Public Houses and Private Members' Clubs (Smoking) Bill

Part of Bill Presented – in the House of Commons at 12:41 pm on 13th October 2010.

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Photo of Kevin Barron Kevin Barron Chair, Standards and Privileges Committee 12:41 pm, 13th October 2010

I oppose the Bill. The same argument was put to the House not so many years ago in a debate that resulted in the current legislation. Mr Nuttall was right to say that the original legislation, proposed by the then Labour Government, did not provide for a comprehensive ban in areas of all public houses or private members' clubs. In 2005 the Select Committee on Health, which I chaired, conducted a detailed inquiry into the issues before the Bill that became the Health Act 2006 had completed its passage. When it had done so, the amendments that had been tabled were put to the vote. Labour Members were eventually given a free vote, as, I understand, were Opposition Members.

Let me give the House a flavour of the results of that vote. The hon. Gentleman described this as a contentious issue. The result of the vote on clause stand part, as amended-there had been an attempt to remove the amendment-was 452 Ayes and 127 Noes. At no time did any Member trying to defend the hon. Gentleman's position manage to persuade more than 200 Members into the Lobby. It followed a great tradition that in the other place, shortly after the votes in February 2006, Lord Tebbit rose to defend the Labour party manifesto of 2005. At the time some of us, although we had stood on that manifesto, thought it was nonsense from the point of view of public health.

In the same year that the House made that decision, Spain implemented a smoking ban exempting small bars and restaurants. The law has not been seen as a success, and as a result of public dissatisfaction with the exemptions the Spanish Government have proposed to extend the ban to all pubs and restaurants, although they are considering an exemption for private smokers' clubs. An evaluation of the Spanish law found that levels of second-hand smoke were reduced only in bars where smoking was prohibited by law, and that

"Most hospitality workers continue to be exposed to very high levels of SHS"- that is, second-hand smoke.

That was the issue then, and it is still the issue today: people who work in the leisure sector are exposed to people's life-threatening habits. It was the issue in 2006, when the original legislation went through the House, and it remains the issue today. Unless bars contain NHS operating theatres with doors that are rarely opened, it will never be possible to avoid the effect of Bills such as this on workers. Evaluations of other partial bans have found limited evidence of health gain, and they are believed to aggravate health inequalities.

I remind Government Members that they have just fought and won a general election criticising the then Labour Government for not ending health inequalities in this country. I agree: they did not do away with health inequalities, and some 50% of health inequalities are created by tobacco use. If Members on the Government Benches are going to continue saying what they said when in opposition, this Bill is the last measure I would expect their Front-Bench team to support, because health inequalities are writ large in tobacco use in this country.

An Australian study of 2004 found that no-smoking areas in licensed premises contained as many tobacco toxins as smoking areas. Even in clubs with completely separate no-smoking rooms there was no material reduction in the levels of harmful toxins in the air. Ventilation systems in smoking areas in rooms that are not fully segregated will not protect people in non-smoking areas. The Select Committee on Health-an all-party Committee, I might add-came to that conclusion. It is also the finding of research by D. Kotzias and others at the European Commission Joint Research Centre. We cannot isolate smoking in smoking rooms and think it has no effect elsewhere. That will not work, and it is the reason why the original Health Bill put before the House in 2005 was changed in the House in 2006.

Let us look at the health gains, because that is what this is about. It is not about leisure; it is about the health of the public. Hospitality industry workers have benefited most from the UK legislation. Evaluation of the Spanish partial ban found that the law had failed to protect them significantly. The most notable health gain for members of the public is the fall in the number of admissions for acute myocardial infarction. Researchers at the university of Bath have calculated that there has been a 5% drop in the number of heart attacks in England, attributable to smoke-free legislation. The figure was higher for Scotland and it was measured within 12 months of the ban coming into force-as Members will know, the ban was introduced earlier in Scotland than in the rest of the UK. Similar reductions have been observed in other jurisdictions with a comprehensive ban, including New York, Ireland and Italy. Indeed, the Health Committee went to Ireland when taking evidence for our report.

