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Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con): In the context of the hon. Lady's paeans of praise for the Assembly, will she state for the record whether she has any connection with the Assembly?

Julie Morgan: I certainly support the Assembly in Wales.

If this opportunity is to be seized, the Assembly must get the power that it needs, and if it chooses to go beyond the Government's partial proposals, which would exempt some membership clubs and many pubs that do not serve prepared food, the principle of devolution requires that it be permitted to do so. As I have said, many of the pubs that do not serve prepared food are used by young people, and we have a duty to try to protect the health of young people.

I will be interested to hear the Minister's reply to the debate. I hope that the Government make a firm commitment that Wales can introduce the legislation that it wants, and act on the results of the consultation and previous votes in the Assembly. If it does nothing else, today's debate about my Bill is an excellent opportunity for the Minister to give us his views. My Bill would provide the Assembly with the precise powers that it requires to act on smoking.

My Bill is very similar to one introduced in the other place by Baroness Finlay of Llandaff, who is a consultant in palliative care at Velindre, a hospital that treats cancer patients in my constituency. I pay tribute to her relentless efforts in starting off the process. Velindre treats people from all around south Wales for the effects of tobacco smoke, and since Baroness Finlay took up her post in the other place, she has spent endless time promoting that cause. I also pay tribute to the former Assembly Minister for Health and Social Services, Jane Hutt, and the current Assembly Minister for Health and Social Services, Brian Gibbons, who have worked very hard.

I shall conclude by briefly describing the Bill's clauses. Clause 1 provides that the Assembly can make regulations restricting or ending smoking in enclosed public places in Wales. Clause 2 commits the Assembly to include in such regulations requirements for the display of suitable no-smoking signs—in Ireland, we were struck by the absolute uniformity of the signs
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displayed in pubs and restaurants. Clause 3 commits the Assembly to prescribing that smoking in an enclosed public place or managing a public place where smoking is permitted in contravention of the regulations may be designated as an offence. Clause 4 allows for the ministerial powers necessary to give effect to such regulations to be transferred to the Assembly by Order in Council, approved by Parliament. Clause 5 provides that the power to make regulations under the Bill would be exercised by statutory instrument. Clause 6 defines the terms used in the Bill. Clause 7 contains the Bill's short title and the arrangements for commencement.

In conclusion, the Bill is simple, and it is entirely fit for purpose: it will give the National Assembly for Wales the power to act on a serious health and safety issue; it will protect the health of non-smokers from the dangerous habits of others; and it offers the chance and incentive for many smokers to quit.

Tim Loughton: I have one specific query about clause 6, which includes "vehicle or vessel" in its definition of "premises" and defines "Wales" as including

Does the hon. Lady intend the legislation to apply to, for example, people smoking on the decks of ferries as they leave Welsh ports?

Julie Morgan: The Bill refers to "enclosed public places", which includes, for example, a stadium, and I believe that it would apply to the deck of a ship.

The Bill concerns potentially the most important public health reform in Wales for many years. We must never forget that most smokers want to quit, and they need the help and encouragement of policy makers to succeed. The Bill is good for non-smokers and smokers alike, and it offers enormous benefits to the people of Wales at little or no cost. In the years after the Assembly acts, as I believe that it will, to end smoking in public places, thousands of people across Wales will live to spend many more years with their families and friends, and surely there is no stronger case for action than that.

Powerful vested interests probably oppose the Bill, but the evidence and logic are overwhelming. The Bill is the only public health measure that we could pass that would give long years of life to people who would otherwise die prematurely, and I commend it to the House.

10.17 am

Sir George Young (North-West Hampshire) (Con): I congratulate the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Julie Morgan) on her good fortune in the ballot and on choosing an important area of public health policy as the subject for her Bill. I am happy briefly to speak as a sponsor of her Bill—most of the Bill's sponsors appear to be called "Williams".

Mr. Forth: Can my right hon. Friend explain why, by my count, more than half of the Bill's sponsors have failed to turn up to support the Bill, which the hon. Lady has said is so important? If the Bill's sponsors do not turn up, what hope is there for anyone else?
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Sir George Young: I do not want to be drawn into other hon. Members' habits on a Friday. Many of them may have legitimate reasons for not being in the House at the moment, and, for all I know, they may be on their way.

I support the Bill, but, if we are realistic, we will admit it might not reach the statute book this time round—it is more likely to land on the snake of Dissolution than on the ladder of Committee.

