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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

That is a matter for the Government. If a comprehensive ban is agreed tonight, it is crucial that it is enforced in a way that means that everybody understands where one may smoke and where one may not smoke. Unfortunately, my hon. Friend Stephen Pound is not with us. I had one or two things to say to him about that.

If hon. Members are not persuaded by the health argument, what about the economic argument? To force some pubs to make a choice between stopping people smoking and stopping serving food would create a gross and unjustified market distortion, as well as making a mess of the Government's alcohol strategy and worsening health inequalities. To force pubs that cease to allow smoking to compete with bars and clubs in the same street that still permit it would be unfair and unreasonable.

Like many other hon. Members, I have received representations not just from the industry, but from local publicans. I have one from Steve Smith and Wendy Edwards of The Thurcroft, a public house in one of the villages in my constituency. I know that public house very well. Five hundred yards down the road is Thurcroft Miners Welfare, and five hundred yards up the road is the Unity club, or the "top club", as it is known in the village. The income of those people will be threatened directly if the ban suggested in new clause 5 is introduced.

I received a letter from Mr. Jan Sowa, who runs a small company that runs three pubs, one of which is The Blue Bell in Aston, another village in my constituency. That pub, too, will be under threat if smoking is allowed in clubs. I do not want to see small businesses such as pubs close because of what the House does. I hope that other hon. Members do not want to see that either. That is why the British Beer and Pub Association, the British Hospitality Association and many others in the leisure and tourism industry now support comprehensive legislation. They see the dangers to businesses.