[Mr. Eric Illsley in the Chair]

Health Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:00 am on 13th December 2005.

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Photo of Caroline Flint Caroline Flint Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Health) 11:00 am, 13th December 2005

No, we are trying to define work space. Someone who works in a smoke-free building can avail themselves of opportunities to go outside the building to have a cigarette. By the same token, someone who is driving a car or a truck can avail himself of a break in which he can smoke.

I am not an expert in this area, but I suggest that lorry drivers are encouraged to take breaks from driving to maintain their safety standards and avoid getting tired. As lorry drivers and others are encouraged to take breaks, they have an opportunity to have a cigarette at the same time, if they wish. Therefore, we are not applying a different rule to this group of workers from the one that we are applying to workers in other enclosed spaces. If we were to follow the arguments made by the hon. Members for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mrs. Dorries) and for Westbury, we would establish an unnecessary distinction between working spaces.

I disagree with the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire here. We are talking about a work space. While there are some limited exemptions in the Bill, I am not prepared to support an exemption in this respect. However, I must make it clear that we are not talking about private car space. The hon. Member for Westbury gave an example earlier about car sharing and pooling. If someone with a private car offers friends a lift into work, no payment is exchanged, so it is not a business transaction. Therefore it is for those people to decide whether to accept a lift.

The hon. Member for Northavon gave an example of private hire car use. If a driver was employed to drive the minibus for the hon. Gentleman’s parents’ organisation, I should expect the vehicle to be non-smoking. The exception would be where people hire a rental car for their own purposes. I think that I am right in saying that private vehicles rented without a driver have not been included in Ireland’s smoking ban. That approach is also being taken in Scotland. We view a private car that is hired without a driver as being closer to a private car than a vehicle in which someone is working. That example would resemble some exemptions that we have looked at for hotel rooms or rental cottages in which smoking may be allowed.

Photo of Andrew Murrison Andrew Murrison Shadow Minister (Health)

The Minister touched on the point that I wanted to raise, but, if I may correct her, I have not yet mentioned car sharing and car pooling. She has, however, anticipated what I may mention later, if I catch your eye, Mr. Illsley.

I shall be grateful if the Minister can clarify what she means by hire cars. Her initial comments suggest that, if they are being used for business use, cars should be subject to a ban, but if they are for personal use they should not be. However, cars can be hired for business purposes. I suspect that if one were to go to Avis or another car rental company, they would say that the majority of cars are hired for business purposes. Would the Minister’s ban cover such usage or would car hire across the board be subject to an exemption?

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

I will reflect, outside the Committee, on what the hon. Gentleman has said about hiring cars for business use. My understanding is that, should an individual hire a private vehicle without a driver, that would constitute private use. Individuals may hire a vehicle to get to work or because their car has broken down. A travelling salesperson may need to get to the other side of the country. A company may need to get one of its personnel from one end of the country to the other. He or she wants to drive, but the company car has packed up, so a private vehicle is hired.

In the broadest sense, one could say that that car is being used for work. However, we would view that as private use for a set period. No driver or chauffeur is employed to transport that person from one place to another. Therefore, I still think it is down to the individuals who hire a private vehicle to decide whether they want to smoke in the car, provided they have not employed a driver. That is in line, as far as I understand, with provisions in Ireland and with the approach taken in Scotland.

Photo of Andrew Murrison Andrew Murrison Shadow Minister (Health)

I know that we are getting into the minutiae, but this is important. The example of hire cars serves to expand on a more general case. For example, a company hires a car for its employees’ use over a prolonged period. It is intended that it will largely be used by one individual. However, because the individual does not own the car, other employees use it from time to time. What would happen in that situation? One could argue from what the Minister has said that that is not a private car; it is not owned by anyone, and it is being hired by a company for the use of an individual, who, for the purposes of this argument, is a smoker. However, that car could be used at some point by someone else. How would the legislation work in such a case?

Photo of Caroline Flint Caroline Flint Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Health) 11:15 am, 13th December 2005

If a company hired cars as part of its ongoing business, that would fall on the side of business use, rather than private use. Therefore, those cars should be smoke-free. In the situation that the hon. Gentleman outlined, a company hires a fleet of vehicles as an integral part of running its business, rather than as a one-off. In those circumstances, that use would fall within the business definition that we will be attempting to determine through regulation. It is important to raise these scenarios in Committee, and we must work through the issues in order to make the draft regulations clear.

We are clear that we must make provision for public transport and business use. I am unsure at the moment whether the hon. Member for Westbury supports smoke-free policies that apply to business use.

Photo of Steve Webb Steve Webb Shadow Secretary of State for Health

A general issue has been raised during this discussion. I am not sure what the Government’s factual position is. The hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire asked whether it was the Government’s position that being in a place where smoking had taken place was a health hazard. We heard the example of someone using a car after a smoker had used it. Do the Government have a clear position on that matter, and does that underlie their approach? Does it depend how long a person is in a place where someone has been smoking? Has scientific advice been given to the Government on that matter?

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

I thank the hon. Member for Northavon for raising that point. Early in our deliberations, we discussed ventilation. There was common acceptance by all hon. Members that, although one might get rid of the visible evidence of smoke, carcinogens can remain in the air. Therefore, the evidence suggests a continuing effect. The time that one spends in that atmosphere will also have an effect, so it is hard to set a completely prescriptive standard.

Part and parcel of this debate is the Government’s determination to work with what we know about effects on health, but also to address a cultural shift to a smoke-free environment, rather than a smoking environment with smoke-free exceptions. Not only the health evidence, about which we have learned more over a number of decades, but public requests for further regulation have been important to our   decisions. Given what we have said about other working environments that will be covered by a total ban, it would be illogical if we were to create a different environment for vehicles that are part of a working and business environment.

