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
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
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.’