A bill to ban tobacco advertising is expected to be introduced
immediately if the Labour Party wins the general election.
The measure, also likely to outlaw sponsorship by tobacco companies,
will be phased in over several years to give organisers of sporting
events time to find new sponsors.
There has been a fierce battle on Labour’s frontbenches over whether the
party should end sponsorship as well as advertising. It appears that
Chris Smith, the Shadow Health Secretary, has seen off a move by Tom
Pendry, the party’s sports spokesman, to preserve sponsorship.
Although a final decision on timing would be taken by Tony Blair’s
Cabinet, Smith has won agreement in principle for a bill to be included
in Labour’s first Queen’s Speech. This means a ban could take effect by
the early months of 1998.
The Labour leadership is keen on early action because it would not cost
money and Blair has pledged to stick to Tory spending limits for two
Labour bosses also see it as a ’goodwill gesture’ which would win the
support of NHS professionals.
While some Tory MPs would mount a last-ditch attempt to block the bill,
they would stand little chance of success because, as a government
measure, it would be guaranteed enough Parliamentary time.
’A majority Labour government would not have a problem putting the bill
through the House,’ Kevin Barron, a frontbench spokesman on health,
Barron said Labour could not rely solely on the European Union’s
long-delayed directive to outlaw tobacco promotion. ’Even if it was
passed immediately, it would only set the parameters and member states
would need to bring in their own legislation,’ he explained.
A separate bill is planned by Labour, although it might be combined with
other health legislation if the present government’s Primary Care Bill
does not reach the statute book before the election.