'(1) A person who sells or hires or offers for sale or hire any sunbed shall ensure-
(a) that the specification of the sunbed complies with European standard EN 60335-2-27, and
(b) that any UV radiation emitted by the sunbed does not exceed 0.3 watts per square metre.
(2) Any person who is in breach of the provisions of subsection (1) shall be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £20,000.'.- (Mr. Chope.)
Brought up, and read the First time.
Amendment 2, page 1, line 15, leave out '18' and insert '16'.
Amendment 3, page 1, line 16, leave out '18' and insert '16'.
Amendment 8, page 2, line 15, leave out Clause 3.
Amendment 4, in clause 4, page 3, line 2, leave out '18' and insert '16'.
Amendment 5, page 3, line 5, leave out '18' and insert '16'.
Amendment 6, page 3, line 7, leave out '18' and insert '16'.
Amendment 15, page 3, line 11, leave out subsection (4).
Amendment 16, page 3, line 14, leave out Clause 5.
Amendment 31, in clause 10, page 4, line 36 leave out paragraph (a).
Amendment 10, in clause 11, page 5, line 11, leave out subsection (1).
Amendment 11, page 5, line 17, leave out subsection (2).
Amendment 12, page 5, line 24, leave out 'to which this subsection applies' and insert 'containing regulations made under this Act'.
The background to the new clause and the group of amendments, all of which are in my name, is regulation. You will know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that that has been a perennial theme in Friday debates for many years. As this may be the last occasion on which you preside over our private Members' Bills proceedings, I am sure that you are deserving of praise for your forbearance during these repetitive debates, which have often centred on whether more regulation is the answer to the nation's ills or whether we should consider legislative proposals more carefully before rushing them on to the statute book to deal with any problem that arises. That theme is very much pertinent to proposed new clause 1 and the proposed amendments.
Are the Bill's regulations necessary? Are they proportionate? Could the problems that they seek to address be dealt with in a better way? Will the regulations be vulnerable to the law of unintended consequences? Are the regulations necessary as a matter of substance, or are they more equivalent to exercises in gesture politics?
My understanding is that the sponsors of the Bill believe that exposure to ultra-violet light can lead to skin cancer, particularly if young, unprotected skin is exposed over a prolonged period. There seems to be a substantial amount of medical evidence to support that proposition. The sponsors consequently argue that because malignant melanoma is one of the five most common cancers among those aged 15 to 24, and because four out of five melanomas are caused by exposure to UV sunlight, something has got to be done, but it will not have escaped your notice, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that there is an undistributed middle in the sponsors' logic.
That malignant melanomas are one of the five most common cancers among 15 to 24-year-olds is a statement of fact, but the suggestion is that, by implication, those melanomas are caused by exposure to artificial sunlight, and there is no evidence for that at all. In Committee, the Bill's promoter, Julie Morgan, argued that the consequences of UV exposure-in terms of skin cancer-are often not apparent for many years. If it is correct that exposure to UV rays results in malignant melanoma a long way down the track, where is the evidence that the melanomas in people aged between 15 and 24 are caused by UV exposure? Might there be some alternative explanation?
The incidence of cancers among relatively young people is quite small. Obviously, one case of cancer is one too many, but the sponsors of the Bill, who say that UV exposure is the fifth most common cause of cancer in young people, have unfortunately not given us any direct figures. We need to ensure that intellectual rigour is brought to the arguments in support of the Bill.
The sponsors have not discovered a way in which to prevent people from exposing themselves to natural UV light from the sun. That is obviously the most common way in which people are exposed to UV light, and thereby the risk of contracting melanomas. We know that as soon as there is any sunshine, the number of people who rush out and strip off-not necessarily completely-is considerable. That shows that there are limits on the legislative zeal to regulate. There is no proposal by the promoter of the Bill to regulate exposure to ordinary sunlight. Instead of doing that-they cannot regulate such exposure, but it is obviously the biggest cause of melanomas-they are bringing their legislative zeal to regulating exposure to artificial sun.
Artificial sun is produced by sunbeds or, more accurately, by the ultra-violet tubes inside sunbeds. I am told by the Sunbed Association that an ultra-violet tube emitting ultra-violet radiation of 0.3 W per square metre is equivalent to being in the Mediterranean sun at midday, so a 10-minute session on a sunbed should produce a tan without burning. Prevention of burning is often ensured by the use of anti-sun tanning creams, which stop the skin being over-exposed to the ultra-violet light from the sunbed tubes.
Interestingly, although the Government apparently support the Bill, they continue to impose the full rate of VAT on sun creams, which are a much better way to prevent the adverse consequences of exposure to all UV light, whether from the sun or artificial sources. So although the Government say that this is a desperately important problem that needs to be addressed urgently, they still impose a 17.5 per cent. tax on the creams that help to prevent the adverse consequences of exposure to UV light.
New clause 1 addresses the issue of sunbeds with tubes that emit higher levels of UV radiation. If a sunbed has tubes that emit levels of radiation greater than 0.3 W per square metre, the likelihood of consequent burning is greater. Burning is normally the precursor to a raised risk of melanoma, so it is important to prevent burning and ensure that only a gentle tanning takes place. I was very interested when my hon. Friend Mark Simmonds-I am delighted to see him in his place on the Front Bench-raised this issue in Committee. He said that if we want to deal with this problem and reduce the risks of using sunbeds, we should first act to regulate the amount of UV radiation emitted by the tubes in sunbeds. I was surprised that the Government did not say that they agreed and would therefore use this Bill as an opportunity to ensure that the European standard was incorporated into British law, so that anyone hiring out or selling a sunbed that exceeded the recommended maximum wattage per square metre of UV would be outlawed. A logical regulator would make that their starting point in introducing legislation.
I note that this Bill places new duties on anyone hiring or selling sunbeds. Regulating the wattage is a fairly simple aspect on which to regulate, but under the terms of the Bill people who carry on sunbed businesses would have to ensure that people under the age of 18-it would be reduced to 16 if later amendments are accepted-do not use them. How, in reasonable terms, could every operator be certain that someone below that age will not use their sunbeds, especially when the sunbeds are unattended? At some premises, no one is in attendance, but there are warning signs. How can operators be reasonably expected to stop people ignoring the warning signs? If someone below the relevant age did ignore the signs, who would be responsible-the person who had ignored the signs or the owner of the premises?
My hon. Friend makes a powerful and important point and I shall address it later in my remarks. New clause 1 would provide that we deal with that issue at the earliest possible stage. It would ensure that the tubes in the sunbeds comply with the European standard. That could be achieved easily, which would then raise the question of whether we would then need to criminalise those who are duped by someone aged between 16 and 18 into allowing them to use a sunbed. The person using the sunbed would incur no penalty, but the person supplying the sunbed-however innocently-could be brought before the courts. That is one of the flaws in the Bill.
Does my hon. Friend agree that the proposals in the Bill are in line with the way in which the law works when it comes to selling cigarettes to those under age, or admitting under-age people to public houses?
My point is that the Government have introduced an extension of the nanny state to try to make it more difficult for those between 16 and 18 to gain access to cigarettes and alcohol, but we know how counter-productive that exercise has been. We now probably have record levels of youngsters using illegal drugs, drinking to excess below the age of 18, smoking tobacco and carrying illegal knives. I could go on. My hon. Friend may have heard reports on the radio just this morning about the number of youngsters engaging in self-harm by cutting themselves. Some 3,000 youngsters a year end up in accident and emergency for that reason. The promoter of the Bill is not suggesting that we should bring in a law outlawing self-harm, but that statistic illustrates the propensity of young people to experiment and do their own thing, irrespective of what the legislation says.
