My Lords, the Administration and Works Committee decided to revisit the issue of smoking policy following a request from the Refreshment Committee; requests from Members, both via Written Questions and privately to me; and representations from all three trade unions and the Staff Association, regarding health concerns of the staff of the House.
As set out in the report, the committee recognised the valid health concerns of both Members and staff, and agreed the principle that,
"staff should be entitled to work in a smoke-free environment".
In addition, the committee agreed with the principle set out by the Refreshment Committee that,
"it is extremely desirable that smoking should not be permitted where food is being served".
That principle is also in line with the principles set out in the Government's White Paper Choosing Health, which, coincidentally, was published on the very day that the committee met.
Although the committee agreed those two principles, its members were also keenly aware of the views of those who wished to continue to be permitted to smoke. The report, therefore, balances those views with the principles agreed by the committee. That is why the report recommends that smoking should not be permitted where food is served but should, for example, continue to be permitted in the Peers' Guest Room, where food is not served.
The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, has suggested that further consultation should take place. Staff have already been consulted through the trade unions and the Staff Association, and the matter was discussed at length at the annual Whitley Committee meeting of representatives of management and staff. Members have been consulted in the domestic committees, and I remind noble Lords that both the Refreshment Committee and the Administration and Works Committee agreed that changes to the House's smoking policy should be put forward.
In addition, noble Lords are being consulted in this debate and have the opportunity to put forward the views of other organisations, if they so wish. The report was not written to impose the views of the Administration and Works Committee; instead, the committee's recommendations have been set out in such a way as to provide noble Lords with the opportunity to table amendments. That opportunity has been enthusiastically taken up. This debate, and any votes that may follow, provides a highly effective way of consulting Members and ensuring that all views are fairly reflected in any smoking policy.
I think that it is clear both from experience and from the first two amendments to the Motion that opinions on the matter are widely divergent. The Administration and Works Committee, in this report, has put forward one possible compromise, which takes into account our obligations towards our staff and the divergent views of Members. It is now for the House to decide whether that compromise is acceptable.
Before I sit down, it may be helpful if I say a word on how it is anticipated that the debate should proceed. As noble Lords will have seen, a skeleton list of speakers has been circulated, which I hope will prove of assistance. After the Question has been put on my Motion for the first time, Amendment No. 1, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, will be called. After the noble Lord has introduced his amendment, the Question will be put and a single debate will then take place on the original Motion and all the amendments tabled, which, for the convenience of the House, have been numbered 1 to 8.
As indicated on the list, the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, in whose name Amendment No. 2 has been tabled, will speak first in the debate, to be followed by those noble Lords who have tabled the remaining Amendments Nos. 3 to 8. Thereafter, the debate will be open to any other noble Lord who wishes to take part. After all noble Lords who wish to do so have spoken, I will reply to the debate, before the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, replies to his own Amendment No. 1. A decision will then be taken on Amendment No 1.
As my noble friend on the Woolsack will confirm when it is moved, if Amendment No. 1 is agreed to, the remaining amendments cannot be called. If, however, Amendment No. 1 is withdrawn or disagreed to, Amendment No. 2, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, will be called. In the usual way, Amendment No. 2A, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Palmer, which is an amendment to Amendment No. 2, will be called immediately after Amendment No. 2 has been moved. If Amendment No. 2 is agreed to, whether or not amended, Amendments Nos. 3 to 8 cannot be called. If Amendment No. 2 is disagreed to, each subsequent amendment will be called in turn and decisions reached on them. Finally, the Question will be put on my original Motion, whether or not amended. I hope that that explanation is helpful. I beg to move.
Moved, That the first report from the Select Committee (HL Paper 209, Session 2003–04), be agreed to.—(The Chairman of Committees.)
The report can be found at:
rose to move, as an amendment to the above Motion, to leave out "agreed to" and insert "referred back to the committee for further consideration, including:
(a) consultation with Members of the House, staff of the House and others concerned with smokers' rights, including the Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco;
(b) consideration of the rights of smokers in any future plans for the Writing Room and the possible partition of the present Writing Room on a temporary basis; and
(c) consideration of a possible reorganisation of the Bishops' Bar so that smoking could be permitted in one of the two rooms."
My Lords, I thank the Chairman of Committees for his explanation of the Motion. My amendment seeks to refer the report of the Administration and Works Committee for further consideration. Let me say straight away that I am a non-smoker but a member of the Lords and Commons Pipe and Cigar Smokers' Club, not only because I enjoy the company there but because I believe that smokers have rights.
I do not believe that those rights are properly recognised generally, and the Administration and Works Committee has not given adequate consideration to them in its report. Everyone except smokers seems to have rights: rights of equality; disability rights; rights to enter Britain, even if suffering from transmittable diseases; and new rights for same-sex couples and sex-change people. Only last week, the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General told us that housebreakers, burglars, muggers and other criminals also have their rights. Everybody seems to have rights except law-abiding smokers. They are hounded, verbally abused, witch-hunted, and apparently, in the eyes of some people, are not fit for decent company.
My amendment seeks to ensure that people in this House who are concerned with smokers' rights should be consulted, not only because they are concerned with those rights but because some of them, like the noble Lord, Lord Harris of High Cross, have great knowledge and experience of the issues involved. I have also suggested that FOREST should be consulted, because it has great expertise in reconciling disputes that arise over smoking and non-smoking areas. I believe that separation is the correct way forward. FOREST is widely consulted by industry.
I also make special reference in my amendment to the Writing Room and the Bishops' Bar, both of which are well used by noble Lords and are capable of accommodating smokers and non-smokers alike because they have separate entrances. In the case of the Bishops' Bar, it is possible to isolate staff from smokers in the smaller of the two rooms. In the case of the existing Writing Room, staff have little need of access, particularly now that self-service beverages are available. In any new accommodation for the Writing Room, provision must surely be made for smokers and non-smokers. I hope that the Chairman of Committees can give the assurance that that will be so.
There will be objections that the work required to provide for both smokers and non-smokers in the two places mentioned in my amendment, and in the areas suggested in amendments tabled by other noble Lords—which I would expect to be considered in any event if my amendment is accepted—would be too expensive. But the amount involved is likely to be relatively small and would pale into sheer insignificance when compared with the tens of millions of pounds being spent on the parliamentary estate for works that are often, in the opinion of some of us, completely and utterly pointless.
