

    Schedule 1, as amended, agreed to.

    Schedule 2

    Repeals

    Amendment made: No. 10, in page 5, line 45, at end insert—

    1979 c. 39The Merchant Shipping Act 1979.In section 30 (2)(a), the, words " on a dead body or ".'—[Mr. Budgen.]

    Schedule 2, as amended, agreed to.

    Bill reported, with amendments; as amended, considered.

    Motion made, and Question, That the Bill be now read the Third time, put

    forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 56 (Third Reading), and agreed to

    Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.

    Child Benefit (Uprating) Bill

    Order for Second Reading read.

    Second Reading deferred till Friday 4 July.

    Land Drainage (Amendment) Bill

    Order for Second Reading read.

    Second Reading deferred till Friday 4 July.

    Statutory Instruments, &C

    Motion made, and Question put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 73A (Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.).

    Housing (Scotland)

    That the draft Scottish Special Housing Association (Limit of Advances) Order 1980, which was laid before this house on 14 April, be approved.—[ Mr. Newton.]

    Question agreed to.

    Gas Bill

    Ordered,

    That, in respect of the Gas Bill, notices of Amendments, new Clauses and new Schedules to be moved in Committee may be accepted by the Clerks at the Table before the Bill has been read a Second time.—[ Mr. Newton.]

    Sea Fish Industry Bill

    Ordered,

    That, in respect of the Sea Fish Industry Bill, notices of Amendments, new Clauses and new Schedules to be moved in Committee may be accepted by the Clerks at the Table before the Bill has been read a Second time.—[ Mr. Newton.]

    British Railways (Subsidiary Businesses)

    Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[ Mr. Newton.]

    2.37 pm

    I am pleased to have this opportunity of introducing a short debate on the future of British Rail subsidiaries. The origins of the debate go back to the statement by the Minister of Transport in the course of oral questions on 20 February, to the effect that he was asking the chairman of British Rail to consider forming a holding company to enable British Rail's three major subsidiaries to be taken into the private sector.

    I think that the Parliamentary Secretary will admit that that was a novel announcement for which there had been no preparation. I have again carefully gone through the Conservative manifesto, and I can find no hint whatever—not even between the lines—that the Conservative Party put before the electorate at the general election the proposal that the three major subsidiaries of British Rail should be hived off to the private sector. With perhaps extreme conscientiousness, I have even been through " The Right Track " again, and, even in what we might regard as the seminal work for the Government's transport policy, one can find not the slightest indication that the Conservative Party, when in opposition, had it in mind to hive off those bodies, or that it gave any warning at the time when it sought its mandate that it had this matter in contemplation.

    One might also add that the news came as a fresh announcement to the British Railways Board itself, because only three weeks before the Minister made that statement, the deputy chairman of British Rail issued a press statement in which he explicitly said:
    " British Rail is not in the hiving-off game."
    Only seven days after the Minister made his statement—I emphasise " after the statement "—the deputy chairman wrote a letter to The Guardian, in which he stated:
    " Contrary to the impression given by your Planning Correspondent, British Rail has no plans to sell any of its hotels or ferry services as the preliminary to setting up a holding company offering shares for sale to the public."
    We have an announcement made to the House with no preparation beforehand to the public, to Parliament or, for that matter, to the board, which plainly was not consulted about the announcement and has been resisting the announcement since it was made.

    I can understand why the members of the board wish to oppose this proposal. After all, they had spent the previous nine months patiently and with much effort putting together a package by which they could attract private sector capital into their subsidiaries. In view of the way that they have been treated some of us may now doubt the wisdom of that strategy on their part. But they came forward with a proposal to involve private sector capital in their operations to finance further expansion of those businesses. Had the Minister genuinely been seeking a way of involving private capital in a mixed operation with the public sector in British Rail he had found a method of doing it.

    The first question to which I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to address himself when he replies is: why did the Government reject those proposals? Why were they not good enough for the Government? Why was it neceessary for the Government to go further and to urge that the three subsidiaries be put in a new holding company wholly in the private sector?

    One can but suspect that, had the British Railways Board succeeded in attracting investment to its subsidiaries, it would have been incompatible with the Government's commitment to rolling back the public sector, because it might—perish the thought—have enabled British Rail to expand the work of its subsidiaries and the State's competition with the private sector.