I do not wish to be unhelpful to my hon. Friend and I accept his point about the levels of smoking and drinking, but that is not an argument to abandon the law altogether in those areas.
I was not for one minute suggesting that the Bill be used in that way. My point was that, to my mind, the Bill is eminently sensible in having an 18-year threshold. That is in line with the law on buying cigarettes and going to public houses, so it would be a consistent and logical level, if we are to have an age limit.
I shall address in more detail the question of whether the limit should be 16 or 18, if it should be regulated at all. Before we start introducing more regulations-this is a very good rule of thumb-we should see whether similar regulations are working in practice. I put it to my hon. Friend that similar regulations trying to restrict access to alcohol and tobacco by 16 to 18-year-olds have not achieved anything, except-probably-to bring the law into disrepute. I can see that the argument, "Well, because we already have that bad law in place, there is a case for putting another bad law on top of it" might be logical-I cannot argue against the logic-but I do not agree with the wisdom of it. That is the point that I shall try to address when I turn to the amendments in this group dealing with the question of whether regulations should apply only to under-16s using sunbeds or whether they should extend to those aged 16 to 18 as well.
Before those interventions, I was talking about what I think is the most important issue. My new clause 1 is designed to improve the Bill by introducing more protection for people who use sunbeds, so that they do not use any-unwittingly or otherwise-that emit more than a safe amount of artificial UV radiation. I wait with anticipation to find out whether the Bill's promoter, the hon. Member for Cardiff, North and Ministers have changed their tune on this issue. I would have thought it logical for any rational regulator to put at the top of any list of priorities the need to ensure that there are no sunbeds for sale, hire and, ultimately, in use-this point is supported by the Sunbed Association in England and Wales-that emit more than 0.3 W of radiation per square metre.
That elementary, cost-effective and simple regulation could, and should-in my view-have been enacted by the Government already. It is the specification in European standard EN 60335-2-27, which is referred to specifically in new clause 1. That standard was recommended by the European Union Scientific Committee on Consumer Products in 2006, and was adopted and published in a European Union declaration in January 2007. The United Kingdom Government signed up to that declaration, but have failed to legislate to ensure that all UV tanning equipment in service complies with that important safety standard.
That is another example of the Government talking tough on questions of health protection, but actually failing-neglecting-to take measures that, at a stroke, could increase product safety and reduce the risks to sunbed users resulting from exposure to sunbeds with wattages higher than the limit to which I have referred. I am told by the Sunbed Association that there might be as many as 60,000 sunbeds around, and that a large proportion of them contain tubes that emit UV radiation in excess of the European standard.
New clause 1 would fill that gap in the law and ensure that all sunbeds for sale or hire would have to meet that basic safety standard. In my view, that is common-sense consumer protection. Although I am instinctively against regulation, there is a lot to be said for consumer protection when the consumer himself cannot be expected to have the information available to determine whether the product that he is using is safe. I see this as being a very sensible area for the law of consumer protection to apply. The reason is that no ordinary consumer would otherwise know what level of UV radiation emissions from the equipment would be safe.
The fact that the Sunbed Association, which has been prayed in aid as supporting the Bill, strongly supports the new clause makes me feel that I am doing the cause of public health a good turn by enabling the House to adopt the new clause as part of the legislation. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Boston and Skegness will support the new clause if it goes to a Division. Before that, however, I hope that the Government or Bill promoter will accept that it would be much better to incorporate the new clause than to exclude it.
Although there may be a change of heart along those lines today, I must say that at a meeting this Monday, when the Bill's promoter held a discussion with representatives from the Sunbed Association, who argued strongly for my new clause, she expressed her strong opposition to it. Perhaps she was echoing the bizarre line of defence given by the Minister of State, Department of Health, Gillian Merron to my hon. Friend the Member for Boston and Skegness in Committee. The Minister said:
"It is the responsibility of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, so it is not appropriate for such a measure to be included in a public health Bill" --[ Official Report, Sunbeds (Regulation) Public Bill Committee,
Why not? If something is the responsibility of Lord Mandelson, why should it not be included in a Bill before the House? Were it included in the Bill, it would increase consumer safety. A satisfactory answer has never been given either by Ministers or the Bill promoter to question of why, just because it is technically the responsibility of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, it cannot be incorporated into the Bill.
We have had almost 13 years of this ghastly Government. They have spoken repeatedly about the need for joined-up government, but here we have, on the eve of their demise, a ringing example of how, even now, they are not joined up-indeed, there is a stand-off; they are in different silos. Perhaps because it is Lord Mandelson's Department's responsibility for some reason the Department of Health cannot possibly engage with it and is not prepared to concede the point-or perhaps they are simply not discussing it with each other.
In Committee, the Minister went on to say that
"although the concerns are real, unfortunately the Bill is not the right instrument to tackle them." --[ Official Report, Sunbeds (Regulation) Public Bill Committee,
Perhaps-this is being generous to her-she thought then that the new clause might not be selected because it was not within the scope of the Bill.
However, the new clause has been selected; therefore it must be within the scope of the Bill. The new clause having been selected, it is apparent that this Bill could be the right instrument to tackle the problem.
Now that the new clause has been selected, I hope that the Minister will indicate her support for it. I would be happy, as I always am, to reduce my arguments if I thought that the Government had accepted them. I would therefore be happy to give way to the Minister if she were to say to me, "Don't worry any more about new clause 1. The Government will accept it." If the Minister rises to intervene, I will happily give way to her, but I note that she is declining to do so, for reasons that we will perhaps find out in due course. Indeed, I hope that the Government will express some views on this group of amendments before the day is out.
My new clause would protect all those who hire sunbeds, irrespective of their age, which is very important. When people look back over the history of this Bill and its gestation, I think they will remark how extraordinary it was that a fortnight ago almost every vested interest group in the country was trying to persuade me to withdraw my new clause-I gave two weeks' notice-even though it would improve product safety, as well as public health and public well-being. The Sunbed Association told me that without the new clause, everything in the Bill will at best merely amount to papering over the cracks-satisfying the test that I set out earlier and demonstrating that this Bill is about gesture politics rather than addressing the substance of the problem. That brings me back to why we are considering the amendments and whether there is a better way of addressing the problem. I suggest that one such way would be to incorporate new clause 1.
Let me now discuss the need to educate and encourage people not to over-expose their skin to UV light, whether from the sun or from UV tubes in sunbeds. I think I speak for a generation of people who used to expose themselves to the sun in probably too great a measure. I can remember members of my family going out in the sun and, far from using sun creams, putting olive oil on their skin, thereby increasing the burning sensation. I am not sure how many of them ultimately suffered from melanomas, but that is an indication of how public attitudes have changed over a generation. That has happened as a result of increased public awareness, largely through education and the marketing of sun creams by companies.
An important educational role is also played by responsible suntanning studios. I went to visit one in Christchurch two or three weeks ago, because as you know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I do not like to come to the House without being fully informed about the issues that we are discussing. I was very impressed by the detailed questionnaire that the staff at that studio, which is a member of the Sunbed Association, put to clients, asking them about their medical history and the nature of their skin, which they look at carefully. From those calculations staff can work out an appropriate amount of exposure to the UV rays in a sunbed. All that activity takes place under tight supervision, with advice and, of course, appropriate sun creams. If a young person-say, a 16-year-old-goes along to such a studio, they are likely to have a greater understanding of what is involved in exposure not just to artificial UV, but to natural UV, and be more aware of the need to use creams as a preventive measure.
