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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 5:30 pm on 14th February 2006.

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Photo of Kevin Barron Kevin Barron Chair, Health and Social Care Committee 5:30 pm, 14th February 2006

That is true, but as I have already intervened on that matter, I shall not go any further.

The new clause and amendments (a) to (d) would bring England into line with the law that is soon to come into effect in Scotland, that has now been promised in two votes by the National Assembly for Wales and that the Government have announced for Northern Ireland, on which I suspect we will legislate in the next few months. I hope that hon. Members from all three countries will see no difficulty in joining us in giving the same protection to workers and members of the public in England as the rest of the United Kingdom is getting.

The tobacco industry and its allies often argue that smoke-free laws are an infringement of liberty, but I suggest that, once it is accepted that breathing in other people's smoke is dangerous to health, we will recognise that we are really dealing with a conflict of interest. I recognise people's right to smoke and that tobacco is a lawful product. Smoking may be self-destructive, but it is ultimately a matter of choice. I say to people, including my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North, that people in the Irish Republic make that choice. They step outside into unconfined spaces and still enjoy drinks and cigarettes as well without affecting other people in the pub, including bar workers. That view is certainly widely shared by the general public. Recent polling shows that about 70 per cent. of the public back comprehensive smoke-free legislation, including all pubs and bars.

Finally, I want to mention the enormous public health benefit offered by smoke-free legislation. One in four adults in our country still smoke, and more than 100,000 of them will die as a result. It is by far the greatest cause of preventable deaths and the biggest single contributor to health inequalities and the difference in life expectancy between social classes. I see that my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North has found some fun in the matter, but I have great difficulty in making jokes about it.

The Government's figures in the regulatory impact assessment suggest that a comprehensive smoke-free law would reduce smoking prevalence rates by 1.7 per cent. That would mean 700,000 people giving up smoking across England, which would lead as night follows day to thousands fewer dying each year from cancer, emphysema, peripheral vascular disease and other illnesses that can be caused by smoking. Over time, that would decrease health inequalities, which are far too great in many parts of this country.

Last night, the House debated ID cards, including how useful they will be in preventing terrorism and saving lives. Tomorrow, we will debate the Terrorism Bill, and again the question will be how useful the legislation is in saving lives. Tonight, if hon. Members vote for amendments (a) to (d), they will do so in the certain knowledge that the legislation will save lives and drastically improve the health of our constituents.

Several hon. Members rose—


Chris Broscomb
Posted on 11 Jul 2006 10:36 pm (Report this annotation)

That recent polling was commissioned by ASH and Cancer Research UK. THe official figure from the ONS is 33%, a rise of only 2%