    I invite the House to contemplate the holding company proposed by the Government. It will contain three separate subsidiaries. In order of turnover they are Sealink (UK) Ltd, British Transport Hotels Ltd and the British Rail Property Board. At present, these are three distinctive management organisations with three separate profit centres. The Government are proposing to runnel them all together into one holding company. Whoever ends up holding that company will find that he is running an extensive shipping business and the largest mail order wine club in Britain. He will be providing a national laundry service and will simultaneously be managing a large number of lucrative city centre office properties. In his spare time, he will also be serving meals on trains.

    It is impossible to see what conceivable rationale there could be for such a ragbag of diverse and diffuse functions. It cannot seriously be intended that it should stay that way. No sane manager would attempt to organise, as a corporate identity, any one company holding such a diverse range of functions and profits.

    One is left with the suspicion that the proposed holding company is nothing more than a vehicle to enable the Government to hive off from British Rail its three lucrative subsidiaries and to let the asset strippers in so that they can take the most profitable chunks and absorb them into their own private sector companies.

    Shortly before the Minister's announcement to the House, I was intrigued to see the city editor of the Daily Express speculate as follows:
    " the attraction of picking up hotels on choice sites "—
    he was referring to the city centre hotels of British Transport Hotels—
    " would be just the opportunity hoteliers like Sir Charles Forte and Mr. Maxwell Joseph could not refuse ".
    I should not be surprised if already a substantial number of property firms were looking at the considerable profits made by the British Rail Property Board over recent years. Last year it actually knocked up a profit of 77·6 per cent. There would be no difficulty in finding a property firm which was willing to take over that slice of the State industry. No doubt the hon. Member for Dorking (Mr. Wickenden) has already cast his eye over what might happen to Sealink ferries and will be able to find it a safe resting place within his own conglomerate which operates European Ferries.

    There will be nice bits of profit for each of these companies in taking away from the holding company vehicle those parts that provide the profits. The problem is that such a development would desperately complicate the attempts of the British Railways Board to run a real business. I shall demonstrate how difficult the job would become.

    At present, British Transport Hotels does not simply manage hotels; it also runs station catering and provides all forms of refreshment that are served on all trains. In addition, it handles the laundry for the entire British Rail function. That is done at three major laundries throughout Britain, one of which is situated in my constituency, at Slateford in Edinburgh. Those laundries do not simply handle the laundry for British Transport Hotels. They even handle the linen that is required for sleeping cars on British Rail trains. Together, those functions account for well over half the turnover of British Transport Hotels, and they are intimately related to the operation of the railway business.

    At present British Transport Hotels does not show a profit, but there is no reason why it should. It is providing a service to people using the British Rail business. The price of the ticket is calculated to meet the cost of the operation. The cost of the charge for those services is calculated to make them pay their way but not to make a profit, because they are provided to give an incentive to people to use the British Rail buisiness.

    It is doubtful whether any private sector firm would be interested in providing that kind of service on a cost basis. The consequence can be only one of two things. Either the services would be cut or withdrawn, or, alternatively, they would become more expensive to the travelling passenger.

    It is worth recalling that British Rail catering is far better developed than the catering in any other railway business in Europe. More meals are served on the British Rail network than on the whole of the network in the rest of Europe. It is possible that British Rail has been too ambitious in its attempt to provide that catering service, but it will be impossible for it to provide that service if the Government's proposal goes ahead. It will lose British Transport Hotels, which at present provides the bedrock on which it rests that service.

    I turn now to Sealink. Sealink was originally formed because the ferries carry trains. About 34 per cent. of all the business of Sealink comes from railway-generated business. It is also a public sector firm and as such has a purchasing policy to buy British. The Parliamentary Secretary will be aware that all ferries purchased by Sealink are British ships, and are almost entirely purchased from Harland and Wolff—a struggling shipyard situated in an area of acute unemployment, where the loss of Sealink orders will have a serious industrial impact, particularly if they go to the lion. Member for Dorking who has found it impossible to place any of his orders for ships with a British firm.

