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Mr. Kevin Barron (Rother Valley) (Lab): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Julie Morgan) on her position in the ballot. She beat me by one place, and consequently I may or may not have my own Second Reading on 8 April—we shall have to wait and see whether events take over. I congratulate her even more on selecting the subject of the effect of second-hand smoke on the public's health.

I do not have a great deal of contact with the Principality of Wales, although I have a village in my constituency called Wales, which boasts Wales high school, one of the best high schools in England in terms of academic attainment. Under an earlier Administration in the 1980s, I once wrote to the Education Department about the problems in Wales high school and the letter was promptly sent off to the Welsh Office. I was a bit worried that people thought that there was only one secondary school in the Principality of Wales, but I eventually got the problem sorted out.

I want to refer particularly to the Government's White Paper, which was published last November. It states:

Some of that language is rather curious. It says that the evidence "points towards" excess deaths and, particularly unhelpfully, that

Of course, that debate has continued for many years. The tobacco industry will not accept the clear medical evidence and has for decades used spurious means of trying to talk down the health issues around secondary smoking and to claim that they are not clearly seen.

That is absolutely wrong. The evidence of risks to health and of a significant number of deaths is clear and overwhelming, and it was well summarised by the Government's Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health last November when it published its executive summary alongside the White Paper. Let me remind the House what the Government's own committee, which advises them on matters relating to health and smoking, said:

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Sadly, the medical profession in this country sees such cases daily, yet the Government do not present the facts as they should. The committee continued:

The Government's advisers have said, not just recently but for decades, that second-hand smoke damages the public's health.

Nowhere in the White Paper is there an estimate of the number of employees who are exposed to second-hand smoke at work. It may be my right to go into a smoky atmosphere for a drink or a meal, but what about those who work in such places? What right do the people who work in the Strangers Bar have—until after Easter—not to work in a smoke-filled atmosphere?

It is relatively easy to estimate how many people suffer second-hand smoke at work. Some of the essential statistics are given in paragraph 8 of the regulatory impact assessment with support from the Office for National Statistics and using data from the Government's labour force survey for 2003 and the national statistics ombudsman's survey. Action on Smoking and Health, of which I am a long-standing member and supporter, calculated that some 2.1 million people in the UK work in places with no restriction on smoking, which is 8 per cent. of those who work. Some 10.3 million people work in places where smoking takes place in designated areas, which is 38 per cent. of those who work. There is little or no protection in reality for many of those people.

I have evidence from the British Medical Association. Some people may argue that is anecdotal, but it relates to what doctors say about smoking. Doctors do not just see patients; they are citizens of this country and, like us, go to restaurants, pubs and so on. Dr. Peter Maguire, who practises in Northern Ireland, said:

My wife and I spent the new year before last in New York and it was a pleasure to stay in hotels and eat in restaurants where there was no smoking. There were butt tubs outside so that people can extinguish their cigarettes before going into the premises. That was in stark contrast to my many previous visits when the atmosphere in bars was very smoky.

Dr. Mary Wheater of King's Lynn said:

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People may argue that that is anecdotal, but it is clear evidence from health professionals who work with patients almost every day of their lives about the effects of secondary smoking. The Government should not ignore that.

Other issues arise in smoke-free areas. New York city was challenged several times in the courts when its ban was introduced and its law department issued a press release about a decision that was made on Wednesday 7 April. It stated:

I know that some hon. Members would argue that they have a right to smoke.

The law in America is different from ours. The plaintiff's equal protection challenge was rejected and

environmental tobacco smoke or, as we would call it, second-hand smoke—

The press release quoted the testimony of several people and it was clear that the challenge failed because of the consequences of environmental tobacco smoke on public health and people who use such areas.

On Thursday 11 November Action on Smoking and Health issued a news release headed "Smoke and Mirrors: How Philip Morris concealed the truth about secondhand smoke". It goes into detail about how Philip Morris, a large international tobacco company, had set up a laboratory in Germany many years ago to carry out tests on the effects of second-hand smoke and direct smoke on people, but then suppressed the evidence. We all know that for many years the tobacco industry has suppressed evidence about the effect of smoking on health in this country and many others, but evidence exists.

I turn to the Government's proposals. The White Paper states that they

I appreciate that that is not yet drafted in a Bill to be presented to the House, but I believe that the White Paper is poorly expressed, confused, probably unworkable and certainly undesirable for public health.
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The White Paper is poorly drafted because the words

leave open the possibility of a return to the failed voluntary approach to public health and tobacco. I shall not go into the debates that we held many years ago on tobacco advertising and the weak voluntary approach that Governments accepted for many years. That did not stop our young children being exposed to tobacco companies' advertising; indeed, it was probably impossible to do that.

A voluntary approach will simply encourage the most backward elements in the pub trade to try to push the Government from the White Paper proposals to something closer to the failed public places charter, which was introduced the last time a Labour Government backed away from effective action on the issue. It was before my time in the House, but I have read about it often.

The proposals are confused because there is no useful link between pubs that prepare and serve food, those that do not and smoking. I know that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Wales will not reply to the debate in detail, but consider giving powers to the Welsh Assembly. However, I emphasise that trying to draw such a link sends the most negative signals to the general public about smoking and their health. Smoking and people's health have nothing to do with whether people are eating, but with whether one is in a confined space, and the amount of second-hand smoke that goes into one's body and causes harm. It is about time that the Government decided to move positively if we are to meet their smoking cessation targets, which I support.

The Government have done wonderfully well by putting money into public health and smoking cessation clinics, but all the professionals say that we will undershoot the targets in 2010. We will continually undershoot them if we keep sending out mixed messages about what secondary smoking does to us.

I want to consider businesses. It is well documented that, in New York, Dublin and doubtless many other smoke-free places, the ban on smoking has had a positive effect on business. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North mentioned the national pub chain, J. D. Wetherspoon. For many years, it has been trying to create smoke-free and ventilated areas in its pubs. I have visited them and seen what the chain is trying to do but it knows that ventilation in public houses and restaurants is not the answer. The solution is to introduce a ban. It has decided to move far quicker than the Government, not because the White Paper is perceived to be a threat to its business but because it understands that its premises will probably be the pubs of choice for people who can go to them and be in a smoke-free atmosphere.

The Forum of Private Business conducts the referendums that are regularly sent to us. I have the latest referendum result from 21 February 2005. The first question was about a ban on smoking in public places, and 71.5 per cent. of those in the Forum of Private Business voted for a ban. I hope that it seems a sensible and practical measure to most hon. Members. We are making the national health service smoke free and it is therefore ridiculous to do that while allowing some smoking in public places, which could easily be stopped by proper legislation.
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I hope that the Bill, which gives the National Assembly for Wales the power to ban smoking in public places in Wales, will be supported. I also hope that people in England will have the opportunity to make the same decisions to protect the health of the nation by protecting us from second-hand smoke and the effects of smoking.

10.44 am

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