My hon. Friend refers to 16-year-olds, whereas 18-year-olds are deemed to be adults, and therefore responsible for their actions. Just as with the purchase of alcohol or tobacco-in that parents must be responsible for how much money their children have to spend unsupervised, as well as knowing where they are and what they are doing-where does my hon. Friend see parental responsibility in the use of sunbeds by 16-year-olds?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right, but the trouble is this. I speak as a parent of one child who is still a teenager, and not yet 18, and of another who has just turned 20, but I am not sure that all young people are blessed with families who are sufficiently concerned about their welfare and well-being. We hear of the most ghastly cases of parental neglect, and not just of children between the ages of 16 and 18, but of far younger children. I am afraid that the reality is that parental responsibility does not enter into the lives of lots of families up and down this country, which is a great pity.
I wonder whether my hon. Friend could enlighten me-and possibly other hon. Members present-on the cost of a session on a sunbed. I do not know what the cost is, but the money has to come from somewhere, and where 16-year-olds are concerned, presumably it comes from the parents.
That might be true in the world in which my hon. Friend lives, but I suspect there are large parts of the country where the money that 16-year-olds have does not come from their parents. It might come from casual work-who can speculate?-but in answer to my hon. Friend's question about the costs, I did not inquire in the Christchurch studio that I visited.
Fifteen pence? Well, that sounds pretty inexpensive to me-it is even less than the price of a Mars bar, or whatever young people eat these days. I read somewhere that the price was 25p in an unsupervised studio, but if the price can be as low as 15p, that suggests that the costs of provision are probably very low and that there is scope for the development of a black market, with substantial profits to be made. If sunbeds are driven out of the legitimate community and pushed underground, we could end up with another sub-culture being exploited by some of our friends from Albania or wherever, although that is speculation. It would therefore be a mistake to start legislating heavily in a way that would result in such activity going underground and thereby becoming even less apparent to those concerned to regulate it and ensure that it is of high quality. There is an important educational role to be performed, in relation not only to artificial UV but to the natural UV from the sun.
Many people experience a feel-good factor following exposure to UV light. Indeed, the dark, sunless days of winter are known to have an adverse effect on the mental health of many citizens, although I am not advocating access to sunbeds as a solution to all the mental health problems in this country. On the radio this morning, I heard evidence that mental health problems had increased significantly during the lifetime of this Government, but I will not go down that route now.
It used to be the privilege of only a few to be able to top up their tan in the West Indies in January and February. Now, that can be done by jetting off to places such as Dubai, Egypt, other parts of north Africa or the Canary islands. For those who cannot afford the time or the expense of such excursions, however, a local sunbed salon is attractive. Only a couple of days ago, I was talking to someone who works in this great Palace of Westminster and who is getting married next month in Las Vegas. She has decided that it would be a good idea to top up her tan in advance of the trip by using a sunbed. She told me that that would raise her self-esteem and prepare her for the sun that she hoped to experience in Las Vegas. The local sunbed salon has a legitimate role to play in that regard.
I was unfortunately unable to attend the Second Reading debate, in which my hon. Friend Philip Davies raised the possibility of there being an agenda out there among those who want to ban all sunbeds, and wondered whether everyone in the country might ultimately be prohibited from using them. There was no clear answer from the Minister or from the promoter of the Bill to the question whether the Bill would set us on the slippery slope, or whether it was simply a free-standing Bill that was not part of a more wide-reaching agenda.
How great is the demand for sunbeds? There is a shortage of hard evidence, but the Sunbed Association has told me that there are up to 6,000 salons, of which about 1,000 are members of the association.
Has my hon. Friend given any thought to the anecdotal evidence in the newspapers that a small number of young people-young women in particular-are almost addicted to having a very heavy tan? Does he think that some thought should be given to the frequency with which customers visit sunbed establishments, and to whether, in extreme cases, the proprietors should take responsibility for limiting the number of such visits by young girls?
Certainly, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I should just like to respond to the points raised by my hon. Friend Angela Watkinson. We should think about that issue. The Sunbed Association has a demanding code of practice that includes the need for the inspection of premises. I believe that the association would have regard to whether people were having sunbed treatment too frequently, particularly those between the ages of 16 and 18. If a member of the association failed to comply with the code of practice, they would lose their status as a member of the association. Such status can be helpful in enabling them to drum up business and build a reputation for providing a high quality service.
I shall return to the specific issue of people between the ages of 16 and 18. I understand that the Sunbed Association's code of practice does not prohibit treatment for people between those ages. If the Bill were to be passed in its present form, however, such treatment would obviously be prohibited. The association recognises that people of 16 are in a different category from those who are under 16.
The amendments in this group deal with changing the age limit from 18, as set out in the Bill, to 16. My view is that, as Conservatives, we should be encouraging young people of 16 and over to take responsibility for their own lives and their own health. There is relatively little that the nanny state should do to people over 16 to force them into a particular pattern of behaviour. We can encourage, educate and cajole them, and we can give them incentives, but ultimately, we must accept that 16-year-olds are people with independent minds who will make their own decisions.
I will ignore it, Mr. Deputy Speaker, other than to say that I note the inconsistency of the promoter of the Bill saying that it should apply to people up to the age of 18, even though she introduced a Bill two years ago-admittedly without success-to reduce the voting age to 16. Perhaps my hon. Friend Mr. Burns could draw that inconsistency to her attention at an appropriate moment.
The Government's attempts to deny those aged 16 and 17 access to alcohol and cigarettes have manifestly failed. Illegal drug taking among teenagers has now reached epidemic proportions, as have alcohol consumption and tobacco smoking. Even more sinister is the fact that the laws to restrict the carrying of knives and the sale of knives and other offensive weapons to people under 16 seem to have had no effect whatever. Record numbers of young people drive without insurance-they routinely ignore those rules-and the incidence of drink-driving and drug-driving among young people is also on the increase, having at one stage started to decline.
The Bill in its present form would ban 16 and 17-year-olds from using tanning salons, but would those young people actually forgo their tanning sessions if they really wanted them? Of course not. They would simply go and find another outlet where they could have access to a sunbed. I have looked on the internet to find out the availability of sun-tanning machines. They can be bought online for a couple of hundred pounds. If we drive 16 and 17-year-olds out of the legitimate salons on the high street, they will simply go to friends' houses. They will club together to buy pieces of equipment-often second-hand-which may not comply with the standards that I mentioned earlier. All of this would be counter-productive.
Is that not one of the reasons why this legislation is before us today? I have no doubt that the vast majority of people who provide sunbed facilities and services are highly reputable and that the services are well and properly run, but there is a rogue element whose standards are not at the proper levels demanded-hence the need for regulation and legislation such as the Bill before us.
My hon. Friend will know that the Health and Safety Executive has an important role to play. The rogue elements to which he refers are probably already operating in breach of relevant health and safety regulations. Another disease that we have as a Parliament is that where existing regulations are not complied with or not enforced, we duplicate them instead of enforcing the existing ones. We say, "Let us make a fresh lot of laws and see if we can make them a substitute or a duplicate", thereby adding to the legislative burden and making it more difficult for people to understand where they are. I believe that existing laws are in place to deal with what my hon. Friend describes as the "rogue" tanning salons.