Photo of Andrew Murrison Andrew Murrison Shadow Minister (Health)

The Minister is being ever so good, but, as she has acknowledged, this is an important debate, which is showing up a slight flaw in this part of the Bill. I had assumed that the measure was being driven by the need to promote public health, especially in relation to second-hand smoke. If I understood the Minister correctly, her thesis is that it would be too difficult under regulation to deal with the concerns that other hon. Members and I have raised in respect of the use of vehicles. The Minister unfortunately picked up on my reference to winding down the window, but it is easy to change the environment in a vehicle; it can be done very quickly. In London, however, that environment would be dreadful because of the muck in the streets, which one notices when driving into the capital.

As it is easy to change the environment in a vehicle quickly, it is an ideal place for allowing people who smoke and then people who do not smoke to work. Presumably, the Minister acknowledges that, yet she insists for totemic reasons that the complex matter of the change of usage of vehicles cannot be accommodated in regulations—it is easier just to say, “No smoking in here.” Will the Minister give the matter further thought, because it seems wrong to insist on a blanket ban when it is not informed by the need to protect public health from second-hand smoke directly? More particularly, my point is about the totemic, “You must not smoke” provision, which the Minister believes will influence people’s behaviour.

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

I do not know when the hon. Gentleman was last given a lift by someone who had been smoking but stopped when he got in the car because he was a non-smoker. I assure him that just winding down the window does not make the car smoke-free. In the vehicles that we are discussing, the issue would be whether to wind down the window, open the doors, use a vacuum cleaner—[Interruption.] I give way to the hon. Gentleman, who is murmuring from a sedentary position.

Photo of Andrew Murrison Andrew Murrison Shadow Minister (Health)

I am grateful to be invited to intervene by the Minister. She is touching on an important point; when she gets into a vehicle that has been used by a smoker—assuming that the smoker has not been puffing away for a little while—she will notice a very unpleasant smell. If the car has been used by a smoker for any length of time, she will also notice that the car is yellow and rather manky. That is what the Minister is picking up on, but if she is saying that that implies that there is a danger to a person who accepts a lift from a smoker, she must cite the evidence on which she is relying and confound me. I think that she is saying that she objects to the smell, but the smell does not necessarily imply that there is smoke that is likely to be injurious to the person’s health.

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

I think the evidence is that smoke persists. Let us think of some real-life scenarios. Someone may have smoked in their truck for five hours on the way to a depot. There may be a fast turn-around and the truck may be taken out of the depot by another driver, who may be a non-smoker. I am not convinced that it is as easy as the hon. Gentleman suggests. After that turn-around, the person who is expected to drive that vehicle—[Interruption.] If the hon. Gentleman wants to say something, I will give way to him, but if he just wants to interrupt, I will not.

Photo of Andrew Murrison Andrew Murrison Shadow Minister (Health)

I am sorry; I must stop chuntering. The Minister was right to pick me up on it. The hon. Lady is hypothesising, but she does not appear to have any evidence. I would expect her to say that trials had been done in lorry cabs after someone had been smoking for five hours, that she could cite the evidence that had been accrued and that that was why the Government were insisting on the measure.

So far, the Minister has told me what she thinks, but she has given me no evidence, which is what we need.

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

Well, as I said, we recognise that smoke persists and the evidence that we use is provided by those who warn us of the dangers of second-hand smoke. Even when the visible evidence of smoke disappears, the carcinogens can be left in the air. That is one of the reasons why we do not intend to allow smoking in pubs at one point in the day and not allow it at another point.

Let me give another example. A security guard may work alone for a shift in a small cabin. Even though he opens the window, are we saying that he should be allowed to smoke because he is alone in that room for an eight-hour shift? The worker who does the next eight-hour shift has to work in that environment. I do not think that it is appropriate to allow that. The same logic should be applied to cabs.

As I said earlier, the Road Haulage Association has advised that

“most of our members do have smoking policies that prohibit smoking in shared vehicles”.

I presume that that is because the RHA recognises the health issues and also the issues of comfort, which are an important part of this topic, too. I am pleased to say that a number of firms have voluntarily taken action in this area. We intend to apply the same rationale to vehicles as we apply to enclosed environments—to buildings.

Photo of Nadine Dorries Nadine Dorries Conservative, Mid Bedfordshire

Will the Minister clarify where the evidence comes from? She said the evidence came from those who provided information, but can she be more precise about the evidence that residual smoke actually does harm? I am an ex-smoker, and I believe that it is easy rapidly to change the atmosphere in a car, particularly in modern vehicles. It is not just a matter of opening the windows; the air-conditioning or the ventilation systems can be used, so that a clean environment can be made inside a car.

If the Minister is going to be so prescriptive as to ban smoking in vehicles, we need the evidence to justify doing that, and it needs to be hard evidence. We have only just reached the point at which the case has been   made that passive smoking harms. How do we get to the point at which there is residual harm from passive smoking? There must be evidence to back that up.

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

Well, funnily enough, evidence for that was cited by the hon. Member for Westbury earlier in the debate; there are dangers from second-hand smoke, whether or not someone is in the room at the time the smoke is being produced. We know that 95 per cent. of deaths from second-hand smoking occur in the home. That happens even where parents smoke in one room and not another, because smoke drifts and the carcinogens in smoke can be retained within a room’s atmosphere.

I am happy to write to hon. Members about where we get the information on this from. The chief medical officer has been mentioned; he is in favour of a total ban. People have been asking us why we have not accepted that. In fact, we have accepted a great deal of evidence from the CMO, but there are other people who must also be listened to.