I have made the case for my amendment in as short a time as possible. But if it is accepted more evidence and suggestions will be made to facilitate the rights and interests of smokers and non-smokers alike.
However, before I sit down—I do not want to speak again before I wind up—I would like to voice my total opposition to the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, which seeks to ban smoking throughout areas of the Palace of Westminster and the parliamentary estate under the control of the House of Lords. That would mean everywhere—I repeat, everywhere—including indoors and outdoors. That is absolutely monstrous. Anyone wanting a quick smoke would be banished to the street where they would probably be in far more danger from vehicle emissions than from the tobacco they were smoking.
This is anti-smoker zealotry gone mad. The proposition is based on junk science and a great exaggeration of the risks involved from so-called passive smoking. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Harris of High Cross, will deal in detail with that if he speaks in the debate. I would point out only that the risks from so-called passive smoking are far smaller than those, for example, of going into hospital where there are 5,000 actual deaths from MRSA. According to an article in the Daily Mail, 72,000 deaths in hospital have a contributory cause of medical blunders. Perhaps the medical profession should put its own house in order before demanding bans on smokers.
Furthermore, it is far more dangerous for people to walk in the street than to be in the presence of smokers. Apart from 3,500 deaths, 45,000 injuries and billions of pounds of damage from road vehicles, it is estimated that there are 30,000 deaths a year from vehicle emissions, which is 30 times the alleged number of deaths from passive smoking. So why are we not banning all cars?
My Lords, there we are: we will be banning everything before we know where we are and then none of us will know what to do with ourselves.
Perhaps I may also point out that of the 120,000 so-called deaths from so-called smoking, 95,000 of those people are over the retirement age of 65. We have to die of something some day.
My Lords, furthermore, for some people at least, smoking seems to be good for them. The late Lord Shinwell, a lifetime smoker, died at 101 years of age. Last week, in the Daily Mail, there was a report about a woman smoker who died at the age of 105. The heading was:
"Smoker runs out of puff aged 105".
The report says:
"A woman who defied medical logic by living to 105 despite smoking 15 cigarettes a day"—
I calculate that she smoked 500,000 cigarettes during her lifetime—
"was laid to rest clutching a packet of her favourite brand.
A wreath shaped like a cigarette was placed on her coffin and fellow residents at her nursing home sang along to Smoke Gets In Your Eyes at the funeral".
So smoking obviously is not bad for some people.
Indeed, who was it who said:
"The effects of other people smoking in my presence are so small that it doesn't bother me"?
Finally, this issue is not just about health: it is also about individual rights. I cannot understand why these proposals are being rushed through on the last day before the Christmas Recess for implementation on
After all, the Government's proposals are not likely to come in until 2006. So we ought not to rush this issue on the basis that all sorts of people have rights, including smokers. We can accommodate both smokers and non-smokers who do not wish to inhale second-hand smoke. I beg to move.
Moved, as an amendment to the Motion, Amendment No. 1.—(Lord Stoddart of Swindon.)
My Lords, I speak to the amendment standing in my name on the Order Paper. When we were children, Santa used to smoke a large pipe, but out of consideration for his elves, particularly those with asthma, he has stopped smoking to avoid exposing them to environmental tobacco smoke.
Noble Lords might ask why I have tabled the amendment. It is because the staff have asked me to. The three staff unions—the GMB, Prospect, PCS—and the Staff Association, have asked for this amendment because they are aware that they stand a three times higher risk of dying from passive smoking than from an accident at work.
I shall cover the three areas addressed in the amendment in turn. First, in the Truro Room it is extremely unlikely that filters would remove the harmful molecules that float around. I shall not bore your Lordships with a list of chemical soup and its effects. We all know that, and I am sure that everyone wants to go Christmas shopping rather than hear me reiterate all the health arguments.
However, I should like to remind your Lordships that smouldering tobacco is a fire hazard. The Truro Room is part of the Library where there is a great deal of paper and where the House of Lords Journal and the sessional papers are stored. The staff, who cannot just dive in and out of the room, estimate that they spend about 10 minutes collecting a paper, even when they know where it is, or when filing papers that have been brought out. They cannot ask a smoker to go in because we often ask for papers at very short notice. During the hunting debate a couple of weeks ago, a Member of the House asked a librarian to fetch a sessional paper immediately for the debate that was under way. Indeed, our Library staff give us an excellent service.
I should remind noble Lords that in 1999 the Library Committee made a commitment to make the Library smoke free. That was reiterated in a Written Answer from the then Chairman of Committees:
"In June 1999 the Library and Computers Sub-Committee agreed that the ultimate aim should be that the Library should be an entirely smoke-free area as soon as possible".—[Hansard, 21/12/00; col. WA 77.]
That is not exactly yesterday. The staff of the Library were given an undertaking which has not yet been met.
I shall address Peers' own offices. I have no objection at all to Peers being put together in an unserviced outbuilding, but it is unreasonable to expect staff to clean and service offices full of environmental tobacco smoke if they do not wish to do so.
The Peers' Guest Room is the next area for consideration. I firmly believe that we have to lead by example. Our own Chief Medical Officer has recommended in a report that there should be no smoking in the workplace. Parliament should be a flagship of good practice. In attempting to decrease tobacco consumption in the population, what message do we send if we ignore the call from the staff themselves, on whom we depend, to respect their health? The intake of passive smoke among bar staff is two to three times higher than that of people living with a smoking partner, if they do not work in a bar. Many of our staff are aged under 40, which is a lower average age than among ourselves, I dare say, and many of the women on our staff are in their childbearing years.
Do not fall for the pleasure argument. That rush of pleasure experienced within seven seconds of inhaling is the nicotine rush that satisfies the craving of addiction in smokers.
I should like to make it clear that the Sports and Social Club mentioned in the amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Palmer is outside this report and therefore falls outside the wording of my amendment.