I am much more concerned about driving-unwittingly or otherwise-legitimate, good quality salons out of business, forcing people who want to get access to these salons to go underground, adding to the underground culture that is on the increase in our society. My question is this. By banning 16 and 17-year-olds from sun-tanning salons, will we ensure that they do not expose themselves to sun tanning? Of course we will not. One might also ask the rhetorical question, "How naive can MPs be about this?" Indeed, "naivety of MPs" might be quite a good collective noun to apply to MPs in this gesture-ridden and regulation-obsessed generation of parliamentarians.
My amendments to change to 16 rather than 18 the age limit for entry to a salon are designed to address the reality gap between good intentions and unintended consequences. Far better, in my opinion, for a 16-year-old who wants a tan to go to a tanning studio and receive proper advice than to go to a friend's house where the tanning is uncontrolled and unsupervised.
Julie Morgan will know of the proposal by my hon. Friend Mr. Bone, supported by me and others, for more private Member's Bill Fridays in this last Session of Parliament. This is now the last private Member's Bill Friday, so it is a time when compromise should be in the air. Although the hon. Member for Cardiff, North might ideally like her Bill to extend the restrictions to 16 and 17-year-olds as well as to those below that age-we look forward to hearing her contribution shortly-she might share a spirit of compromise and accept that passing a Bill that is less than ideal from her point of view would be better than passing no Bill at all. On those grounds, she might feel it sensible to concede to my amendments.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who is generous in giving way. I am a bit confused, however. He is making a powerful case, from his point of view, about 16 to 18-year-olds, but if we look at his amendment 8 we see, surprisingly, that he proposes to remove from the Bill the exemptions relating to the use of sunbeds for medical purposes, yet part of clause 3 specifically provides that people under 18 who are based in a medical establishment will be allowed to use a sunbed. Is there not a contradiction there?
On the face of it, I would concede to my hon. Friend that there is a contradiction. When I come to discuss amendment 8, however, my hon. Friend will see that it takes the form of a probing amendment rather than one that I would wish to press to a vote. I hope to be able to come to that point quite quickly.
I was saying to the Bill's promoter, the hon. Member for Cardiff, North, that there is an opportunity for compromise between reasonable people on this issue. At the age of 16, people are able to take key decisions relating to their personal health and well-being. In a sense, issues around sunbed exposure are relevant to personal health and well-being. People at that age are able to choose their doctor and their medical treatments; they can also choose which piercings they want, which tattoos, if any, and so on. The Electoral Commission produced a list of all the things that 16-year-olds could do. It seems to me that the opportunity for them to take responsibility on whether or not to go to a sun-tanning studio and expose themselves to artificial UV should be included on that list.
If my hon. Friend's amendments succeed and the Bill prohibits under-16s from using sunbeds, an offence would be created. To whom would that offence attach? Would it be to the provider or proprietor of the sunbed establishment; would it be to the individual who used the facilities; or would it be to the parent who is still responsible for the behaviour of their children?
I stand to be corrected, but my understanding is that the parents are not responsible, even though they have responsibilities under other legislation. There is no responsibility for the users, even if they acted with deception, malice or criminal intent. In the rough world of competition, a sunbed provider might set up someone who looks well over 18-but is younger-to go along to a rival sunbed establishment to get access to sunbeds; then, as soon as access is given, they could blow the whistle. There might be scope for that sort of activity because of the arbitrariness of the enforcement and penalty regime in the Bill. If my hon. Friend looks at the selection list, she will see that it is the second group of amendments-amendments 7, 21 to 25 and 32-that deal with offences and penalties. When we reach that stage of the debate, I hope that she will be able to develop her remarks in more detail.
To summarise so far, I have discussed new clause 1, along with amendments 1, 2 and 3, which leave out "18" and insert "16". I now come to amendment 8, to which my hon. Friend the Member for West Chelmsford referred. Under this amendment, clause 3 would be left out. It is a probing amendment, because I wanted to find out exactly in what circumstances it was thought reasonable for a person under the age of 18 to have access to a sunbed for medical treatment.
If the promoter's argument is that any exposure by a young person, or child, to artificial ultra-violet light on a sunbed is bad for the health, why does clause 3 contain a special exemption for medical treatment? It would be useful to know in what circumstances that exemption would apply, and whether it would extend to medical treatment not directly related to a skin condition, but related to a person's mental state. Medical treatment can be related to mental as well as physical health, and it is not clear to me whether clause 3 would apply in that context. I hope that, in the spirit of openness and transparency, the promoter will help us to understand the thinking behind the clause.
Amendments 4, 5 and 6 are all consequential. They all state
"leave out '18' and insert '16'".
Amendment 15 proposes to leave out clause 4(4). The clause is headed
"Power to make further provision restricting use, sale or hire of sunbeds".
Subsection (4) states:
"Consultation undertaken by the appropriate national authority before the commencement of this section is as effective for the purposes of subsection (3) as consultation undertaken after that time."
It seems to me that we should allow the consultation period to run only after the enactment of the Bill. A consultation period cannot suddenly be followed by the announcement of the commencement of a section. The Bill states:
"This Act comes into force at the end of the period of 12 months beginning with the day on which it is passed."
That makes clear that there is no great urgency, and that whether the Bill succeeds today in whole or in part will make no difference to anyone using a sunbed for the next 12 months. This may be more of a Third Reading point, but surely it is better for the Bill to be perfect-even if it takes a little longer to get it right-than to rush it through, given that, as it will not come into effect for at least 12 months, there is no need for a rush. I consider that provision to be inconsistent with the provisions in clause 4(4) about the consultation period. I think that, as a matter of good practice, only after a clause has come into effect-after a section has commenced-should any consultation arising from that clause take place.
I feel that rather than the Bill's containing a lot of the Government's ideas, the Government are holding back, saying "Why do we not deal with this by means of regulations?" When the Minister was asked, on Second Reading and in Committee, what exactly she had in mind, she said that the Department would make a decision before the introduction of the regulations. That was unnecessarily vague. I would much prefer to know exactly what the Government and, for that matter the promoter, have in mind, and I think that clause 4(4) compounds the error.
Amendment 16 proposes to leave out clause 5, which is a very controversial provision. It is headed
"Power to require information to be provided to sunbed users", and states:
"Regulations may make provision requiring any person who carries on a sunbed business... to provide, in prescribed circumstances and in a prescribed manner, prescribed health information to persons who are using or may seek to use a sunbed" and
"to display prescribed health information in a prescribed manner and in a prescribed form."
It also states that
"'health information' means information about the health risks associated with the use of sunbeds", and that
"Regulations may make provision prohibiting any person who carries on a sunbed business from providing or displaying any material that contains statements relating to the health effects of sunbed use other than... statements containing information prescribed under subsection (1), or... statements containing any other information prescribed for the purposes of this subsection."
That is a very wide-ranging provision, which is strongly opposed by the Sunbed Association. The association believes that, apart from anything else, it would duplicate much of the existing consumer protection legislation. Legislation already exists to prevent people from making false health claims in relation to treatments that are offered. The idea that a Big Brother Government-the Department of Health-should prescribe exactly what can be contained in what piece of legislation is a step too far down the Big Brother route.
I understand the point that my hon. Friend is making, but surely he is not comparing like with like. The existing rules concern false claims, whereas clause 5 merely deals with the provision of factual information about the health risks. Surely educating people about risks, and about how they can protect themselves to benefit their general health and well-being, is a positive step.
