Election 2005: Who should marketers vote for?

We ask the three main political parties how they intend to address the most important issues facing marketers in the next four years.

CONSERVATIVES

Q. What are your party's policies on food labelling? Would you seek to introduce legislation or press for self-regulatory codes on labelling for foods that are high in fat, sugar or salt (HFSS)?

A. Many of the existing labels on food are misleading and hard to understand. People should be given better, clearer and more intelligible information on the contribution food makes to the recommended daily amount of calories, fats, sugar and salt. We need a system that is well understood by the public to help them ensure they have a healthy diet.

Q. What are your party's policies on the introduction of advertising restrictions - Regulatory or self-regulatory?

A. Ofcom reported in July that a ban on advertising of all HFSS food to children would be 'ineffective and disproportionate'. It is considering policy options and will take into account a review by the FSA to identify less healthy foods. Whatever Ofcom may conclude, we will instigate a campaign to raise awareness of the benefits of a healthy diet and will undertake an awareness campaign to restrain alcohol abuse. In principle we favour self-regulation, with government only intervening as a last resort. We recognise there are major concerns about the advertising of financial services and products to children.

Q. Do you have a policy on government advertising expenditure through COI Communications? Would you seek to reduce or increase that budget or to make structural changes to the way its media is planned or bought?

A. As part of our Value for Money action plan we will cut government ad expenditure to 1997-98 levels and concentrate the spending on areas that matter most to families. We do not believe the tripling of the advertising budget since 1997 was justified - taxpayers did not get value for money.

Q. What economic policies do you have to encourage business and enterprise?

A. A strong economy underpinned by low tax and low regulation is the best contribution any government can make to help business and enterprise.

Our spending plans will give taxpayers value for money and put the UK on the path to lower taxation. Finally, we will change the culture in government to one of deregulation.

Q. Creative industries accounted for 8.2% of Gross Value Added at the time of the last election. Exports by the creative industries contributed £11.4bn to the balance of trade. What policies do you have to encourage the development of creative industries within the UK economy?

A. For creative industries - as for all industries - a strong and stable economy, with low tax and low regulation, which we will establish, will be the foundation for success. We will take action to develop the skills levels of future employees. We will restore discipline, increase funding and raise standards throughout our education system.

Q. When do you believe it is realistic to achieve analogue TV switch-off? Should there be any preconditions, such as a minimum proportion of the population owning digital transmitters? Should any public financial assistance be given to replace analogue sets?

A. We have concerns about the government's timetable for analogue switch-off and believe people need to be better informed about the benefits of switching before their analogue signal is turned off. We will make digital television available to all parts of the country and monitor its uptake before making any final decision on switch-over.

LABOUR

Q. What are your party's policies on food labelling? Would you seek to introduce legislation or press for self-regulatory codes on labelling for foods that are high in fat, sugar or salt (HFSS)?

A. Busy parents want help choosing food and we will introduce clearer labelling and restrict advertising of unhealthy food to children. We believe that government should be on the side of parents and children, supporting them to make healthy choices.

Q. What are your party's policies on the introduction of advertising restrictions - regulatory or self-regulatory?

A. We will continue to work to protect the rights of consumers, bringing forward proposals to strengthen and streamline consumer advocacy.

Q. Do you have a policy on government advertising expenditure through COI Communications? Would you seek to reduce or increase that budget or to make structural changes to the way its media is planned or bought?

A. These matters are best left for the professionals within the COI.

Q. What economic policies do you have to encourage business and enterprise?

A. The modern role for government - the case for a modern employment and skills policy - is to equip people to succeed, to be on their side, helping them become more skilled, adaptable and flexible for the job ahead, rather than the old Conservative way of walking away, leaving people unaided to face change.

Q. Creative industries accounted for 8.2% of Gross Value Added at the time of the last election. Exports by the creative industries contributed £11.4bn to the balance of trade. What policies do you have to encourage the development of creative industries within the UK economy?

A. To help the young talent get the right start in our cultural industry, which ranges from computer games to the fine arts, we will work to establish Creative Apprenticeships. We are funding the Creative Pioneer Academy, which will develop the entrepreneurial skills of recent graduates with outstanding talents and original business ideas. Some will get up to £35,000 to start their own business.

Q. When do you believe it is realistic to achieve analogue TV switch-off? Should there be any preconditions, such as a minimum proportion of the population owning digital transmitters? Should any public financial assistance be given to replace analogue sets?

A. We will achieve the switch-over between 2008 and 2012, ensuring universal access to high-quality, free-to-view and subscription digital. This will happen region by region, and we will protect the interests of the elderly and other vulnerable groups.

LIBERAL DEMOCRATS

Q. What are your party's policies on food labelling? Would you seek to introduce legislation or press for self-regulatory codes on labelling for foods that are high in fat, sugar or salt (HFSS)?

A. We will require the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to consult with the food industry on a mandatory nutritional labelling scheme, based on a traffic-light system for high, medium and low quantities of fat, salt and sugar or energy density. We will also require the FSA to develop standards for the marketing of food and drink to children.

Q. What are your party's policies on the introduction of advertising restrictions - regulatory or self-regulatory?

A. We will require the FSA and Ofcom to develop a policy on restricting the advertising of unhealthy foods during children's television programmes. We also believe there is a serious problem with levels of personal debt. The Financial Services Authority should ensure that credit promotion and advertising has appropriate 'health warnings'. At present there are 'health warnings' for the sale of investment products and savings, but none on debt promotion. This imbalance aggravates the current bias against household savings in favour of borrowing.

Q. Do you have a policy on government advertising expenditure through COI Communications? Would you seek to reduce or increase that budget or to make structural changes to the way its media is planned or bought?

A. As part of our overall package of £5bn annual savings, which we are using to fund key pledges such as smaller class sizes and an enhanced state pension, we will be cutting government programmes that we consider lower priorities, such as the Child Trust Fund. Advertising associated with these programmes would therefore also be cut. We have no other specific commitments on reforming government advertising.

Q. What economic policies do you have to encourage business and enterprise?

A. We will encourage a highly skilled workforce. We will combine GCSE, A-level and vocational programmes of study within a new diploma system, stretching the most gifted, and engaging those who were previously turned off by schooling.

Q. Creative industries accounted for 8.2% of Gross Value Added at the time of the last election. Exports by the creative industries contributed £11.4bn to the balance of trade. What policies do you have to encourage the development of creative industries within the UK economy?

A. We would create a committee on the creative industries at ministerial level to ensure their huge importance is acknowledged across government. We would change National Lottery fund guidance so that it can establish endowments for long-standing clients. This would allow distributors such as the Film Council to focus more on providing seed money for projects, including those in the creative industries.

Q. When do you believe it is realistic to achieve analogue TV switch-off? Should there be any preconditions, such as a minimum proportion of the population owning digital transmitters? Should any public financial assistance be given to replace analogue sets?

A. We would commit ourselves to Ofcom's proposed time frame of 2008-2012. We believe that a minimum of 98.5% of UK households should be able to receive digital terrestrial television before the switch-off occurs. Due to television playing a disproportionately large role in providing entertainment and information to the most vulnerable people, we believe that they should receive assistance in the switch to digital. Broadcasters must play a crucial role in meeting these costs.

Discussion

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