Your Lordships can smoke, but we have no right to pollute the atmosphere of the staff, who give us fantastic and loyal service. Without their collective knowledge, I think that we would literally be sunk. The staff want to be able to work in an environment that is smoke free. As human beings one to another, we have no right to jeopardise their health. This is a working House, not a smokers' day centre or a club.
My Lords, I feel that I must start by stating that I think smoking is the most revolting, unhealthy and disgusting habit, but I do have to admit to being a smoker. Needless to say, I much enjoyed the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, and I agree with him about bans. Indeed, I am reminded of an editorial in the Daily Star some time ago:
"Let's have a Bill to ban banning", although the editorial in fact referred to the threat of a Bill to ban hunting with hounds.
Having said that, I support entirely the amendment proposed by my old friend the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart. He has emphasised the serious holes in the report from the committee. All my amendments have been tabled because I do not believe that the proposal has been sufficiently thought through by the Chairman of Committees and his committee. However, I do feel that the amendments tabled by my noble friends Lady Finlay and Lady Howarth are really far too draconian; my amendments are remarkably modest in comparison.
I refer most especially to the gaping error of not allowing our hardworking staff to use their dedicated rest rooms as smoking rooms where they have been specifically designated as smoking areas. This is particularly important when the House sits late which, sadly, it seems to be doing an increasing amount of the time.
I understand that the Sports and Social Club could be deemed to be in no-man's-land but, for the avoidance of any future doubt, I thought it important to specify that any ban would not apply to it. However, I am now reliably informed that the club does not come under the jurisdiction of your Lordships' House and, therefore, technically the second part of my amendment is not necessary.
It is important not to forget that smoking is still a legal pastime, one practised by 26 per cent of the adult population of the United Kingdom. I accept that these figures are not reflected in your Lordships' House. I reckon that a total of 37 Peers smoke, 19 of whom are Life Peers and 18 elected Peers. It should also not be forgotten that annually the Exchequer receives not less than £10 billion from smokers. There are some 6,000 full-time jobs in the tobacco industry; 23,000 people are involved in supplying the industry; and nearly 58,000 in retailing and distribution.
We should also bear in mind the greatly improved air conditioning plants that have been installed throughout the Palace of Westminster, most especially in the Bishops' Bar. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, that it should not be too difficult to rearrange that particular bar so that part of it is for smokers and the remainder completely smoke free.
I turn to the eighth amendment to the Motion concerning the Cholmondeley Room. Again, given the new air conditioning plant, non-smokers are enjoying a relatively smoke-free atmosphere. I think that it is wrong that those who have arranged to hold a function in the Cholmondeley Room, in particular weddings, are not to be able to allow their guests to smoke.
The third amendment to the Motion in my name refers to the Barry Room. Surely there must be somewhere within the Palace where Members can lunch or dine with a guest where smoking is permitted.
On arriving here nearly 15 years ago, I remember being told that the House of Lords was the last bastion of civilisation. Since then, places where one can smoke have been dramatically reduced and I am in favour of some of the restrictions that have already been imposed. But I feel that both of the amendments tabled by my noble friends are intolerant and unnecessary and, indeed, would diminish the reputation of your Lordships' House as the last bastion of civilisation.
One of the worst sights in Britain today is that of office entranceways crammed with smokers. Do we really want our staff and, indeed, some Members of your Lordships' House, to be forced into that syndrome? I would venture to suggest that we do not.
In conclusion, if the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, decides to test the opinion of the House, I hope that as many noble Lords as possible will feel able to support him. Indeed, should my amendments be put to a vote, I hope that they will be supported by all parts of the House.
My Lords, I must first declare an interest as a light smoker, a libertarian and a supporter of FOREST, although I have not consulted that organisation in any way on this debate. Like the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, I deplore the way this whole business is being rushed through in a panic, potentially depriving smokers of their very longstanding rights and doing so without full consultation—there has been some consultation, but not nearly enough—and with a proposed date of implementation only three weeks away. What on earth is the rush?
The report contains some curious assertions. Why is it,
"extremely desirable that smoking should not be permitted where food is being served"?
That is taken from paragraph 9. Either environmental tobacco smoke is like mustard gas, or whatever it was that Saddam Hussein dropped on the Kurds—in which case tobacco should be outlawed immediately and treated like heroin or crack cocaine—or it is not. Of course it is not, and so it becomes a matter of personal taste. I would never dismiss personal taste as a matter to be taken into consideration, but the presence or absence of food is irrelevant from the health point of view.
Paragraph 12 asserts that,
"staff should be entitled to work in a smoke-free environment".
To the extent that some members of staff find tobacco smoke irritating, their wishes should be accommodated, but by no means all the members of our staff do so—as some of them have told me. The health of employees is prayed in aid, yet a 39-page summary of 64 epidemiological studies from all over the world—Europe, North America and Asia—investigating possible links between environmental tobacco smoke and either lung cancer or heart disease shows that the evidence is inconclusive, although admittedly the summary does not investigate the possible links between smoking and bronchitis.
The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, is right to quote Professor Sir Richard Doll on the subject. The professor was of course the first person to establish a link between active smoking and cancer, but he has a very different take on passive smoking. If environmental tobacco smoke were as lethal as the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, claims, I would not be here today and neither would most of your Lordships. Anyone born and brought up in the 1930s, 1940s or 1950s will inevitably have spent their formative years totally enveloped in other people's smoke. There was always at least one adult who smoked in most households, quite often two. People smoked in offices, factories, hospitals, on all forms of public transport, in cinemas, university lecture halls and so on.
And yet we have a pensions crisis today, one reason for which is that those born in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s are living very much longer than government and other actuaries had forecast, throwing the calculations of annuity providers totally into disarray. In fact, we are said to be the healthiest generations ever—much healthier than those born since who have, perhaps, been brought up on too much junk food and too little exercise.
So let us not confuse annoyance—and I do not deny that heavy concentrations of tobacco smoke are annoying—with an alleged, but unproven, serious threat to human life. My amendments are designed to minimise this annoyance by permitting smoking only in the larger room of the Bishops' Bar after virtually everyone has finished their lunch or dinner; and in the dining room after virtually everyone has finished their tea. As regards the dining room, it simply replicates the current arrangements; as regards the main room of the Bishops' Bar, with its agreeable, convivial and very British ambience—which some are trying to turn into a neurotic Californian ambience—my amendment is much more restrictive compared with the status quo. I much prefer the status quo but one must be realistic and seek a compromise.