I think that my hon. Friend has misread the clause. It does not deal simply with facts; it deals with propaganda approved by the Department of Health. If the Department says that something is a health risk, even if it is not, under the clause it could require the provider of a sunbed to put up a notice containing the information that it posed a health risk when it did not. We seem to be moving away from the concept of factual information. If the information is factual, the Bill should state that it is. If the information is not factual, a remedy will be available under consumer protection or trading standards legislation that prohibits people from making false claims. Are we really saying that the state-the Government-should require each sunbed salon to put up notices that comply 100 per cent. with terms laid down by it, at the centre? These are some of the most prescriptive measures that I have ever come across.
I am sure there is a middle way between our different points of view. I am sure my hon. Friend does not object to the fact that in the safe sex campaigns the Department of Health and others educate people about the health risks of unsafe sex; indeed, I believe he thinks that that is sensible. These proposals are on a par with such campaigns, which most people in this country regard as highly beneficial, informative and educational.
Taking my hon. Friend's analogy further, in effect this Bill would require every nightclub in the country to put signs up on notice boards, and to do so in such a way as to conform with a series of prescribed rules-on where the notice boards must be located, for example, and the size of both the notices and the writing on them. All of that would have to be prescribed from the centre. That is, in effect, what this clause is saying must be done in respect of health information and sunbeds.
I am sorry that my hon. Friend is confused. He has been talking about unsafe sex. As I understand it, all sorts of allegations are made against sunbed parlours, but I do not think that even their most vigilant and enthusiastic opponents have yet claimed that they are places where unsafe sex takes place. It may well be desirable to warn people about unsafe sex, but if we apply my hon. Friend's analogy to clause 5, the equivalent measure would be for it to be required that notices be put up in a prescribed form in a prescribed location and with prescribed content. Nobody-not even my hon. Friend, with his understandable concern to reduce the amount of unsafe sex-would suggest that the Department of Health should be so prescriptive about health information for sunbed users.
If there were to be a power to require the proprietors of sunbed establishments to provide information to users, does my hon. Friend think it would be reasonable for there to be a similar power to require users to provide relevant information to the establishment, particularly about their age and any health complications that they know of?
My hon. Friend is saying, with her typical fair-mindedness, that if we are going to have these powers, there must be a two-way street. There are no measures in this Bill that would impose a duty or obligation on a sunbed user to provide accurate information to the provider or leaser of that sunbed, let alone any measures addressing the provision of false information. That shows that the legislation does not provide a level playing field, but that, basically, it is designed to place an additional-and, in my view, unfair-burden on the legitimate and lawful operators of tanning salons.
The Sunbed Association wholeheartedly agrees that salons should display appropriate advice and information on who can use a sunbed and how to use a sunbed responsibly, but it does not think it necessary to include a provision prohibiting any sunbed business from providing or displaying statements relating to the health benefits, because the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 are already in force, and they prohibit unproven, unfounded and misleading claims. Clause 5 is, therefore, at best a duplication of the 2008 consumer protection regulations, and at worst, goes far beyond them by seeking to introduce what I consider to be unreasonable, detailed prescriptive requirements, including the imposition of penalties for failure to comply.
We know that a big debate continues out in the real world about the merits or demerits of using sunbeds. I recall reading an article in, I think, the Daily Mail-whether one likes it or not, a lot of people take their health advice from the columns of the Daily Mai -which said that there are substantial benefits from using sunbeds. One can therefore envisage a situation in which a sunbed salon might take that page out of the Daily Mail and put it on a notice board, and then find that it is on the wrong side of the law because the Department of Health had reached a different conclusion, or wanted to peddle a different propaganda message. I therefore think that the terms of clause 5 represent a very sinister part of the Bill, and, once again, they show that its supporters and promoter have got things out of perspective and proportion, and that they are trying to introduce draconian powers far in excess of what is required to address the problem-if problem there be.
As I have now explained the reasons why amendment 16 proposes to leave out clause 5, I shall move on to amendment 31, which would leave out clause 10(2)(a). As a result, there would be no power to make regulations to
"make different provision for different cases or different areas".
This is, in a sense, a probing amendment. Why might we want to introduce regulations to allow for different provisions to apply? There could be different provisions for, to use race codes, a person with a white skin and somebody with skin of a darker hue. What justification could there be for introducing regulations to distinguish between those two different clients? Also, what justification could there be for introducing rules that might apply differently in Liverpool than in Bournemouth or Christchurch? Before we give the Government the power to make regulations that may make different provision for different cases or areas, I think we need to know why: what is the justification for this?
Is the Bill, in effect, hybrid legislation by the back door which we are being asked to introduce? The promoter of the Bill may intend the regulations to apply particularly to the city of Cardiff because there is, apparently, a problem in Cardiff that needs to be addressed. Or it may be that the hon. Lady thinks there ought to be special provision relating to the city of Liverpool, which has been described as many things, but for the purposes of this debate, it is known as the sunbed capital of the United Kingdom, where there is a higher use of sunbeds than in any other conurbation.
It would be wrong to describe that as an epidemic, as that would suggest that there is something wrong with using sunbeds. I know that this is not a topic on which my great friend the Mayor of London has yet found it necessary to comment, but perhaps in due course he may wish to comment, if we found ourselves with differential regulations singling out Liverpool or Cardiff for particular treatment under the provisions of the Bill.
I will give way to the Minister if she wishes to explain and justify this part of the Bill, as I understand that the Bill was drafted largely by civil servants in her Department, so it might be useful to hear what the justification could be. In the absence of a strong case being made, it would be much better, in the spirit of compromise, to leave out subsection (2)(a) of clause 10.
If the Bill goes forward, it will have a differential impact in different parts of the country because it is part of the culture, as I understand it, in Liverpool, Sunderland and perhaps Cardiff for young people to use sunbeds to a much greater extent than they do in other parts of the country. On the back of that, many people have entered the marketplace and set up businesses to meet that need. Those locations are not regarded as being the most prominent centres of high employment and entrepreneurial activity in the country-they all have unemployment problems far greater than some other parts of the country-and the consequences of the Bill may be a differential loss of business and of employment in those important conurbations. I hope that in responding to the debate, the hon. Member for Cardiff, North will address some remarks to that issue.
That brings me to amendment 11, which would remove subsection (2) from clause 11. Subsection (2) states:
"Subsection (3) applies to an instrument containing (whether alone or with other provisions)-
(a) regulations under section 4, or
(b) regulations under section 5 or 6 which-
(i) create an offence or increase the penalty for an offence, or
(ii) make provision about any of the matters mentioned in section 10(4)(a) to (c)."
The effect of amendment 11, together with amendments 10 and 12, is that all the regulations would have to be made by affirmative resolution, rather than by negative resolution. Those regulation would be under the control of Parliament or the National Assembly for Wales, made by Welsh Ministers. Why do I think any such regulations should be subject to affirmative resolutions? Because we are dealing with significant potential new burdens to be placed upon business.
We are discussing quite controversial areas of the law in relation to the health impact or otherwise of the use of sunbeds, and because the Government or the promoter of the Bill have chosen to leave an enormous amount of material unexposed to parliamentary scrutiny at present, which they have it in mind at some stage to table in the form of regulations, those regulations should have to be subject to debate in Parliament. We know that the shortcoming, as always with regulations, is that it would not be possible to amend them, but at least they would have to be debated, and Members of Parliament would have the chance to comment on them and respond to any concerns that constituents might have raised in relation to them.
