Botulinum Toxin and Cosmetic Fillers (Children) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:44 am on 16th October 2020.

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Photo of James Cartlidge James Cartlidge Conservative, South Suffolk 9:44 am, 16th October 2020

My hon. Friend makes an extremely good point, and that is, in many ways, what I am driving at. There is always a balance between whether we regulate and restrict or trust people’s judgment. There will even be people aged 16 or 17 who consider surgical enhancement procedures and are very rational and do not suffer from any form of mental health issues or self-confidence issues, for whom this sort of procedure would result in a satisfactory outcome. We have to remember that. The question in regulating is the traditional one of whether the benefit in protection of the vulnerable minority—we assume it is a minority; statistics are hard to come by—is worth while, given the impact it may have on a greater number who may not need that regulation but will now have a freedom stifled. That is the old chestnut.

I have heard what my hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks said—I thought it was a very good speech—and I have read all the notes and a lot of the research on the internet, and I am of the view that, definitively, this is a very necessary and justified Bill. It is necessary for the state to intervene and restrict the availability of these services, products and interventions for young people, because what outweighs the downside of regulating is the fact that we are protecting vulnerable people from an outcome that—in some cases, if not many cases—can be terrible or disfiguring, and they can go on to regret it for years to come, potentially at great expense. On that basis, it is certainly justified.

It is particularly justified in the context of children’s mental health, which I feel very strongly about. I have the Adjournment debate today on a very tragic suicide in my constituency. It reminds me that one of the very first traumatic constituency cases I had to deal with related to a young lady’s self-awareness issues—basically, an eating disorder—and although it was not fatal, there was an attempted suicide. It was a terrible case, and it really opened my eyes as a new MP to the issue of eating disorders.

Since then, I have had the pleasure to engage with the charity Beat. Its local spokesperson in my constituency is Laura Shah, an absolutely wonderful lady, who has explained the issues to me. In fact, given that my hon. Friend the Minister will be speaking later, I should put on record—he may not want to say this because of his naturally humble outlook—that he was once the parliamentary champion for the Beat charity, and he got its parliamentarian of the year award. I say that because I know he would not volunteer it himself. That is a noble achievement because it is a very good charity, and it underlines the fact that there are wider issues.

The other point—my hon. Friend Anthony Mangnall intervened on me about this—is about social media. I am profoundly worried about social media, its impact on young people and our inability to regulate it. It is not a failing; it is very difficult to regulate the sharing of media and the enhancement of media. Of course, we can imagine young people going to a practitioner to receive such surgery based on an image they have seen where the person has not actually had it, but has simply been artificially enhanced digitally.