The objective is to strike a fair balance between not two but three groups—smokers; those who do not smoke but who enjoy the company of smokers and do not mind their smoke, which I believe is a very large group; and those who hate smoke in any concentration. My amendments achieve that balance.
We have heard some of the evidence from my noble friend Lady Finlay of Llandaff. I was not going to go through the evidence again but, as it has been questioned, I need to reiterate some of the numbers and what is the reality for people on the ground. The evidence is incontrovertible. If my noble friends have not visited the original evidence themselves, I would refer them to it because it is fairly stunning.
Professor Konrad Jamrozik of Imperial College London has estimated that exposure to second-hand smoke in the workplace causes around 700 premature deaths in the UK each year. This can be compared with the total number of deaths in the UK from all industrial accidents reported by the Health and Safety Executive. The degree of risk depends on the extent and duration of exposure, and therefore bar staff have the increased exposure which my noble friend has already explained.
I wish to refer simply to the Peers' Guest Room. The reason for doing so I shall come to later. In the White Paper, Choosing Health, the Government set out proposals to ban smoking in most workplaces and in public places. If we accept the evidence—which, as I have said, I think is incontrovertible—we have a responsibility to choose health for our staff and for ourselves and to set an example. It therefore follows that commonsense and care for staff means that this House will accept the recommendation of the Chairman of Committees and, if we do so, the same arguments will apply to the Peers' Guest Room.
At present, the staff there are expected to serve drinks in what is often a smoke-laden atmosphere, with all the risks that such exposure brings. I have personally not noticed the reduction in smoke when I go in there despite, as I understand it, the information we have had about filters. We know how helpful and accommodating our staff are—they are unlikely to make this case for themselves—but the risks of heart disease, a stroke or cancer are all there.
I am president of John Grooms, an organisation for disabled people, and I visit our brain-damage unit at Stowmarket. I have seen the results of a stroke. I have seen shattered families, where a stroke has changed their whole lives; where a parent has been taken out of a family and the rest of the family struggle. Often the victims have been heavy smokers who have reaped the results of their smoking.
I also speak from a personal interest and for many Peers who have spoken to me. We, too, would like to choose health. The Peers' Guest Room is the one reasonable place where one can entertain a guest before lunch or dinner. For me and for many of your Lordships these guests might be family and friends, but they are often contacts to further some aspect of the House or broader interests such as, for me, the All-Party Group on Children. This makes the Peers' Guest Room my workplace too and it can be unpleasant and embarrassing to take guests who deal with medical issues, child development and environmental matters into a smoke-filled bar. Noble Lords have spoken to me about this.
In conclusion, perhaps I may deal with the question of rights. Some of your Lordships may wish to smoke: I have every wish to prevent you from doing so. I watched both my parents die from extremely appalling smoke-related diseases. I have grown very fond of some of your Lordships—especially the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington. I recognise freewill and I understand, because I lived in a smoke-filled atmosphere in my childhood, that you may wish to choose ill health, but that should not infringe the rights of others and impair their health. For that reason, I wish to add simply the Peers' Guest Room to the list of exclusions. At the moment it is a place where staff, non-smoking Peers and their guests are exposed to risks which are totally unacceptable. I wish to choose health, and I ask your Lordships to join me in that choice.
My Lords, I apologise to your Lordships and the noble Baroness. It was not my intention originally to speak and I did not know that there was a speakers' list. I shall be very brief. I have an interest to declare, of course, and all your Lordships know it. It does not have to be registered as yet.
If we look at the composition of the Committee we will see that it is a pale reflection of the usual channels. You may well ask yourselves what is the object of remitting anything to the usual channels because they will come back with the same report, but I think it is worth a try.
On this issue, rhetoric is no substitute for reason. I support the concept of the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, that we should remit the issue for reconsideration in the light of this debate. We should reconsider the position of the Bishops' Bar because, as has been said, arrangements could be made to ensure that there is no smoking where food is served. That proposal has not been considered in a fair way.
Secondly, as to the guest room, it is a funny kind of workplace. It is a room constructed with a high-vaulted ceiling. I have never noticed a noxious concentration of smoke that has ever inconvenienced anyone. In the circumstances, I am certain that it would never be such. We need some independent evidence to accommodate the staff, who, I agree, should not be subjected to passive smoking. The problem is that this report, which purports to be even-handed, is not even-handed. It is not proportionate. No thought whatever is given to provision for those who smoke. The Truro Room, which I call the smokers' punishment room, is impossible with its present form of ventilation. It is perfectly possible that segregated areas can be arranged.
Finally I say this, and only this. We are masters of our procedures. I am informed that the idea is that these recommendations will be reflected in Standing Orders. They should take some—I am not saying much, but some—fair and proportionate account of those who smoke. At the moment, they effectively take none. There should be no abuse in our Standing Orders of a minority interest, which is what we are. There should be a reasonable, practical, fair provision, strictly related to enclosed places, and excluding, of course, the Terrace.
My Lords, I rise to support the amendment so ably moved by the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon. He spoke with a good deal of common sense, tinged with a good deal of humour. I shall not weary your Lordships. We have all heard the arguments, not only during this debate but also over the past few years. I rise to ask one question on the report itself. I refer noble Lords to Page 4, Paragraph 12.
Paragraph 12 is drawn to our special attention. The two principles stated there guided the committee. One of the principles is that,
"staff should be entitled to work in a smoke-free environment".
The second is that,
"smoking should not be permitted where food is being served".
I have very little quarrel with those two principles. But having laid down those principles, the committee seems then to have ignored them totally.
The committee goes on to recommend to us that,
"smoking should no longer be permitted in . . . the Writing Room".
We all know the Writing Room. I use it, as do many other noble Lords. The Writing Room is a very large room in which no staff work at any time. It is a room in which no food is ever served. Coffee and tea are available while we read or write our notes, but the Writing Room is a do-it-yourself area. We serve ourselves drinks by means of a machine, and we place money in the box with our very own little hands. There is no one there to help us.
