The Advertising Standards Authority has refused to become embroiled
in the heated battle between supporters and opponents of Britain joining
the single European currency.
In the first test of the new rules that exempt political advertising
from the ad industry’s code of practice, the ASA’s council decided that
pro- and anti-euro ads were now outside its remit and could not
therefore rule on two complaints that they were misleading.
Christopher Graham, the ASA’s director-general, said: ’These
advertisements are early shots in a campaign for a referendum which
everybody knows will take place at some point. Election advertising is
now outside the authority’s remit. Pro- and anti-single currency
advertising should be treated no differently. It is now for the voters
to make their own assessment of rival political claims.’
Graham insisted the ASA’s refusal to intervene did not signal a
free-for-all for political lobbyists. He said the authority would
continue to rule on other public affairs campaigns.
The two complaints were over a poster by Britain in Europe, which warned
that three million jobs were at risk if Britain was ’cut off from
Europe’, and a national press ad by the rival Democracy Movement
depicting Tony Blair, Michael Heseltine and Kenneth Clarke, saying they
wanted to give up control of Britain’s economy by joining the euro.
The ASA decision means that ads about the single currency are in ’no
man’s land’ until the political parties reach agreement on a new body to
regulate political advertising.