Botulinum Toxin and Cosmetic Fillers (Children) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:26 am on 16th October 2020.

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Photo of Saqib Bhatti Saqib Bhatti Conservative, Meriden 11:26 am, 16th October 2020

I congratulate my hon. Friend Laura Trott on bringing this Bill to the House. She seems to have captured the mood, certainly among Conservative Members, given the contributions we have heard. I suspect that if there is an opportunity to do further private Members’ Bills, I will be supporting them, because of their attempt to do something positive, really make a change to people’s lives and improve society. That is a great opportunity and this Bill is a great achievement, so I congratulate her.

This Bill is not an attack on the health, beauty and non-medical cosmetics market, as my hon. Friend Dr Evans pointed out. That sector has a role to play. I also echo the sentiment of my hon. Friend James Cartlidge when he said that we Conservatives are not the party of more legislation for the sake of it—we are the party of individual responsibility. Like many Members, I was shocked that children under the age of 18 are able to get these treatments, in what can sometimes be described as the “wild west” of non-medical cosmetics. This growing market is worth about £2.75 billion and I am sure it will grow further, given the way in which the trends are moving. I am an advocate for adults being able to make their own decisions, with good information. Let me refer here to the attempt being made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bosworth to get legislation through to have better information on social media, so that children are able to know when pictures have been doctored. These types of images have an impact on not only the mental health of individuals, but the decision-making process, which I will come on to talk about.

I thought it would be good to talk about botulinum toxin. The United States National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health call it the miracle poison. I recognise that there are medical benefits from botox and that there is a place for it, but I am shocked that more regulation is not in place. I hope that this Bill makes it into law, to allow for greater regulation in this sphere.

Let me give some context, as I talked about the impression on young people. Many Members may be aware of the social media app Snapchat, whose audience is primarily 13 to 24-year-olds. Some 7% of the 60,000 respondents to its survey said that they had undergone cosmetic procedures for aesthetic reasons; 66% of almost 50,00 said that they would like to change their facial features; 33% said that they would like to alter their nose; and 24% said that they would like to change their lips. That goes to the heart of the issue. This is certainly having an impact and children are tempted by cosmetic procedures.

I believe that the Bill goes beyond just botox to the heart of where we want to be as a House, and certainly where we Conservative Members want to be as a party. For me, this is about saying: let children be children and let them enjoy their lives. Think of the pressures that they have in everyday society, which, by the way, did not start with social media. I remember, when I was growing up, stories of teens reading magazines and eating disorders coming up. This has been a long-standing issue, although social media has accentuated it. My hon. Friend Claire Coutinho talked about being a baby. Well, I was a very beautiful baby—confidence, or lack of confidence, was never an issue for me. However, as I was growing up, bands such as Oasis tried to determine what my hairstyle would be. I had a hairstyle with these things called curtains, as they were called at the time—I see some hon. Members nodding; I am sure they tried it, too. My first driving licence picture looked nothing like what I look like now—I will not go any further into that—but we are impressionable, certainly when we are growing up. We are susceptible to trends, whether they are online or among our peers.

I intervened on my hon. Friend the Member for Bosworth because I question whether we have the right tools in place in our homes and schools to try to combat these pressures. It will be an ongoing battle, because we live in this “Love Island” generation, which looks at what is purported to be the right thing to be or what the norm is to look like. My hon. Friend Suzanne Webb hit the nail on the head repeatedly. She said that we should try to be the best that we can be, and that we should try to appreciate who we are and the fact that we are not all the same—that we are different and that we look different. We may have curtains at one point and different hairstyles, and we may want to get fit. Someone described me the other day as starting to get a bit more rotund—it was very mean actually, Madam Deputy Speaker, and I am glad to put it on the record—but the fact is that we have to be at ease with ourselves. We can set the standard in this House in trying to fight back against this trend and trying to use social media in a positive way. I am sure that people will be watching this debate and they will want to hear that we want our young people to be more confident.

For me, that is what the Bill is really about—that fight back. I want to think about the world that my children will live in. If I have daughters or sons, I do not want them to feel the pressure of what society says we should look like. I want them to be at ease with themselves and I want them to value what is in their minds and in their hearts. That is the lesson that I hope our children can take away from this.

I understand that there are those who are concerned that the Bill will take some responsibility away from parents and put it into the hands of the nanny state. Other Members have mentioned that legislation does not permit under-18s to get tattoos based on the permanency of the artwork on their skin. My hon. Friend Anthony Mangnall talked about tattoos—the cat that someone may have got when they were younger that has turned into a tiger as they have grown older may not have been the tattoo that they wanted. Our law currently permits a form of body modification that fails to address this permanency, and that is why I feel that this legislation is valuable.

I see the Bill as a piece of common sense and I reiterate my congratulations to my hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks on proposing it. We have laws in this country to protect young people and the Bill adds to that protection. It does not ban cosmetic fillers on medical grounds; it bans them purely on aesthetic grounds if someone is under the age of 18. It just makes common sense so for that reason I wholeheartedly support the Bill.