As the two principles which the committee highlighted and by which it reached its recommendations do not relate to the Writing Room—where there are no staff and no food—perhaps the Chairman of Committees will enlighten the House, and certainly me, on why it is now out of bounds to anyone who wants to smoke a cigarette there. I think that it would be a very wise move if we were to refer this whole matter back to the committee for reconsideration.
My Lords, I must declare an interest as a member of the Refreshment Committee. I should also say that I am a non-smoker and have been since my days of military service, which are some 40 years ago and therefore do not really count. It is not surprising, therefore, that I am in favour of the principles set out in the report and that I am largely in favour of the conclusions. In fact, I would go further. I feel confirmed in that view by hearing the two noble Baronesses who spoke earlier to their amendments and mentioned specifically the Truro Room of the Library and the Peers' Guest Room.
As regards especially the Peers' Guest Room, I find it extraordinary that when I want to discuss a work-related matter with people or when I am entertaining people simply for the sake of entertaining them, the only place I can take them for a drink before lunch or dinner is somewhere which, especially at dinner time, is most unpleasant to any non-smoker. It is most unpleasant because the air and the curtains are such that it is intolerable. I always pray—in the summertime, at any rate—that one might be able to take people to the Terrace and get a bit of air, which I suppose is fresh, from the Thames. At least that is an alternative.
I noticed that the noble Lord, Lord Palmer, I think, referred to the number of smoker Peers. I know quite a number of them, and I realise that there are quite a few active, diligent smoker Peers among us. I therefore do not go along with the more extreme view that smoking should be completely barred throughout the part of the parliamentary estate for which the House of Lords is responsible. Surely we do not want our smoker Peers to be pariahs. I would suggest to your Lordships that many smoker Peers have tried, and probably more than once, to give up. But they are addicts. They are, if I may say so, socially disabled people. I hope that they do not mind my saying so. We have to make some provision for them.
I was therefore much impressed by the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, in paragraph (c) of his amendment, where he refers specifically to the Bishops' Bar. It is not beyond the wit of man, or the expense to which we go in the summertime to improve our premises, for the Bishops' Bar to be converted into two parts. Smokers should be able to go to one of them. I do not think it satisfactory that smokers should be barred completely from the premises and have to go into the wind and cold outside or be confined to a part of the estate where they cannot also have a chat and a drink. I put it that way because I do not think that the Truro Room of the Library is a substitute for a civilised place where our smoker colleagues can go.
Surely that is the minimum that we should allow, despite all the arguments which I fully accept—especially those from the two noble Baronesses who spoke earlier—that smoking is most undesirable and that the staff must be considered as well as ourselves.
My Lords, I rise to support the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart—an experience that I have never previously enjoyed. The amendment that he has tabled is reasonable and moderate whereas those proposed by the Chairman of Committees—who as an individual is well known to be reasonable and moderate—are sweeping and draconian and, as has been remarked, are being introduced with insufficient consultation on the last day of the Session, when many Members have already gone. I do not think that such a rush is necessary.
I speak as an intermittent smoker. Actually, this is my ninth day without a cigarette.
My Lords, I have managed that because I never promise myself to stop altogether. I know that I like smoking and I know that I will smoke again. If I made a new year's resolution or something like that, I would break it and that would be bad for my self-esteem.
I do not deny that people who dislike or fear smoking should be protected, but I do not see why this should necessarily be by means of a complete ban which removes all choice, for staff as well. To listen to the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, one would think that the staff were 100 per cent non-smokers. We know that that is far from being true. I should have thought that it is not impossible for somebody on the staff to serve in the bar where smoking is permitted.
I suppose it has been clearly established, and I would not like to argue with the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth—that smoking can have harmful and sometimes fatal results. That is even allowing for the 105 year-old lady that the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, unearthed—although perhaps "unearthed" is the wrong word. The effects of passive smoking, however, upon which the whole of this report and recommendations rests, are not quite so certain. Like everybody else, I see surveys periodically in the press which claim it is injurious to some degree but never indicate the size of the area in which the test took place, how many were smoking there, how frequently they were smoking or whether, as somebody has already said, it took place in a city such as London. The noble Lord, Lord Borrie, spoke about going to the Terrace for a breath of fresh air—he must have been joking. The diesel fumes that belch out hourly in this city, of which we are at the heart, definitely have an effect.
I shall not delay your Lordships more, but turning to paragraph 3 of the amendment, the Bishops' Bar has already been referred to by a number of people. It is not impossible to have something fairly rigid in place. At the moment, there is a non-smoking room and a smoking room, but there is an open space between the two. But as several noble Lords have already said, it is possible for the two to be clearly distinct.
Nobody has yet mentioned that the Bishops' Bar has a fairly small but regular clientele. The same people go there all the time and the same people do not. This is anecdotal, but I would say that, of those who go there regularly, about 60 per cent smoke. Smoking is, after all, not always a solitary, but a social, pursuit. As has been said, a smoke and a drink relax people. I think it is reasonable to have that. Surely it will not do a great deal of harm to take a little longer at least to give a fair hearing to the criticisms that a number of your Lordships have already made. As the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, said, the Government's regulations nationwide will not come into effect until 2006, so surely we can afford to take a little more time.
My Lords, I wholeheartedly support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, who is usually right in his views. In default of his amendment, I support those of my noble friends Lord Palmer and Lord Monson.
I have not smoked for some years, but I spent 40 years of my life kippering all my friends and relations. As a result, I have the greatest sympathy for poor smokers, who are now about to be hounded almost out of existence, and, if the noble Baronesses and their virtuous friends have their way, forced to stand in the street in the pouring rain in order to have a quick puff.
As a member of the Refreshment Committee, however, I have some concern about the Guest Room, the Barry Room and the banqueting facilities, on which the catering operation here depends to wash its financial face. Peers wishing to entertain guests who smoke may well decide to take them elsewhere, and quite a lot of the very lucrative banqueting trade, such as wedding receptions, could go elsewhere. People may well not be prepared to pay the prices charged here—which are not small, although the value is extremely good—for their guests to be made miserable. With the improved air-conditioning plants which are now available and which have been installed in, among other places, the Bishops' Bar, and with a ban on smoking before a certain time, as proposed by my noble friend Lord Palmer, it should be possible to accommodate everyone.
