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Mr. Tipping: Sit down.

Mr. O'Brien: I have received a message in a suitably off-stage voice from the powers that be. It is contrary to the message that I received earlier.

The Bill is a good measure, which is based on a good report from the Committee on Standards in Public Life. It deserves to make good progress. I hope that it is in good shape for the travails ahead.

9.54 pm

Sir George Young: My party will not obstruct Third Reading for the reasons that it did not obstruct Second Reading. The Bill has a key role to play in cleaning up British politics by setting out a framework with clear rules and an independent umpire and greater transparency. Throughout our discussions there has been a commendable restraint from scoring party points on past transgressions. No party is above criticism and we have a common interest in elevating public esteem for our profession.

The Bill has been much improved since 10 January. We raised points on the penal regime for volunteers, which has been softened, and the role of the Electoral Commission has been changed. We have made progress on the regime for overseas voters and on the Speaker's Committee. The Bill is in better shape, though not yet of the Savile row quality that Conservative Members like to see. The upper House has adjustments to make on sponsorship, overseas voters, the federal party structure and Northern Ireland, and we shall need a lot of time to consider the raft of Lords amendments when the Bill returns to this House.

We could not reach agreement on a number of issues on which we backed the Neill committee and the Government opposed it. The Bill faces a tough timetable, as the Minister reminded us yesterday.

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I am grateful to my hon. Friends the Members for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) and for North Dorset (Mr. Walter). They bore the burden of the Bill--which was subcontracted to them by my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe), the shadow Home Secretary, who is fully stretched by keeping an eye on what the Home Office is getting up to--but were ably assisted by two jobbing builders, my hon. Friends the Members for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans) and for South Staffordshire (Sir P. Cormack).

It would be churlish not to compliment the two Ministers on their conciliatory approach, which assisted consideration of the Bill. I referred to one as the tough copper who shines the bright light in our eyes and to the other as the chap with the cigarettes. They extracted no confessions from the Opposition, but their co-operative approach made it easier to deal with a long and complicated Bill. Although we differed from the hon. Members for Battersea (Mr. Linton) and for Hazel Grove (Mr. Stunell) at times, we very much welcomed their thoughtful and constructive approach.

I am pleased that it has been possible to complete consideration of the Bill without the savage guillotines that the Government have applied on other occasions to get their legislation through the House. We have not seen the last of the Bill. It is not perfect, although we have improved it. The Opposition wish it well.

9.57 pm

Mr. Stunell: I shall be brief.

Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (West Derbyshire): Two minutes.

Mr. Stunell: Indeed. I understand the pressures of time. I welcome the fact that we have reached Third Reading as this significant Bill will have far-reaching consequences. The controls on general election expenditure at national level are long overdue and most welcome, and the introduction of a formal framework for referendums is also welcome.

I thank the ministerial team, who have been courteous and, on the whole, helpful to Opposition parties. I particularly welcome the Minister's somewhat abbreviated comments on the Liberal Democrats' difficulties with a particular aspect of the Bill. I reassert that we fully favour total compliance with the Bill and its guidelines. We have no wish to seek any way around it. Although we believe that there are implementation difficulties, the general thrust of the Bill is right and has been from the beginning. We have been happy to support it at each stage and do so tonight.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.

It being Ten o'clock, Mr. Deputy Speaker proceeded to put forthwith the Questions relating to Estimates which he was directed to put at that hour, pursuant to Standing Order No. 55 (Questions on voting of estimates, &c.).

14 Mar 2000 : Column 272




    That during the year ending on 31st March 2001 a number not exceeding 128,235 all ranks be maintained for Army Service, a number not exceeding 84,295 for Service in the Reserve Land Forces, and a number not exceeding 6,000 for Service as Special Members of the Reserve Land Forces under Part V of the Reserve Forces Act 1996.

    ESTIMATES, 2000-01 (AIR) VOTE A


    That during the year ending on 31st March 2001 a number not exceeding 57,450 all ranks be maintained for the Air Force Service, a number not exceeding 26,000 for Service in the Reserve Air Forces, and a number not exceeding 430 for Service as Special Members of the Reserve Air Forces under Part V of the Reserve Forces Act 1996.

    ESTIMATES, EXCESSES, 1998-1999


    That a sum not exceeding £37,847,584.45 be granted to Her Majesty out of the Consolidated Fund to make good excesses of certain grants for Defence and Civil Services for the year ended on 31st March 1999, as set out in HC 276.