That group of amendments is significant and must be seen in the context of the whole. In conclusion, there is a big problem with the Bill in relation to the burden that it will impose. It is said that the total costs of enforcing the provisions of the Bill would be only £88,000 a year. If that is the case, we might say that an enormous amount of hot air is being expended for very little activity on the ground-£88,000 would be about £200 per constituency throughout the country. One can hardly see £200 worth of inspection, regulation and enforcement delivering much of a transformation to the world of tanning salons, particularly in those city centres where there is an enormous amount of activity. If, as a consequence of the Bill, there would be such a minor cost for the regulators, the challenge that I put to the promoter is this: why are we bothering with such prescriptive regulation? Would it not be much better to go in for a much lighter touch?
Order. May I make it clear, in case there is any misunderstanding, that Julie Morgan can come in at whichever stage she likes, so she may well decide to contribute later in the proceedings?
Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for the clarification.
The hon. Member for Cardiff, North and those supporting the Bill will be aware that from the Conservative Front-Bench we are supportive of it. We are keen to see the Bill progress on to the statute book as fast as possible. It could make a significant difference to the rates and prevalence of skin cancer in young people and, through the information that has been mentioned, create a much greater awareness of lifestyle choices and their impact on the health of young people.
There is substantial clinical evidence to support the proposed change in the law, not just from Cancer Research UK but from the World Health Organisation, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, and clinicians. There has been a significant increase in the incidence of malignant melanoma and other health conditions. In addition, the European scientific committee looked into this and produced a good report in 2006. The Sunbed Association, the overarching association for responsible sunbed operators, of which there are many, is also in favour of this Bill.
The Bill was stress-tested on Second Reading and in Committee. My hon. Friend was right to reiterate some of the points that he had made so eloquently, and it will be interesting to hear the Minister respond to some of the detail of those. However, we must ensure that we do not give the impression to the electorate that the House is against responsible sunbed operators. We are not. We want to ensure that they can thrive in a properly regulated structure.
I am slightly surprised by a couple of my hon. Friend's amendments, particularly those seeking to remove clause 3, the exemptions for medical purposes-I am glad he said that was only a probing amendment-and clause 5, which relates to the provision of relevant and appropriate information to those using sunbeds. There is a real problem at the moment in the UK with people understanding the impact of their lifestyle choices on their health in the long term, and our providing effective, relevant and accurate factual information is a key part of improving the dislocation that exists at the moment. There is no doubt that one reason for the UK's poor five-year cancer survival rates is the lack of earlier diagnosis, which again relates to poor information and understanding of lifestyle choices. Information is key in this regard.
My hon. Friend has already referred to the Sunbed Association's support for the Bill in general, but he will accept that it does not support the provisions in clause 5 that duplicate the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, which already prohibit unproven, unfounded and misleading health claims.
I am not sure that I share my hon. Friend's analysis of the Sunbed Association's position on that. We discussed this in Committee, and subsequently there has been some correspondence clarifying the role of those responsible for the advertisements and misleading advertisements and the contents of the clause. I see the Minister acknowledging that she will address this when she replies.
My hon. Friend is right to push the Government for more detailed clarification through new clause 1. He will be aware that that was an issue that I raised on Second Reading and in Committee. We are talking about a 2007 EU declaration on sunbed equipment, which the Government signed up to but have still to announce any time scale for its implementation, unlike many other EU states. The EU scientific committee on irradiance levels set out clearly, as my hon. Friend accurately reiterated, the 0.3 W per square metre figure as the safe level. Any level above that was deemed to be unsafe. That was set out in January 2007, which is considerably more than three years ago.
The Sunbed Association, in wishing to put pressure on the Government by saying that they need to consider new clause 1, really wants, as do I, some clarification from the Minister about the time scale within which the EU declaration will be fully implemented. If other EU countries can do it, and have done it already, why cannot we do it in the UK? I hope that the Minister today will come up with a response to that. COMARE, which, as the Minister will be aware, is a research body, said that full implementation was needed as fast as possible, but that advice seems to have been ignored. It would be helpful if the Minister could set out today the minimum time scale for implementation.
The other main thrust of my hon. Friend's amendments was the change to the age limit. If we are being honest, we must accept that the clinical evidence as between 16, 18, 21 and 25 is questionable, but there is no doubt that some sort of additional regulation is necessary to reduce the incidence of skin cancer among young people. The point that my hon. Friend Mr. Burns made in his usual forensic manner was absolutely right. The age of 18 fits comfortably with other pieces of public health legislation, whether it be on smoking or drinking. Therefore, the conclusion of the hon. Member for Cardiff, North, no doubt in consultation with the Department of Health, that 18 is the right age is correct.
In the process of enabling young people to understand the impact of their lifestyle choices, the Government need to work more closely than they have so far with both the charitable and voluntary sector and with schools and businesses to raise awareness of the symptoms and risks of skin cancer, and to work towards changing attitudes of some young people, which was exactly the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch.
It is clear that there are significant problems in some parts of the country. The great cities of Sunderland and Liverpool are always the exemplars. There needs to be a much greater focus on changing attitudes in particular geographical areas where there is a significant problem, not just-although it is important and related to the Bill-with regard to the impact of overexposure to UV light, but in making sure that people understand the impact of natural sunlight if they are not protected. Clearly, there is a significant ignorance on those two points. When focus groups and people are asked about the lifestyle choices that they make that may give rise to prevalent rates of cancer, it is interesting that the only one of the main six that people mention is smoking. Those of us who are interested in reducing the rates of cancer in this country still face an enormous job in getting those key messages across.
Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the things that adds to the problem is the widespread belief that melanoma is a type of cancer that is easily cured and treated, and that in any event it will occur many years after the exposure takes place, so there is little immediate threat?
My hon. Friend makes a powerful point. The length of time from the initial exposure to artificial light or sunlight to the occurrence of skin cancer is one of the major problems in making people taking this issue seriously. However, I do not think-although I am not saying that my hon. Friend is suggesting this-that that is an excuse to do nothing. We must do what we can to ensure that people understand the potential risks of exposure to artificial and natural sunlight.
I shall keep my remarks very brief, because the Liberal Democrats do not want to do anything to slow the progress of the Bill, which we wholeheartedly support. I, like Mark Simmonds, the Conservative spokesman, also see the case for implementing a control over the strength of radiation from sunbeds in this country, and from discussions with the industry I am conscious that very many salons have sunbeds with radiation that is above the recommended EU level. That is putting people-both youngsters under 18 and older people-at risk. I should like to see effective action from the Government on that issue, but subject to that we are very keen to see the Bill implemented. It is evidence-based, and it will save lives.
I have not used a sunbed for more than 40 years. Indeed, the reason why I have such red skin is not that I sit under sunbeds. I am interested in the subject because I was prescribed sunlamp treatment-we did not really have sunbeds 40 years ago-when I was under 18 years old. I have always suffered from various skin diseases, and I suffer from rosacea now, but when I was under 18 I was advised to sit under what would now be considered very old-fashioned and, I think, very primitive sunlamps. I remember that I wore some horrible black goggles, and that horrible lamp was boring rays into me. The whole thing was completely unregulated. There was no proper advice; one just went to a local shop and bought the machine, and I was under the impression that it would solve the skin ailments about which I felt more embarrassed at 17 and 18 than I would now.