I have two suggestions for your Lordships. The Salisbury Room would make a very good smoking room. In addition, staff who clean smoking rooms could be provided with masks.
It ill becomes a Government whose exchequer benefits to the tune of some £10 billion a year from smokers to be so anxious to kill off the goose which lays such a large and sorely needed golden egg. We hear endlessly about the dangers of passive smoking, and how it is now scientifically proved to kill. Knowing how scientists continually change their tune, I shall not be surprised to be told in 20 years' time, should I happen to be alive then, that of course now they know better and it is not harmful at all.
My Lords, your Lordships may be surprised to know that the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, and I are really very good friends. We agreed that we would be mortal enemies today, but we have now declared our situation.
As it is now three years since I gave up smoking, your Lordships may think that I am rather impertinent to stand up and speak today. Just for the record, however, I gave up smoking not for health reasons but because the habit had become too expensive.
In all this talk about the Guest Room, a very good case has been made for the return of the Pugin Room, perhaps as a smokers' paradise. I respect the feelings of those who abhor cigarette smoke, but I also respect the feelings of those who wish to indulge in what, after all, is a legal occupation in this country. I find it very hard to believe the passive smoking theory. Here I agree entirely with the noble Lord, Lord Monson. If it were true about passive smoking, many of us here should be pushing up the daisies. I bet that most of our parents smoked.
I do not like to be bullied for "my own good". If there is a vote, I suggest that there is a little tolerance on both sides of this vexatious question. If there is a vote, I shall most certainly support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart.
My Lords, I declare an interest as a trustee of the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation. In view of the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, I can say that both my parents were smokers: my mother died at 60 and my father at 65, both of diseases related to smoking. I think that that counters the point that our parents lived long because they were smokers or because it did not affect them.
It seems to me that there are two central themes in the Administration and Works Committee report, the bulk of which I very strongly support. I thank the Lord Chairman for producing such a thoughtful and helpful report. The first theme is that not only is passive smoking unpleasant for everyone—or almost everyone—who has to put up with it but the committee agrees with the Chief Medical Officer and every other objective medical expert that it is dangerous to health.
It is interesting that the code of practice on workplace smoking contained in the Houses of Parliament Health and Safety Risk Management Manual states:
"Evidence suggests that those exposed to passive smoke are at increased risk of illness including lung cancer, nasal cancer and heart disease. In addition, passive smoking can trigger or aggravate respiratory conditions such as asthma or bronchitis. It can also irritate eyes, cause coughs or headaches and generally make non-smokers feel ill, uncomfortable and unpleasant".
In making my second point, I quote from the minutes of the Administration and Works Committee held on
"The Committee recognised that staff had valid health concerns, and agreed the principle that staff should be entitled to work in a smoke-free environment".
I suggest that today we must judge the recommendations and proposed amendments against those criteria. If we do so, we can quickly decide that the amendments in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, Lord Palmer and Lord Monson, fail to meet the criteria set by the committee and the code of practice.
How do the committee's recommendations match up to its own criteria and that of the code of practice? They match up pretty well, except in one important respect. If our aim is to protect our staff from the effects of passive smoking, there can be no justification for exempting the Peers' Guest Room from the new arrangements. There is no air extraction system in the room, apart from opening the windows. It would be completely useless to install one, even if it could be done without destroying the fabric of the room.
All the evidence suggests that unless an extraction fan has the power of a tornado and is located over the heads of all smokers, it does not reduce the pollution of the air for everyone. Imagining that an extraction system can remove smoke in a room such as the Peers' Guest Room is like assuming that you can swim in a chlorine-free path in a swimming pool.
I shall certainly support the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, and the remainder of the report.
My Lords, I want to make a serious confession. Not only am I a life-long pipe smoker, but for some 10 years the chairman of an organisation known as FOREST—the Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco. It is well represented in the better parts of this House.
I want to go to the central point made by the noble Lord, Lord Falkland, on the Roy Castle Foundation. We are not talking about the admitted and acknowledged hazards of direct smoking. We are talking about passive smoking—the illusive, will-o'-the-wisp passive smoking—and few people in this House will understand how epidemiologists go about trying to identify it. I shall therefore tell your Lordships.
The big idea is summed up in the phrase "spousal smoking". In order to estimate the long-term, even life-time, effect of smoking, the epidemiologists take two groups. They take a control group of non-smokers who are selected from a cross-section of the population. They take an equal number of lung cancer cases and non-cancer cases and they set about identifying the exposure of those cases to environmental tobacco smoke—ETS. In a way, it is almost comic because you cannot get hold of, measure, calibrate or identify tobacco smoke in a scientific fashion.
Therefore, they ask the control group a whole lot of questions about their background in this smoking lark. How much did their parents smoke? How about others? What about their husbands—how many packets a week did they smoke? They are told, "Write it down and let us have the details of all this". They are asked whether, when all this smoking was going on, the windows were open in the room or firmly shut. One then gets an idea of the kind of exposure as reported by those selected who have lung cancer and who are or were married to a smoker.
Questions are then asked of their children, of their grand-children and of their nieces and nephews; for instance, "What did Daisy smoke when she was alive? How many a week was she smoking when she died? Write it down. Let's have magnitudes and quantities.". It sounds laborious and, in a manner of speaking, scientific if only you could measure the extra smoke and parcel it up.
However, there are a number of problems. A major one is concerned with the nature of cancer as being multi-factorial. Cancer is caused by a whole host of conditions, circumstances and so forth. Some people will be seriously affected by those and others will not. To compare the cancer group and the non-cancer group, one would need to identify all the differences between them in terms of diet, heredity, background, exposure to radon and noxious fumes and so forth.
The research is conducted through examination and cross-examination and one is faced with the fact that many cancer cases vehemently declare that they are non-smokers. Indeed, research shows that 5 to 25 per cent of professed non-smokers turn out to be former or even current smokers.
In all such comparative investigations, proof of death by ETS turns on comparing two speculative, subjective "guestimates" of long-term exposure. There is the exposure of the non-smoking lung cancer cases compared with the non-smokers who do not have lung cancer. The difference between the two decides the results of exposure to smoke—to passive smoking.