    I warn the Parliamentary-Secretary that Sealink is not simply a British concern. It is a consortium of four separate national firms. It is organised by the Dutch, Belgian, French and British railways. They trade under the same livery and the same name, and they have a common fare structure and an agreement as to how the profits are divided among them. The chances are that a person travelling to France will be travelling on a French, rather than a British boat. All the companies participating in the consortium are public sector companies. The Government are proposing to inject into that consortium a single private sector firm. That will greatly complicate the financial and accountancy arrangements which are at present run by all four companies on the conventions that apply to public accountancy and public sector financing. I know the Government have doubts about Europe, but I warn them that this suggestion would be regarded as highly un-European by some of the partners in Sealink, who will find themselves dealing with a private sector firm whose main interest will be to maximise profit.

    Finally, I turn to the British Rail Property Board. I shall not detain the House long with references to this board because it is self-evident that all the properties it holds are on British Rail premises. The great bulk of them relate to sites which contain premises still in operation. Even those parts which are not required for operational purposes are now being sold off rapidly by the property board and are providing a very healthy income to the main business. In the last 15 years British Rail has generated 226 million from the sale of land assets which it no longer requires for operating purposes. That has been a major source of income which has enabled it to finance investment in other parts of the business to help the travelling public.

    I see no reason whatsoever why that income should go to a private sector firm and disappear into private pockets through dividends rather than return to the travelling public through investment in better rolling stock and in better service to the public. After all, the public paid for these assets when they were originally purchased in 1948.

    Before I conclude, I should like to restate the important questions to which I think we are entitled to answers and to which I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will address himself. These questions are as follows. First, why have the Government rejected the proposals by the Board for a partnership with private sector capital and, instead, indulged in their own dotty scheme for a holding company? Secondly, what is the logic of this mad conglomerate which will bring together such diverse and diffuse functions, and do the Government seriously expect that such a diverse holding company could long survive? Thirdly, will the British Rail Board be allowed to retain a controlling interest in that holding company, and, if so, will that controlling interest be a majority controlling interest or a minority controlling interest? If not, how do the Government propose to reconcile the present operational requirement of British Rail to have contact with these subsidiaries with the proposal to pass control of them over into the private sector?

    Fourthly, how will British Rail be compensated for this sale? I presume that the Government will not propose denationalisation without compensation. That would, after all, be nothing short of confiscation. What proposal, then, will the Government be making for compensating British Rail for the loss of what, clearly, are highly profitable and potentionally very lucrative assets indeed, particularly in the form of the British Rail Property Board?

    Fifthly, will that compensation be set against the external finance limits of British Rail? If so, as the Parliamentary Secretary will appreciate, that will have the effect that there will not be a single extra penny available to British Rail to finance further expansion or development of its services.

    In conclusion, there is one other question that the House has to ask, even if the Government will be very reluctant, this time, to answer it. If the answer to these previous questions turns out to be unsatisfactory to the board, if the board continues to object to the proposals put forward as not making any kind of commercial sense, will the Government seriously contemplate using their majority to push through the House a proposal against the consent and without the cooperation of the board? If that were the case, I believe that it would be a shameful and unfair way to treat a major nationalised industry that has made major strides over recent years to provide a more efficient and more cost-effective service to the travelling public.

    2.54 pm

    The hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Cook) is to be congratulated on giving the House an opportunity to acquire more information about the Government's intentions towards some of the British Rail subsidiary businesses. He is correct when he reminds us that the Government are firmly committed to the involvement of private capital in subsidiaries of British Rail. This debate provides a brief opportunity to explain more fully the Government's objectives and the reasons why we are seeking to denationalise some of the subsidiary businesses.

    Underlying the Government's thinking on the British Railways Board's subsidiaries is our general policy of reducing the size of the public sector. This has found expression elsewhere in transport in our proposals for the National Freight Corporation, which are in the present Transport Bill. My right hon. Friend the Minister has already announced that he wishes soon to introduce private capital into the British Transport Docks Board.

    We also see private capital as the solution to some of the problems of certain of the board's non-rail subsidiaries, but I accept that the problems are slightly different in this case as compared with the NFC and the Docks Board, because here we are dealing with subsidiaries that are part of a much larger group—subsidiaries that undoubtedly have a close and in some ways continuing link between themselves and with the railway as a whole.

