A senior cabinet minister has criticised the Advertising Standards
Authority for failing to crack down on ads promoting dangerous knives.
The Home Secretary, Michael Howard, met Matti Alderson, the director-
general of the ASA, on Wednesday to urge the authority to take a tough
line on ads for ‘Rambo-style’ combat knives.
As a result, the ASA has issued a call to media owners, asking them to
seek advice before running advertising which features knives or promotes
the sale of them.
Howard is under pressure from the Labour Party to outlaw dangerous
knives, following the murder of the headteacher, Philip Lawrence. It is
unusual for a minister to intervene in the ASA’s day-to-day workings,
and his move is the latest example of the authority being dragged into
the political arena.
Howard said: ‘I am concerned that, because it is its usual practice only
to respond to complaints, the ASA may be missing ads in mail-order
catalogues which are only seen by individuals who are unlikely to
But the ASA dismissed Howard’s criticism. Caroline Crawford, the
communications director, said: ‘It is not just a case of waiting for
complaints to come in.’
The row came as the ASA was celebrating victory after a landmark court
battle against a soft porn video producer.
City Trading had evoked the European Convention on Human Rights in an
attempt to overturn an ASA ruling that its ads were offensive. It
claimed the right to freedom of expression.
If upheld, the ruling would have rendered all ASA adjudications invalid.
But the judge ruled that the ASA had acted correctly.