Amendment proposed [this day]: No. 59, in clause 3, page 2, line 40, at end insert—
‘(3A)The appropriate national authority shall certify, following consultation with the Health and Safety Commission and such persons as they consider appropriate, that any regulations made under this section require any person who controls or is concerned in the management of premises covered by such regulations properly to meet their obligations under sections 2 to 6 of the Health and Safety at Work Act etc. 1974 (c. 37).’.—[Sir George Young.]
I remind the Committee that with this we are discussing the following amendments: No. 47, in clause 3, page 3, line 5, at end insert—
‘(c)in the case of any premises any requirements for the protection of employees and members of the public that shall be specified, forming part of an Approved Code of Practice issued by the Health and Safety Executive.’.
No. 60, in clause 3, page 3, line 11, at end add—
‘(6)The appropriate national authority shall, following consultation with the Health and Safety Commission and such persons as they consider appropriate, set maximum permitted occupational exposure limits to smoke or any constituent part thereof for any premise which would otherwise be smoke-free but permits smoking at any time by virtue of regulations issued under subsection (3).’.
No. 61, in clause 3, page 3, line 11, at end add—
‘(6)No regulations under this section shall be made unless and until smoke emitted as a result of smoking as defined in section 1 has been previously designated as a hazardous substance under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations.’.
Before we adjourned, I was in the middle of explaining that the amendments are unnecessary because of the responsibilities employers currently have under health and safety legislation. I cited the example of a typist who brought a case against her employer because she was forced to work in a room used by smokers. I have a few more examples to show how current health and safety legislation can be applied for employees. In 2003, an employer in England agreed an out-of-court settlement of £50,000 to settle a case brought by an employee who complained that his asthma was caused by years of working in the smoke-laden atmosphere of a casino.
I should also bring to the attention of Committee members the fact that the Health and Safety Executive guidance notes for employers on welfare provision, issued in May 1999, include the question:
“Do I have to provide a room for those who smoke?”
The answer that the guidance gives is:
“No. However, you must provide a working environment where people can work without being irritated by tobacco smoke—the most effective way of doing this may be to prohibit smoking in all but a few designated rooms.”
Does the Minister accept that if we thought that the existing legislation provided enough protection, we would probably not be here now? Of course she can cite examples of where the existing legislation is being used, but they do rather have the character and feel of extreme cases. We want there to be much more comprehensive protection. Those who are now covered, with smoke-free workplaces, will benefit from that, but we are concerned about those who are not covered. That is what this group of amendments addresses. We all agree that the existing legislation is not strong enough.
In terms of smoke-free coverage—the number of public places and workplaces covered—the Bill take us much further forward. More people have access to such places, and therefore have choice. The Bill takes us further forward than an approved code of practice that the Health and Safety Commission consulted on in 1998-99.
I remind the hon. Gentleman that the Bill is primarily about health and choice. As I have said, it is not a narrowly defined Bill about employee protection, although the fact that more employees will work in a smoke-free environment is clearly a by-product of these measures. For the first time we will have legislation with regulations that makes sure that all workers are better protected than they are now. That includes employees working in bars, where there is currently no legislation or regulations that formally make the case by saying what has to be done to protect employees in the bar area.
This is a complex issue. Even countries with total ban legislation—Ireland, and in the future Scotland, I presume—have recognised that there will have to be exemptions, and because of those exemptions there is the possibility that employees will come into contact with smoke. That may be for very short periods—perhaps only a few minutes—but for some it could be for considerably longer. We need to deal with that matter sensitively, while recognising that in certain circumstances it is unavoidable that employees will come into contact with smoke.
It seems that the Minister is saying that under this legislation the glass is half full, not half empty. The hon. Member for Northavon (Steve Webb) is right to ask what the Bill does for employees in the exempt categories. He and I, in different ways, are coming from the same sort of place. I believe that it is right to have certain exemptions and the Liberal Democrats do not, but we are both mindful of the health consequences of second-hand smoke for people who work in those environments. The Minister has not yet said how she will protect their health.
I would have to disagree with the hon. Gentleman because I have been very clear. Under our legislation, 99 per cent. of workplaces and public places will be smoke-free. Of the remainder, there will be exemptions, particularly in the licensed trade—for licensed establishments that do not serve food and for private clubs. Outside those areas, we are examining, and having discussions about, what we do in terms of adult hospices, prisons and residential care homes. Other countries that have sought restrictions or bans have had to deal with such issues.
Another example would be hotels that designate smoking and non-smoking rooms. It is an interesting example because it returns to our discussion about children. What does one say to parents who smoke and who may have a hotel room for themselves and their children? I wish that I had remembered that example earlier, because this is about examining ways in which we can contribute to improving health and improving choice. We must also recognise that in itself smoking is not an illegal activity.
I must say to the hon. Member for Westbury (Dr. Murrison) that, based on what I have heard so far in this Committee’s discussions, it seems that he is not even in favour of legislating now to ban smoking in the areas that will be covered by this legislation. We can have debates about the few areas where we might duplicate health and safety legislation that is already on the statute book, whether we should set a quality air standard in some of these licensed premises, and about ventilation.
We have said clearly that we will have a review within three years. It is better for us to review how the Bill will work in practice and to monitor its impact and public opinion on the issue. That is important, rather than doing what I think the hon. Member for Westbury is suggesting and somehow coming up with something that might be interpreted as a safe model, or a safer model, for allowing smoking in public places. I am not sure that that is worth while.
There have been discussions with industry on ventilation. Sections of industry have been concerned about the idea that the Government would come up with an engineering option. The hon. Gentleman has said that he is not convinced that there is an engineering ventilation option. Therefore, should the Government say to the commercialised leisure sector that this is an area in which we should prescribe?
The other side of that argument that we could be tempted to follow—although I am not—is the hon. Gentleman’s line of argument. We could say, “Yes, as a Government we can come up with an air quality standard or a form of ventilation.” That might be perceived as saying that such an atmosphere is a suitable environment in which to work. One could understand it if people in the areas in which we are currently saying there will be total bans then turned round and asked why they could not have that too.
The hon. Lady seems to be dismissing an engineering or ventilation solution. To what extent has she investigated how the Governments of Italy, France and the Netherlands have approached this issue? Each of them has references to ventilation and engineering in their recent legislation. Yet that is completely absent as a possible solution in certain circumstances in our legislation.
Interestingly, the hon. Gentleman again draws attention to the fact that there are different ways of tackling the issue. I cannot speak for France, but my understanding is that Italy does allow smoking rooms, and the Italian Government will have to choose whether they want to legislate about ventilation there. For the reasons that I have outlined, we have not chosen to pursue that path. We have said clearly that we intend to review the legislation, and its exemptions, from day one. We do not, therefore, want to burden or over-regulate the exempted premises while we are still considering the situation. That position has been understood by those in industry. Our consultation during the summer included a question on ventilation, and many people said that they did not want to be directed to spend a lot of money on ventilation if they were likely to choose to be smoke-free.
Let us not forget that nobody is preventing any of the exempted establishments from becoming smoke-free. We have merely been mindful of the direction in which we feel that policy is developing. We have, therefore, worked on the basis that more places will become smoke-free rather than trying to come up with a system in law that would say something like, “You’re all right,” or “You could be safer if you had this sort of ventilation in your establishment.”
The hon. Lady might have misunderstood what I was trying to say. I am suggesting that in those exempt premises we might institute ventilation engineering standards that would improve matters even further. I do not recognise the resistance from industry to which she has referred. The consensus that I have picked up is that industry is mindful that ventilation might be a solution, and a financially reasonable one. If the Minister would like some figures on ventilation in Italy I can bore her with them, but I am sure that she would not want that.
Fine; if industry and those in the exempted areas want to introduce ventilation, they are free to do so. I am sure that there are many commercial operators marketing suitable systems. We are in the process of consulting further on the measures on which we feel that it will be necessary to regulate in order to protect the areas around bars. However, that consultation is still ongoing, and there will be an opportunity, through draft regulations, for Members and organisations outside the House to comment on them. I am certainly open to letting such establishments decide for themselves.
Where I differ from the hon. Gentleman is on the idea that we should introduce prescriptive regulations on ventilation in the Bill. We have to consider the different types of establishment, small and large. I understand that there are questions that have to be asked about the sort of ventilation equipment that can be put in certain places, what can be built in certain pubs and so on. There is not necessarily a one-size-fits-all solution. The question is: what does the ventilation remove from the atmosphere? It might remove smoke but, as has been said by the hon. Gentleman and the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir George Young), that does not necessarily mean that the carcinogens will not remain in the atmosphere to be inhaled.
I am grateful to the Minister; she is being very generous in giving way. Of course there are carcinogens; there will be carcinogens whatever we do. Has she paid a visit to St. Stephen’s tavern over the road? That has to be bomb-proof because it is next to the parliamentary estate, and it is also a listed building, yet in that extraordinary situation people have managed to put in ventilation that, in my experience, is pretty good. Perhaps she should go and have a look, just by way of example.
That is entirely a matter of choice for that tavern. Unfortunately, I have not had the opportunity to go there recently—chance would be a fine thing.
The hon. Member for Northavon is not asking me out for a drink, is he?
As I said, the decision is for that pub or tavern to make for itself. I always thought that one of the lines that the Conservative party likes to say divides it from the Government is on regulation. Having looked into the matter and considered the responses to our consultation, including the White Paper “Choosing Health”, and given the scope of Bill, I am not convinced that it is a good idea to have regulation or prescriptive legislation on what sort of ventilation should be used in exempted licensed premises. We are still discussing how to protect bar areas. We have a number of options; it could be ventilation, it could be a separate area or it could be a distance from the bar area, but we have not yet come to a conclusion.
I have tried to give examples showing that nothing in the Bill takes away from people’s existing responsibilities under health and safety legislation, and employees have pursued actions in relation to smoking and health in workplaces. As I said on amendment No. 47, the Health and Safety Commission is responsible for the issuing of codes, and it could follow a route if it chose to do so.
Amendment No. 60 would add a requirement for a maximum exposure limit on tobacco smoke in premises where smoking continues. That would add significantly to the cost and complexity of enforcement, and it would impose additional burdens on employers and enforcement authorities. That is particularly the case given that we will be reviewing the exemptions once the legislation comes into force. Indeed, we have said that there will be a complete review within three years. I am not convinced of the wisdom of imposing such a requirement. I also think that setting a maximum exposure limit would send out mixed messages about second-hand smoke.
Amendment No. 61 would add a requirement that no regulations should be made under the clause until tobacco smoke is designated as a hazardous substance under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002. I listened carefully to what hon. Members said, but I understand that tobacco smoke does not fit into any of the categories. To go down that route would result in an unnecessary and unhelpful delay before we could make regulations.
The amendments would add nothing to the Bill. I have tried to assure the Committee that we are exploring in detail further ways to deal with the areas near the bar and to come up with something that is effective but not over-regulated or over-burdensome.
During my first two days as a member of a Standing Committee, I have observed that the Minister seems to be very pragmatic. We find ourselves debating a partial ban and the effect of second-hand smoke. However, most of us would prefer to see either a Bill that introduced a total ban or a Bill that did not ban smoking but left it to self-regulation.
The Minister has told us that education and other solutions introduced over the past few years have decreased smoking in the UK. That, I think, is an indicator that following such programmes might continue that trend; they could further reduce smoking, allow us to self-regulate and stop the effects of harmful second-hand smoke.
The Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health says of second-hand smoke that there is a 25 per cent. increased risk of heart disease and a 24 per cent. increase in the risk of lung cancer for people who unintentionally inhale second-hand smoke, with an increase in the risk of pneumonia, bronchitis, asthma, otitis media, decreased lung function and sudden infant death syndrome.
If the Government are serious about decreasing the effects of second-hand smoke, particularly on lower socio-economic groups, it is hard to understand why they are not stopping second-hand smoke impacting on children in my constituency from lower socio-economic groups who frequent clubs, including private members clubs. An engine the size of a 747 turbo would be needed to take out the smoke in some of those private members clubs before they would become a smoke-free environment. Should we not be discussing a full ban? Why are we discussing the effects of second-hand smoke on children—
I respect the hon. Lady’s point of view on a total ban, but given that the Bill will take us far further forward, as is recognised even by those outside the House who support a total ban, does she support the Bill?
My point is that there should be either a total ban or nothing at all, and we should explore the routes of self-regulation. From Conservative Members’ perspective, there is a free vote. Perhaps I would support a total ban. I have no idea, actually, because that is not the option on offer. What is on offer is a bit of a botched job, but that is what we have to discuss, and what we are working on.
The lower socio-economic groups in my constituency are in a worse situation, because more of the clubs, pubs and restaurants will stop serving food and will become private members clubs. I already know of one pub in the constituency that is looking into becoming a private members club with a very cheap membership rate so that it can be exempt from the Bill.
Is the hon. Lady aware that under the licensing regulations, becoming a qualifying membership club would require the licensee, the publican, to form a committee of members of the club, who have jurisdiction to order the alcohol in that club, thereby leaving out the role of the publican as licensee? Is she really saying that licensees in the private sector are willing to hand over the running of their establishments to their members, and is she aware that it is not as simple as signing up for one night to become a member under the law?
Perhaps I should point out to the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mrs. Dorries) that she is going somewhat wide of the amendments that are being debated. The remarks that she is making would fit well into the clause stand part debate, which comes a little later. If she focused her remarks on the amendments, that would be helpful.
Thank you, Lady Winterton; I will do that. My next point is about the effects on employees. Certain Members have made me aware that they are working in offices where there is second-hand smoke because of a lack of ventilation. Is the Minister aware of that? One hon. Member complained of having had a sore throat since May. My point is that we can have any level of botched regulation, but there will always be ways around botched regulation. In the Irish Republic, where there is a total ban, certain people have worked their way around it.
Is the hon. Lady aware that all the other countries in the world, and all the states in America, that have introduced legislation went through a process, and some did so for many years? I understand that Norway, for example, changed its policy only after 18 years. We are talking about an incremental step forward to effect change. Is she saying that what happened in those places was botched?
I have no idea what happened in New York and the rest of the United States, but I know what happened in the other European countries. My point is that if the Government are making the case for a total ban, which seems to be the case that was made initially, we should be debating a total ban.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Bedfordshire for her intervention in the debate and I note that she is up for bidding when we come to voting on a total ban. The voluntary approach having been discarded because the House gave a Second Reading to the Bill, the question now is whether we have a partial ban or a total ban. I counsel the Minister to exercise some caution before she yet again advocates the incremental approach. We know perfectly well that that was not the Secretary of State’s approach; she did not want an incremental approach but a total approach, an all-in-one-go approach. The Minister should be cautious about criticising my hon. Friend—who was making the case for a total ban—by citing in evidence the countries that took an incremental approach, because that was not the position of the Minister’s boss.
On the amendments, I accept what the Minister says about the premises that are not exempt. For those who work in those premises, life will improve because there will be no smoking. However, the amendments focus on those who are in premises that are exempt where, as we have discovered from earlier debates, the position will get worse because the smoking drinker will have to go to one of the pubs where smoking is permitted, as he will not be able to smoke in the pubs that are not exempt.
The debate has focused on the protection available to staff. The argument that the Minister put forward is that the existing regime for protecting employees is adequate and that it is unnecessary to replicate it in the legislation that we are considering. That was helpful to the extent of determining that if a publican is taken to court by an employee and holds this Bill in his hand and says, “My pub is exempt, therefore I am entitled to have employees in my smoking pub,” it follows from what the Minister said that that is not an adequate defence. I think that she said that nothing in the Bill overrode the protection that employees already have under existing legislation. I see that she has nodded.
We must then consider the protection that people have. The impression that I got when listening to the Minister was that the exemptions that she has included in the Bill may be eroded by case law. She told us about the non-smoking typist and the non-smoking croupier. It seems to me that if both those individuals won cases—one out of court and one in court—against employers who obliged them to work in a smoking environment, it is likely that at some point a non-smoking barperson will take his or her employer to court and cite as precedent the two cases to which the Minister referred. I know that we have the 1 m exemption but, as we said in earlier debates, an employee in a pub will have to go outside the bar—for example to collect glasses. It therefore seems that the exemptions that the Minister envisages may be eroded by the litigation to which I have referred, so the objective of the exemptions may not be achieved.
I think that the Minister slightly overstated the case—if I understood her correctly—by saying that if she accepted some of the amendments, there might be complications for the policeman or social worker going into someone’s home. I am not sure that that is a parallel, because in those cases, there is not an employer-employee relationship. Unless the Government has in mind some dramatic social reform whereby the individual employs the police—I am not sure that the consensus between the two parties would take us quite that far—the relationship between the landlord and the barperson is quite different from that between the policeman and someone into whose home he is going.
No, I was not suggesting that, even in our efforts to encourage neighbourhood policing, a member of the public would be the employer in that sense. I was drawing to the Committee’s attention the responsibility of the employer—it could be the chief constable or the local authority—for their own staff who, as part of the service that the employer provides, have to go into smoky atmospheres.
That would draw us into a definition of employers’ premises at which people are required to work, and whether they include the places that people have to visit. I would have thought that they did not.
The least compelling rebuttal was that of amendment No. 61—I am not sure that the Minister’s heart was in it. However, in one respect she raised my hopes when, in resisting amendment No. 60, she implied that when the overall review takes place, the exemptions may not be retained, because the review may move towards a total ban. Therefore, the safeguards proposed in the amendments may not be required. There was an implication that this was a temporary stopping-off point before we move to a total ban. I hope that she is right about that.
I did not get a yes or no answer to the question about whether a carcinogen is a product that should be regulated under COSHH regulations. I would have thought that it should be, but the Minister was unable to reply to that direct question. However, in the spirit of consensus that my party leader announced yesterday, it would be churlish to press the amendments to a Division. We have usefully explored some of the issues, so I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
The amendment is, appropriately, first on the list of amendments. It is important as far as the official Opposition are concerned and I am pleased that it bears not only my name and those of my hon. Friends, but also the name of the hon. Member for Northavon for the Liberal Democrats. Although I understand the hon. Gentleman about his wish to see a total ban, if I understood him correctly, he was mindful to support those measures that, at least in his eyes, made a bad Bill slightly better. I imagine that it is in that spirit that he supports our amendment.
Amendment No.1 is the food vs. non-food amendment. The removal of the relevant line would remove the distinction between pubs that serve food and those that do not. We have heard already, during the debates on Second Reading and in Committee, why that distinction is artificial.
I should like to underscore where I am coming from in this debate. Everything that I am speaking for has to do with the improvement of public health, but I also recognise that we are in the House of Commons to defend people’s liberties. Nothing is ever black and white. We are debating that area of grey that lies between the two—the dynamic that exists between a desire to outlaw tobacco altogether, for which a credible argument could be mounted, and a respect for an individual’s right to engage in a traditional activity.
We have to decide whether smoking in a pub that serves food will be dangerous because people are eating at the same time that they are smoking; if it is, we should by all means create that distinction, but if that is not so, it is an illogicality and the only way to justify it is if the Bill is being used to remove a nuisance and improve individuals’ enjoyment of their night out.
I respect the fact that people do not want to be exposed to second-hand tobacco smoke. I do not like going into a pub that is full of smoke; actually, I invariably vote with my feet. In any case, that is not a pleasant experience and it detracts from my enjoyment of the occasion.
We have to be careful when we are legislating on the basis of a nuisance, amenity or courtesy, which the guidance notes mention. I think that the Minister would accept that in the Government’s response to the consultation, not smoking in a restaurant or pub that serves food is to do with courtesy, rather than public health. I think that she accepts that, by using that form of words, there is no public health reason for having the distinction between food and non-food pubs.
An argument can be constructed, as other hon. Members and I have done, around the notion that making such a distinction could have an adverse public health effect, because it would create smoking dens and pubs that do not offer food, particularly in poorer areas of the country, will become worse. The sort of people who, if we are interested in public health, as I am, we would want to help first and foremost—the less well off—will be adversely affected by this distinction.
There are public health grounds for not having that distinction, quite apart from the illogicality of insisting on a ban in a pub that serves food but not in one that does not, given the direct effect that that will have on the individual smoking or taking on board second-hand smoke.
I find it extremely difficult to support this part of the Bill: first, because it is illogical and, secondly, because there could be a paradoxical adverse consequence for public health, particularly in areas that are least well-off.
May I take issue with the hon. Gentleman’s point about illogicality? He is deploying that argument on the ground of public health, but my hon. Friend the Minister has made it clear that the primary argument is not about public health, but about putting out consultation, listening to what people say and legislating in such a way that there is maximum consensus and substantial consensus around the distinction. Surely that is not illogical.
I do not want to correct the hon. Gentleman too obviously, but 90 per cent. of consultees who expressed an opinion on the matter chose to support our line. Overwhelmingly, people see the illogicality in making the distinction that we are discussing.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for leading me to the next part of my contribution. It concerns the Local Government Association, to which most of us would listen fairly acutely on this issue, not least because it will represent the organisations tasked, to an extent, with regulating and enforcing the measure.
The association has an interest in the issue. I shall read out the paragraph of its document that is particularly germane to this part of our debate:
“We do not support a ban on the basis of whether licensed premises serve food. The definition of what food would be permitted used in the consultation on the legislation was ‘pre-packaged ambient shelf-stable snacks’. This is not a clear definition and lends itself to different interpretations. It presents an alternative definition of food where one already exists within existing food safety legislation. The Food Safety Act definition is very broad (including drinks!). In order to make exemptions on the basis of whether food is served, a very clear definition would be needed to avoid premises developing ways of circumventing the legislation. In addition, working with two definitions would create additional enforcement difficulties.”
It goes on, but I shall not bore the Committee by reading it all out. The organisations that will be tasked with enforcement at the front line have some concern about whether this part of the Bill will be enforceable. Part of that concern revolves around the definition of food. The Minister has given a great deal of thought to what does and does not constitute food; we can all think of how licensed premises might seek to get around any definition. However, there appears to be some worry surrounding the reference to a stable foodstuff; it is unclear what that means, and it appears to be unclear to the enforcement agency at this relatively late stage. It will certainly be unclear to licensees. I suspect that there will be a manifold way of getting round it and, once again—I refer to the hon. Member for Falkirk (Mr. Joyce)—I suspect that it will be a bean feast for lawyers unless the definitions are hammered down properly.
Of course, there is a way of avoiding the difficulty referred to by the LGA and the 90 per cent. of people who responded to the consultation. Amendment No. 1 would remove the distinction that is causing so much difficulty and the paradoxical effect on public health that is likely to ensue from it.