A number of studies have been carried out on deaths caused by second-hand smoking in the workplace. I find it interesting that the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire raises this topic. Earlier in our discussions, she seemed to be inclined towards a total ban, but she now seems to be saying that she does not believe that people working in shared vehicles should have the same opportunity to be in a smoke-free environment as employees working in a shared building or hut.

Photo of Nadine Dorries Nadine Dorries Conservative, Mid Bedfordshire

I want to correct that. I am in favour of either a total ban or no ban. What I am not in favour of is the dog’s dinner that we have in part 1 of the Bill. It is a mish-mash.

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

Well, I am glad that that has been clarified. I suppose that that is why we are the party for progress and the Conservative party is not.

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

It is easy to sit on the fence and, while acknowledging the dangers of smoking, to be prepared to vote against a Bill that proposes a ban which, even if it is not a total ban, will extensively open up the opportunity for people to live and work in a smoke-free atmosphere. I find that logic totally cock-eyed. I think it stands in the way of progress; it is not a progressive measure.

Photo of Crispin Blunt Crispin Blunt Opposition Whip (Commons)

The view is shared by at least 58 of the Minister’s colleagues who appear to have signed an early-day motion to that effect.

Photo of Caroline Flint Caroline Flint Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Health) 11:30 am, 13th December 2005

I have more respect for those colleagues than for the hon. Lady’s position. As I have said, I totally understand; the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire has the same view about a total ban. Although the provisions may not be all that   they want, people who aspire to a total ban such as Cancer Research UK, ASH, the Royal College of Physicians and the local authorities, do not argue against introducing them. There is a world of difference between them and the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire and perhaps Opposition Front-Bench Members, who say that they want a total ban or nothing at all. That does not stack up.

The hon. Lady says that she is a nurse, and I respect that, but can she cite a medical organisation that says that if we cannot have a total ban they want nothing at all? I do not think that she will find one, because they recognise that the Bill is a huge step forward.

Photo of Ann Winterton Ann Winterton Conservative, Congleton

Order. I think that we should get away from Second Reading and come back to the amendment.

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

Thank you, Mr. Illsley. I am sure that we will have plenty of opportunities later to discuss—

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

Well, I do not think that I need the hon. Gentleman’s help.

Amendment No. 51 would include buses and coaches in the smoke-free provisions. The list of vehicles is not intended to be exhaustive but to provide examples. I understand that those examples were put down because they are not the usual ones in the mix. I also asked why buses and coaches were not included in the list. I want to make it clear that any vehicle open to the public will be smoke-free. It is sometimes difficult in the here and now to think about what vehicle could exist down the line that would not fit into the usual categories. It is partly a safety mechanism so that we are not caught out later on. The vast majority of public transport is already smoke-free.

We will not accept the amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Northavon partly because we do not want to fall into the trap of adding more examples to the Bill, because they are meant only to be examples. I will think a little more about the issue of buses and coaches. Although I do not want to fall into the trap of adding things only to have someone say, “What about this one?”, I will reflect a little on what the hon. Gentleman has said.

A question was asked about vessels. My understanding, and I am not an expert on boats and so on, is that the provision is meant to cover those vessels that may be used on lakes and rivers. Of course, that covers quite a range—off the top of my head, it includes barges, dinghies and boats; it is clear that I am not particularly a sailing person.

Photo of Andrew Murrison Andrew Murrison Shadow Minister (Health)

The Minister has cited some riparian examples. Is it her intention then that “vessel” should refer merely to craft on rivers or lakes, or does she mean the open seas as well?

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

Of course, there are situations on the open seas to which the provision would apply. That is why we will get into some of the issues of UK jurisdiction. I understand that the provision is meant primarily to deal with inland situations, but it could apply elsewhere. I am happy to find more information for the hon. Gentleman if he wishes.

Photo of Andrew Murrison Andrew Murrison Shadow Minister (Health)

It is an important point; it is not merely semantics. A lot of vessels sail on both open seas and inland waters, so it is difficult to make a distinction between inland vessels and those on the high seas, so to speak. If we are to cite “vessel”, although we are not sure whether we need to do so, given the Minister’s previous remarks, she needs to be clear about what she means.

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

As I said, I gave examples of types, not an exhaustive list. In regulations we would want to make it clearer what types of vehicles we were talking about, and how they would apply. The hon. Gentleman is right. It is important to be clear about what would be permissible for vessels on inland waterways, rather than the sea. We have been working through some ideas about what policies should apply when people are in UK waters, rather than when they leave them. We have been considering those matters by looking at what has happened in Ireland, and thinking about our responsibilities in the devolved Administrations.

I understand that the Merchant Shipping Act 1995 extends to internal waters, territorial sea and international waters. We shall deal with a group of amendments of my own shortly.

Amendment No. 78 would ensure that every type of vehicle used for the carriage of children, the public and persons in the course of their work would be smoke-free. Although all business and public transport will be smoke-free, the regulations may exempt classes of vehicles, such as private and rental cars and vans—vehicles for private use. We cannot ensure that children travelling in private cars will not be exposed to smoke, despite our efforts to inform the public about the dangers of second-hand smoke. This is about choosing health.

One of our surveys earlier this year showed that one third of parents still smoked in front of children in their own car. However, as with homes, although we would encourage parents not to smoke in private cars with children present, we should not prescribe that in legislation, so we do not support the amendment. However, it is fair to say, as the hon. Member for Northavon said, that as public transport and business vehicles will be smoke-free, children and adults will benefit from that policy, as they will from our ban on smoking in most workplaces and public places. To refer back to an earlier discussion, that will have an enormous impact on the environment in which children play, visit and travel in their everyday lives.