The statisticians get to work on all this data, having their computers brim-full of it. They try to decide on the relative risk to non-smokers who do not have lung cancer compared with the same size group of non-smokers who do have lung cancer. The effort is to identify the relative risk; the risk to those who are non-smokers and the risk to those who are non-smokers but who have lung cancer because they have been exposed to other people's smoke. A figure—a relative risk—is produced. A relative risk of one means that there is no greater hazard. A relative risk of 1.25 means that there has been a 25 per cent increased exposure to passive smoking. The key point is that epidemiologists agree that you need a high difference; not a 1.25 or 1.5 relative risk, but at least 2—a doubling of exposure—to amount to any kind of greater risk.
A study which I recently conducted, soon to be published, of these issues took 80 cases of spousal smoking. I found that of the 80, 57 would not be statistically significant on the strictest interpretation of the "confidence intervals" of the statisticians and that 10 of the 80 cases would imply a protective effect—an immunising effect—of exposure to smoking.
The great authority who has been quoted, Sir Richard Doll, has said:
"When relative risk lies between 1 and 2, problems of interpretation may become so acute and it may be extremely difficult to disentangle various contributions of biased information, confounding of two or more factors".
The National Cancer Institute in 1994 said:
"In epidemiological research, relative risks of less than 2.0 are considered too small and usually difficult to interpret. Such increases may be due to chance, statistical bias or the effects of confounding factors".
"The effect of other people smoking in my presence is so small it doesn't worry me".
If one goes on, one finds evidence that the whole thing is vastly not only exaggerated but twisted. The truth of the matter is that, if we look at the statistics, we can see that there is no risk. There may be inconvenience or discomfort; if one has asthma, like one noble Lord here, there may be more than discomfort. But as a general rule, passive smoking is not a factor with regard to health.
The SCOTH report—the report of the Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health—strove might and main to discover some evidence of the risk of passive smoking. In the end, it had to acknowledge that it was difficult to find the magnitude of numbers of people exposed to passive smoking, but decided that if we looked hard enough, we might find a relative risk of 1.25—an increased exposure of 25 per cent. The committee said that,
"taking all the supporting data into consideration we conclude that passive smoking in non-smokers exposed over a substantial part of their life, is associated with a 10 to 30 per cent increase in the risk of lung cancer that could account for"—
"perhaps", it says—
"several hundred lung cancer deaths per annum".
The report says there is a 10 to 30 per cent increase in risk, whereas we know that epidemiologists say that at least a doubling of the risk would be necessary. It says that there will be, perhaps, several hundred victims of this phantom disease in a population of some 60 million.
There is nothing in it! We need not put the shutters down on the Peers' Guest Room and every other outlet; we can try in a civilised way to separate those who are fussed about it and leave most of us to get on with our lives in an ordinary way.
My Lords, I shall try to be brief. I love your Lordships' House and I have enjoyed every minute of the 18 years that I have been here, one reason for that being that there is no view so barmy that no Peer will espouse or express it. Those who have spoken, in particular the noble Lord, Lord Harris of High Cross, but also the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, have reached a standard that I have not seen in the past 18 years.
In particular, I am interested to note that Peers with no qualifications whatever have the neck to say that the massive amount of research that has gone into the subject, including passive smoking, has no cogency at all. We have in our presence two people who really do know their stuff—namely, the noble Baronesses, Lady Finlay and Lady Howarth. But they have shown real restraint. They have not spoken at length to set out all the research results. I can only say, as someone who has read the research results but does not regard himself as an expert, that I know of no researcher in this field who doubts the evidence on smoking in general and passive smoking in particular. We cannot take a decision today on the basis of amateur and ignorant interventions.
Equally preposterous is the view expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, about whom we should consult. He suggests that we should consult the body called FOREST. That is a body that exists solely as a group of apologists for the manufacturers and sellers of the most lethal product available on public sale in this country. That is what that group's moral and ethical position is; the notion that we would consult them seems to me to be as ridiculous as anything that I have heard.
I certainly object to all the amendments put forward here, apart from the only two sensible amendments—those of the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, which corresponds to the best thinking of the day, and of the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, who has tabled a compromise amendment on the basis of what we are likely to debate today.
Those are my main and, as always, well-balanced remarks. I wish to add one other matter, which concerns me most of all. On the subject of rights in this place, it is taken for granted by the pro-smokers that there is a symmetry between the position of the smokers and the position of the remainder. The point is that there is no such symmetry—the two things are completely different. The smokers smoke for themselves and do not care about others; the others are the people who are damaged. So the notion that we must somehow strike a balance and that we are attacking fundamental rights makes no philosophical sense at all. When we divide, as I hope that we do, I hope that noble Lords do not fall into the irrational trap of assuming that, in the way typical of your Lordships' House, we must have a balanced compromise.
My Lords, the noble Lord has made a fascinating speech, but he has not mentioned the legality of smoking—nothing to do with forcing or sentimentality, but the fact that it is a legal occupation.
My Lords, I say two things to the noble Baroness. It is legal to buy cigarettes, of course. I am sure that she has the same very high moral standards that I have. There are a great many things that are legal that I do not do, on the grounds that they are unethical and immoral. I do not agree with the notion that it is legal and that therefore it is okay. None of us speaking on this side of the debate have remotely suggested that smokers should be stopped from buying cigarettes or smoking them in the privacy of their own dwellings.
What we want is for them not to smoke when we are around, particularly when we have guests or when we are eating. We are seeking to achieve that in your Lordships' House. I accept the other fundamental point of view, again related to my love of this place, that we ought to be in the lead on this matter, not be dragged kicking and screaming because a tiny minority of people, whose credentials, as I have said, I doubt, do not want us to move forward.
My Lords, I am delighted to follow the noble Lord, Lord Peston, in this debate, as I agree with absolutely everything that he has said. I shall speak briefly to support the amendment put so ably by the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay of Llandaff, and also to support, although it does not go far enough for my taste, the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth.
We have heard a huge number of people in this House challenging the validity of incontrovertible hard scientific evidence, which has been given by the Chief Medical Officer and other distinguished scientists. I do not really think that that is appropriate in this House.
