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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 5:15 pm on 14th February 2006.

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Photo of Kevin Barron Kevin Barron Chair, Health and Social Care Committee 5:15 pm, 14th February 2006

I could not agree more and will come on to that point.

Health and safety concerns are sufficient reason for resisting the Government's original plans to exempt from smoke-free legislation pubs that do not serve food. Why should workers in such pubs be denied the protection that other workers are to be given? It is nonsense to think that we should pass such a measure in the House. Health and safety concerns are sufficient reason not to exempt membership clubs from the law. Licensed clubs employ bar staff, who are routinely exposed to other people's smoke. The fact that the clubs in which they work are owned by members does not afford them any protection from lung cancer or heart disease. The notion that club members should be able to vote to continue to expose their workers to such risks is unacceptable. I came to the House after working for 18 years in one of the most dangerous industries in the United Kingdom. It would be unacceptable for Parliament to pass legislation on that industry by ignoring fundamental facts, but the Bill attempts to do so on smoking.

It is farcical to suggest that a private members' club is an extension of the home. I have been a member of a club for many years, but clubs are not as private and secluded as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State suggested on the radio this morning. A member of a club in the Club and Institute Union can affiliate to the wider union for £3 a year, and can go to 2,600 clubs and buy a drink without anyone preventing them from doing so. Royal British Legion clubs, too, are not exclusive—a member of the British Legion can walk into any of its clubs and be served a drink.

Mr. Lansley raised the issue of children. Clubs differ marginally from public houses, because there are often many children inside them. They are family-oriented and many hold weekly discos for young children. They organise Easter bonnet parades, Christmas functions and so on for families and young children, so the proposal to exempt clubs from the smoking ban is ludicrous.

If Members do not believe that it is reasonable and practicable to protect people in the workplace under the Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974, they should wait until the House passes the smoking legislation and see what the no win, no fee lawyers do to clubs trying to secure indemnity insurance. In its evidence to the Select Committee, the Health and Safety Commission clearly recommended that pubs, bars and clubs should be covered by the law in the same way as every other workplace. That view is shared by the TUC, which passed a motion nem. con. in congress in September to ban smoking in all workplaces. The Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers, which represents more than 640 bar workers in clubs, wants a ban, and issued a press release on Friday—I am sure that Members have seen it—in which general secretary John Hannett said:

"Our members are already reporting that they can get a lot of abuse when asking club members to stop smoking at the bar, which is already illegal".

That is not, in fact, illegal in private clubs but only illegal in public bars. Mr. Hannett continued:

"So we think this amendment will make sure our members can work free of abuse from customers and free from abuse of their lungs."

Why should club bar staff have to try to enforce the farcical measure whereby someone is not supposed to smoke near the bar?

When the Under-Secretary of State for Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley gave evidence to the Health Committee, I asked her about clubs that offer entertainment. If someone is working on the stage, will the Government say that we should stop people smoking near the stage? At a reception earlier today, I was talking to Fiona Castle, the widow of Roy Castle, who we all know contracted lung cancer without ever smoking a cigarette in his life. Many people think that that was because of the secondary smoke that he inhaled in his career as a club entertainer. It is nonsense to think that we can protect people from secondary smoke if exemptions such as the one proposed are made.

Let me offer one more quote from somebody who works behind a bar—not somebody who goes into a bar by choice, but somebody who gets a living behind a bar. Another of the staff whom USDAW represents says:

"If we are exempt from this ban, even more smokers are going to come in, and the smoke will get even worse."

What have they done to deserve that? If a person can move from a pub in my village to a club over the road to smoke, that will make matters even worse not just for bar workers, but for other people in the club.