    That a further supplementary sum not exceeding £2,510,712,000 be granted to Her Majesty out of the Consolidated Fund to complete or defray the charges for Defence and Civil Services for the year ending on 31st March 2000, as set out in HC 242, 243 and 275.



    That a further sum, not exceeding £1,000 be granted to Her Majesty out of the Consolidated Fund, on account, for or towards defraying the charges for Civil and Defence Services for the year ending on 31st March 2001, as set out in HC 244.


    That a Bill be brought in upon the foregoing resolutions: And that the Chairman of Ways and Means, Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Andrew Smith, Dawn Primarolo, Mr. Stephen Timms and Miss Melanie Johnson do prepare and bring it in.

14 Mar 2000 : Column 273


Mr. Stephen Timms accordingly presented a Bill to apply certain sums out of the Consolidated Fund to the service of the years ending on 31st March 1999, 2000 and 2001: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time tomorrow, and to be printed. Explanatory notes to be printed [Bill 86.].


Mr. Deputy Speaker: With permission, I shall put together the motions relating to delegated legislation.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 118(6) (Standing Committees on Delegated Legislation),

London Government

Constitutional Law

Question agreed to.


Rural Banks

10.1 pm

Mr. Paul Marsden (Shrewsbury and Atcham): On behalf of 1,850 people living in the rural areas of Shrewsbury and Atcham and Shropshire, I wish to present a petition which I wholeheartedly support.

The petition states:

To lie upon the Table.

14 Mar 2000 : Column 274

Lung Cancer (Women)

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.--[Mr. Pope.]

10.2 pm

Dr. Ian Gibson (Norwich, North): I raise this subject in some anger because of the disdain manifested by tobacco chiefs and their friends, among whom is a former Chancellor of the Exchequer. They have displayed total irresponsibility in respect of women and lung cancer. The Government have shown a degree of nonchalance about an issue that affects the health of many women in this country and throughout the developed world.

Since 1987, more women in the United States of America have died of lung cancer than of breast cancer. It is four times more common than cancer of the cervix. Lung cancer is the most common cancer in the world and the third most common cause of death in the UK, with about 30,000 people a year dying of it. Among men, deaths from lung cancer increased by 20 per cent. between 1976 and 1994, but among women the increase was 150 per cent. in the same period. Nearly one half of all new lung cancer cases are women. The problem must be addressed.

I believe that the problem has arisen because of the increasing propensity of young women to smoke cigarettes. Women in the United States are twice as likely as men to develop lung cancer, despite the fact that women smoke less than men and women smokers inhale less deeply than men smokers.

That shows that there may be genetic differences between men and women which result in cigarette smoke and the chemicals it contains having different effects on their biochemistry. As the human genome project unfolds, the problem will be that people will think that they do not have the gene in question, and can smoke as much as they like because they are not predisposed to these cancers and the development of illnesses associated with cancers and chemicals in the smoke.

At the recent world summit on cancer in Paris, the potential epidemic of lung cancer was underlined and equated with the increasing prevalence of smoking among women in the developing world. Ninety per cent. of lung cancers are smoking related. It is disturbing to realise that cigarette smoke is the greatest serial killer in the western world, and smoking is most common among young people in the 20 to 24 age group. Each day, 450 teenagers and children start smoking, and it is estimated that a quarter of all 15-year-olds in the United Kingdom smoke.

Lung cancer sufferers may be treated by surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy or a combination of those treatments. Five-year survival rates remain poor, and according to the Cancer Research Campaign and BACUP, the British Association of Cancer United Patients, five-year survival rates are half as good in the UK as in France. In this country, 7 per cent. of lung cancer patients are still alive five years after diagnosis, whereas in France 14 per cent. survive that long. There is plenty of evidence to show that outcomes are better if treatment is managed by specialist, multi-disciplinary teams, and more patients should have access to that type of care. There is also an urgent need for extended radiotherapy and for more lung cancer specialists.

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As regards screening for lung cancer, long-term recovery depends more on early detection than on any other factor. A recent conference at the Royal Society of Medicine focused on improved methods of detecting lung cancer, which could lead to the development of a screening system similar to that used for cervical cancer. The United Kingdom Co-ordinating Committee on Cancer Research into lung cancer, chaired by Professor Ian Smith of the Royal Marsden, is currently designing a proposal for a lung cancer screening trial--so-called spiral CT scanning. Data from the United States of America and Japan suggest that such screening has a higher pick-up rate than even screening for breast cancer, and that most of the tumours it identifies are small and surgically curable. I hope that funding will be provided for the NHS research and development budget for that trial.