Will the Minister clarify what would happen if this part of the Bill were to remain in respect of premises that seek to serve food at different times of the day or week or on particular occasions? I am sure that the Minister will be able to help me on that; I see from her sudden burst of activity that she has a clever answer, and I look forward to that.
Will the Minister explain, in her own words, precisely what may be sold in pubs that will be exempt under the Bill? Perhaps she could give a mouth-watering pen picture of the sort of products that those premises will be able to sell, so that we have a feel for what she is thinking. If she were to give that some thought and give us some idea of where she is coming from, fewer of the establishments about which we are concerned might be turned into smoking dens.
I am particularly concerned about this issue, because I am not sure that the Minister has adequately thought through the likely consequences, particularly in metropolitan areas, of the distinction between food and non-food, and the likelihood that people who want to smoke will drift into pubs that they know are exempt. They will know that they are exempt, because, as we will see very shortly when we debate the clauses relating to the business of signage, there will be big signs on certain pubs saying that people cannot smoke there, and they will wander down the road to pubs that do allow them to smoke. Things will be made considerably worse in such pubs. Everything seems to revolve around the issue of food.
On a technical note, the clause uses the word “consumed”, which implies that the Minister also has in mind food that has been brought from elsewhere and consumed on licensed premises. Will she say whether she views that in the same light as food that has been bought in that pub? I am thinking of someone who wanders into licensed premises with their sandwiches at lunch-time, and wonder whether the fact that they did not buy their food on those premises would mean that they were committing an offence under the clause. Clarification from the Minister would be very welcome.
I have probably said what I want to say on that element of amendment No. 1, which is a make-or-break amendment for the Opposition. We would be very happy if it were passed, as it would change the Bill quite dramatically and make it considerably better, albeit one that has difficulties, certainly in part 1. I hope that the Minister will give the matter some thought, particularly when it comes to considering those who are least well off and those towards whom our public health efforts should be most keenly directed, as the Bill in its current form is likely to make things considerably worse in establishments that do not serve food.
Finally, it is worth pointing out that the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health is of a similar mind. Conservatives have received more responses about this Bill than I remember ever receiving about any other legislation that I have had the honour to consider in Committee. I shall not read them all out, as no doubt the Minister has read each of them carefully in advance of our consideration of this part of the Bill, but when bodies such as the CIEH and the LGA are so firmly against this part of the Bill, the onus is on the Minister to do everything that she can to take account of what they are saying, particularly in relation to enforcement, which is vital and will shortly fall on local government to implement. It is imperative that we ensure that we are not writing into the Bill something that will cause local government considerable difficulty.
Evasion is illegal, so it must have been avoidance. Actually, I am not entirely sure that that is right, but my hon. Friend is an accountant, so it must be—I have already forgotten what it was that he said.
I was talking about avoidance of the legislation by artificial means. The hon. Member for Westbury mentioned the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, which said that people who want to go out for food and a smoke will find ways round the legislation. I mentioned the death-burger van and the idea that burger vans will be a new growth industry, setting up in pub car parks and beyond to provide the meal part of the evening. People will then go back into the pub, probably not having had a low-fat burger. They will down some drinks, have a smoke and have a thoroughly good public health evening.
My remarks on the issue were broadcast and I received a rather interesting e-mail yesterday from a gentleman in Worcester, who said that he had heard me talking about burger vans. He says:
“You may be interested to know that the threat has already started”—
I was as prescient as ever. He continues,
“our local pub has just applied for planning consent to site a food van in its carpark. This has surprised us ... as the pub kitchen was recently extensively refitted ... but has been hardly used by the recently installed tenant”.
He adds that he and others have written to the pub owners, but that they have not replied. He adds:
“In light of hearing you today, I wonder whether this is part of a ... pattern”.
No sooner do I raise the possibility than it becomes a reality. However, there is a serious point.
I understand the Minister’s distinction between food and non-food and that it is not meant as a health argument, and I shall come back to that. However, there is danger in what we are doing. Pubs such as the one that I mentioned, with a kitchen that serves some potentially healthy food—pubs where people go to eat a bit of food—might no longer serve food, and some other means of providing it will be supplied. I rather doubt that going to vans parked in car parks is terribly good healthwise or that such vans are terribly good for the neighbourhood. That is not generally to slur those who provide food from vans, and I have been known to visit the odd one myself, but it is not unrealistic to say that that could be an impact of the Bill. Indeed, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health suggested the point in the first instance; that is where I got the idea—I did not just dream it up. It is not just me who is making the point, but a serious professional body, so I hope that the Minister will take it seriously and reflect on the potential impact of the distinction between food and non-food.
All that I really want to say is that there is a danger. I do not know what the Committee or you, Lady Winterton, think of the hunting legislation, although I have a hunch that I might be on dangerous territory. However, it was possible to drive a coach and horses through that legislation, and we might be in the same territory now. The provision looks good in the Bill because we are bringing in a ban, but people will find a way round it and do exactly what they would have done anyway. Surely the Minister would accept that that is not what the Department wants.
On what we might call marginal food serving, it must be the case that pubs that do a bit of food but do not make much money from it, although they perhaps draw in a bit of trade, will simply stop serving food. There is already survey evidence to back that up. As we know from the Government’s alcohol strategy, it is better if people eat as well as drink, rather than just drink—that must be true. If we keep the distinction between food and non-food in the Bill, therefore, it will have the unwanted side effect that there will be fewer food pubs, which must be a bad thing. We all know the parts of the country that we are talking about, because we have had the argument about health inequalities, and the hon. Member for Westbury talked about smoking dens. It seems that there will be an awful lot of unintended consequences if we go down this route.
The Minister will correct me if I am wrong, but the kernel of her justification for the distinction is that the exemption is public opinion driven—the public want to eat without having to breathe in smoke. There is therefore widespread support for the measure, so it is in the Bill. However, the public have not yet been convinced that they want to be prevented from smoking where there is no food, so that is not in the Bill. That brings us to the central question regarding the Government’s approach to the issue: should we follow public opinion? It seems a bit perverse to accuse the Government of following public opinion when they have just completely ignored a consultation, but that is essentially what they are doing. We all know what consultations are like: one has ordered, organised submissions, and I accept that one has to weigh how to interpret what one gets. However, the Government’s perception is that public opinion will not wear a full ban.
Let us just suppose that that is true. I have seen estimates that the cost of delay will be perhaps 6,000 or 7,000 lives. Based on the Government’s regulatory impact assessment, delaying bringing in a full ban must mean that more people will be exposed to second-hand smoke than would otherwise be the case. The price of following public opinion and waiting for public opinion to catch up is perhaps 6,000 or 7,000 bar staff and others who ingest potentially fatal second-hand smoke. That is one heck of a price, if you will pardon the expression, Lady Winterton. It is an extraordinary price to pay for following public opinion, given that we know that when bans come in, public opinion shifts dramatically.
We are dealing with the lag in public opinion, because if the ban came in, there is a good chance that public opinion would follow quickly, and then nobody would dream of turning back the clock—including many of those who probably think that they do not want a total ban.
That is a very high price to pay for claiming to follow public opinion. If public opinion is sacrosanct, why has it just been ignored? The Government cannot simultaneously say, “We’re not going to ban smoking everywhere, because the public don’t want that,” and, when the consultation takes place in which everyone says that they want a ban, reply, “No.” Which is it? What is the point of consultations? It is very hard to say both those things simultaneously. One might well say that one will follow public opinion, but one then presumably listens to rather than ignores the consultation on the fundamental issue before us.
The Minister says that a partial ban with a food/non-food distinction mirrors what other countries have done. When other countries bring in bans they bring in partial, not total bans. That has been the trend, but it did not happen in southern Ireland, it will not happen in Scotland, and it is not what this Government are doing in Northern Ireland.
We have not talked much about Northern Ireland, but there is an important question to ask. We are debating an amendment about staged bans, and this bit of Government—this end of Whitehall—is saying that there is much precedent for staged bans. Another bit of Government—I do not know where the Northern Ireland Office is, but I do not suppose that it is far away—just wants to get on with a total ban. One of them must be wrong. Is this bit of the Government saying that the other lot—the Northern Ireland Office—has got it wrong, or that there is something fundamentally different about Northern Ireland’s culture and public opinion? I have not noticed it when I have been there.
We are being asked to accept half a dozen inconsistent premises. It may well be that other countries—not all, but some—have staged their bans; but 10 years ago, or as the Minister said, 18 years ago in one case, we knew much less than we know now. Why do we have to keep repeating the mistakes? If Norway has introduced a partial ban and found that it is not terribly good—it does not have the beneficial effects on public health and the exemption does not work—and has learned from that, bringing in a total ban, why do we have to remake the same mistakes? Why do we not consider other countries, realise that they have concluded that partial bans are not very good, and get on with going straight to a full ban? The argument that other countries have introduced partial bans refers to a time when perhaps we knew less and had less evidence. Now that we have the evidence, it seems barmy not to learn from it and use it.
We have also heard of the issues about defining food. It is a whole new area, and it seems to be unnecessary. As the hon. Member for Westbury said, we shall either come up with a new definition of food or borrow one from someone else, but the suggestion is that it will be a new definition. It will have to be inspected and all the rest of it, and for what?—for something that everybody thinks will probably be gone in three years’ time anyway. The Secretary of State has said that.
The Secretary of State has said also in oral evidence to the Health Committee that the food/non-food distinction will worsen health inequalities. She said: “That is a disadvantage”. What is the advantage? The advantage is that surveys say that the public want a food ban, but are not ready for the rest of it. The Minister might say, “For a ban to work, we need public opinion on our side.” However, I do not really think that there is any evidence for that. There is already evidence that public opinion is trending the right way, and that bans in which public opinion was led rather than followed, as in Ireland, became popular quickly, and were no less effective for that.
When it comes to the argument that we cannot do anything until the public let us, another important aspect of that is that public opinion is not always 100 per cent. perfectly informed. Sometimes it is the job of Government to deal with that, although there is a danger of being paternalistic. With smoking we are dealing with an addiction that colours public opinion, with harmful effects that are hard to see at the time and may not be felt for decades, so the public’s perception that second-hand smoke is not as much of an issue as it might be is not necessarily an informed one. Indeed, if the public were properly informed about the dangers of second-hand smoke, the Government would not need to run dirty great advertising campaigns to tell them.
The Government accept that the public are not as well informed as they should be about the dangers of second-hand smoke and spend millions of pounds a year telling them about it, yet seem to be willing to say that if the public do not want a ban, based on their lack of information and understanding of the nature of the problem, we should say that that is a fair cop and give in. Where is the leadership? The severity of the problem means that a failure to grasp it and go the whole hog has a high cost. There is no doubt about that from the Government’s estimates. The Government should lead, and if they do not there will be undesirable consequences that none of us want to see.
Sir George Youngrose—
I paused to see whether anybody from the Labour Benches would rise to speak against this central amendment and was disappointed that none of them did. I am disappointed also that none have risen to speak in favour of the amendment, which would have been even better news.
The amendment attacks the Bill at its weakest point, which is the exemption of certain premises from the ban. I want to say a word about the hon. Member for Falkirk. His constituents have the benefit of a total ban. That is the position in Scotland and I happen to think it is the right solution. My constituents will not have the benefit of a total ban if the hon. Gentleman votes against the amendment. He should not deny my constituents a benefit that his have. I raised that point on Second Reading. I feel strongly that when legislation affects only England, and Scotland is already ahead of us, there are questions about Scottish influence on English and Welsh solutions.