Vehicles used as a place of work such as taxis, delivery vans, post vans, buses and trains will be smoke-free, unless they are for the sole use of the   owner-driver. It is necessary to ensure that we have the same logical approach to vehicles as workplaces and public places as we have to buildings.

Photo of Andrew Murrison Andrew Murrison Shadow Minister (Health)

I was not expecting to spend so much time on this group of amendments. We have had a more provocative debate than I expected, which is a good thing. The Minister said that she would think about one or two things that we have discussed. It is evident from her remarks that some shades of grey have been highlighted by this set of amendments, so I am pleased that she has undertaken to give the matter further thought.

There is great scope for confusion and a degree of unfairness. This group of amendments has highlighted the difference between public health measures, measures designed to educate the public and those that are designed to remove a nuisance or improve amenity. Those three things have come together in this group, particularly the unique capacity for changing the environment in vehicles. I do not accept what the Minister says, and I am sure that she feels she is skating on thin ice too.

I have a suggestion. The Minister would not let me intervene at one stage, which is understandable as she has been more than generous during the debate on this group of amendments. I was going to suggest that she might ask the Transport Research Laboratory, if she has not already done so, whether it has any facts and figures on the environment within vehicles. If they do not, perhaps she might commission some simple straightforward studies to establish the persistence of second-hand smoke in vehicles—and how it can be expunged from them through the simple expedient of briefly switching on the ventilation. Then the Minister could come back and say that she had some evidence-based regulations based on the persistence of smoke that may be harmful to people entering vehicles after a smoker. That would be very useful, and we should all stand here, shout hurrah and support those regulations—because they were based on evidence.

It is absolutely not our intention to expose employees to other people’s second-hand smoke. However, we would like some evidence on which to base the regulations. The Bill gives Ministers powers to make bucketloads of regulations; we are naturally cautious about giving powers to the Secretary of State, and would want any regulations that emerge to be based on good reason and good evidence. Everything we do these days in medicine seems to be evidence-based, and rightly so, but the Minister appears to have no evidence for suggesting that regulation should pan out as she describes.

I commend the Transport Research Laboratory to the Minister. I am no expert on transport issues, but from my dealings with it, it would seem well equipped to offer the Minister the advice that she needs. I am a little surprised if Ministers have not consulted the TRL already—although I may be wrong; perhaps the Minister has done that. If she can say so, my mind will be more at ease.

We have dealt with vessels in this set of amendments, but not yet touched upon pleasure craft. I am accustomed to taking my holidays, from time to time, in a fine pleasure craft on the Norfolk broads. I wonder how the promised regulations might pan out for pleasure craft—which, if taken beyond Great Yarmouth, can become craft on the open sea; hence my earlier interest.

I, for one, do not particularly want to take a pleasure craft over from someone who has been smoking all the previous week, but I fully accept that once I have been up and down a broad once or twice, all the smoke that may have been in the craft is likely to have been expunged. I would not appreciate the yellow ceilings and the persistent smell of second-hand tobacco, but I doubt whether that nuisance would be a public health issue affecting my family or me. It might reduce my enjoyment of that pleasure craft and that holiday, but that is a separate issue—as we have said several times in the Committee.

The amendments touch upon hire cars. Again, there is some confusion about hire for business or pleasure use, and hiring by large employers whose employees may use cars solo, or on occasion share them. The Minister attributed to me remarks about car sharing and pooling, but I have not actually made those remarks yet; we can come to them at a later stage. The Minister has made some useful remarks, and has proved uncharacteristically willing to go away and think about some elements of this matter. In the light of that assurance, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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

I beg to move amendment No. 72, in clause 5, page 3, line 36, at end insert—

‘()The power to make regulations under this section is not exercisable in relation to—

(a)any ship or hovercraft in relation to which regulations could be made under section 85 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995 (c. 21) (safety and health on ships), including that section as applied by any Order in Council under section 1(1)(h) of the Hovercraft Act 1968 (c. 59), or

(b)persons on any such ship or hovercraft.

()In section 85 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995 (c. 21), at the end add—

(a)for the appointment by the Secretary of State of persons to enforce the smoking provisions (whether in respect of ships generally or for any particular case or purpose), and for the removal of any person so appointed,

(b)for such persons (if they are not surveyors of ships appointed under section 256) to have the powers of such surveyors for the purposes of their enforcement functions,

(c)for any such persons to have, for the purposes of their enforcement functions, powers corresponding to those which authorised officers have under paragraphs 2(b) to (e), 3 and 4, as read with paragraphs 5 and 9, of Schedule 2 to the Health Act 2006 (which confers powers of entry, etc., on authorised officers of enforcement authorities in relation to the enforcement of the provisions of that Act in relation to smoking),

(d)in relation to an offence of smoking in a place where smoking is prohibited under the smoking provisions, for purposes corresponding to those of section 8 of and Schedule 1 to the Health Act 2006 (which provide for the giving by authorised officers of penalty notices in respect of such an offence).

In this subsection, “smoking” has the same meaning as in Part 1 of the Health Act 2006.” ’.

Photo of Ann Winterton Ann Winterton Conservative, Congleton

With this it will be convenient to debate Government amendment No. 73.

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

This is the first Committee on which I have served with the hon. Member for Westbury, but I think that I can safely say that in all the Committees that I have served on—and because I have been at the Home Office, I have probably served on somewhat more than he has—I always try to be open to discussion and contribution. It is always worth knowing where people are coming from with their amendments, but I am also always keen to show where the dividing lines are in policy between the Government and the Opposition.

