Smoking

Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 15th November 2005.

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Photo of David Mundell David Mundell Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland 2:30 pm, 15th November 2005

What assessment he has made of the possible economic impact of the proposed smoking ban in Scotland.

Photo of David Taylor David Taylor Labour, North West Leicestershire

What assessment he has made of the likely impact of legislation to ban smoking in enclosed public places and workplaces in Scotland from 2006.

Photo of Alistair Darling Alistair Darling The Secretary of State for Scotland, The Secretary of State for Transport

In Scotland, health issues are the responsibility of the Scottish Executive. As the House will know, smoking is the greatest single, preventable cause of ill-health and premature death in Scotland.

Photo of David Mundell David Mundell Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland

I note the Secretary of State's response, but can he tell me what evidence there is that smoking is less dangerous in England than in Scotland? If there is no such evidence, why should my constituents who operate pubs and clubs across Dumfriesshire bear the commercial downside of this differential smoking policy, when smokers can simply go a few miles down the road to Carlisle for a night out?

Photo of Alistair Darling Alistair Darling The Secretary of State for Scotland, The Secretary of State for Transport

The hon. Gentleman is right to suggest that smoking damages people's health no matter where they smoke. However, health is devolved to the Scottish Parliament, so it is entirely up to it to take a different view from the legislation that applies to England. The experience internationally—for example, in New York and Dublin—is that the ban has not been damaging in the way that its opponents feared. Indeed, many people enjoy the opportunity to go out to a place where they will not breathe in other people's smoke.

Photo of David Taylor David Taylor Labour, North West Leicestershire

I am delighted that, from 26 March 2006, protection will be given against the carcinogenic effects of second-hand smoke to bar workers across Scotland, not least in the constituency of Airdrie and Shotts. Does the Secretary of State agree that next year's comprehensive smoking ban north of the border may result in health inequalities for the expatriate Scottish community in constituencies such as mine, where staff in non-food pubs and members clubs will have no such protection under the Health Bill? Will he discuss that with the Secretaries of State for Health and for Defence?

Photo of Alistair Darling Alistair Darling The Secretary of State for Scotland, The Secretary of State for Transport

I have no doubt that my hon. Friend will have plenty of time to make his proposals when the legislation comes before the House. As I suggested to David Mundell just a few moments ago, devolution inevitably means that legislation will differ, from time to time, north and south of the border. There is nothing wrong with that. Indeed, it was always anticipated that that would be the case. Of course, the extent of the ban in England was set out in the manifesto on which he and I both stood.

Photo of Jo Swinson Jo Swinson Opposition Whip (Commons), Shadow Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport), Liberal Democrat Whip

Given that there are 13,000 deaths each year as a result of smoking and many more thousands of people suffer illnesses as a result of the harmful effects of tobacco smoke, does the Secretary of State agree that the smoking ban in public places in Scotland will improve public health and that a healthier work force must therefore be good for the economy?

Photo of Alistair Darling Alistair Darling The Secretary of State for Scotland, The Secretary of State for Transport

That is a very difficult question, but I think that the answer is yes.