My second point is that after what the hon. Member for Northavon has said, I hope that we shall never again hear a defence of the incremental approach from the Minister. The hon. Gentleman pointed out that other parts of the United Kingdom are not taking the incremental approach. We have heard no reason from the Minister why an incremental approach is right for England and Wales but not for Northern Ireland. I hope that when she responds to the debate she will give a clear exposition of what allows Northern Ireland to make a total ban when England and Wales have to do it in bits. The measure is a political compromise; it is the only thing that the Cabinet was able to agree on. It does not make sense in public health terms or any logical terms. No argument has been advanced for it.
My final point is about enforcement, which my hon. Friend the Member for Westbury touched on. If one considers what is permissible in an exempt premises, that includes pickled onions, crisps, nuts and olives as long as they are pre-packaged off the premises. The publican with a walnut tree in his garden will not be allowed to serve the walnuts in his pub but will be able to serve pre-packaged walnuts. The environmental health officer will have to go round and weigh the shelf-stable pre-packaged items to ensure that they are below 30g to 50g. He also will have to work out whether the consumption of the pre-packaged items requires the use of a plate or cutlery. That is an enforcement nightmare. If we are to move to a total ban in three years’ time, do we really have to go through this wholly unenforceable, illogical, interim stage? Would it not be better if we dealt with it in one fell swoop and would it not be an enormous step in that direction if the Committee were to pass amendment No. 1?
As the Opposition Whip, it is a pleasure for me to rise to speak, knowing that these issues are a matter for a free vote for the Official Opposition. That gives me the rare opportunity to be genuinely able to listen to the arguments and make up my own mind independently—to a degree—of my hon. Friends who are leading for the Opposition. When we began consideration of the Bill, I did not have a firm view about what direction policy should take. I have listened with great interest to the arguments and I entirely agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Hampshire that this amendment addresses the Bill at its weakest.
We know the background to the matter. We know that the Cabinet was split; that was briefed on publicly and there has been an almost public debate in the Cabinet, particularly between the Defence Secretary and the Health Secretary. The Defence Secretary had responsibility for health before the general election and was plainly the author of the Labour manifesto policy that the Bill represents. However, we have a duty as Members of Parliament, in considering the background to the issue and the politics of the situation, to give both the House and the Government the opportunity to make the argument on Report, if they really want to.
My right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Hampshire referred to the influence of the Scots and he is referring not only to the hon. Member for Falkirk, whose constituents will not suffer from the health inequalities that will arise from the provision, but to the baleful influence of the Defence Secretary, whose constituents are in exactly the same position.
I hope that the Committee will reflect on the matter. On Second Reading, the Government’s own supporters spoke against the Bill by a ration of about 5:1 or 6:1 and then, under the most extraordinary set of circumstances, the Committee of Selection seemed to invert that relationship when it came to membership of the Committee. I cannot imagine how that possibly happened unless, due to the most unfortunate accident, the Committee of Selection did not see the contributions made on the Floor of the House on Second Reading.
We have an opportunity to invite the Government to make the arguments to the whole House of Commons if they have to table an amendment to reverse amendment No. 1 on Report. That is what the Committee should decide because it is important that the argument should be made in the widest possible forum and we have before us the opportunity to enable the Government to do that.
I had a good go at this part of the Bill on Tuesday afternoon, but I shall make some remarks now that I did not make then. I pressed the Minister on several occasions on Tuesday to come up with a good reason why a distinction should be made on health grounds regarding whether a person had a meal in front of them or not. I quote from the answer that she finally gave when summing up during that part of the debate:
“I have not said, and nor has my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health, that there is a difference purely on health grounds in terms of when a person is eating and exposed to smoke and when they are not eating. We have said that when we asked people about further Government legislation to restrict smoking in public places, they felt strongly that, based on choice, they wanted restrictions in areas where they were eating.”—[Official Report, Standing Committee E, 6 December 2005; c. 76.]
We are in the rather peculiar circumstance where we have a Health Bill that is legislating on the basis of people’s choices and prejudices about what makes for a good night out in a bar. I find that rather strange. I eat out quite often. I am a single man, so I do not like cooking for myself. I have many friends in a similar situation, so I eat out rather a lot. I have some prejudices about what makes for a good night out in a restaurant or bar where food is being served, and things that I do not like spoil my enjoyment of that meal too.
I do not like the fact that quite often in a restaurant there is a table nearby where people are shouting and their conversation intrudes into my private conversation setting the world to rights. Maybe we should ban shouting or have a law about that. I hate the fact that mobile phones go off in restaurants, and I am sure that that is a cause of irritation to many others as well. Some of my more curmudgeonly friends do not like the fact that there are often children in bars, making a noise. That is not an opinion that I share. Often there are birthday parties. I do not know whether this sort of thing goes on in sedate Congleton, but quite often now when it is somebody’s birthday and a loud party is going on, the restaurant or bar will dim the lights, the waiters will come in, clapping their hands with a cake, and they will disrupt everybody’s evening. That ruins my enjoyment of the evening.
Of course what really ruins my enjoyment of a meal is cigarette smoke, and that seems to be the distinction that the Government have alighted on here: there is a general consensus that cigarette smoke spoils the enjoyment of a meal, particularly an expensive meal out, but so do many other factors. We seem to be legislating to remove a public nuisance rather than purely on the ground of public health. In years to come, when people read our proceedings, they will scratch their heads and wonder how on earth we got into such a messy situation.
Congleton is a wonderful part of the country, Lady Winterton, and we are very lucky to have its representative chairing our proceedings.
This is a brief plea to the hon. Member for Northavon to give a little more detail about the figures for the dangers of many deaths from smoking if we proceed with the ban proposed in the Bill rather than a total ban. It is a matter that I am most anxious about and I want to get to the bottom of it.
When the hon. Gentleman made his claim of 5,000 or 7,000 deaths from a partial ban compared with a total ban, I immediately went to the regulatory impact assessment to see whether that is where the figures come from and I do not find any such figures there. Pages 14 and 15 contain a table of the deaths averted. Option 2 is the full ban and option 4 is the ban with food/non-food exception. For averted deaths from customers the option 2 figure is 350 and the option 4 figure 150 to 250. I accept that a significant number of customers are at risk. For averted deaths from smokers giving up, the figure for employees is 1,600 for both options 2 and 4 and for customers it is 180 for both options. Then, in the category
“Averted deaths from reduced uptake of smoking” the figure for both options is 550. Therefore, the figures are nowhere near 5,000 to 7,000.
I then looked at the House of Commons briefing. Briefings from the House of Commons Library for Bills such as this are always brilliant. At page 69 there is a reference to a study published in the British Medical Journal, which says:
“Passive exposure to tobacco smoke at work might cause more than 600 deaths each year in the United Kingdom, including over 50 people employed in the hospitality industry.”
Clearly a partial ban saves some of those lives, and neither of those figures is anywhere near 5,000 or 7,000.
Finally, I find in a briefing that we may all have received from the Smoking Control Network, dated November 2005 and headed, “The Risks to Health of Secondhand Smoke”, a claim that ending smoking in the workplace could save an estimated 5,000 lives each year. There now is a figure of 5,000. It ignores whether it is a partial or a total ban. The reference is at footnote 8, which says:
“This is an expert prediction and is based on applying the prevalence reduction seen in other countries to UK smoking figures. Not published.”
It is not the best of sources, but I am concerned simply that our decisions are based on accurate figures.
Like the hon. Gentleman, I attach importance to accurate figures. First, some of the figures that he cites are per year. However, the situation will not be reviewed for three years, and that will be followed by further legislation, so those numbers will have to be multiplied several times.
Secondly, is the hon. Gentleman saying that it would be more acceptable if the estimate of 5,000 or 6,000 turned out to be only 2,000 or 3,000? I am happy to look at the numbers again, but there is plenty of evidence that we are talking of a substantial number of people. In a sense, whether it is 5,000 or 4,000, it is like talking about the number of angels on a pinhead. If our failure to lead costs thousands of lives—it is highly defensible to say “thousands”—that surely is enough to act.
I was a consensus politician long before the hon. Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron) became a Member. I was happy to beat him in the election in 1997 at Stafford, so I knew him as a politician before many other hon. Members.
I do not intend to be critical, nor am I making a critique. I am asking for accuracy. The hon. Member for Northavon says that there is a difference every year and that it needs to be multiplied. However, he has not challenged the figures in the regulatory impact assessment, most of which show a difference of zero. By however many years one multiplies zero, the figure is still zero. Certainly, one death that can be avoided is one too many. When we talk of hundreds of deaths, I am of course concerned.
While we are bandying figures about, the hon. Gentleman cited some from the British Medical Journal earlier this year given by Professor Konrad Jamrozik. One was the total of 10,700 excess deaths that he believed to be attributable to second-hand smoking in the home. Does the hon. Gentleman agree with the Defence Secretary that a Bill of this sort would drive people to smoke at home, thereby increasing the awful figure provided by the professor?
I am not sure whether the Library briefing cites the same person, but the same source—a study in the British Medical Journal—gives a figure of 2,700 deaths from exposure at home of people between the ages of 20 and 64, or 80,000 if one includes those aged 65 and over. Perhaps it is that report to which the hon. Gentleman refers. However, I do not know what point he seeks to make, because the Bill is about banning smoking in public places. Whatever we decide today, it will not deal with people smoking at home.
If the hon. Gentleman is asking me to predict how many people will stop smoking in public places but smoke more at home than they do now, I would find the task beyond me. I am happy for others to hold a different opinion, but it is not one that I would share.
My point is simply that when we give figures, they should be accurate. Now that we have debated them, we are a bit closer.
I sense a peroration coming on, and I want to put a proposition to the hon. Gentleman before he concludes. On Second Reading, he said:
“A ban that gets us nearly to where we want to be is better than no ban at all, so I shall certainly support the proposals tonight.”—[Official Report, 29 November 2005; Vol. 440, c. 224.]
Given that no ban is not now on the cards and given that he wants a total ban, would he be minded to support the amendment?
The right hon. Gentleman is such a delightful tempter, but I shall consider the arguments and, if we divide, I shall cast my vote accordingly. I am happy to reaffirm my view that getting a long way towards where we want to be and saving lots of lives every year is certainly better than nothing. Now that we are moving forward, it is simply a question of pace. That is my peroration. I have finished.
I start by confirming yet again that the Government’s approach to the Bill is a combination of tackling public health issues and recognising that smoking is not an illegal activity. Therefore, it is right that we think about how we take the public with us on those public health issues. Many of the voluntary bans that have developed over the past 20 years have been successful because they have been in tune with public opinion. There have been a few problems, and we have all been on a bus or a tube where someone did smoke, but that is pretty exceptional because the weight of public opinion was behind the ban.
The accusation has been made that we are just following what the public are saying, but that is not the case in its entirety. The provisions are in tune with public opinion and the direction that it is taking, but they are also challenging. Over the summer, we had the consultation. As the hon. Member for Northavon acknowledged, organised groups take part in many of the consultations on legislation that comes before the House, and I have no problem whatever with that. Those groups marshal their members, supporters and forces to make their views heard, and there were several petitions organised by those wanting a total ban, as well as postcard campaigns and so on. I understand that and I am not downplaying it. However, alongside those groups are people who are not necessarily always heard, but whose voices reflect a broader section of public opinion.