Amendment No. 72 restricts the power to make regulations on smoke-free conditions for vessels and hovercraft under clause 5. It provides the power to extend regulations under the Merchant Shipping Act 1995, so that the Secretary of State for Transport may make smoke-free provision for vessels. That will be equivalent to the provisions that will be introduced by part 1 of and schedules 1 and 2 to the Bill. Amendment No. 73 excludes from the definition of “premises” navigable offshore installations.

These are technical amendments. We have decided that the smoke-free provisions of the Bill should be amended so that they do not duplicate provision that the Secretary of State for Transport may make by regulations under section 85 of the 1995 Act. The Secretary of State may make such provision for ships, hovercraft and, while they are being navigated to their sites, offshore installations. I understand that the Secretary of State is willing to make smoke-free provision for vessels throughout UK waters by such regulations. To enable that to happen, the 1995 Act requires amendment so that, in particular, fixed penalty procedures may apply to smokers who contravene smoking restrictions. It is therefore desired to amend part 1 of the Bill so that it does not apply duplicate provision for England and Wales that may be made under section 85 of the 1995 Act. That Act can be amended so that regulations under it can make smoke-free provision equivalent to that in part 1 of and schedules 1 and 2 to the Bill. As I said, the amendment is technical; it does not change our intention.

With regard to consultation on issues relating to vehicles, I should say that the Department for Transport is just one of the Departments that we have consulted on the measures and asked for their views on how the legislation should apply.

Photo of Andrew Murrison Andrew Murrison Shadow Minister (Health) 11:45 am, 13th December 2005

The Minister’s comments are reassuring. She rattled through her brief on the amendments and gave us assurances that they do not   introduce anything particularly exciting or novel, and of course I trust her implicitly, so that must be the case. That said, will she confirm that the Secretary of State for Transport will make regulations that mirror the regulations that she intends to introduce? Perhaps she could also give us assurances about the timing of them. It seems sensible to ensure that regulations relating to the things for which the Secretary of State for Transport is responsible tally pretty well with the measures for which the Secretary of State for Health is responsible.

We covered the difficult question of submarines at an earlier stage. I was not here at the time, which was a great pity, because I would have enjoyed that bit. It would be interesting to know what other measures the Minister thinks might be duplicated by regulations that she is minded to introduce in future. I am thinking particularly of the areas that are the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Defence. It would be helpful to have assurances that, as with the Secretary of State for Transport, those areas will be covered in a timely way by the Secretary of State for Defence.

I always get confused about the difference between the status of offshore installations when they are being towed to their intended destinations and when they are in situ. It would be useful to hear the Minister’s understanding of how these regulations and others will affect life on board an offshore installation. Particularly given the sad events of the past few days, we are all reminded of the combustibility of such installations. Many of us are quite surprised that smoking should be allowed on them in any case, but equally we must accept that they are home for people, sometimes for many weeks. I suspect that they are a special case in terms of permitting smoking, as Her Majesty’s ships and submarines are, but it would be useful if the Minister commented on how she thinks the smoking ban will affect offshore installations that are in situ.

Photo of Crispin Blunt Crispin Blunt Opposition Whip (Commons)

I want to follow up my hon. Friend’s remarks, particularly as regards the personal responsibilities of respective Secretaries of State. The divisions in the Cabinet before the Bill was presented to the House were extremely well publicised, to the slight discomfort of the Government, and recognised by the Secretary of State for Health on Second Reading. Could the Minister tell us precisely where the Secretary of State for Transport’s assurance has come from? Does it come as a personal minute from him? I assume that different Cabinet Ministers are likely to bring different perspectives to this matter.

It is fairly clear that if the current Secretary of State for Defence, who lists both Secretary of State for Transport and Secretary of State for Health among his bewildering range of former posts, were in charge of implementing the regulations he would be rather disinclined to do so. We all know on what side of the argument he sat on the debate in Cabinet. Could the Minister explain precisely how personal her assurance was from the Secretary of State for Transport? Was it directly from him, or was it from representatives in his Department?

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

I will deal with the last point first. The Bill on Second Reading represented the collective decision of the Cabinet—the collective will of the Cabinet, including the Secretary of State for Transport. Therefore, this is the Bill that we are all supporting, even though some people may have had different views before reaching this point. There has been consultation between officials in each Department on the Government amendments and about how the measures affect different Departments, what legislation is already on the statute books, and so on. I hope that I can reassure the hon. Member for Reigate (Mr. Blunt) and other members of the Committee that I would not have tabled them unless I felt that they had the Secretary of State’s support and that the Secretary of State supported the measures in the Bill on smoke-free areas.

The hon. Member for Westbury mentioned timing. It is our assumption that the Secretary of State for Transport will mirror regulations and timing will be consistent with the Department of Health regulations. We hope that at the same time as regulations on substantially enclosed public places are brought forth, similar regulations will be brought forth on vehicles of one form or another. We will be working to ensure that these all come together.

On oil rigs, as we said in earlier discussions, just like Ireland and Scotland in their deliberations, we have had to weigh up the issues that arise where a place is both a person’s residence from which he cannot easily escape and his workplace. Clearly there are overriding health and safety issues involved in stepping outside the enclosed space on to an oil rig or the deck of a ship. That is why we are working to create smoke-free environments indoors on these installations, recognising that for obvious reasons people cannot simply step outdoors.

We are in discussion with the Ministry of Defence about some of the detailed policy issues that are peculiar to the forces. We are looking at how the policy and exemptions would work in a military context. Indeed, the Ministry of Defence recognises the need to replicate in a service context the aim of the policy as it applies to a civilian situation. The discussions are ongoing. The MOD is also considering its own policies on the health of its work force, and I must say that it has been very engaged in some of our discussions and very helpful. In fact, many services have already considered some of the issues that we are addressing under this legislation, which is to be welcomed.

