Clause 2

Part of Sunbeds (Regulation) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 5:00 pm on 10th February 2010.

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Photo of Bruce George Bruce George Labour, Walsall South 5:00 pm, 10th February 2010

I pay tribute to one of the most significant people—perhaps the most significant person—involved in this legislation. There has been good co-operation with our hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North to ensure that the Bill gets through as a result of luck in the raffle, which I said two weeks ago I never succeeded in defeating.

To cite the US is a waste of time. There are 50 states, and they are all different. I would have thought that Wisconsin, with its German traditions—I am not being disparaging in any way—would have been tough, whereas some states that one would have thought would not be tough are quite strong.

The evidence is there. I spent a couple of hours looking at different journals and counting the organisations—not just strong non-governmental organisations but international organisations and Governments—that saw the link and produced valid reports. Truly, there cannot be anyone who is not prepared to accept that the state has a right to indicate 18 as the legitimate age for sun-tanning treatment, and that it is important for the state to lay down standards for how regulation is to be implemented. Local authorities or national organisations must do their job properly. If they just make a perfunctory visit once a year, it will not be good enough. They must check, check and check. There are 8,000 salons around the country, and the research shows that they are largely concentrated in fairly poor areas, so it should not be too onerous for whichever Department or local authority body is responsible to go around and ensure that the standards laid down by the legislation are met.

I cannot imagine or calculate the cost—I am obliged to listen to what the Department says—but even if there is a cost and even it is more expensive than anticipated or calculated, the health of the population aged under 35, especially those aged up to 18, is sufficiently important not simply to pass legislation but also to say that if that legislation costs, it costs. I hope that the costs will be under control, because, as the hon. Member for Boston and Skegness said, we live in difficult times and we cannot squander resources, but I do not want to argue over a relatively small sum of money if the legislation has beneficial consequences. Only recently has there been an awareness of the issues.

I chair the all-party group on skin. I do not think that I need to declare an interest, as I have derived no financial benefit. I have suffered from psoriasis since I was a student, and I think I have almost singlehandedly sustained the skin problem profession because none of the treatments have worked, but maybe I am a bit of an aberration. The all-party group produced a report, but frequent attempts to influence the Department simply to talk to us about it have not yet been successful. I hope that things will change.

Our report, entitled “Skin cancer—improving prevention, treatment and care”, was published in November 2008. Looking at the expertise of those involved in the report, we can see that they are not a few people with vested interests expressing prejudices, but distinguished people from the highest ranks of the dermatology profession.  They are senior people from the British Association of Dermatologists, the Skin Care Campaign and the Primary Care Dermatology Society, principal lecturers in dermatological studies and consultant dermatologists in distinguished hospitals. That group, using all the expertise available, produced a report that made recommendations pretty close, if not identical, to those in this excellent legislation. It did not simply identify the figures, the incidents and the distinguished research undertaken, but put forward advice and recommendations that are largely what is in the Bill.

The case has been well made outside this place by distinguished people who are experts in their field, and everybody seems supportive. There is an opportunity for those who support the Bill, but have criticisms or issues that need to be clarified, to express their views, either now or at later stage, so that we can sustain our near unanimity to ensure that the Bill proceeds. Surely, we do not want a little coterie of individuals, who may have every right to do so, trying to mess things up at a later stage or people being lobbied strongly in this House or the House of Lords.

Even the respectable side of the sunbed business is supportive because the profession realises that the criticisms will not evaporate—they will be sustained. The number of people who stayed on last night at the end of proceedings, when they thought that someone would be difficult over the proposed legislation, was a clear example of overwhelming support. When I looked at the screen, I thought, “I must have slept all the way through the night, because it is 4.30—time to get in.” A lot of people thought that someone would be difficult, not constructively critical, as I suspect the overwhelming majority are, but potentially hostile by raising issues that would have been superfluous.

I say no more at this stage, other than that there are many desirable things in the Bill. The research sustains all the arguments that have been proposed. The Health and Safety Executive got most of the recommendations right, and they are included in the legislation—18 should be mandatory, the institutions should not be unstaffed, coin-operated sunbeds are not sufficient, there should be a mandatory point-of-sale information unit, all sunbed providers should be prevented from undertaking any positive health care advertising, and public bodies, such as local authorities, should be involved in the process.

Lastly, as an academic used to quoting eminent academic sources—