The Liberal Democrats are to call for the Advertising Standards
Authority to ’beef up its act’ in a move that will embarrass the ASA’s
chairman, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank.
Rodgers, the leader of the Liberal Democrat peers, tried to head off the
attack by defending the authority’s work in talks with Norman Baker, the
Liberal Democrat frontbench spokesman on consumer affairs.
But Baker is to press ahead with drawing up plans to warn the ASA that
the Liberal Democrats will call for a statutory body to police
advertising unless the authority takes a tougher line on advertisers
that persistently flout the industry’s code of practice.
Baker is worried that the ASA has used its power to refer cases to the
Office of Fair Trading on only three occasions since 1997. He is
particularly worried by what he called its failure to clamp down on ads
for cosmetic surgery.
Baker said: ’I am not convinced that the ASA follows through when such
examples are brought to its attention. I am not sure it is tough enough
’The question is whether what is essentially a trade body can be as
tough as it needs to be. The number of references to the OFT is quite
Baker went on to say that the Liberal Democrats wanted to see an
improvement in the ASA’s performance. If that did not happen, he warned,
the party would call for statutory regulation.
When Baker tabled Commons questions about the effectiveness of the ASA,
Kim Howells, the consumer affairs minister, told him: ’We remain of the
view that the ASA is a good example of effective self-regulation. It has
succeeded in maintaining standards in the field of advertising.’
Live Issue, p22.