It has also been suggested that having more people smoking out on the street might increase young people's perception that smoking is a normal adult activity and so increase the number of under-age smokers. In fact, international research shows that smoking bans are associated with reducing smoking among teenage boys in particular, possibly because it is seen as less normal. This topic has been debated in the House throughout the decades during which I have been a Member, and I have frequently argued for legislation to de-normalise smoking.

Some 50% of people who smoke will die a premature death, as well as having suffered from various diseases and all the other burdens they will carry throughout their life-and that taxpayers will carry for the rest of their lives in having to treat these people in the NHS. It is sometimes argued that we must recognise that smokers put money into the Treasury as opposed to looking at the ill health that is suffered as a result of tobacco use. That is a ridiculous argument.

It was claimed at the time of the Health Bill that banning smoking in pubs would displace smoking into the home, thereby increasing children's exposure. The reverse has been true. The proportion of homes in England where smoking is prohibited throughout has increased to 79% and children's exposure has fallen because of that. I have not got the figures to hand, but recently-within the past 12 months-research has found a link between cot death and smoking. That affects young children who do not have anything directly to do with cigarettes, but who are exposed to them through passive smoking. It is irresponsible for any Member to stand up in this House and say we should reverse this measure which has led to such great health gains in this country.

Support for smoke-free legislation in England has risen to more then 80% of adults, many of them smokers themselves who agree that this legislation is right. Support has risen fastest among smokers, half of whom support the legislation as it stands. Most smokers believe the law has been good for their health, good for the health of the public and good for the health of most workers.

There is an issue with the effect on business. I have looked at all the evidence and I must say that trying to introduce smoke-free rooms ventilated to the level that would be necessary would have a negative effect on business; there is no way that will benefit businesses.

Let me finish by discussing the issue of trusting the people. This morning, I found the following words on the hon. Member for Bury North's website-he has a blog and people post things on it. He said that we should trust the people, and these are the comments of someone called Jim:

"Mr Nuttall, I am a tory voter and a pub landlord, you are so wrong on this and I suggest you use your common sense to drop this headline catching cause.

The smoking ban was one of the few things labour got right in their last reign."

I dispute that, to some extent. He continued:

"To even suggest undoing it in this manner brings yourself and the party into disrepute. As a landlord my biggest fear about the smoking ban was the proposal you are advocating. In my humble opinion it will create an unfair playing field, that panders to the weak and stupid.

Many people because of the ban have given up smoking, myself included, I do not want to go back to the days of smoky pubs, the blanket ban has worked. My business is proof, I am still trading and making a living".

I shall not read out the rest, but there are many other comments on the hon. Gentleman's blog, including some from nurses in his constituency. One of them says that they wished he had put this proposal in his manifesto when he stood for election in May, because they may have then had a different view about the Conservative candidate. I would like to oppose this Bill. [Interruption.]

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Robert Feal-Martinez
Posted on 18 Oct 2010 7:27 am (Report this annotation)

I was under the impression our MP's were now determined to be honest and truthful but it seems Keith Barron hasn't learnt that yet. He claims the Bath study showed a 5% reduction in Heart Attack admissions, that is simply a lie. The report showed just 2.4% but even that was deliberately misinterpreted as a success when the 10 previous years had shown a far greater average reduction prior to the ban.

The Pell report in Scotland has been shown to be complete fabrication her findings of 17% were in reality 8%, which was 2% less that the average over the previous 10 years.

There are no statistics on Cot Death it is pure speculation designed to frighten parents. As for the money smokers contribute it is very relevant because without out it the country would be in a bigger mess than it is now.

Finally I suggest Mr Barron comes clean when making a speech, he will know that the All-Party Committee on Smoking and Health's, secretariat is managed by none other than Action on Smoking and Health, the very organisation that has fabricated surveys and presented bogus information about smoking and passive smoking, and who themselves are sponsored by the Department of Health and a host of Pharmaceutical Companies.