In the “Smoking-related Behaviour and Attitudes” survey conducted by ONS in 2004, 88 per cent. of people supported restrictions on smoking at work, 91 per cent. supported restrictions in restaurants, 92 per cent. supported restrictions in indoor sports and leisure centres and 65 per cent. supported restrictions in pubs. Significantly less than half the people in the survey—31 per cent.—supported a total ban. That was reflected in the Action on Smoking and Health survey, in which about 49 per cent. of the public wanted a full ban. So our proposals to go not for restrictions but for bans in most workplaces and public places are an indication that we are not simply following public opinion, but leading on policy.
We looked at other countries, and there is nothing wrong with that. Most of the countries that took a staged approach in moving forward did so mainly because they felt that self-enforcement by the public was in line with what they wanted. That is not to say that there is necessarily a right or a wrong way; it is up to individual states and countries to decide what they want to do. We all look at the data, and there is consensus on a number of the facts about the dangers of second-hand smoke. However, it is only fair that the devolved Administrations should have the opportunity to take a different course of action. My understanding is that all the political parties in Northern Ireland were in agreement on a total ban, but there is clearly not agreement among all the political parties in England on the way forward—hence our discussions in Committee and on the Floor of the House. It is important to reflect that.
On the distinction between food and non-food, life would be a lot simpler—
What I said was that there was no consensus about the way forward, and from what I have heard in Committee—on Tuesday and today—there are clearly different views in the Tory party about the way forward. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman read his own party’s manifesto, but I understand that the Conservative’s position was to self-regulate for another three years and then return to the issue to see about further regulation. There is also a free vote on the issue, so it is down to individuals to decide.
I was therefore quite right: the Conservative party has a different point of view from my party, and it would seem that the Liberal Democrats do too. There are also different points of view within individual parties about the way forward, but it is up to parties to sort out where individual views lie and where the party’s position lies. The Labour party’s policy, on which the Bill is based, not only appeared in our manifesto, but went through our national policy forums and formed part of their deliberations and documents.
At this stage, Labour party policy is to oppose a total ban, but I have seen nothing to suggest that the Conservative party is in favour of one. However, I have seen comments by Conservative Front-Bench spokespersons suggesting that they are in favour of self-regulation for another three years and that they would return to the issue after that and legislate in due course. I am sure that we can check what Hansard says about the different parties’ policies, but that was certainly the message that I got from Conservative Front-Bench spokespersons, and I understand that that was the basis of the party’s policy for the general election.
On the distinction between food and non-food, there was clearly agreement among smokers and non-smokers in attitudinal surveys that, for reasons of comfort and enjoyment, people like to eat in a smoke-free atmosphere, and we felt that we should reflect that in the Bill. Giles Thorley, the chief executive of Punch Taverns, one of the largest operators of public houses in the UK, has said:
“Although we acknowledge that the proposed non-food/food split will present some landlords with difficult decisions, nonetheless we feel that the distinction is relatively straightforward and workable as well as preserving some degree of choice.”
As we have seen, other parts of the pub sector are moving in a direction that they feel is commercially right for them. For example, the J. D. Wetherspoon chain has decided to make all its pubs completely smoke-free ahead of the timetable in the White Paper.
J. D. Wetherspoon is an interesting example. The Commercial Rooms in Bristol has gone smoke-free as part of a trial, but all the chain’s outlets serve food, so even if the Bill goes through unamended, the company will have to have a total ban. Its owner—I have forgotten his name—has gone on record as saying that he would prefer legislation to introduce a full ban so that there was a level commercial playing field, and many other commercial operators have said the same.
I am sure that J. D. Wetherspoon will decide what suits it commercially. From the sound of things, a smoke-free policy suits it, and that is the place that the company intends to arrive at ahead of the Bill. We will of course consult and produce draft regulations on how we define which foods or snacks can be provided in establishments in which smoking continues to be allowed. Although it is tempting to get drawn into discussions about what food would or would not be allowed, it is important that the consultation takes place first. We will also be able to see the draft regulations and to have a debate on the issue under the affirmative procedure.
On food vans in car parks—I am glad that the hon. Member for Northavon was not suggesting banning them, too—we are clear about two issues that have come up in the debate. First, if food is served at lunchtime but not in the evening, the establishment will still be smoke-free. Secondly, we must not create a loophole whereby people can order a pizza and take it into a smoking pub. The example of people wandering in with their sandwiches is interesting, although I am not sure that licensees look upon that particularly kindly. We are working to see how we ensure that, as far as is practicably possible, the regulation concerning food and non-food will be easily understood. As I said, there are different views within the pub sector about this.
Of those members of the public who have been consulted on where smoke should be allowed and where it should not be allowed, a huge number of both smokers and non-smokers wish to eat in a smoke-free atmosphere. The Bill will provide the opportunity for someone to go on a night out, go to a restaurant that is completely smoke-free, but then choose to go somewhere for a drink where they can have a cigarette. Again, that is something that complements people’s desire for more choice in this area. It is a choice that many people do not currently have, even among smokers who quite enjoy having a bite to eat in a smoke-free atmosphere.
The Minister is veering on to the territory of legislating for amenity, courtesy and nuisance things. We are getting away from health. I would emphasise that this is a health Bill. Surely that should be our guiding light. The Minister appears to be legislating for a good night out. I do not think that that is what we should be doing.
The hon. Gentleman says that he has worked in this area for years. I remind him that his party was in power for 18 years and chose to do absolutely nothing in this area. Born-again experiences are to be welcomed, but the fact remains that the huge amount of work that we do on public health shows that changing people’s lifestyle decisions to do things that are not illegal cannot be achieved simply through a ban. The thrust behind the “Choosing Health” White Paper was not just to examine what the Government needed to do to promote a health agenda but to create a better environment where people actively choose health. That is an important part of how we can have better successes in the delivery of services to tackle public health issues such as smoking, alcohol, obesity, or sexual health.
Choice and health are not alternatives. They go together. I personally see nothing wrong in that. I should like to pick up on the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford, who is not in the Committee at present, about the numbers of deaths. First, the hon. Member for Northavon referred to 6,000 to 7,000 lives lost. I find that difficult to reconcile with the figures that I have been given, which are based on published studies. They show that the number of deaths due to second-hand smoke among hospitality workers across the piece is estimated to be around 50 a year. That is important because I believe that our measures take us much further forward in creating the culture of the smoke-free environment.
It is dangerous to quote things. I do not suggest for one minute that the hon. Member for Northavon did so with bad intention. I caution the Committee about the regulatory impact assessment. I can see how the figures in it could be confused. They are based on the money value of lives as converted by our economists.The two figures represent the value of lives saved among employees as £4 million and among customers as £75 million. There are two effects. The figures do not refer to lives themselves. I am happy to provide the Committee with some of the figures on lives if that would be helpful. As the hon. Member for Westbury indicated, a huge number of lives are lost through smoking in the home.
I should have made that 6,000 figure clear. I read something this morning that converted those millions of pounds numbers into lives. I cannot remember what it was so I withdraw that specific figure. What does the Minister think is the number of additional lives that could be saved by going from the partial ban that we are talking about here to the full ban? Her best estimate of that would be extremely helpful.
These are difficult areas to determine. There are plenty of dangerous activities that individuals legally undertake which, if we wanted to save lives, we could ban. What has been acknowledged, even by ASH, is that our measures take us many steps forward to creating that smoke-free environment and saving lives. Given the figures for deaths caused by smoking in the home—we all agree that banning that is not the way forward—we need a package of measures that support people’s efforts to give up and not to start smoking.
I have mentioned the issues relating to the devolved countries. This is not about right and wrong, but about people determining for themselves the policy that they want to follow. Our policy reflects the views of the public where support for completely smoke-free pubs is low. However, they also want the Government to legislate in a number of areas where they feel that self-regulation has not moved quickly or far enough. That is why we feel that the exemptions provide the fairest way of delivering our health and choice objectives.
It should be noted by the Committee that the conditions in subsection (4) are only examples aimed at showing our intentions for regulations as openly as possible. Therefore, removing paragraph (a) would not prevent us from going on to make conditions about whether a licensed premises prepared and served food. I therefore call on the Committee to reject the amendment.
It has been a fascinating debate. We appear to have a split Cabinet on this issue. We had interesting contributions on Second Reading, which showed that many Labour Back Benchers opposed this measure. The chief medical officer threatened to resign. I suspect that the only reason why he has not is that he hopes to improve the position by regulation later. This measure is illogical. Enforcement will be very difficult. We know that from the Local Government Association and others. It will widen health inequalities and so I must insist on putting my amendment to the vote.
‘()in the case of any premises, conditions requiring the installation and operation of equipment capable of extracting smoke from the premises.’.
The amendment deals with the engineering and ventilation solutions, which we have dealt with before but to which the Bill contains remarkably little reference. It is a failing and I hope that my contribution will be able to explain why that is. In particular, I want to point towards international examples where Governments have been minded to examine more seriously what ventilation and engineering have to offer.
I am thinking of a notable contribution that was made on Second Reading by the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Bill Etherington), who described why he felt, from his personal experience in an industrial workplace and on the railways, that an engineering solution might be appropriate to reduce ambient environmental tobacco smoke. I was struck by that contribution, which was one of the most thoughtful that we heard on Second Reading. I hope that the Minister read it carefully when it appeared in Hansard and reflected on a few of the things that were said.
It seems as though the Government have simply discarded ventilation and engineering as a solution in any of the scenarios that we have been discussing up to this point. My own background involves some experience of industrial workplaces and I have been used to ventilation and engineering solutions for removing toxins in occupational settings, and I found that position extraordinary. I read the Bill and thought that sooner or later I would find a reference to occupational exposure standards and to ventilation, and that all would be well and I would be well satisfied. I reached the end of the Bill having found no such references. That surprises me, because of the experience in Italy. The Minister was uncivil enough to say that there had been 18 years without any movement on the issue. That is unfair, because all Governments in Europe have only recently moved on this—
I was referring to the period between 1979 and 1997. Under consecutive Conservative Administrations, as far as I am aware, there was no legislation to restrict smoking in public places.
The Minister underscores the point that she made earlier. My point is that Governments across Europe have in recent years moved to legislate on the issue. Let us bear in mind that we have had a Labour Government—and do not we know it—since 1997. I can name all the countries that have legislated on the issue in recent years if the hon. Lady wishes me to do so. I do not think that she would want that. I confine my argument to three of them: Italy, France and Holland, to which I referred earlier. Italy in particular has taken a sensible, pragmatic line on where ventilation and engineering solutions might fall within its legislative framework.
It is interesting that Italy allows places for people to smoke providing that they come up to certain engineering specifications. It has taken the view that rather than insist on particular ambient environmental tobacco smoke standards or levels, it would prefer to insist on certain engineering standards, which is fine. Standards are laid out—negative pressures in smoky rooms that are quoted as being 5 pascals below ambient—to allow smoke to be contained within those spaces. I am not saying for one moment that we would necessarily want to do that. Insisting on air standards might be more appropriate in our setting—quite possibly it would.
It is strange that Ministers have not considered how they might introduce ventilation standards into their legislation in respect of those premises that they wish to exempt from the ban. It seems sensible to me to allow, by regulation, premises in the exempt categories to have smoking provided that it is controlled properly, either by engineering standards or by air quality standards. We have heard—my right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Hampshire, particularly, seems to have a real grasp of the issue—that standards that are already tried and tested in occupational settings can be applied to this setting, which is similar in many respects to others in which people already work.
