Clause 2

Part of Sunbeds (Regulation) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:45 pm on 10th February 2010.

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Photo of Mark Simmonds Mark Simmonds Shadow Minister (Health) 4:45 pm, 10th February 2010

It was remiss of me, in my remarks on clause 1, not to mention the hon. Member for Swansea, East; I apologise for that, given her dedication and diligence in keeping the issue right at the forefront in Parliament, although, sadly, she did not succeed in getting a Bill on to the statute book. I know that she is extremely supportive of the hon. Member for Cardiff, North, who has just spoken very eloquently about the kernel of the Bill, clause 2. I do not wish to repeat either what was said on Second Reading, or what other hon. Members have said. For me the clinical evidence is clear and supported by the EU scientific committee which recommended a ban on sunbed use by those under the age of 18 and WHO, which upgraded the link in relation to exposure to UV and skin cancer and other skin ailments.

I do not think there is a serious debate to be had about the clinical evidence in terms of the relationship between young people being exposed to ultra-violet and normal sunlight without sufficient protection and rates of melanoma and other skin diseases. There is a debate to be had about whether 18 is the right age, but I understand why the hon. Lady has opted for 18. There are also significant numbers of young people who are exposing themselves through sunbeds, which I do not think they should be doing, so I think the Bill is absolutely right.

Like the Minister, I have been to Clatterbridge, although I have not been there today. I was very struck by the excellence of the work being done there; it is at the forefront and the cutting edge of cancer treatment. The Minister was right that prevention and providing the relevant information to enable people to make informed lifestyle choices are critical if we are to reduce the rates of cancer in this country and improve our current poor performance on five-year cancer survival rates.

This is the kernel clause of the Bill and there are three specific generic issues that I should like to raise with your permission, Mr. Betts. They need to be considered and should perhaps be brought into the Bill or discussed in relation to the subsequent regulations. The first is one of the points that I made on Second Reading and concerns the equipment and the strength of the UV tubes that are used in some sunbeds. As the Minister and her officials will be aware, in 2007 the Government signed up to an EU directive on the erythemal weighted irradiance level of tubes within sunbeds. This has not been implemented in the UK. It has been implemented in other countries in Europe. The Government are supposed to be timetabling the implementation of this directive, but they have not yet done so. Why are the Government not prepared to add this to the Bill, as the Sunbed Association recommends, and when will this directive be implemented?

This is not just about making sure that people under the age of 18 are not exposed to UV, but that those who are over the age of 18 who make a positive decision to  go on a sunbed do so knowing that the sunbeds they are using are safe and regulated properly, which is not always the case. The second issue I should like to have clarified relates to the unmanned nature of some salons. There is some concern among those who are particularly interested, as all hon. Members here today are, but also some of the charitable and voluntary groups, which lobby so effectively in this area, that the Bill does not go far enough. It perhaps does not go far enough to ensure that there are qualified individuals who can inform those coming into the salons about the potential dangers, particularly of the overuse of sunbeds, as well as to ensure that the people who are excluded under the Bill do not use sunbeds. What is the logic for excluding that from the Bill at the moment?

The third issue on which I seek clarification is that in the impact assessment there seemed to be some confusion and duplication about who would be responsible for monitoring this Bill. Will it be the Department of Health or will it be the Health Protection Agency? In my view it needs to be one or the other, not both. There is already significant duplication within the NHS and one body needs to take responsibility for the monitoring of the enforcement of this Bill to ensure that it delivers what we all want to see.

I should like to go a little bit further than the hon. Member for Cardiff, North and ask about one aspect of the clause. Subsection (5) relates to the room in the relevant premises. There are occasions when a sunbed is in the same room as gymnasium equipment for example. It is clearly preferable, but it will not always be possible to screen off the sunbed. Does the Bill really say that if somebody is in that room using the gym equipment, the owner could be prosecuted even though that individual had gone nowhere near the sunbed? I am particularly concerned about that in relation to the way in which an enforcement officer discovers that a salon allows people under the age of 18 to use sunbeds. The enforcement is reactive rather than proactive, because someone has to tell an enforcement officer that a salon is breaking the law. I understand why the hon. Lady and the Minister have come to that conclusion. It is presumably a function of the cost, and it is particularly important to keep costs to a minimum in the current macro-economic climate. Whoever wins the next election, things will get worse regarding the constraints on public expenditure, but it is important to clarify as far as possible in Committee exactly what the hon. Lady and the Minister and her officials envisage for the enforcement of that inevitably grey area.