    The hon. Gentleman was right in identifying the subsidiaries that we have in mind. The most likely candidates seem to be Sealink (UK) Ltd, including both the shipping and the harbour side of the business; British Transport Hotels; and part of the board's property management and development activities. All these have connections with the railway, but each at present has, as the hon. Gentleman said, a significant independent existence as a separate profit centre within the board, and all of them are comparable to private sector businesses in their own sphere. It is right that collectively they are somewhat of a ragbag of activities, which is why a holding company is the preferred approach. But it is astonishing to find that British Rail, under its wide umbrella, at present retains this ragbag of activities.

    If I had more time I would turn some of the hon. Gentleman's arguments back upon him and question whether most members of the public could appreciate the reasons for the largest mail-order wine business in the country being in the Government's ownership, under the umbrella of the British Railways Board. As the hon. Gentleman accurately said, that is the present position.

    There is one other subsidiary that is operating in a way very similar to that of a private company—British Rail Hovercraft Ltd—but the considerations there are somewhat different, largely because of the unhappy financial record of hovercraft in this country. It plainly is not eligible for the same treatment.

    The Government's desire to see private capital involved in the British Rail subsidiaries that I have identified is not merely the application of a doctrinaire political policy. I hope that the hon. Gentleman agrees that Conservative and Socialist politicians are never more boring than when they are involved in an arid debate based on instinctive reactions to the idea of nationalisation or denationalisation, and to the idea " Public sector good; Private sector bad ", or vice versa.

    We believe that in this case there are genuine benefits to be gained both by the public and by the subsidiaries and those who work in them, from involving private capital in the businesses. One of the matters that I must emphasise, because it arose in several of the hon. Gentleman's questions, is that in terms of involving private capital in the businesses there is no difference of opinion between my right hon. Friend and the chairman of the board. My right hon. Friend and Sir Peter Parker are in complete agreement about the desirability of involving private capital in these businesses.

    Let me explain why I see considerable benefits for the businesses if private capital is involved, and the disadvantages that they have suffered from being in the public sector for so long. Some of them have been handicapped by statutory controls over the scope of their activities—controls that are perfectly proper for a nationalised railway but are not appropriate for businesses required to behave in a commercial manner. They have suffered from the need to compete for limited investment funds with the railways as a whole. They have also, until comparatively recently, had a low priority in management attention, because the board has historically tended to concentrate, for perfectly understandable reasons, on the problems of the railway itself.

    It is difficult to operate a business in a commercial environment if one is in the public sector. I have never been able to see the advantages to a business of the kind that we are talking about of being in the public sector, where, for instance, all investment counts as public sector investment and is subject to restrictions that have to be imposed under all Governments by the Treasury with an eye to the public sector borrowing requirement.

    If we look at the subsidiaries, we can see the effect of the restrictions that necessarily follow from being in the public sector. Sealink is one of the largest operators of short-sea ferry services in the world, and is a highly successful business—the most successful in the entire British Rail group. In recent years it has started ordering new ships to modernise its fleet, but there is a large backlog because of lack of investment in the early 1970s. The average age of Sealink's fleet is still significantly greater than the average ages of those of its main competitors. Whilst it is in the public sector, the company cannot be certain that it will receive the investment that it needs in the future, because its claims for shipping investment have to compete against the investment needs of the railway as a whole, and all those investment needs are subject to the restraints imposed on public sector investments of all kinds.

    British Transport Hotels is one of the largest hotel businesses in the country, operating 29 hotels. But the business has a poor financial record compared with other major hotel companies. The past decade has seen enormous opportunities for expansion in the hotel industry in this country, opportunities that many private groups have taken advantage of, but British Transport Hotels has not grown.

    The number of hotels that the company operates has contracted. Although the business has links with the railways, from which it derives a significant part of its turnover—we have to respect those links—the company has, in practice, been overshadowed by the railways within the group's activities and its growth has been stunted. It has not had access to the investment necessary to expand, or even to modernise its hotels, to the extent necessary to enable is to compete effectively.

    The board has an extensive property portfolio. Over the last year it has accelerated significantly and impressively. I pay tribute to the rate at which the board is realising land for industrial development and making the best use of it. The board has exploited this property in order to provide revenue for the railways, and it is right that it should continue to do so.