We are considering predominantly those who work in smoky environments. I believe that to be the case because every time I challenge Ministers on the public health evidence base for everything that they are proposing in this Bill, I am told that at the end of the day we have to have regard for the health of the employees. I agree with that. However, it is not right for the Minister to say that this is not itself health and safety legislation and therefore we should disregard things that appear in the health and safety at work legislation and regulations when they are easily transportable to this setting. That seems extraordinary.
I wonder whether the Minister has read the various bits of lobby material that have appeared on our desks in recent months. One is tempted to dismiss some of it. I am always a bit sceptical when I see items from lobby groups that receive funding from organisations that have a financial interest in the line being peddled. Of course, we need to put a bit of a health warning on that kind of thing, but I have no doubt as to the sincerity and probity of the scientists who have carried out the work. Nevertheless, we need to be careful about the conclusions that are drawn from that work.
The Minister will have received correspondence from an organisation called AIR—Atmosphere Improves Results. That group was behind the visit paid by other hon. Members and me to the much-cited St. Stephen’s Tavern the other night, to view—or sniff—for ourselves the environment in that pub, and to try to form a judgment on whether ventilation is feasible.
It is often said that ventilation causes a wind tunnel effect, that it can be unpleasant and that it makes the environment chilly—a bit like an American shopping mall. Nobody wants to enjoy a relaxing evening in that kind of environment. If it were like that, St. Stephen’s Tavern and other pubs that have it would quickly go out of business, and everybody would be off down the Red Lion. Manifestly, that is not the case. Having, I confess, been in both establishments in one night—in one case in a professional capacity and in the other not—I can say that they were both full, and one was considerably less smoky than the other. The ventilation in St. Stephen’s Tavern, in which I assure the Committee that I do not have any interest or shares, was very good. The criticism of the proposal that we should use ventilation more to ensure air standards in licensed premises is not well founded.
I hope that the Minister has looked into the matter in some depth and not simply dismissed it. She might say that it is all very well doing measurements on air, but there are some 4,000 contaminants in tobacco smoke, and we do not have standards for all of them. That is true; perhaps we should. The control of substances hazardous to health covers 40,000 substances, so it seems strange that we do not have standards for at least the bulk of those contaminants. If we do not, then we should set some. However, we do have standards for things such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and particulates. Particulates measure 2.5 microns across. From my experience of environmental issues to do with industrial contamination in my constituency, I can tell the Committee that those are the very small particles that are most acutely associated with ill health; coronary heart disease and other vascular diseases, for example. We are measuring the right things; things for which there are occupational exposure standards.
I am sure that the Minister knows—she will have seen the graphs, as I have—that if that work is done before and after turning off the ventilation, the fall is dramatic. With substances for which there are occupational exposure standards the level falls right off and well below what would be considered hazardous in an occupational setting.
I hope that the Minister understands where I am coming from. I am not pretending that ventilation or engineering are the solutions to everything, and I am not trying to replace the restriction that she seeks with ventilation. I am sure that ventilation engineers would love it if I were suggesting that, or rather if she were suggesting that, but I am not. I am suggesting that there may be a role for ventilation in those categories of premises that are currently exempt. That would go some way to addressing the concerns that have been expressed by other right hon. and hon. Members that we are neglecting those employees who are working in premises that would be exempt under the Bill as it stands.
I am suggesting that there is an engineering solution that could be used in this country. We should examine more closely what has happened in Italy especially, but also in France and Holland. Of the countries in Europe that are comparable with ours France and Holland, which are the closest, are good examples and they have certainly used engineering to restrict exposure to second-hand smoke. It would be interesting to hear from the Minister the extent to which she has examined how those countries deal with the issue within their framework of legislation—it was introduced relatively recently—and how we might adopt some of it.
I suppose that the bottom line is how acceptable that would be. The Building Services Journal reprinted some research—I suspect that it comes from the same stable as the research that AIR commissioned from the university of Glamorgan—which refutes the suggestion that ventilation would cause an atmosphere that is not conducive to a good night out and the suggestion that it would be monstrously expensive.
One issue that I would be concerned about—I have no figures one way or the other, but I would expect the Minister and her officials to determine it—is that smaller establishments could face a competitive disadvantage from engineering solutions. That could be a cause for concern and I hope that somewhere in the Minister’s papers she will be able to give me some sort of assessment as to whether she has looked at that and whether it is a genuine concern. The feedback that I am receiving from the publicans I know and those who have written to me suggests that they accept that there is likely to be a competitive advantage for larger chains if there were insistence on ventilation, but that they would be happy to shoulder that if the alternative was the Bill as drafted. There will be differences of opinion about that, and at the end of the day we will know only if and when the amendment is accepted and ventilation becomes part of our legislation as it is in countries throughout Europe.
Nevertheless, intelligent guesses can be made. I hate to hark back to “St. Stephen’s Tavern”, but the feeling there was that ventilation would not be expensive. It would obviously require enforcement because one criticism of my proposal is that there would be a temptation for publicans to flick the switch and to turn the ventilation off if it was costing money to run and maintain. It is certainly an issue that there would be costs involved in running and maintaining the equipment apart from the capital cost of installing it in the first place.
There is also an issue for enforcement bodies. As we heard during the previous debate about food and non-food premises, it seems that the enforcement agencies cop it in any case. They seem to foresee a headache for themselves and I hope that we will cover a little of that in the clause stand part debate—if we are lucky enough to have one, Lady Winterton—as we have not touched on that issue up to now.
I seek the Minister’s assurance that there will be adequate compensation from central Government for local government, which will have to shoulder the burden of the legislation. It would be interesting to know how Ministers see that enforcement element. I know that enforcement is the subject of later clauses, and we will, no doubt, cover it at some length, but it seems appropriate at this juncture—when we are talking about ventilation engineering solutions, which would have to be policed by enforcement agencies and local government—to flag up the fact that whatever happens under the Bill, a considerable burden will be placed on local government. We would like the Minister’s assurance that that will not cause great expense for our council tax payers.
In summary, I hope that the Minister will assure me that she has looked into the possibility of ventilation engineering solutions, as was outlined on Second Reading. If she is not minded to accept my amendment, which would be helpful and would improve the quality of the Bill, I hope that she can give us good reasons as to why she has dismissed the argument that ventilation has a part to play. Other countries throughout Europe have incorporated it in their legislation, but our Government seem to have no intention of doing the same.
As I have mentioned a couple ofd¤times, academically I am a historian and professionally I am a tax consultant, so I cannot hope to compete with the knowledge of the hon. Member for Westbury of particulate matter or carcinogens. Therefore, my remarks will be brief.
Unfortunately, I had to miss out on the visit to St. Stephen’s Tavern last week, although I have been there several times before. [Hon. Members: “Oh!”] Well, several times may be an exaggeration—I do not want people to get the wrong idea. I have been there once or twice before. On each of those occasions, I found it so smoky that I had to stand in the passageway outside, next to Portcullis house, to enjoy my drink.
There are various types of ventilation. One thinks of traditional pubs in which there is a circular fan in the window that extracts air. There are also ceiling extractor fans. Such fans undoubtedly help. In the excellent document that the Library prepared to help inform our debate, a study for the Dutch Government undertaken by W. F. de Gids and A. Opperhuizen is cited—my Dutch pronunciation probably is not very good. Extensive testing has been done in Holland; the Minister is fond of quoting European experience. The study reported that ventilation can reduce environmental tobacco smoke in enclosed areas by 50 to 90 per cent. That suggests that, depending where one is in the room, presumably, one would still have significant exposure to smoke, which could be as high as 50 per cent. Even if it is as low as 10 per cent., there is still a residual amount of exposure.
I stress again that I am not a scientist, but common sense suggests that air extracted by extraction equipment has to be drawn through the air, so it may well go past one if one happens to be standing in a particular place. Therefore, it is hard to say with any certainty that ventilation equipment in an enclosed space will provide complete protection for the people in the room.
The hon. Gentleman is right to say that what we propose is not a perfect solution for the removal of particulates, but in the spirit of agreeing with the official Opposition on areas in which the Bill might be improved, while respecting his desire for an overall ban, can he not support us on this?
The hon. Gentleman intervened just as I was about to say that the amendment would be helpful if we are to be faced with a situation in which there will be rooms in which people are exposed to second-hand smoke: anything that improves the environment in those rooms would be a step in the right direction. Smoke is visible. Extractors might draw the smoke out of the room. The hon. Member for Westbury has referred many times to minor particulate matter. Again the Library study says that, to guarantee a significant reduction in particulate matter in the atmosphere, one would need extraction equivalent to the strength of a jet aircraft engine. Clearly nobody will want to be in the same room as extraction equipment with the strength of a jet aircraft engine, and I am sure that the hospitality industry will not propose embarking on such significant capital expenditure either.
Expenditure is an interesting point. It was confirmed in our earlier deliberations that the Government intend to review at some time over the next few years the effect of their partial ban. We therefore may require the private sector and, in many cases, small businesses to incur significant capital expenditure on ventilation equipment that may ultimately become redundant because it will have no value elsewhere, not even scrap value. There are many questions that the Minister needs to address and I look forward to her response.
I do not want to repeat some of our earlier discussions about ventilation, but there is a lack of good evidence that it provides a real solution to the health risks associated with second-hand smoke. I think that I am right in saying that most of the contributions in support of ventilation have acknowledged that no failsafe system exists.
The hon. Member for Westbury referred to AIR, which stands for Atmosphere Improves Results. It is apparently managed by Corporate Responsibility Consulting Ltd and receives funding from the Tobacco Manufacturers Association.
I think that the Minister will accept that I made it clear that that organisation was not necessarily wholly impartial and also that, while there is no doubt about the probity or integrity of the scientists who do the work, there may be concerns about the conclusions that are drawn from the results. I hope that she will be good enough to acknowledge that.
I am sorry if I struck a sensitive spot. I was simply providing information for the Committee about what AIR stands for and where it receives funding from. I infer nothing from that, but, as I have said, I do not believe that it is helpful for the Government to specify a form of ventilation, when there is a market with many different providers and many different points of view about what they can do. For the most part, it is a matter of comfort. I acknowledge that in the industry as well as within a 1m-rule around the bar, a number of establishments have introduced their own ventilation systems, because they recognise that for smokers and non-smokers there is a comfort factor in relation to smoke in one’s eyes.
Nothing in the Bill prevents pubs that have exemptions from seeking to introduce ventilation, but if we made it a requirement, it could have a disproportionately large cost impact on small business. I acknowledge that hon. Members have recognised that. Instead of requiring the introduction of expensive and, in many senses, misleading equipment, we must leave it to premises to decide. As I have said, in many cases owners already provide ventilation to meet their customers’ concerns about comfort.
I wish to make a little progress.
Ventilation was considered by the Health and Safety Commission in 1999 when it consulted on an approved code of practice on passive smoking at work. A public consultation was completed on the recommendation for a code, which included standards of ventilation. That was not taken further because of concerns about the cost burden on small businesses in the hospitality sector. In pursuing ventilation, there is a danger of giving a false impression that there is some safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke. For those reasons, I cannot support the amendment.
