Tobacco adverts ban 'at risk': Supporters fear amendments and extra clauses could lead to Bill being talked out

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MORE than 100 amendments and five new clauses have been put down to tomorrow's private member's Bill to ban cigarette advertising, and supporters fear it will be talked out.

The Bill introduced by Kevin Barron, Labour MP for Rother Valley, seeks to impose a statutory ban on tobacco advertising, outside the voluntary agreements which the Government works out with the tobacco industry.

Virginia Bottomley, Secretary of State for Health, is resisting the Bill and insists on maintaining the voluntary agreements while enouraging a reduction in smoking, particularly among young people.

Brian Mawhinney, Minister of State for Health, is negotiating with the industry to toughen the agreement and tomorrow Tom Sackville, an Under-Secretary of State at the health department, will announce a change.

This is expected to rule that the space devoted to the health warning on cigarette advertising will increase from 17.5 per cent to 20 per cent.

But yesterday, according to sources, no agreement had been reached on two other issues. The first involved using humour to promote smoking tobacco - which the industry wants to see sanctioned. The second was to increase the size of the print on the warnings on tobacco advertising, which the industry is resisting.

In the wake of the row over the 'talking out' last week of a private member's Bill aimed at improving the rights of the disabled Mr Barron has formally asked Mrs Bottomley if she or her ministers, or officials have been involved 'in any way whatsoever' in the presentation of the amendments.

But he does not expect a written response before next week. However, a health department spokesman said that they neither tabled nor helped to frame any of the 108 amendments or the five clauses to his Bill.

Mr Barron said yesterday that the amendments were 'clearly designed to stop the passage of the Bill' and many were obscure. Their purpose was twofold. 'Either they are a deliberate attempt to emasculate the Bill or they contain many, many small or inconsequential alterations involving one, two or three words formulated to waste time.'

Some of the amendments seek to change 'shall' for 'may', or to remove the word 'substantially'. Another appears to seek to change from 5,000 to 75,000 the number of foreign magazines that can be sold which carry tobacco advertisements.

Among the new clauses tabled is one dealing with relationships between the sales and manufacture of tobacco and other products by a single manufacturer and the establishing of a new advisory committee of manufacturers for the Government.

A spokesman for the Tobacco Manufacturers' Association said yesterday that it was no secret that the association had a number of friends in Parliament, but it 'had not deliberately authored' any of the clauses or amendments.

He said an advertising ban would not affect sales. 'We cannot see the benefits this Bill will bring; it will only disrupt the industry, freezing market shares as they are.'

Steve Woodward, deputy director of Action for Smoking and Health (Ash), said there was sufficient all-party support to carry the Bill, but it would only take three amendments to leave insufficient time for the debate.

'It is up to the Speaker to select the amendments,' Mr Woodward said.