    However, there is a large estate which the board itself classifies as non-operational and which is not necessary for the running of the railway. In 1979 that property produced an operating surplus of over £7 million. The board's property division has made a good deal of progress in developing its estate, but it cannot behave as if it were a commercial property company. Again, it is restricted by statutory powers and it has simply not had access to the capital that would be necessary not only to dispose of the estate but to develop it to its full potential. There is no way in which it will get those opportunities so long as it remains in the public sector.

    For all those reasons, therefore, as well as because of the benefit which would come to the public and the taxpayer, we believe that it is right to pursue the objective of taking those businesses out of the public sector and giving them the character of private sector companies. We are firmly committed to doing that and we axe at the moment considering how it can be achieved and the timetable for achieving it, which we hope will be reasonably brisk.

    My right hon. Friend said that his objectives are to achieve a fundamental change in the status of these businesses, so as to free them from public sector restraints and enable them to seek risk capital in the private sector market. It is in the interests of the work force, the management and the taxpayer that that should be done.

    I would distinguish this from the occasional suggestion that parts of British Rail should be hived off—to use a phrase which is unpopular with those who represent railwaymen in particular. I distinguish what we are doing in involving private sector capital in these businesses and giving them the character of private sector companies from hiving off the railway's activities. I would describe hiving off as the sale of an individual attractive hotel or of a particular part of an activity. What we propose to do is keep these businesses intact, while recognising their continuing links with the railways. Those links will be recognised in our proposals for taking them, as thriving busineses, into the private sector, where we believe that their prosperity will improve.

    I am sorry. I normally give way, but if I do so now, I shall not have time to give what I think will be interesting news in response to questions.

    I was about to turn to the method by which we intend to proceed and the discussions that are going on between the Government and the board—which have not reached any finality. At the Minister's request, the board began developing its ideas for involving private sector capital last summer. It is not correct to say that we have not consulted the board throughout. The chairman suggested to the Minister a range of initiatives tailored to meet the needs of the individual businesses, involving in one case the flotation of a complete business, and in others a variety of joint ventures with private sector partners.

    The board recognises, however, that there are alternatives to its initial suggestions. One that is particularly interesting to the Government is the possibility of establishing a holding company for the subsidiaries, in which the board could retain a significant stake. This idea offers the opportunity for comprehensive change, while recognising the links which must continue with the railway.

    The advantage of the holding company idea, as opposed to partnership projects or involvement of private sector capital in aspects of the present businesses is, as I have said, that the holding company would take on the character of a private sector company. The effect on all the businesses of that company would be that it would not be subject to the public sector constraints that at the moment damage the businesses—including the cash limits within which they must operate. Whatever conclusion we reach on methods, it will have to involve that element of taking the businesses into the private sector, outside the cash limits and the other restraints that there have to be on public expenditure.

    The Minister and the chairman have therefore agreed that the various options for involving private capital should be examined to explore the relative advantages and disadvantages of different methods and to establish what issues and problems would need to be overcome in order to implement the chosen policy. That examination is still in progress, and we hope that it will soon come to a conclusion and clarify the methods that we propose to pursue.

    I accept that there are considerable implications for the board and the remainder of its business in what we propose. For the reasons that I have given, there will continue to be a British Rail interest in the holding company, or whatever other vehicle is chosen to take these businesses out of the public sector.

    I take the hon. Member's point, which I am sure will be referred to again, on the question whether the interest retained by British Rail would be a minority or a majority, or a commanding interest. I hope that we do not get too bogged down in that difficulty. Apart from anything else, in order to be the commanding shareholder in a business, one does not have to hold 51 per cent. of the equity or anything like it. However, we have reached no firm conclusion on that at the moment. We are prepared to begin by accepting that there must be a continuing British Rail interest in whatever company is created.

    The implications for British Rail of disposing of the proceeds of any denationalisation are also being actively considered. I accept that there must be important discussions about the effect on the board's external financial limit and its investment ceiling, as well as on the overall level of its borrowings—all of which we fully recognise will be affected once the change is put into practice, but we are determined to make these changes and enable these businesses to act commercially in the private sector.

    We believe that the work force and the management of these businesses have everything to gain once the Government have taken their objectives to a conclusion. Later this year we hope to place before Parliament formal proposals to make the legislative changes to enable us to put this policy into practice.

    Question put and agreed to.

    Adjourned accordingly at six minutes past Three o'clock.