The Minister is right that there is no standard for a safe level of tobacco smoke, but she has not listened to what I have said. It would be entirely appropriate for standards to exist. The analogy that I have drawn consistently over the past several hours is between occupational exposure, and exposure in licensed premises. Surely the Minister has understood that, and it is not beyond the wit of the Government to design occupational exposure standards that will address that problem.
But as I have said, we are not preventing those exempted organisations from introducing ventilation systems. We are not preventing the Health and Safety Commission from seeking to examine the matter further. I suggest that that body is best placed to examine it. As I said earlier, there are dangers in following the route suggested by the hon. Member for Westbury. Were we to make a case for a quasi-safe standard in exempted areas, the argument could be made for areas where we are seeking to ban smoking totally. People would ask, “Why can’t we have that too?” That is not a direction in which we wish to go.
The hon. Member for Bristol, West may not have heard about the former Member for Taunton, who was single when he came to the House, advertised for a wife, and got one. However, I am afraid that he lost his seat at the general election, so the hon. Gentleman may wish to exercise caution in advertising his single status.
The hon. Member for Westbury acknowledged the issue about whether there was an appropriate standard that the Government should set. That is quite a minefield to enter. Imposing conditions and requiring the installation of equipment capable of extracting smoke from premises, as proposed in the amendment, might give the impression of taking action to protect people, but that would be a false impression. None the less, we have said that we will consult on further measures to protect areas around bars. There are a number of options that that might involve, including ventilation, designated areas or imposing a distance from the bar. We shall produce draft regulations for consultation, which will be discussed as part of the affirmative resolution procedure.
I raised the matter of the 1 m distance from the bar on Second Reading. I said that the red line on the Chamber carpet had a bigger public health justification than the red line that the Minister would like to draw round bars. Does the Minister not understand that we are starting from the same point of view? We all wish to protect employees working in licensed premises. It makes sense to monitor smoke in those premises, as I have suggested, but the Minister appears to oppose that. Simply drawing lines will not do anything. Smoke does not waft in straight lines; it is much more dynamic and complex than that.
I think that I have said as much as I need to say about the amendment. We are discussing further protection in bar areas. I am not convinced that it is helpful to include the amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Westbury in the Bill, for the reasons that I have outlined. On that basis, I hope that the Committee will reject the amendment.
The Minister has, basically, answered my question, which was: what note has she taken of the possible use of ventilation and engineering solutions in legislation? It seems to fall into the “all too difficult” box. Clearly, no note has been taken of the experience in other countries, especially Italy. We heard no mention of that at all. What was meant to be helpful in the context of improving public health—the reduction of exposure of employees in exempt premises to expired tobacco smoke in the environment—has been snubbed by the Minister. That is a great pity.
I shall not press the amendment to a vote, but, particularly in view of the comments made by the hon. Member for Sunderland, North on Second Reading, which I enjoyed enormously, we may return to it on Report. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
With this it will be convenient to discuss new clause 1—Voluntary prohibition—
‘The appropriate national authority may, by regulations, provide that prohibition of smoking under Part 1 should not come into effect in respect of classes of premises that have implemented a voluntary prohibition of smoking that has ensured that:—
(e)where the premises is open to the public those who do not wish to be exposed to smoke are not so exposed;
(f)smoking is not permitted in places to which children have access; and
(g)smoking is not permitted in areas of premises to which only employees have access.’.
We have had quite wide-ranging debates on clause 3, so I would appreciate it if members of the Committee could keep their remarks about what has already been debated reasonably brief.
I assume that the Conservatives will speak to new clause 1, but I shall give my opinion on it anyway. We originally tabled an amendment, which was out of order, to remove clause 3, just to emphasise our concern about any exemptions from the Bill. As you said, Lady Winterton, we have already discussed most of those issues, and I shall not repeat them. I merely observe that the Bill would be better with a much narrower clause on exemptions. That was the key reason for our attempt to take out the clause altogether. The Minister rightly said that if we did that, there could be no exemptions at all. We all probably accept that in some very particular cases—she mentioned adult hospices and we can probably think of one or two others—humanity or exceptional circumstances might demand an exception. We do not, therefore, want to remove the clause entirely. We just think that something shorter, setting out specific and limited exemptions, would be better than this sweeping clause.
I make my observations on new clause 1 having only read it, without having heard it argued for, but it appears that it would allow all the part 1 provisions on banning smoking systematically to be suspended, or not applied, if a ban that was pretty much as good—or, arguably, better, in the case of children—was in place. I paraphrase loosely. The argument seems essentially to be, “Well, if they’ve had a decent stab at it, let’s not bring the force of the law down on them.” My instinctive reaction is that the voluntary approach has been very slow hitherto. It may be gathering momentum, but if we just left things to the voluntary approach—although I appreciate that that is not precisely what the amendment would require—we would continue to make gradual headway, and culture might gradually shift, but lives would be lost in the meantime. The voluntary approach alone does not seem right.
I think that a fair reflection of new clause 1 is to say that it embodies the argument for a legal framework enabling people, provided that they clear certain hurdles, to operate a different sort of ban. That would be a recipe for confusion. I suppose that there could be different coloured signs; I do not know. The public would go into premises and not know whether there was a voluntary ban. Because the elements of new clause 1 do not exactly match the statutory ban, some things would be banned in one place and voluntarily prevented in another. I find it hard to see what the gain would be.
I have a point of view based on health and safety and the welfare of the people who work in the relevant environments, and I can see no basis for operating different sorts of bans in parallel, perhaps in neighbouring premises. If we were not taking a statutory approach we might try to encourage voluntary action, but we have gone past the point at which we expect voluntary action to deliver. The statutory approach must be the right one in relation to regulatory burden, ease of implementation, consistency and a single strategy. There will already be exemptions to a statutory ban. If we have a statutory ban with exemptions for certain premises and voluntary bans for slightly different territory, it will be a recipe for chaos. It is therefore with some reluctance that I say that clause 3, or some variant of it at least, must stand part of the Bill. I am not convinced, however, that new clause 1 should be added to the Bill.
I know that the Minister has been looking forward to this part of the debate, because throughout her contributions she has been laying into the Opposition for wanting to have no bans at all and to leave everything to voluntary action. However, I fear that I am going to disappoint her. Indeed, she will have read new clause 1 very closely and will know that that is not in fact our intention.
I assure the Committee that I do not intend to press the matter, and I accept much of what the hon. Member for Northavon said, but it is important to note that much has been achieved by voluntary means. The evidence suggests that there is some momentum behind that the voluntary approach, partly because the industry feels its collar being felt. We perhaps need to acknowledge that some of the industry has gone some way to implementing a smoking ban, but we must also appreciate that we have come to the point at which legislation is appropriate. Of course, nothing will happen for some time, and we hope that the sector will meanwhile continue to increase the number of smoke-free places voluntarily.
To avoid confusion, it is worth putting on the record the fact that Her Majesty’s Opposition certainly do want us to move towards smoke-free places as a general rule. I hope that it has been clear from my contributions and from those of my right hon. and hon. Friends in Committee and on Second Reading that we would go further than the Government in some respects. Nevertheless, we recognise that the sector has voluntarily done good work, and it is worth bearing that in mind.
The hon. Member for Northavon is right to note that the new clause refers to children, and most fair-minded Members would accept that that theme has run consistently through our contribution to the debate. We feel strongly that smoking as it relates to children must be our first priority, because habits are learned in those early years. If we are to reduce health inequalities, we must look at that generational effect to ensure that future generations do not suffer the disadvantages under which their predecessors laboured. I therefore make no apologies for reintroducing the subject of children in new clause 1(f).
We have had a long and discursive debate on this complicated clause, and you have been very generous in allowing us that, Lady Winterton. This clause is the crux of the most important part of the Bill. Of course the rest of the Bill contains a great deal of important stuff, which we shall cover in the next few days. None the less, the public are principally interested in part 1, and to a lesser extent in part 2. Part 1 is where the action is, and clause 3 is probably the focus of the main differences between us.
I had to insist on amendment No. 1, and I am sorry that the Committee felt unable to accept it. Without a shadow of a doubt, we will return to that issue in the Bill’s later stages. I very much regret that the Committee lost an opportunity by rejecting the amendment. When Ministers read the Committee’s proceedings before the Bill returns to the Chamber, I hope that they will table amendments to deal with the situation, even at that late stage.
I hope that the Minister will take particular note of the chief medical officer’s feelings on the issue. I am pleased that Sir Liam did not resign, because he is an extremely good chief medical officer, and in most respects I agree with what he says on public health. Clearly he was in a state of some distress when contemplating the Bill, which appeared to run contrary to the advice that he was giving to Ministers. I imagine that when one is advising one’s superiors and they do not appear to be taking the advice, that is a difficult position in which to find oneself. Clearly, it put him on the horns of a dilemma.
This raises an interesting point, and my guess is that Sir Liam will have looked at the Bill and said, “Aha, there’s a lot of regulation here, and at a later stage I’ll be able to persuade the Secretary of State for Health or one of her successors to beef things up a bit by means of regulation.” Perhaps there is a little bit of comfort in that for the Liberal Democrats and their stance on the Bill. It is possible that Sir Liam might in fact have his way in the fullness of time by means of regulation. I have to say that that is a fairly back-handed way of doing things.
We know that the Cabinet has been split on the issue. There has been a battle royal in Cabinet over it, and it is no good the Minister trying to pretend otherwise. We believe implicitly what we read in the tabloid press, of course, and we know from the tabloid press that the issue has been hugely divisive in Cabinet. The chief medical officer is unhappy with things, and the Cabinet is apparently divided. On Second Reading there was considerable debate, and little support for the Government’s position. Yet we find that, with all due respect to the excellent members of the Committee that have been selected by the Government Whips, the balance of the debate has not been well represented in Committee, and the contributions—many of them excellent—that were not favourable to the Government line have not been repeated here. There appears to be division.
We have heard about the illogicality of the distinction between food and non-food areas and we have heard from many organisations that enforcement will cause them real difficulty. The Local Government Association is deeply troubled by the matter and the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, to which the hon. Member for Northavon and I have referred, is clear and outspoken about the issue. I suspect that the hon. Gentleman’s reference to burgers arose from the comments made by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, which I will read out because they are important. We should bear in mind the fact that the institute is the governing body of those who will be at the front line of enforcing the provisions. It says:
“Linking smoking to food consumption is itself illogical in public health terms—and in many pubs/clubs the law will not protect bar staff, unethically requiring our members to protect some workers while not others”.
“It is feared that as many as one in five pubs will stop selling food in order to accommodate smokers. On-street consumption of fast food is expected to increase as burger vans proliferate, in contrast to government healthy eating messages”.
That is very true.
It is remarkable that a little while ago, Ministers were trying to say that we should develop a café society in this country—ignoring the kind of weather that we have; it is pretty bad out there today. The fact of the matter is that there is a difference between our climate—bless it—and that of the south of France and Italy, but nevertheless we are encouraged to eat while drinking, because we know that we are then less likely to suffer the adverse consequences of alcohol. We are told that we should not consume burgers and fast food. Making a distinction between food and non-food areas in terms of smoking is likely to encourage the consumption of fast food, as the hon. Member for Northavon pointed out. There seems to be little connection between the Government’s messages on healthy eating and on smoking.
