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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 Roger Gale Roger Gale Conservative, North Thanet 5:30 pm, 14th February 2006

Amendment No. 8 would delete part 1 of the Bill in its entirety, which would force the Government and—dare I say it?—Her Majesty's official Opposition to think again.

This evening, we have heard a series of arguments shot full of inconsistencies. In his peroration, Steve Webb said that he would vote for a total ban. Oh no he will not—a total ban is not on the agenda. If hon. Members on both sides of the House believe that smoking is so bad for one's health, that those who work bars, restaurants and private clubs suffer so much, and that 95 per cent. of the damage done by secondary smoking is done in the home and only 5 per cent. in other locations, surely, without looking too closely at the emperor's clothes, the argument must be that smoking should be banned altogether. People who do not adopt that approach are a little bit pregnant, and they must decide how far they are prepared to go down that ludicrous road.

I do not smoke and I am asthmatic, but I believe that while the law of the land says that smoking is legal, the British public—the English public—should have the choice whether to smoke in smoking clubs, pubs and restaurants. They should also have the choices not to smoke in non-smoking clubs, pubs and restaurants and whether to work in such establishments. I do not know a single employee who has had a gun held to their head and been told, "You must go and work in that pub, where they allow smoking."

There is an answer but it is not on offer, which is why those Members who support amendment No. 8 want to delete part 1 of the Bill and make the House think again. The answer is that every drinking establishment, club, restaurant and pub is licensed to sell alcohol, and it does not take a great leap of imagination to work out that it is possible to licence every pub, club and restaurant to be either smoking or non-smoking. The public and employees would then choose which type of establishment they want to patronise, and they will choose smoke or smoke-free. I have no problem with making the installation of cleansing equipment a condition of obtaining a smoking licence. It has been said in this House this evening that air conditioning does not work, but we are not talking about air conditioning—we are talking about air purification. Air purification systems do work. It is eminently reasonable to say that if a publican wants to have a smoking pub he should invest in the machinery that will keep the air clean for the benefit of the staff.

We know perfectly well that the Exchequer could not bear the cost of banning smoking, which is why there will be no smoking ban. We know that prison staff could not control prisons, which is why there will be no ban on smoking in prisons—it has nothing to do with the health of the prison staff. The debate to date has reeked of hypocrisy, and we need to get some common sense and consistency into it. I urge the House to dismiss this whole package and think again.