Labour MPs plan bill to dodge tobacco ruling

Labour MPs are planning to bring in a Private Member’s Bill to outlaw tobacco promotion in the new session of Parliament to make sure the High Court’s surprise judgment last Friday does not result in a long delay.

Labour MPs are planning to bring in a Private Member’s Bill to

outlaw tobacco promotion in the new session of Parliament to make sure

the High Court’s surprise judgment last Friday does not result in a long

delay.



Plans by ministers to end poster and press ads on 10 December were

thrown into disarray last week by the High Court’s ruling that the

Government had jumped the gun on implementing the European Union’s

directive.



The court upheld complaints by the tobacco companies that the Government

should have waited until the European Court rules on whether the EU

directive is legal.



The Government is now seeking an urgent appeal against the High Court’s

decision, although Whitehall sources admit the deadline of 10 December

is in jeopardy.



If it loses its appeal, the Government may decide to support a backbench

bill as the quickest route to achieving a ban. The measure could become

law by next spring or summer.



The Labour MP, Kevin Barron, chairman of the all-party Commons group on

smoking and health, said that the European Court’s decision was not due

for at least another year and that it would be much quicker to pass a

bill in the UK Parliament.



’We should get on with it as soon as possible,’ he said.



Barron was confident ministers would support the plan and ensure enough

Parliamentary time so that Tory opponents of an ad ban would not block

the bill. He said a measure had already been drafted and would in some

respects be tougher than the EU directive.



Despite last Friday’s setback, ministers believe the tobacco industry’s

reprieve will be short-lived. They will reject its calls to abandon the

proposed ban and opt for a new voluntary agreement.



Meanwhile, tobacco lobbyists were hailing the ruling not only as a

victory for the industry but also for alcohol manufacturers and those

fighting off attempts to curb TV advertising to children.



Chris Ogden, executive director for trade and industry affairs at the

Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association, said: ’It’s all for the greater

good. The Government now knows it can’t just trample over us whenever it

feels like it.’



But the confused situation has left tobacco companies in limbo. ’We’ve

no definite plans laid down,’ an industry source said.



’The situation just isn’t clear enough.’



Perspective, p20.



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