Children and Families Bill — Report (5th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:00 pm on 29th January 2014.

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Photo of Lord Cormack Lord Cormack Conservative 5:00 pm, 29th January 2014

My Lords, that was really a speech rather than an intervention. There is all the difference in the world between the physical or sexual exploitation of a child and smoking. Smoking is not an illegal activity. Some of us may wish that it were, but it is not. It would be wholly impractical, as the noble Lord, Lord Patel, made plain in his remarks, for us to outlaw smoking. That is a road down which we cannot go. Therefore, to invade the private space of individuals who are committing a perfectly legal act seems to me a step too far. That is why we should look at other means. I have mentioned taxation and increased insurance premiums; there are many routes down which we could go to make it more and more difficult for adults to smoke in the presence of children.

Most importantly, it is up to experienced people such as the noble Baroness and my noble friend Lord Ribeiro to ensure that there is a well informed education campaign so that no one is in any doubt that smoking is a harmful activity and that inhaling passive smoke is dangerous and injurious to health. I am with the noble Baroness and my noble friend on that all the way, but the invasion of personal space—prosecuting people for what is a legal activity—seems a step too far. That is why, while I welcome and applaud the amendment introduced by my noble friend Lord Howe—if there were a Division, although I am sure that there will not be, I would enthusiastically go into the Lobby to support him—I cannot support something that I believe is a step too far in the invasion of personal space, which would also be monumentally difficult to enforce. We have to bear in mind the responsibilities of the police, whose job it would be to stop the cars and ask the questions.