Photo of Andrew Murrison Andrew Murrison Shadow Minister (Health)

Will the Minister say exactly at what stage her discussions with the Secretary of State for Defence are and whether they are leading to smoke-free ships and submarines? A very good argument could be made for such a situation. My experience is that trying to persuade sailors in particular to give up smoking is exceptionally difficult, and I would be fascinated to know what stage her discussions with the Secretary of State for Defence have reached.

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

We acknowledge that sailors could be at sea for some time and that the opportunity to go to an entirely smoke-free area on a ship or a submarine   could be limited, so we are using our discussions with colleagues in the MOD and listening to the views of those in the Navy to see how we might make this work. We will not necessarily pursue the option of submarines or ships that are entirely smoke-free, but we are considering ways of allowing people to smoke within the confines of those vessels while allowing those who do not smoke to enjoy their leisure time on board without being in a smoky atmosphere. I cannot add any more at this stage. As I said, we are working through the issue in discussions, which have been constructive and realistic so far.

Photo of Crispin Blunt Crispin Blunt Opposition Whip (Commons)

This is obviously a subject in which my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Westbury and I have some expertise. As a former surgeon commander with a keen interest in public health, he may have a rather different perspective from others in the chain of command. Will the Minister tell us when she expects to be able to publish the results of her discussions with the MOD, presumably in the form of regulations and preferably in draft so that we may have the chance to examine them informally before they are presented to the House?

I suggest that it should be left to the chain of command in the military to decide the matter, as there are often particular operational circumstances to take into account. My hon. Friend is an expert on matters at sea, but as we know from Northern Ireland as it has been and Iraq as it is, serving on operations and training for operations present very particular problems when trying to protect the rights of smokers and non-smokers, particularly if people live on operations for a long time and those operations become their home.

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

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that contribution. As he may know, I have taken part in the armed forces parliamentary scheme, and I had a limited but very enlightening time in Iraq and in Canada with the Army. I believe that a relative of the hon. Gentleman was the commander, although I am not sure whether he is still there.

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

I have some experience of what it is like to be far away from home and living in pretty rough circumstances on active operations or, for that matter, on training. That is what the Canadian experience is all about. I cannot tell the Committee exactly where we are up to, but I will update myself and report back on the latest situation if that will be helpful.

On the point raised by the hon. Member for Westbury, I understand that if an installation is in situ, responsibility for it falls under this Bill and its regulations, and if it is being towed, it is covered by the Merchant Shipping Act 1995. I think that I have offered hon. Members explanations and assurances on   the issues that they have raised during the debate. Therefore, I hope that the Committee will support the Government amendments.

Amendment agreed to.

Photo of Steve Webb Steve Webb Shadow Secretary of State for Health

I beg to move amendment No. 53, in page 3, line 38, at end add—

‘(4)Regulations shall provide for prescribed vehicles to be smoke-free wherever a journey does not end under the jurisdiction of the same national authority as the national authority in which it began.’.

In the context of bans on smoking in vehicles, this is a probing amendment about what might loosely be called cross-border journeys. There are two sorts of journey about which I should be interested in the Minister’s clarification. I discussed the amendment with my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Stephen Williams), who is unable to be with us at the moment because he is speaking in a debate about children’s hospices in Westminster Hall. He, as a Welshman serving Bristol, and I, as the Member who has the two Severn bridges in his constituency, have some interest in the English-Welsh dimension.

On the assumption that the Welsh ban, such as it is, is likely to be more comprehensive than the English one—I do not know whether that is true of vehicles, because I do not know what the regulations will be—there is the possibility of a disjunction. I know relatively little about the English-Scottish border, but it seems very likely that the Scottish ban will be more comprehensive than the English one. That prompts me to ask what will happen when vehicles cross the boundaries between areas that have different rules on bans.

Our amendment suggests that somebody has to arbitrate. If a journey starts in, say, Chepstow and finishes in my constituency or in Bristol, will the rules that matter be those that apply where the journey starts or those in force where it ends—or those that obtain where it is at any given moment? If there is any inconsistency between the English and Welsh regulations, will people have to stub out their cigarettes as they go across the Severn bridge—that is not actually a border, but the Committee will understand what I mean—or, indeed, will they suddenly light up as soon as they are clear of Welsh airspace? What will apply on cross-border journeys?

One set of issues arises with coaches, another on ferries, and so on. We have discussed ships, but I am thinking of the example of a ferry that sails from England to the Irish Republic, where there is a fairly comprehensive ban. What would be the procedure and, again, is there a point at which one is in international waters and the rules are different? I am rather hazy about the situation. The Committee might regard this as a minor issue, but people will make journeys from one place to another in which the rules are different, and I want to know what will happen.

The intention of our amendment—I do not know whether this would be its effect—was to point out that, because there are subsidiary authorities within the United Kingdom and we cannot say that one takes precedence over the other, the rules of the national authority in which the journey began should apply.   There has to be some basis for determining which set of rules should apply, and we suggest that one. As we have not seen the regulations we do not know whether they will be consistent with regulations about vehicle journeys in different parts of the UK. There is every chance that they will not be, so some sort of priority setting will be required, and the amendment seeks to find out what it will be.

Photo of Andrew Murrison Andrew Murrison Shadow Minister (Health)

This is an interesting amendment. The hon. Member for Northavon is right to highlight the difficulty that the devolved settlement has thrown up on this matter, as it has on a myriad of other things. I am not too clear whether his intention is purely to limit the provision to the United Kingdom or whether it has to do with wider jurisdictions. If the latter is the case, I suspect that he is likely to find that it falls foul of international law.