The Government have some significant initiatives to tackle lung cancer, especially as it affects women. In the past year, the Department of Health has issued guidance on treating lung cancer as part of its series of guidelines on different types of cancer and their treatments. Last spring, the previous Health Minister, the noble Baroness Hayman, announced £10 million for new initiatives to improve lung cancer services, primarily by speeding up access to diagnosis and treatment.

Department of Health figures show that treating smoking-related diseases costs the national health service £1.7 billion per year. The previous Minister for Public Health, my right hon. Friend the Member for Dulwich and West Norwood (Ms Jowell), said that reducing smoking was the Government's top public health priority. Ministers have made available £100 million over three years for anti-smoking initiatives. In the pre-Budget statement in November 1999, the Chancellor announced that future real term increases in tobacco duties would be spent on health care. That is an amazing step forward. Tobacco duty will rise by 5 per cent. in real terms next month, yielding an additional £300 million a year for the health service. There is a case for using that money to target lung cancer, given its links to tobacco.

Ranged against the Government is a powerful tobacco industry. Documents recently released under the US freedom of information legislation show that the industry plans to use a variety of techniques to target women, particularly young women, women in the third and developing world, women who are unemployed and those on low incomes. In this country 90 per cent. of lone parents, mostly women, smoke. We would do well to remember that 41,000 people in the country die each year because of smoking-related illnesses--not just lung cancers, but heart disease, strokes and other illnesses associated with tobacco.

It would, however, be less than honest to forget that there is a shadowy third party in the equation. Successive Governments have found tobacco to be an apparently endless source of revenue, and it would seem that they are now as addicted to the tobacco revenues as the tobacco consumers are to tobacco. There is therefore a dilemma, or rather a series of dilemmas. Smokers are numerous, and although their addiction is recognised, they are encouraged by groups such as FOREST--the Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco--and the tobacco industry to regard smoking as a human right.

14 Mar 2000 : Column 276

Legislation to prohibit tobacco does not seem to be an option. Health education programmes make the Government feel rather good, and the tobacco industry loves that, because it knows that they are completely ineffective among the population whom it is most anxious to target: young women. Leaving it to individuals is not enough, in my opinion and that of others. We need collective activity against the whole tobacco industry.

The Exchequer, of course, finds it difficult to forgo such an important source of revenue. So what are the options? Is it really an option for us, knowing the facts as we do, to stand by and let succeeding generations become addicted to tobacco and suffer the consequences? Much could be done through the engineering of a social change that could phase out tobacco use over a generation. Gradual change would be easier to implement, and would make it easier to compensate for effects such as loss of revenue. Gradual change, however, should not be interpreted as a willingness to let tobacco companies off the hook; quite the contrary. Surely it is time we decided that the injury they cause our society is unacceptable.

A system of progressively punitive taxation on the commercial activity of tobacco manufacture--not just a tax on the product, but a special tax on the profitability of the industry--would allow a screw to be tightened progressively, which would eventually cause companies to diversify into non-harmful products, or to wither and eventually become much less attractive to investors. In the end, they would simply disappear. There are recent precedents for that, in the form of windfall taxes.

There cannot be an inalienable right to trade in products that cause misery, premature morbidity and death. We need to increase awareness of tobacco consumption as the single most important women's health issue--which I believe it is--rather than as a personal freedom. Women must be made aware of their special susceptibility to lung cancer and other problems, and must be given more practical help and support to overcome the problems of addiction and social pressures to smoke. The industry must also have its wings clipped in terms of the marketing of its existing products, and must be given notice of the determination that its products will not be tolerated in the future and that effective steps will be taken to phase out production altogether.

It is vital that research into the treatment of tobacco-related disease should continue. Excellent work is going on at, for instance, the Roy Castle centre in Liverpool, but I believe that a national cancer institute should co-ordinate a major clinical research effort focused on women's lung cancer, while applying continued pressure on succeeding Governments to ensure that an effective solution is found to the social problem of tobacco production and marketing.

I plead with the Minister to "make my Parliament" and to make her career. I plead with her to take up the cudgels and save all the thousands of lives that might otherwise be ended because of smoking, particularly among young women. That is the action that would make the best headlines and engender confidence in our cancer programme.

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