I do not normally intervene in Welsh matters, but I would be more likely to visit the Principality if I knew that public places were smoke free. Once I got there, I would be more likely to visit licensed premises if I knew that they were unpolluted by smoke, and I hope that that reassures the publicans of Wales.

The Bill will be seen in the context of a broader debate about the Government's role in areas of public health policy, and how far it is legitimate for the state to curb individual freedoms in the public interest. To that extent, there may be surprise that the Bill has support from Conservative Members, who are traditionally the champions of individual liberty and cautious about giving Government more powers. However, I remind my right hon. and hon. Friends that it was under a Conservative Government that it became compulsory for motorcyclists to wear crash helmets and under a Conservative Government that it became compulsory for car passengers to wear seat belts; and I remember when I was a Health Minister some 25 years ago advocating the application of fluoride to water supplies in the interests of dental health. So despite my right hon. Friend's protestations, it is the case that our party has taken important steps forward in public health issues and has in certain circumstances, in the broader public interest, curtailed the liberty of the individual to harm himself. Against that background, I am more than happy to support the Bill.

Turning more specifically to smoking, I find it amazing that it has taken so long for this country to tackle the scourge of smoking-related diseases. In the 19th century, we led the world in combating water-borne diseases. In the 20th century, we led the world in dealing with poor housing, clean air policies and promoting vaccination. But in the 21st century, this country has been overtaken by many other places, including Ireland and five states in America, in the important field of public health; and in the United Kingdom, Scotland has legislation on the way through, with no exemptions for public places. Our debates on health in this place are still dominated by acute medicine and primary care, whereas the advances that we all want in life expectancy are more likely to come about through changes in lifestyle.

The hon. Member for Cardiff, North set out the case for the Bill very effectively. My view is that so far as public places are concerned, a person's freedom to smoke ends where my nose begins. I find it slightly odd that the Assembly does not already have the powers in her Bill. Under the Government of Wales Act 1998, the National Assembly should have control over

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Banning smoking in public places does not strike me as an international issue, and it is clearly an aspect of public health. Perhaps the Minister can explain, in light of that quote, which came from the Department for Constitutional Affairs, why the Assembly does not already have these powers. It has powers on health promotion in Wales and can therefore promote smoke-free public places, but it cannot deliver the policy if promotion fails.

I do not understand the Government's hostility to the Bill. Last November, the Secretary of State for Health said in the foreword to his White Paper, "Choosing Health", that

If he meant what he said, the Government should be supporting this Bill, which gives to the Welsh Assembly exactly the powers to which he referred.

On 3 March, the Leader of the House, who is also Secretary of State for Wales, said in the House:

the Smoking in Public Places (Wales) Bill

the hon. Member for Cardiff, North

But why wait? I am sure that the hon. Lady would have been even more encouraged had the Secretary of State for Wales indicated that the Government would give her Bill a clear run.

The hon. Lady stated the case forcefully, and I will not repeat her arguments. Many potentially toxic gases are present in higher concentrations in sidestream smoke than in mainstream smoke, and nearly 85 per cent. of the smoke in a room results from sidestream smoke. Exposure to second-hand smoke is a serious health risk to non-smokers, increasing their chances of contracting lung cancer and heart disease by about a quarter. As the hon. Lady observed, 617 people die prematurely each year through exposure to second-hand smoke in the workplace.

So far as England is concerned, the Government have come up with proposals which, in my view, do not go far enough. When the Secretary of State made his statement on the public health White Paper in November, I criticised him for not including all pubs within the scope of the smoking ban—a mistake that I am pleased to say would be avoided if the Bill went through, as the Assembly would be given powers to introduce a comprehensive ban. Like the hon. Lady, I view with enormous suspicion the industry's response. Some pub groups would welcome a total ban, but others have argued that improved ventilation is the answer. I simply do not see that as a satisfactory alternative.

I was pleased to hear the hon. Lady say that when the Assembly discussed the matter two years ago, majorities in all four parties voted to be given these powers, including all four party leaders and all four spokesmen on health.
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If the Bill reaches the statute book, it will not solve the problem of smoking in Wales but, alongside upward pressure on the price of tobacco and better health promotion and education, it will help to make the Principality a better place in which to live and work. I hope that a comprehensive ban, if introduced in Wales, will encourage English Ministers to revisit the current policy of a partial ban in pubs. On that basis, I am happy to give the Bill my support.

10.25 am

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