Clause 4 - Additional smoke-free places

Health Bill – in a Public Bill Committee on 13th December 2005.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Andrew Murrison Andrew Murrison Shadow Minister (Health) 10:35 am, 13th December 2005

I will not detain the Committee, other than to recap and make some final remarks on the clause.

I must say that I have been a bit disappointed by the Minister’s response so far, because this is an important clause that gives the Secretary of State extensive powers. We have explained throughout that we are a little worried about the powers given by regulation to the current Secretary of State and her successors.

The insertion of “significant amounts of” before the word “smoke” in subsection (3) would have been helpful because it would have made it clear that we were not talking about trivial exposure. I think we have probably done to death, so to speak, the concept of exposure to trivial amounts of smoke, and I have made my position clear. If we are talking about public health—as I certainly am—we need to discard what one might call nuisance or trivial exposure to tobacco smoke. The purpose of my amendment was to underscore public health and discard nuisance and amenity, which although important have no place in a Bill such as this—as I suspect most people in the country, being of a libertarian frame of mind, would agree. I am sorry that the Minister has not seen fit to entertain my reasonable suggestion.

The clause gives the Secretary of State considerable powers. I trust that the right hon. Lady and her successors will use those powers wisely, but we will certainly be keeping a close eye on the use of the authority given to them under the clause.

Photo of Ann Winterton Ann Winterton Conservative, Congleton

Before I call the Minister, let me make it clear that I should be grateful if hon. Members who want to catch my eye would spring to their feet, because I will then be able to see clearly who wants to speak. It is good for the circulation and it makes life easier for me.

Photo of Caroline Flint Caroline Flint Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Health)

Thank you, Lady Winterton. I am looking forward to a constructive and productive week ahead.

Clause 4 will allow regulations to be made to designate additional smoke-free places and the circumstances in which they are to be smoke-free. That is important, because although the thrust of the Bill is   substantially to make workplaces and public places smoke-free, it emerged from the consultation and from other representations that there might be places that did not fit neatly into the definitions of “enclosed” or “substantially enclosed”, in respect of which flexibility to regulate should be available.

We have already discussed the sort of places that could be covered by regulation, setting out, for example, when a football ground or open-air concert venue is to be smoke-free. Such criteria may be based on the density of the audience or on the type of entertainment. Entrances to buildings have also been brought to our attention. People have voiced concerns about walking through a cloud of smoke on their way into a building.

I do, however, take on board the point made by the hon. Member for Westbury (Dr. Murrison), and it is not the Government’s intention to pursue trivial matters. That is why we have made it clear in the clause that the regulations may provide for places to be smoke-free only in the circumstances outlined in paragraphs (a) to (d). The regulations will be subject to affirmative resolution, and there will also be consultation on the draft regulations.

I hope that I have clarified the thinking behind the clause and that the Committee will support it.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 4 ordered to stand part of the Bill.