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New Clause 5 — Smoke-free premises: exemptions

Part of Orders of the Day — Health Bill – in the House of Commons at 5:00 pm on 14th February 2006.

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Photo of Steve Webb Steve Webb Shadow Secretary of State for Health 5:00 pm, 14th February 2006

Not only is the hon. Gentleman right, but that might be the outcome even if the House tried to make such a distinction. The idea that there would be a set of workers who had second-class protection seems unsustainable. Even if that were the will of the House today, I have a feeling that the issue would return here via the courts very soon.

I wish to make further observations about some of the arguments that are used for exempting private members' clubs. The first is that we have some sort of carriage in which people would not have to work. People would presumably have to get in and out of such rooms and smoke goes to and fro. People would also have to clear the glasses in such rooms and sort out any scuffles that might take place. Smoke will remain in such areas, especially if they are sealed, for a considerable time. Without the ventilation found in a jumbo jet—I gather that it is what it would take completely to purify the air—there will be residual toxins in the air. The well-being of the workers cannot be protected just by having a partitioned-off room.

We have made progress on the Bill, but clearly we have not gone far enough. There is a balance of liberties to consider. People want to be able to smoke and they will still be able to do so in their own homes and out of doors, but it is the job of the House to protect the liberty of people to work in an environment that does not potentially fatally damage their health. That is why I have argued consistently throughout—I will again vote for this in the Lobby tonight—that a total ban is the only proper approach to the issue.