The Labour Party was accused this week of caving in to pressure from the
advertising industry by watering down its plans to regulate the sector.
The attack came from the Welsh Nationalist Party, which claimed Labour
was set to abandon its long-standing policy of replacing the Advertising
Standards Authority with a statutory body.
Plaid Cymru’s move follows Labour’s decision to consult the ad industry
over the laws affecting it (Campaign, last week). The Nationalists’
fears are shared privately by some Labour MPs, who want to see rigorous
legal controls on advertising.
At the 1992 general election, Labour was committed to statutory
regulation, but the party has not yet finalised its policy for the next
However, suspicions of a Labour U-turn were also fuelled by a new
statement on industry policy, announced by Tony Blair on Wednesday,
which stressed the party’s ‘hands-off’ approach towards business.
‘Labour is committed to consultation and implementing policy by
consensus,’ Margaret Beckett, the shadow industry secretary, said.
Cynog Dafis, a Welsh Nationalist MP, commented: ‘I cannot imagine that
Blair is going to introduce a statutory code. That would be very Old
Labour, not New Labour.’
Dafis has tabled Commons questions urging the Government to beef up the
existing code of advertising practice and to grant a right of appeal to
people unhappy with the ASA’s rulings.
‘Advertising has a tremendously potent effect on people’s lives,
especially children’s,’ he said. ‘The ASA lacks teeth and is too close
to the industry.’