Since then I have suffered from skin cancers, which have had to be removed. Luckily they have not been particularly serious, but I have always thought that the very powerful sunlamp treatment that I was given, without any proper medical advice more than 40 years ago when I was under 18, was probably a very serious mistake indeed, and not something that a fair-skinned person in a northern temperate climate should undergo. I am not antagonistic towards sunbeds, because everyone is different and entitled to their life, but unless people are very careful, particularly when they are young, sunbeds can be quite dangerous.
A couple of years ago I was sitting with my father-in-law in a local restaurant in Lincoln, and we noticed that he was scratching on the back of his leg a spot that was bleeding badly. We said that we should really do something about that, and he had not bothered, of course. He took himself off to the doctor, however, and it turned out that my father-in-law was six months away from death: the spot was a melanoma. The medical staff had to remove all his lymph glands; it was a very serious condition; and they reckon that it had arisen just from some sun-probably not a sunbed or anything like that-that he had received 40 or 50 years before. That was the point that my hon. Friend Mark Simmonds made: people just do not realise that these conditions can be very dangerous, but that they can arise 40 or 50 years later.
So anything that educates the public about the risk of sunlamps or sunbeds, and anything that ensures the greater protection of children, is a good thing. I am therefore glad that in dealing with clause 3, entitled "Exemption for medical treatment", my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch has made it absolutely clear that his new clause is only a probing amendment. Indeed, with medical knowledge being much more advanced now than when I was under 18, it may be appropriate for under-18s to undergo sunbed or sunlamp treatment.
Generally, I think the Bill is probably a good thing. It is unlikely to become law, but at least it raises the relevant issues and makes people more aware of what is going on. I very much hope, however, that the Government and the promoter of the Bill, Julie Morgan, will feel able to accept new clause 1. We would then be able to protect all the public, not just children.
As my hon. Friend the Minister responsible for public health has said on previous occasions, the Government fully support the Sunbeds (Regulation) Bill. It is about tackling a public health issue and protecting young people, but we believe that it will also raise awareness of the dangers of sunbed use more generally.
I shall speak first to the new clause that Mr. Chope tabled. The new clause would make it an offence, punishable by a fine of up to £20,000 to sell or hire a sunbed that failed to comply with a European technical standard or that emitted a certain level of UV radiation. The proposed new clause is therefore about product safety and technical standards.
Product safety for consumers is a very important issue. There is already existing national legislation, implementing European Community legislation, which covers the safety of both new and second-hand products, including sunbeds. The European safety framework for sunbeds is based on directive 2006/95/EC, commonly referred to as the low voltage directive; directive 2001/95/EC, the general product safety directive; and European standard EN60335-2-27.
In the UK, the Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994 implement the low voltage directive and cover all new products that are supplied on the Community market. The General Product Safety Regulations 2005 implement the general product safety directive and apply to all products-whether new or used-that are intended for consumers, except where other Community legislation contains specific safety requirements with the same objectives. The General Product Safety Regulations 2005 require that all supplied products within their scope are safe.
A product is considered to be safe if it complies with national safety rules or voluntary national standards transposing European standards, such as the standard that applies to sunbeds and to which the new clause refers. That standard also provides a presumption of conformity with the low voltage directive. It has applied since
A reference to specific radiation limits in the legislation could make it out of date as scientific knowledge advances. If the radiation limit in the standard were changed, and the proposed new clause were accepted, primary legislation would be needed to update the limit. The Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994 use the definition of "supply" in the Consumer Protection Act 1987. The General Product Safety Regulations also define "supply" broadly. In both cases, the definitions of "supply" are considerably wider than that proposed in the new clause.
The Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations and the General Product Safety Regulations together provide a legislative framework that is more robust than the one that the new clause proposes. There is therefore no need for the new clause. It refers both to the European standard and to a limit for the UV radiation that is emitted by a sunbed. A reference to specific technical standards in legislation would necessitate formal notification to the European Commission, and that requirement is intended to avoid the creation of new technical barriers to trade within the Community.
Under that notification procedure, member states and the Commission have an opportunity to raise concerns about potential barriers to trade. Adherence to the European standard in the new clause might invoke objections to the draft legislation because the standards are voluntary. No national legislation can conflict with Community harmonising legislation.
I am advised that considerably increased use of sunbeds and the associated risks have spurred the Commission to press member states to take positive action to protect consumers. However, I am not aware of any Government sign-up or when that will take place. I am advised that the hon. Gentleman's point would not be acceptable, as that is not the case in other member states.
The directive 98/34 procedure requires a three-month standstill period after notification before any action can be taken on the proposed legislation. It is clear that accepting the new clause would stop the passage of the Bill. The Government resist new clause 1, as they think it unnecessary.
I need to make progress, given the time factor.
I will now speak to amendments 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6, which all relate to the reduction of the proposed age from 18 to 16. The World Health Organisation, the Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment, which I will refer to as COMARE from now on, and the Scientific Committee on Consumer Products to the European Commission, have all recommended that under-18s be prevented from using sunbeds for cosmetic purposes. Setting the age limit at 18 is clearly in line with these recommendations. Scotland already has legislation on the use of sunbeds, and it sets the age at 18. It is also worth mentioning that in Europe, France, Germany, Finland and Spain all ban people under 18 from using sunbeds. Of course, there is other legislation that imposes age restrictions and that has been raised in the debate on the amendments this morning. The Government do not support the proposed reduction of the age limit from 18 to 16.
Amendment 8 seeks to remove clause 3 from the Bill. Clause 3 provides for an exemption from the duties in clause 2 that prevent sunbed use by under-18s when the treatment is for medical purposes. There may be some medical complaints-some skin problems, for example-for which the use of a sunbed is advised as part of treatment. COMARE and the World Health Organisation recommend that medical treatment should take place in clinical settings under clinical supervision.
However, it is important that that medical exemption should not be used by sunbed businesses to circumvent compliance with the duties in respect of the main offence in clause 2. For the exemption to apply, the medical treatment must be under the supervision or direction of a registered medical practitioner such as a licensed doctor. It must also take place on a sunbed in, or provided by, a "healthcare establishment"-a hospital, for example-and the sunbed must be used only for the purposes of medical treatment. This is a very tightly drawn exemption, and rightly so.
The Government acknowledge that there will be situations in which the therapeutic use of sunbeds for under-18s is necessary for medical reasons. For that reason, a medical exemption is necessary and the tightly drawn conditions required for the exemption to apply are appropriate.
Amendment 15 seeks to delete clause 4(4). Clause 4 contains some regulation-making powers, some of which require mandatory consultation with interested parties before the regulations are made. If the Bill receives Royal Assent, there will be a year before it comes into force. That period can be used effectively to consult on some of the proposed regulations. The effect of amendment 15 would be to remove the confirmation that the consultation before the Bill comes into force is the effective mandatory consultation required by the Bill.
Amendment 16 seeks to omit clause 5 from the Bill. Clause 5 allows regulations to be made that require any person carrying on a sunbed business to provide and display information about the health risks of using sunbeds to those who use or may seek to use one. Regulations may ban sunbed businesses from providing or displaying any material containing statements relating to the health effects of sunbed use, other than information prescribed by regulations.
All users of sunbeds should be aware of the health risks involved in using sunbeds. It is right that there should be regulations. It is also right that users should not be misled. COMARE recommendations are that information on the health risks associated with the use of sunbeds must be provided to users, and that commercial outlets and sunbed retailers should be prohibited from using information promoting unproven health benefits of sunbed use. The World Health Organisation guidance says that claims of health benefits should not be made in the promotion of sunbeds. Clause 5 is in line with recommendations, and therefore the Government do not support amendment 15.
