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Dr. Howard Stoate (Dartford) (Lab): As chair of the all-party groups on primary care and public health and on obesity, I add my congratulations to the Secretary of State, who has done a marvellous job on setting out how public health can be improved. As he knows, I am working with a group of internationally acclaimed experts on obesity to set up a national institute of obesity. How does he envisage that institute working closely with the Government to achieve the necessary aim of tackling obesity?

Dr. Reid: My hon. Friend makes the pertinent point that such things cannot be done by the Government alone. It requires a combination of Government, local government, partnerships, charities and, ultimately, individuals. He mentioned one of the important institutes that we want to work closely with over the coming years. The fact that we have prioritised the issue in the way that we have means that smoking has taken the headlines in much of the press, but out in the real world there is a huge concern and thirst for information on healthy diets and how to combat obesity. We will certainly work with the institute on that.

Julie Morgan (Cardiff, North) (Lab): I welcome my right hon. Friend's statement and congratulate him on what he has achieved and will achieve. I am also pleased that Wales may have the opportunity to introduce its own measures on the back of other legislation. I am sure that he knows that a working party in Wales is consulting on public health issues.

May I also express my disappointment that the measures to provide smoke-free work places dos not extend to bars? What legal advice has my right hon. Friend received on the position of bar staff who may be affected by passive smoking and who will be the only employees left exposed to it?

Dr. Reid: No, I have not received legal advice on that. Ultimately, it would be up to individuals to take a civil action, as anyone is free to do in any circumstances. I merely point out that, after we accomplish the proposals that I have set out, every bar that serves food and every restaurant in England will be smoke-free, which is a huge step forward in the protection of everyone, including those who work in those environments, from passive smoking. I have also said that I want to ensure, in legislation if necessary, that the bar area is smoke-free, even in those areas where smoking is permitted.

In addition, one might reflect on the fact that if 90 to 95 per cent. of the aggregate number of restaurants, bars and so on are smoke-free, workers will have a huge choice, which does not exist now, on where they work, as will customers on where they go. By any standard, although this is a public health measure and not an employment or health and safety measure, workers will know that it is a huge advance on where we are now.

Mr. Andrew Mackay (Bracknell) (Con): Constituents of mine employed in casinos would like a workplace ban on smoking. Can the Secretary of State guarantee that
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the eight new super-casinos that have just been announced by the Government will have such a ban and that different regulations will not apply to them?

Dr. Reid: If the right hon. Gentleman lets us build the things, we might then decide who will be allowed into them. I have said that the exclusions will be pubs that do not sell food and certified membership clubs—it is as simple as that. The latter are classified as clubs that one cannot walk into off the street; one has to apply for membership, then wait for a certain period. Presumably—I am not a member of such a club—they include some of the London clubs, along with the Royal British Legion and golf and rugby clubs that have memberships. Such bodies may or may not be smoke-free. I think that many will go smoke-free, but it will be for their members to decide.

Dr. Richard Taylor (Wyre Forest) (Ind): I too welcome the White Paper wholeheartedly, especially the plan to help more people to walk or cycle safely to school. Will the Secretary of State enlarge on how he plans to do that?

Dr. Reid: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his welcome. In the past 10 years or so we have made some, but not vast, headway in that respect. I have been speaking to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport and considerable extra money is being put in. There are two dimensions worth highlighting: first, cycle lanes and, secondly, the journey to and from school. The issue is complex, because we have to take into account the fact that parents' fears and the desire to walk or cycle to school rise and fall according to the horror stories that appear on television and the dangers of traffic. We are trying as much as we can to encourage a reduction in the school run and an increase in walking or cycling to and from school. I hope that we will be able to develop that in the coming years.

Several hon. Members rose—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): Order.

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Points of Order

1.42 pm

Glenda Jackson (Hampstead and Highgate) (Lab): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. You will recall that the Government argued that the redeployment of Black Watch troops was to enable American forces to launch an attack on Falluja. My constituents are remarkably concerned about the destruction of that city, culminating in today's reports of the murder of an injured, unarmed Iraqi civilian by US marines. Has no Minister asked to come to the House to make a statement in response to the genuine concern arising in my constituency and, I have no doubt, throughout the rest of the country about what appears to be a rapidly deteriorating situation in Iraq? I know that you cannot demand that a Minister come to the House to answer questions, but I shall be grateful if you can assist me in obtaining for my constituents some direct response from a Minister on a matter for which Ministers are in no small measure responsible.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): I appreciate the concerns that the hon. Lady expressed, but I have no knowledge of any Minister wishing to come to the House to make a statement.

Mr. Oliver Heald (North-East Hertfordshire) (Con): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker, of which I gave Mr. Speaker prior notice. Yesterday evening, the BBC carried an extensive report on the public health White Paper, including quotations from the document—lines such as, "In the foreword the Government will say," and quotations from the Department of Health spokesman. This morning, all the main newspapers carried detailed reports about the White Paper and bullet-points, which we now know were accurate, setting out the main provisions, and The Sun had a question-and-answer briefing on how the ban will hit at work and play. Is it not discourteous to the House that Ministers did not make the statement here first, but gave all that information to the media 12 hours earlier? Is that not particularly serious, given that Mr. Speaker and his predecessor have made the point on a number of occasions that the House should be told first?

With this particular Secretary of State, there have been two other occasions in recent years when that guidance has been specifically brought to his attention, in respect of the strategic defence review and the MRSA clean-up announcement, yet, again, here we are, on his watch, with an announcement made to the media ahead of the House.

Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con): Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. You may recall that on 8 December last year, Mr. Speaker heard a point of order from me about a similar offence by the same Secretary of State, who had announced on a non-sitting Friday new policies on MRSA and failed to make any statement in the House. Mr. Speaker told him in no uncertain terms that Ministers were expected to make announcements in the House. You may also recall that Mr. Speaker promised that I would be called at Question Time the next day to allow the Secretary of State to make such a statement. He then defended himself on the ground that the
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statement that he had made outside the House contained nothing new, as was the case during the first 10 minutes of his statement today.

Madam Deputy Speaker: The House is well aware of Mr. Speaker's views on this matter. He has certainly made them plain on more than one occasion, as has his predecessor. I can only say that the Secretary of State concerned was in his place when those points were made.

Alistair Burt (North-East Bedfordshire) (Con): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. At 12 noon today, the Home Secretary published by way of a written statement his response to the report by the Prison Service ombudsman, Stephen Shaw, into the fire and incident at Yarl's Wood in my constituency two and a half years ago. The report implicates the Government in a negligent handling of the asylum system, building a detention centre unfit for purpose, refusing to fit sprinklers and placing in it people who should not have been there, at risk both to themselves and to others, including the brave people who dealt with the incident on the day. Have you received any indication from the Home Secretary or any member of his team that he should come to the House to answer questions about his response to a very serious report that implicates the Government in considerable mishandling and negligence?

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