This is a related point. As I understand it, the hon. Gentleman’s party is in favour of liberalising the use of cannabis in private places, so it is an intriguing conundrum whether his proposal extends to private vehicles. Perhaps he will now or at some future time clarify whether it applies to that particular element of smoking. He is trying to hit smoking on the head, but apparently that does not extend to cannabis. Does his proposal apply specifically to smoking cannabis in vehicles? If it does, perhaps he might like to think through the consequences of that particular part of liberalisation.

Essentially, I suspect that this has to do with a legalistic matter and that the Minister will probably say that it is a matter for the devolved settlement and that those of us who are foolish enough to smoke will stub out cigarettes when crossing the Severn bridge.

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

Obviously, our intention is to expect all public and business transport to remain smoke-free while in England. As I understand it, the same policy is being pursued by Scotland, and the Welsh are interested in pursuing a similar one. At the end of our deliberations and if the legislation goes through, this should be a seamless area of policy.

Having said that, it is difficult to accept the amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Northavon because of the point made by the hon. Member for Westbury: this could apply beyond the UK. That would raise the question of who would be responsible if somebody went to Belgium or France and did something against the laws that we have here. We are talking about smoking, but we could be talking about speeding or other offences. It is an offence to use drugs while driving; there are offences to deal with that. Testing for drugs is being developed further and further.

Photo of Andrew Murrison Andrew Murrison Shadow Minister (Health)

Of course it is an offence to use drugs while driving. I was thinking, for example, of passengers who might be using substances in the vehicle or people doing so when the car is not under way. There are all sorts of permutations.

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

I understand that the hon. Gentleman is a doctor, so I am sure that he is aware of the impact of inhaling cannabis smoke—but we will save that discussion for another day.

It is appropriate that we recognise that vehicles adhere to the legislation of the jurisdiction in which they are travelling. That applies when they are in England and once they have left England. A coach or train crossing from England to Scotland would be abiding by Scottish law once it had passed into Scotland. The hon. Member for Northavon will be aware that GNER has decided that its trains will be smoke-free. To be fair, our legislation and the Scottish legislation is having an impact on how public transport operators are defining their services. The Bill is best left as it is, without the amendment, which would cause confusion about the Government’s role in determining regulations in Scotland and Wales. It potentially complicates matters involving travelling by public transport or vehicles further afield.

Photo of Steve Webb Steve Webb Shadow Secretary of State for Health

The Minister is therefore saying that regulations in Scotland, Wales and England will probably be the same, but if they are not the question is where the vehicle happens to be—that if there were any difference, there might or might not be lighting up at the border. Would the Minister envisage that a ferry to the Republic of Ireland from England would be subject to whatever the English rule might be as long as it was in English territorial waters? Then, if the rules were different in different territories, there could be an announcement saying, “We’re out of English waters” or, conversely, “We’re entering English waters; you can now light up”—or whatever. It is quite conceivable that the rules will be different in England and in the Republic of Ireland or France or wherever. Is the Minister essentially saying that the boundary is English territorial waters, and that that will determine, potentially, whether people can smoke?

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

These are the discussions that we are working through. Those who cross territorial waters constantly have to navigate their way round which jurisdiction they are in. That applies on this issue, too. As I said, ferries will be made subject to regulations under the Merchant Shipping Act. We are still in discussion with the Scottish Executive about what would apply in the waters around Scotland. I am not trying to fob off the Committee; those are some of the issues that we are working through to determine the best outcomes.

The hon. Gentleman gave us some scenarios and asked how someone would know whether they were across the border. I can, for the most part, assure the Committee that we do not envisage having border controls or checking people as they cross. As I said in our discussions on other parts of the Bill, a huge amount of this is about public and self-enforcement and creating a different culture in which smoking is restricted as part of the way in which we live our lives. Clearly, if someone is caught or a complaint is made, depending on the rules and laws of the jurisdiction   concerned, they could find themselves liable for a fixed penalty notice or prosecution. With that, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will withdraw his amendment.

Photo of Steve Webb Steve Webb Shadow Secretary of State for Health

I shall seek the leave of the Committee to withdraw the amendment. My understanding is that the Minister is saying that the issue should not be a problem because the regulations will probably be consistent. To the extent that the regulations will vary, it will matter where someone is; then, the criterion would be where someone was when they did the action. One can imagine a scenario in which someone lights up, and a person says, “I’m sure we passed a border sign”, and someone else disputes it; then there might be some discussion about which country they were in. However, I am reassured by the suggestion that the regulations will be consistent. Likewise, on ferries there are presumably other regulations, not just smoking ones, that have to be applied according to national rules in some places and international ones in others. I also accept that the amendment probably does not achieve what we intended, so that is two reasons to withdraw it. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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

Photo of Andrew Murrison Andrew Murrison Shadow Minister (Health)

Well anticipated, Mr. Illsley; I had hardly moved a muscle when you called me.

I shall try to be as brief as possible, as the Minister will be glad to hear. We have had a good debate on the clause. Vehicles are clearly important, and we must of course cover them in the Bill. As ever, our concerns have to do with regulations and giving the Secretary of State all sorts of powers to do pretty well whatever she, or her successors, might wish. We would prefer there to be more in the Bill.

