Clause 2

Part of Sunbeds (Regulation) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 5:15 pm on 10th February 2010.

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Photo of Gillian Merron Gillian Merron Minister of State (Public Health), Department of Health 5:15 pm, 10th February 2010

As we have heard, the clause gets to the heart of the issue and would allow us to be sure that people aged under 18 cannot use a sunbed at a sunbed business, except for medical reasons. The Government wholeheartedly support that provision.

As we have heard in Committee today and on other days in the House, sunbeds pose a great health risk. We know that they are being used by more young people  than ever before, and despite the efforts of industry, voluntary regulation just is not working. A major contribution to tackling the rise in skin cancer and preventing a generation of young people from storing up damage for the future is indeed the restriction of access to sunbeds by those who are under 18. The clause does the job for us. It would place a legal duty on businesses to prevent sunbed use by children, backing that up with the creation of a new criminal offence that carried a fine of up to £20,000—members of the Committee can see how serious we are about this.

Businesses that offer sunbeds for use on their premises would be under a duty to ensure that persons aged under 18 were not offered, did not use and did not access their sunbeds, and a duty to ensure that persons aged under 18 were not present in the restricted zone. Having a restricted zone makes the Bill workable in practice, as it would provide clarity about where offences were being committed, if they were being committed. The subsections of the clause make clear what would constitute a restricted zone.

My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North explained very well the situation if there were such premises as the hon. Member for Boston and Skegness described—I, too, am not aware of any; I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman is. It is impossible to imagine circumstances in which a gym, as described, would have a sunbed in the corner and no private space in which to undress and dress. However, if that were the case, putting screens around the area is all that would be required, as my hon. Friend said. Therefore, the owner of such premises would be in compliance.

It is important for us to consider circumstances when the sunbed business has done all that it can to comply. The hon. Member for Ribble Valley mentioned young people looking older than their years If a young person came up with a good quality, fake identity card, which was checked by the business owner, it would be a reasonable defence that the owner had not contravened the law. We recognise that by accident and despite all best efforts, the odd person might slip through the net. The clause recognises those who take every reasonable step to comply and, as my hon. Friend said, such people can use it as a defence, if appropriate.

The hon. Member for Boston and Skegness asked where we would make reference to the supervision of premises. That will follow under regulations. If the Bill receives Royal Assent, we will move quickly to consult on the regulations, which are the right place to contain such references—not in the Bill—as how they are made to work is a matter of practicality. We shall return to that point under clause 4, where allowance is made for measures requiring supervision of the use of commercial sunbeds.

I have discussed the EU standard previously. It is the responsibility of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, so it is not appropriate for such a measure to be included in a public health Bill. As I said on Second Reading, I drew the concerns of the hon. Gentleman to the attention of the Business Secretary, a matter to which I shall return. The Committee might like to know that an enforcement regime is in place, about which the Department of Health is in discussion with BIS. Responsible operators would be expected to comply voluntarily with  the standard in any case. Such practice already takes place and, although the concerns are real, unfortunately the Bill is not the right instrument to tackle them.

The hon. Gentleman talked about monitoring the ban. The Department is responsible for monitoring compliance with the ban, and it will work closely with other bodies. We shall also return to the matter when discussing clause 7 because action enforcement is the responsibility of local authorities. As we all realise, the lead time for the development of skin cancer is too long to make it feasible in all honesty to monitor compliance as we might usually do. However, I accept the need to ensure that the provisions of the Bill are enacted and that will be the responsibility of local authorities with which we shall work closely. I hope the Committee will see fit to accept the clause.