I have said this several times in the Committee, but it is worth re-emphasising at every available opportunity—I perceive one now—that there are far too many regulation-making powers in the Bill. This clause is no different. We are talking about a fundamentally important piece of work that impinges on people’s liberties. People will be aggrieved by many of the measures, yet it seems that it will be up to the Secretary of State for Health, or her successors, at some point to decide fairly arbitrarily what restrictions to impose in what is an important area for many people. Those details ought to be in the Bill.
I will be a bit charitable to the Minister and say that, in her zeal for improving public health, she has not been able adequately to work through several important areas relating to smoking, so she wishes to give herself or her successors time to work through the regulations. When one is not quite sure what to do, it could be a delaying tactic to give regulatory powers to the Secretary of State, who will at some future date be able to decide what to do. Let us be charitable and say that there is an element of that here.
We have considered the matter deeply and tried to weigh people’s right to make up their mind for themselves on important aspects of their lives against our desire to improve public health. We have concluded that, on balance, it is reasonable to exempt certain premises and locations and allow people to smoke there. The important guiding star, of course, must be public health, but also a desire to allow people to have competence—to allow them to decide what they want to do. This is a free vote issue on this side of the Committee, so Opposition Members will have to make up their own minds.
I am comfortable with the line that smoking is a bad thing in public health terms. We have discussed research, including Professor Jamrozik’s study. I mention that one because as far as I know, it is probably the most authoritative study published this year. Second-hand smoke is devastatingly bad. Frankly, we should not get on a soapbox about public health unless we address this captain of the men of death. It is ridiculous to go on about eating five bits of fruit a day and so on if we ignore the fact that every year some 10,500 people die from the effects of second-hand smoke in their homes, and 617 people—more than 50 of them from the hospitality sector—die of the effects of it in occupational settings. We cannot ignore Professor Jamrozik’s findings and still have any credibility when we hold forth on public health. We would be shot out of the water, and correctly so.
Perhaps this is where I part company with my erstwhile colleagues in the medical profession, who appear to be uniformly against smoking in all its manifestations. I can well understand that; they deal with the effects of smoking day in and day out, as I no longer do. However, we must consider other wider issues in this place. We must consider people’s liberty, and the fact that they are competent individuals who can make choices for themselves. One of my concerns is that within that framework is a group of people who are not competent in the legal sense. Young children must be looked after in some way, and we must ensure in all of this that we protect their interests first and foremost, particularly as we know that habits are formed early in life, and that children who see people smoking are more likely to take up the habit themselves. That is why we specifically underscored the idea of children in new clause 1(f), and why we have consistently been keen to ensure that they were included in discussions on this clause and others.
The Committee will be relieved to hear that I am coming to the end of my contribution. In passing, I would like to mention an anomaly from my constituency experience that demonstrates how difficult it will be to enact and enforce the legislation. Longleat safari park is in my constituency. At its heart is Longleat house, a wonderful grade I listed building. It is a major tourist attraction in my constituency—I believe that it is second only to Center Parcs, which is directly opposite.
Longleat is many things, including, of course, a private home. The hon. Member for Northavon is smiling wryly; he may have visited Longleat house, because Lord Bath is a supporter of his. Personally, I do not have any particular interest in bringing up this case. If hon. Members have not been to Longleat, it is well worth a visit, but they must ensure that they wind up the windows of their car. They are unlikely to be bitten by a lion, but they are likely to be shouted at by one of the rangers. I was, when I visited recently; I was told in no uncertain terms to wind up my window. However, I digress.
Longleat is not only a wonderful grade I listed building, but a home for Lord Bath and his family, and for the people who look after him, the house and the public. I have been going through the Bill trying to work out how it deals with a tourist attraction or historic building, with the potential need for signage, and with servants in the house who are there after the place closes down, because it is a workplace not just while the attraction is open to the public but thereafter. That is an incredibly complex situation. It is a bit of a teaser, and I did not come here to ask the Minister about that specific case, but I should like her to find out whether the Bill is going to cover things in general, or whether there will be horrible anomalies to cause problems for enforcement agencies and fill the pockets of lawyers.
We have had, as part of the consultation, some discussion with those concerned with stately homes, and there will be provision to cover those venues. When the public are visiting, they will be smoke-free. As we were discussing earlier this week under the chairmanship of Mr. Illsley, there are issues to do with public spaces that are also private residential spaces. From my visits to a number of stately homes, I know that the parts of the property most used by the family are often not open to the public.
We are considering all possible angles on how the legislation will be developed. I hope that I have not given the impression that we are not thinking about what is happening in different countries, with total or partial bans, to help us in our deliberations. We are exchanging information about stately homes, TV plays and films where smoking may be a factor in the play or programme, as well as a number of other scenarios. Fortunately, we have some examples to consider and compare. As with most things, there is not necessarily a right or wrong answer, and different individuals take different approaches. For example, I understand that Ireland, in the first instance, did not define smoking so as to include herbal cigarettes, and there has been a problem with clarifying that. We have tried to make that clear in the earlier clauses.
I will make a little progress first, then I will allow the hon. Gentleman to intervene.
I shall begin with new clause 1, and then we shall have a wider stand part debate. I was pleased to hear that the hon. Member for Westbury does not intend to press the clause. He made that clear, but said that he thought that it was an opportunity to congratulate organisations that had sought to reduce smoking in their workplaces, and in some cases, had gone completely smoke-free. Throughout the proceedings I have acknowledged that too. However, we published a Paper in 1998 called “Smoking Kills”, which looked at self-regulation. Although there has been progress, I am afraid that when we undertook the White Paper “Choosing Health”, what came out of the extensive consultation was the view that voluntary approaches were not enough, and that there was a public appetite for legislating to quicken the pace of change. That is what we are attempting to do with the Bill.
New clause 1, in many respects, reflects Conservative party policy—I think that that is the case, although I acknowledge that there will be a free vote on the issue. I refer the hon. Member for Westbury to what the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley) said about his party’s policy, which was that
“we believe that individuals are primarily responsible for their health. Indeed, the Secretary of State made more or less the same point. We therefore want to proceed when possible through voluntary measures and self-regulatory solutions rather than legislative ones ... As we made clear before the election, we would have included provisions in a public health Bill to enforce a reduction in smoking—”
I emphasise that phrase—
“in circumstances in which a self-regulatory solution had not been effective in three years.”—[Official Report, 29 November 2005; Vol. 440, c. 161.]
My interpretation of that is that if a Conservative Administration had been elected in 2005, it would have waited another three years to ascertain whether voluntary change had an impact, including on some aspects of new clause 1—those to do with children, employees and the public. The comments of the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire send the strong signal that his party had no intention of legislating for a total ban in a huge number of places. One of the words he used was “reduction”. That leaves it open for there to have been options for ventilation and smoking rooms under a Conservative Administration, in the places where we are advocating a total ban.
I think that we have made it clear that we have brought forward the timetable for major implementation in these areas to summer 2007, although I hasten to add that we wish the NHS and Government Departments to do that much earlier.
Something else is unclear in the statement of the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire. He talks about waiting three years and then introducing legislation, but he does not make it clear when the legislation would come into force following that. It would be interesting to get further information on that. Was he suggesting that the Conservative party would introduce a total ban within three years of 2005 if self-regulation did not work? The hon. Gentleman did not make that clear, and I am certain that it is not clear to Conservative Members on the Back Benches or to party members outside this place.
I will make a little progress, if I may.
I acknowledge and appreciate the work that employers have done. However, even in 2004 only just over half the population reported their workplace as being completely smoke-free. Knowing what we now know about the dangers of second-hand smoke, and given rapidly changing public attitudes, we have decided that we can no longer depend in some areas on ineffective voluntary action to protect public health. Therefore, we feel it is now right to move in the direction of having smoke-free provisions. These measures are a huge step forward for public health.
Clause 3 exemptions enable regulations to be made that specify the premises in which smoking will be permitted, but we have no intention of making exemptions for premises that have implemented a voluntary prohibition of smoking. In that regard, I agree with the hon. Member for Northavon about complexity in respect of total ban areas where there are voluntary bans and making exemptions for workplaces and public places. We have heard a great deal about how our food/non-food differentiation would create issues to do with regulation and enforcement—for example, in relation to ventilation, which we have discussed—and there is now the Conservatives’ new clause 1; they suggest that we should have enforcement agencies to makes checks on whether those who say that they have a voluntary ban have that ban in place, and also to check on the three categories specified in the new clause. That would be a bit of a waste of time—for want of a better phrase—when we are saying that the vast majority of workplaces and public spaces will be smoke-free. In that case, why would we want to go down the road suggested by Opposition Members?
I do not believe that there is any appetite for new clause 1 in enforcement agencies and local government or among organisations such as ASH, Cancer Research UK, the Royal College of Physicians and the British Medical Association, which the hon. Member for Westbury has cited many times. Those organisations and others, while recognising that the Bill takes us forward, would like a total ban. I believe that they would see the new clause as a dilution of the total-ban elements of the Bill.
No, I am not convinced of that. Amendment No. 1 deals with the food/non-food question. I understand what those organisations have said, but even if the amendment proceeded, that would not disallow us from differentiating in regulations between food and non-food premises. The amendment would not have the effect that the hon. Gentleman intends.
New clause 1 would be a retrograde step. The proposed criteria could be quite difficult to understand, and time has moved on. The new clause would not deliver the real change of smoke-free public places, which is our aim, so I urge the Committee to reject it.
We have had a long discussion on clause 3 stand part and I shall not repeat what I said about the reasons why we came to our position, but the fact is that we took into account both health and choice. I will say more about the enforcement side, because hon. Members have referred to that and it is something of which we are also mindful. I shall be frank, because there is no point in being otherwise: in many respects, a total ban offers a simpler option in terms of cost and enforcement. It would be daft of me to suggest otherwise, because the regulatory impact assessment clearly shows that the costs of such a ban are less. Our proposals create a situation that involves more regulation, but that is one reason why the Department of Health has been in consultation with the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and bodies such as the Local Government Association and the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health about assurances on covering the additional costs caused by enforcement.
This is one of those areas in which public support to lessen the burden in respect of enforcement is very important. Let us consider other matters on which Government and local government seek public support, such as litter, dog fouling and even mobile phone use, for which there are laws and byelaws. To a greater extent, those provisions are implemented in the sense that the public do not want to see litter or dog fouling and they understand the importance of the provisions on mobile phone use. What we cannot provide is an army of people constantly out watching and picking up litter and so on, although the measures that the Government have taken to tackle antisocial behaviour and to help community support officers to challenge some of those antisocial practices—measures opposed by the Liberal Democrats—have been a step forward. In that area, voluntary bans have been successful because they have been in line with public opinion and have been self-enforcing. Restrictions or bans introduced in other countries have worked; there have been few prosecutions because the public have signed up to the measures.
In our discussions with other Departments and organisations, and in the partial RIA, we acknowledge that there may be costs, but we need to quantify and support them. Appropriate regulation will lead to enforcement costs. To that end, I do not support the imposition of ventilation standards by regulation and some of the other measures suggested in new clause 1, as they would increase the burden on those who enforce the law.
We will have the opportunity to tackle some of the issues dealt with in the clause in relation to food/non-food, and we will obviously have further discussion on premises and the area around the bar. However, we should not forget that clause 3(2)(a) deals also with prisons, adult hospices, mental health institutions and other places where a degree of smoking will be permitted. We shall have to discuss how to manage that, because people’s concerns will differ from one category to another.
We have had a good debate. I hope that everyone whose name appears on the amendment paper has had the chance to air their views. I ask the Committee to support clause 3.