Amendment 31 relates to clause 10(2)(a), which allows for regulations made under the Act to
"make different provision for different cases or different areas."
It is a standard provision seen in connection with all modern regulation-making powers and means that regulations made under the powers in the Bill do not have to make a single, blanket provision but can be adapted for different areas and circumstances.
Amendments 10, 11 and 12 would amend clause 11 and they would attach the affirmative procedure to all regulations made under the Bill. That procedure is already attached to all such regulations save for those made under clauses 5 and 6-the latter of which is on protective eyewear-when they do not create an offence, increase the penalty for an offence or include enforcement provisions. In practice, that means that the vast majority of regulations will already require debate. The small proportion that will not are those containing details that, although important, do not justify taking up parliamentary time by automatically requiring approval after a debate.
Considering amendments to a Bill is always a useful exercise in reviewing its provisions and determining what purpose they serve and whether they are necessary. I believe it is clear from what has been said that the provisions of this Bill have been carefully considered and that each subsection has been drafted for a specific and very useful purpose. I therefore ask the hon. Member for Christchurch to withdraw the clause.
I shall attempt to cover briefly the amendments tabled by Mr. Chope. New clause 1 raises an important issue, which the Minister covered fully in her response. The important point is that were the new clause to be successful, there would have to be a standstill period for consultation in the European Union. Adopting it would wreck the Bill.
The hon. Lady completely overstates her case. She recognises that the Bill would not be implemented until at least 12 months after obtaining Royal Assent. Would that not be enough time for any consultation if that is needed? Can she confirm that at the meeting on Sunday with the Sunbed Association, it made it clear that it was absolutely determined to ensure that new clause 1 should form part of the Bill?
If the new clause were passed, we would have to stand still while there was consultation in the EU, so the Bill would not be able to go any further. That is why I am resisting the new clause. As far as the Sunbed Association is concerned, it supports the Bill as it is but would prefer it strengthened.
Amendments 1 to 3 relate to the age limit. I believe that 18 is the right choice based on the scientific evidence. We have already heard that the risk of skin melanoma is increased by 75 per cent. if the use of tanning devices starts before 30 years of age, and all the scientific and medical evidence is that the minimum age should be 18. As hon. Members have said, that also fits in with the fact that under-18s are not allowed to buy alcohol or cigarettes, and that the Scottish legislation relates to under-18s, so I firmly stand by the age of 18.
Amendment 8 has been clearly covered. There are occasions when medical treatment through sunbeds is needed, so it is very important that clause 3 remains. For example, sunbeds are sometimes recommended as treatment for psoriasis. We are saying very strongly that such treatment should be under medical supervision at medical premises, so it is important that the provision remains in the Bill.
Amendment 5 and 6, again, would lower the age at which young people are restricted from using sunbeds. I repeat that I believe 18 is the right age.
On amendment 15, clause 4(4) deals with consultation by the appropriate national authorities before supporting regulations are made. The principle of the subsection is important to ensure that there is full consultation by the relevant authority before regulations are introduced. It is procedural and helps make the Bill workable, so I do not support the amendment to leave the subsection out.
Amendment 16 deals with the provision of health information in regulations. Sunbeds have been linked to eye damage, premature skin ageing and skin cancer. The point that we cannot always see the damage straight away has been forcefully made by the hon. Member for Christchurch. It is crucial to provide information. There should be full consultation on what that information should include, so I am happy that the regulations include a requirement for health information. I oppose amendment 31, which would delete paragraph (a) from clause 10 (2). The remaining amendments are technical.
The Bill is an important measure. In moving new clause 1, the hon. Gentleman said that if one young person loses their life to skin cancer, that is one life too many. If the Bill is enacted, it will certainly protect young people's lives.
We have had a useful debate on this group of amendments, particularly on new clause 1. Before replying to the debate, may I welcome the contribution of my hon. Friend Mr. Leigh who, in his typically succinct and articulate way, explained that the issue should be about proper education so that people are aware of the risks and consequences associated with exposure to ultra-violet light, whether natural or artificial? That is a common cause across the House. If anyone is following the debate in the real world, they might decide that they are now going to put on protective creams, and not expose themselves to the sun too much, particularly on their first exposure of the year. They might decide to ensure that their children use protective sun creams, or to write to their Member of Parliament and campaign for the Government to reduce VAT on sun cream. I hope that the debate has generated interest outside this place, and thus become a means of promoting the educational cause that we all support.
New clause 1 presents the opportunity to include a measure in the Bill to increase consumer protection for everyone who uses sunbeds, particularly those hired from sunbed operators. On the other hand, it could be argued that we should confine our concerns about sunbed users to people under 18, as the promoter of the Bill would argue, or to people under 16. As we rarely have the opportunity to legislate on such issues in the House, we should incorporate new clause 1 in the Bill, as that would be a major step forward. I am delighted that my hon. Friend Mark Simmonds agrees with me. Although it might appear counter-intuitive for me to argue for a wider scope for regulation, I think we should deal with the big issues as much as possible, rather than try to confine our interests to the narrow ones. I am therefore delighted that the Sunbed Association very much supports new clause 1, and it made its position quite clear to the Government last Monday.
I am disappointed and dismayed by the Minister's response to the new clause, as she said that we could not introduce such a provision without further consultation with the European Union. Previously, she argued that the measure would need the co-operation of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, and the Secretary of State, the right hon. Lord Mandelson, but today she has a different proposition-that there must be consultation in the EU. I cannot understand why that should be a problem even if it is necessary, but if it is necessary, why were we not told sooner? I am sceptical about the Minister's claim, but even if it is correct, the Bill will not take effect for at least 12 months after Royal Assent, so there is more than enough time for the necessary discussions and consultations with the EU.
Describing such a period of discussion as a standstill completely overstates the case, as the Minister did-not unusually-in saying that new clause 1 would cement a standard into primary legislation that could be altered subsequently only by more primary legislation. One reason why I gave more than two weeks' notice of my proposal was to enable the Government or the Bill's promoter to table an amendment. If the Government thought that such a standard might subsequently need changing, they could easily have sought to amend the Bill so that that could be done by regulation, yet they declined to do so. That might be because the Minister was preoccupied with other affairs at the time, but I do not know.
It is typical that the Government have come along today with another red herring as an objection to new clause 1. I suspect that they are angry about the proposal because they did not think of it themselves, and because they realise that I am on the side of the angels in this debate, and that they are lagging behind on consumer protection for people who are exposed to higher-than-necessary UV from artificial sunbed tubes.
I am absolutely convinced that the Bill would be better for the inclusion of new clause 1, and I am strengthened in that belief by the support of my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough, who is an extremely experienced legislator. I am concerned that the Minister, in reading out her scripted response, has not really engaged in the detail of what is involved in new clause 1. She asserted-wrongly-that no other EU countries have introduced similar regulations to those proposed in the new clause and she mentioned Spain, Finland and France. However, as far as I know, those countries have introduced similar legislation, so it is fanciful to suggest that there is a problem with it. The only problem is the lack of will on the part of the Government, an all-too-typical stubbornness and a reluctance to change a Bill when the case has been overwhelmingly made, not only in the House today but by people outside, not least the very knowledgeable and sensible members of the Sunbed Association. I commend the new clause to the House.