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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 6:15 pm on 14th February 2006.

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Photo of Laurence Robertson Laurence Robertson Shadow Minister (Northern Ireland) 6:15 pm, 14th February 2006

I am sorry, but I do not have time.

Many staff in pubs smoke themselves and many small country pubs will be threatened by the ban. We hear, especially from Labour Members who oppose an exemption for private clubs, that people will flock from the pubs into such clubs. The logical conclusion of that argument is that there is a great demand for pubs that allow smoking, and many of them are small pubs in country areas. Along with the post offices and shops in country areas, they will be under threat. The landlord and landlady of the local inn in my home village of Twyning both smoke. They do not employ any staff, so why should they be covered by the ban? That would be totally intolerant.

The logical conclusion of the health argument is that the Government should ban smoking altogether. Smoking-related diseases cost the NHS £1.8 billion year. That is a fair amount, but rather insignificant when compared with the £8.1 billion that smokers put into the Exchequer every year. That explains the Government's hypocrisy in refusing to ban smoking entirely—it is due to money.

Of course I share concerns about staff who work in smoky establishments when they do not want to. However, jobs in the catering industry are very difficult to fill. That is why so many illegal immigrants are employed in catering. Other people have the option to go and work elsewhere. We talk about people working in smoky atmospheres, but what about those who work in coal mines or with dangerous chemicals or hazardous waste? Those problems have all been ignored today, and that is because they are difficult to deal with. However, if we were being consistent, we would be considering them as well.

I have been asked to keep my remarks brief—[Interruption.] It is a pity that Labour Members did not do the same and that their arguments were not more consistent. I shall end by saying that this is a very illiberal and totally unnecessary measure. We can protect people's health without this draconian legislation.

I shall vote against the new clause. If we get that far, I hope that the House will vote for amendment No. 36, which is far more tolerant.