I am a very new Member of your Lordships' House and cannot claim the 18 years of seniority that the noble Lord, Lord Peston, has claimed. But as many noble Lords will know, when a new Member first arrives, she does not have a desk. When I first arrived, it was suggested to me that I go and work in the Writing Room, but that is somewhere where people smoke. I am a former smoker. I am not really a reformed character because, 33 years on I still miss the odd cigarette, particularly late in the evening. But I do not wish to be exposed to other people's cigarette smoke and I do not believe that those of us in this House who feel that way and know of the health dangers should want to be exposed to other people's cigarette, pipe and cigar smoke.
But that is only one reason for believing that it is important to ban smoking. The main reason we should do so is for the staff, who asked the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, to introduce her amendment and who cannot make their case properly in this Chamber themselves. It seems to me that it is important that we support the desire of the staff to work in a safe and healthy environment. As regards testing the issue of smokers' rights as against the rights of the rest of us, no one has absolute rights in that regard. It seems to me that the rights of the rest of us, and particularly the rights of the staff in this House, should win out. Therefore, I support the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay of Llandaff.
My Lords, I am delighted to add to the degree of harmony that has apparently descended upon the House. I, too, happily support the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth of Breckland, and I do so on the very short and simple question: do we accept that passive smoking injures health? We have a number of sources to show that that should be looked upon now as common ground. The BMA says that 1,000 people a year die from passive smoking. The Chief Medical Officer recommended a ban on smoking in enclosed public places three years ago. However, nothing has happened as a result.
Given that it is common ground that passive smoking injures to the extent of even causing death, there should be no issue on this question at all. Those who insist on smoking have the liberty to do it at home; they have liberty to do it outside; they have liberty to do it in the corridors here. That should be more than sufficient. You should not run the risk of injuring other people's health purely to smoke for your own enjoyment, which can be carried out elsewhere. Accordingly I seek to add to the harmony that has suddenly descended on the House.
My Lords, we have reached the stage where most things that can be said on this subject have been said. Therefore, if no one objects, I shall attempt to sum up the debate as briefly as possible before the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, decides what to do with his amendment.
I cannot possibly comment on individual speeches as I believe there were 16 of them, more or less evenly divided between the pros and the antis. Most of them were delivered in an amusing and good humoured way. I must admit that one completely lost me but I shall not go into that.
A number of noble Lords suggested that the matter was being rushed and that the House should have more time to deal with it. It has not been rushed. It has been considered by two domestic committees: the Administration and Works Committee and the Refreshment Committee. As I said in my opening remarks, the issue was revisited following serious representations from staff and their unions. The difference between now and 1999, when this issue was last considered, is that in the view of many people now the evidence regarding passive smoking is overwhelming. Therefore, we must consider it now from that point of view. The fact is that if we were to do nothing, there is a very good chance that the House would be taken to court by some members of the staff.
Someone asked why smoking is not banned throughout the Palace if the concerns of the staff are paramount. At the moment staff volunteer to work in those areas where smoking is permitted. It is becoming increasingly difficult to find staff to volunteer to do so, but under the proposals put forward in the report the number of areas where smoking is permitted will be greatly reduced. It is expected that it will be possible to staff the remaining areas with volunteers.
The noble Baroness, Lady Boothroyd, asked why the Writing Room was included in the report. Staff have to go into the Writing Room, and that is why it is included. As I said in my opening remarks, and is made very clear in the report at paragraph 10:
"The Committee acknowledges that any significant changes in smoking policy should be a matter for the whole House. Accordingly, the Committee has made a number of recommendations, and has done so in such a way as to facilitate the tabling of amendments".
As is evident, no amendment was tabled on the subject of the Writing Room, although that could have been done.
As regards the Bishops' Bar, a number of noble Lords said that it should be divided properly into two and not be left as it is now, which is effectively one room where food is served in both halves. The possible division of that room would be a matter for the Refreshment Committee. It could occur but that would mean that there would be a smoking only section where no food was served. At the moment noble Lords seem to enjoy having food served in both halves of the room.
Other than to reaffirm why I recommend that the House accepts the report as it stands, there is little more for me to say. I suggest that we get on with the business.
My Lords, first, I should like to thank all those noble Lords who have taken part in what has been, until the last minutes, a well informed and, indeed, well ordered and decent debate. Even those noble Lords who oppose my amendment, except one, have been kind and have conducted the debate in the normal way in which we conduct debates in this House.
I say only that, so far as my amendment is concerned, it seeks to refer the matter back so that we can have further discussions about meeting the needs of smokers and non-smokers alike. That takes into account in particular the interests of our staff who, as has been observed, serve us very well, and whose health and welfare we wish to preserve.
The risk factor of passive smoking at 700 possible deaths per year is very low compared even with the building industry—just one other industry outside. Accidents at work are a very serious matter, and much more serious than anything to do with passive smoking.
I shall refer only to the noble Lord, Lord Peston. The noble Lord insulted your Lordships' House.
My Lords, I must object. There are standards to be met, as the noble Lord knows because he has been here longer than I have. In no way have I today or at any other time insulted your Lordships' House. In fact, as he well knows, no one stands up more for your Lordships' House on this and other matters than I do. Therefore I must ask him to withdraw what is undoubtedly an unconscionable remark.
My Lords, I most certainly will not withdraw it. The noble Lord suggested that in this House, in this place, you would hear all sorts of crazy things that you would not hear elsewhere. I have no intention of withdrawing my accusation that he insulted Members of this House and the House itself. What is more, he insulted the noble Lord, Lord Harris of High Cross, who has been around this issue and studied it over a long period of time. The noble Lord also insulted me by suggesting that I had not studied and taken note of the issue of passive smoking, which I have done over a long time.
I hope that noble Lords will support my amendment. As I said, I believe that this debate has shown that the matter needs to be reconsidered. I commend the amendment to the House.
My Lords, since tabling my Amendment No. 8, I understand that smoking on the Terrace and the Cholmondeley Room—and, indeed the Attlee Room—is always at the discretion of the host Peer giving the reception. In light of the fact that my noble friend did not move her amendment, I shall not move my amendment, on the understanding that I have correctly interpreted what happens.