In our discussion, we identified one or two areas to which the Minister, by her own admission, needs to give a little more thought to improve the Bill. We have had some difficulty over definitions, and we wondered why trains, vessels, aircraft and hovercraft were included but not other forms of transportation, notably buses. I would have thought that buses would be the first category that Ministers would put in, particularly given their stated ambitions—so far unfulfilled—to reduce health inequalities. Surely target groups use buses more than hovercraft or aircraft, yet the Minister has chosen to cite aircraft, hovercraft, vessels—we are not entirely clear what vessels are—and trains. We have to be a little bit clearer about what we mean by vessel. I am pleased that the Minister has given us some explanation of what she understands that term to mean, but I am still slightly confused about how I will fare next time with my motor cruiser on the Norfolk broads, and how I will be fixed with respect to that craft or vessel being smoking or non-smoking when the legislation comes   into force in a few months’ time. My rather pathetic little example might be indicative of other examples that may entertain lawyers in years to come.

I hope that the Minister will look at that area a little more closely in collaboration with the Transport Research Laboratory to find out how to make the regulations that will result from the Bill slightly more evidence based. I am surprised that she has not referred to any evidence to support the assertions that she has made during debate on the clause, so I hope that she will give the matter more thought.

It seems to me that it would be quite straightforward to ask for some studies to be done to determine how quickly air can be cleared from, for example, the cabs of lorries. If the Minister can do that, and comes back with evidence that that is too difficult and takes too long, we will be enthusiastic in our support for her measures on public health grounds. My party has made it clear that we support the element of the legislation that relates to workplaces, and vehicles are no different in that respect.

More thought needs to be given to the status of vehicles that are hired for the purposes of employment use. The Minister has indicated that that is so. I think that she said that some further thought would be given to that specific case, as to others that we have identified during our deliberations this morning. That is to the good.

Our aim in considering this legislation must be to try to keep as much away from lawyers—with due respect to the hon. Member for Stafford and his colleagues—as we can. We must make sure that the legislation and the regulations that arise from it are as watertight as possible, so that we do not provide a bean feast for the legal profession, who will otherwise chance upon things such as my pleasure cruiser on the Norfolk broads and will make lots of money at the expense of all concerned.

It is incumbent on the Minister to look closely at the examples that I and other hon. Members have raised in this discussion and elsewhere, to ensure that we cover, as far as we can, the possible grey areas, and areas in which there is some debate about the meaning, as articulated in the Bill and in subsequent regulations.

The Minister may find herself at some future point drawing up the regulations and being responsible for them. I hope that she will then remember the hours that she spent in the Committee with all this helpful advice winging around and, if we can get something in her mind about the way to craft those regulations to ensure that they are not likely to prove difficult in courts of law, that is all to the good. We will, in that case, have done our job quite well.

I am grateful to the Minister for explaining offshore installations to me. However, I am still unclear as to how the Secretary of State for Defence will approach the area for which he is now responsible. We must assume that, given his previously stated position, he will be reluctant to insist on bans within his area of responsibility. If I were a smoker in the army, navy or air force, I do not think that I would be too worried about my horrible habit being curtailed too quickly,   because I imagine that the right hon. Gentleman will be reluctant to ban smoking in defence settings. That issue concerns the public health of the men and women of our armed forces, but equally I take account of the Minister’s comments about having to respect the fact that their workplace is often also where they live. That highlights the conflict in the Bill between the rights of individuals, particularly in what might be regarded as their private space, and the need to promote public health. It is like the seatbelt conundrum—do we legislate for people’s own good or respect their right to be competent individuals and to make choices for themselves? This is slightly different because we are talking about an activity that impinges directly on other people. In the armed forces, people are not trivially or casually exposed, but may be in close proximity to second-hand smoke. I am pleased, therefore, that the Minister is prepared to consider this matter and to try to reconcile the libertarian view with public health considerations.

I shall wrap up there, Mr. Illsley. I said that I would be brief, and the hour is long. I am interested to hear what the Minister has to say.

Photo of Caroline Flint Caroline Flint Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Health) 12:15 pm, 13th December 2005

We have had an interesting debate. There are some issues on which the Committee would like more information, which I shall endeavour to provide. The hon. Member for Westbury spoke about his pleasure cruise. In such a situation, the rules would apply in the same way as with the hire of a private vehicle. If the hon. Gentleman hired a vehicle for private use by his family and did not engage an employee to drive the vehicle, a similar provision to what we discussed in relation to the hospitality industry and hotel rooms and cottages would apply. We are specifically considering public transport and vehicles used for businesses. We believe that the same parameters for the ban on smoking in workplaces should apply to workplaces that happen to be a moving vehicle.

I acknowledge what the hon. Gentleman said about our work with the Ministry of Defence. On his point about the difficulty for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence, we should not lose sight of the fact that my right hon. Friends the Defence Secretary and the Health Secretary have both worked to introduce legislation to ban smoking for the first time in a variety of public and work spaces. In his previous role as Health Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Defence Secretary was the instrument behind the “Choosing Health” White Paper, and therefore set in motion the process that brought us to where we are today. We are saying for the first time that voluntary regulation is not enough and that we need legislation to restrict smoking. I do not think that anyone can take that away from him.

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

I will not give way to the hon. Gentleman. I am sure that he will have the opportunity later to raise further points.

I take this opportunity to correct something that I said vis-à-vis installations in situ and being towed. I should have said that installations and movable   structures moving under their own power are covered under merchant shipping legislation. I understand that if they need to be towed, they are not ships and would therefore be covered by regulations made under this Bill. I hope that I have clarified matters for the Committee. I have learned a lot about merchant shipping legislation, and have certainly thought more about such situations than I ever had before. I wanted to clarify that because I did not want to feel that I had misled the Committee in any way. With installations that are being towed, the installation would not come under merchant shipping legislation, but the vehicle towing it obviously would be. I hope that that is clear to everyone, and that the Committee will support the clause, which further shows the Government’s intention to provide, in legislation, for more public places and workplaces to be smoke-free.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 5, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.