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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 6:30 pm on 14th February 2006.

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Photo of Caroline Flint Caroline Flint Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Health) 6:30 pm, 14th February 2006

No, but the hon. Gentleman can see me later. We can talk about the regulations. [Laughter.]

Amendment No. 36 is hard to understand. It seems to be intended to limit the premises that may be exempted from smoke-free legislation to those where a person has his home, or licensed premises and membership clubs. I am worried that it would remove the general regulation-making power in clause 3(1), which takes account of the fact that people who, for example, work on oil rigs are not able to smoke outdoors for reasons of safety. Likewise, if the amendment were adopted, no exemption could be made for laboratories concerned with testing tobacco products. That would mean that the tobacco companies would not be able to test their products, as the law requires.

Government amendment No. 24 extends the fixed-penalty notice provisions in part 1 of the Bill to the offence of failing to display no-smoking signs, in accordance with the requirements set out in regulations. However, in light of the responses that we received last year, we will add the option of a fixed-penalty notice for the offence of failing to display those signs.

After the debate in Committee, and as a result of lobbying from various organisations and groups, I am minded to propose that the fines for failing to display no-smoking signs should be raised from a maximum of £200 to a fine not exceeding level 3, which has a maximum of £1,000. I propose to raise the fine for the offence of failing to prevent smoking in smoke-free places from a maximum of £200 to a maximum of £2,500. That sends the strong message to those responsible for enforcing the law that they should make sure that they do so.

The hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire tabled amendment (i), aimed at protecting children from second-hand smoke in private members' clubs. However, I am perplexed by his argument: first he said that the members of those clubs should be able to decide what happens in their space, but then his amendment seemed to want to tell parents what they should do with their children in those private spaces. That is another demonstration of how the Conservatives are all over the place on this issue.

I shall finish by recapping on how the new clause and our amendments will work and the choice they offer Members—[Interruption.]