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Mr. Win Griffiths (Bridgend) (Lab): I add my congratulations to my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Julie Morgan) on her success in the ballot and her decision to introduce a Bill to ban smoking in public places in Wales. We all know that in the time immediately before we sign the book for the ballot for private Members' Bills, we are inundated with requests from all sorts of organisations to take up their particular cause, and I am pleased that my hon. Friend decided to take up this issue.
The hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter) and the hon. and learned Member for Harborough (Mr. Garnier) have raised legal and constitutional issues on the Bill, as did the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth), and such matters could be discussed in Committee, along with the practicalities of the measure.
I also pay tribute to Baroness Finlay for the work that she has done both through the Bill that she introduced in the other place and in publicising the extremely damaging effects of smoking on people's health, particularly in connection with cancer, on which she is an expert.
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In the Welsh Assembly, the former and current Ministers for Health and Social Services, Jane Hutt and Dr. Brian Gibbons, have tried to raise the profile of this issue, because it is so important in health terms. A number of hon. Members have mentioned that in January 2003, Welsh Assembly Members voted 39 to 10 for such a Bill to be introduced to enable it to do this work. There was a majority in all parties, and the leaders and health spokespeople were all of one mind. That is important for us when we consider the Bill.
I do not want to reiterate all the arguments that have been so ably advanced by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North, my right hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Barron) and my hon. Friend the Member for Conwy (Mrs. Williams), as well as by the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir George Young), all of whom have clearly explained the damaging effects of cigarette smoking on health, and the impact of passive smoking on people who are not smokers but are caught in public places where smoking is allowed. They have also clearly set out all the economic arguments to show that, in the hospitality industry, restaurants, bars and other public places, banning smoking brings about an improvement in trade and business rather than a reduction.
I have no financial interest to declare, but I do have an acute personal interest, because I am an asthmatic. Asthma did not come to me as a youngster, although I am looking back to my early 30s. I have been a pretty fit person; I have been active in the sports field and I was a regular player in the Cardiff squash league. I became an asthmatic at that time, and the doctors are still not absolutely sure what caused it, although my own trial and experiment suggests that there is some ingredient in alcohol that has an adverse effect, so I do not take alcohol at all, other than in its cooked form in sauces and so on.
It is clear from the research, including in particular the work done by Ulrik and Lange and published in 2003 in the Monaldi archives for chest disease, that the condition of asthma sufferers is made far worse when they come into contact with smoke. Some 26,000 people in Wales have this problem, as I do, and when asked, 80 per cent. of them said that they were acutely aware of the fact that smoking makes their condition even worse.
I want to add my personal experience. As a Member of Parliament going to public places and an individual who might want to enjoy a day or night out, I have frequently had my enjoyment damaged and spoiled by cigarette smoke. It does not even have to be immediately next to me; in restaurants, I have had problems with smoking and non-smoking areas. Even though I might be as far away from a smoker as I currently am from the Front Bench, the smoke always seems to drift in my direction. Within a very short time, my eyes will be watering and my chest tightening, and I will have to leave. Asthmatics in particular have that experience, but people who do not smoke often have a similar one. I therefore believe that we are right to discuss the issue.
The hon. and learned Member for Harborough raised some questions about the sort of places that might qualify as enclosed public spaces for the purposes of the Bill. He raised the examples of a public event for charitable purposes held in a private house and garden, and of a football ground at which an amateur club charges for entry. Such matters should be discussed in
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detail in Committee, so I will not debate them at length, but the detailed issues about how the legislation might work require examination.
Mr. Forth: If the 75 per cent. of people in this country who do not smoke all went only to no-smoking premisesthe hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Julie Morgan) mentioned that a chain of pubs has decided to go down that routewould that not go a long way to solving the problem?
The right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst and the hon. Member for Basingstoke have both said that we do not need the legislation because this is a common-sense matter that can be sorted out with voluntary codes. Time and time again, however, voluntary codes have not worked. Although a common-sense approach might appear to be the solution, that is hardly ever the case, which is why much of our legislation exists. There are common-sense issues about how people might drive, but rules and regulations relating to driving are nevertheless set out in legislation. Health is so important that we need legislation. If I were assured that the history of efforts to control and reduce smoking by voluntary means had worked, I would be at one with the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst, but in the past, voluntary efforts have not significantly reduced smoking.
I hope that the House will give the Bill promoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North a fair wind and allow it to go into Committee, where we can vigorously scrutinise the issues that those who feel uncomfortable about the Bill have rightly raised. In that case, we would return to this House on Report before perhaps facing a general election, and then the assembled ranks of hon. Members would no doubt be much greater than they are today.
Mr. Barron: Does my hon. Friend think that the scope of the Bill is likely to cover areas such as attending Wimbledon finals as the guest of Imperial Tobacco or going pheasant shooting in Bedfordshire and other places as a guest of the Tobacco Manufacturers Association? The hon. and learned Member for Harborough (Mr. Garnier) has registered those activities in the recent past.
Just in case my birthday friend, the right hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Barron), is trying give a false impression about my candour, may I make it clear that I answered his question entirely properly? [Interruption.] Instead of muttering and making implications about my conduct under his breath, perhaps he would have the decency to make an allegation straight out, in which case I will deal with it. The answer that I gave to him a moment ago was
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entirely factual and clear, and all those records are available for public scrutiny. The events to which he has referred are of some historical date.
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): Order. We have dealt with this matter at some length, and the hon. Member for Bridgend (Mr. Griffiths) should now confine his remarks to the matter before the House.
My party's long-standing policy has been to oppose smoking in enclosed public places, and in that I believe that we reflect the views of the majority of people in Wales. I therefore congratulate the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Julie Morgan) on introducing a Bill that is so in tune with the views of the people of Wales, as did Baroness Finlay of Llandaff in the other place. As I said some time ago in my response to the Government's White Paper on public health, it is also the view of the National Assembly for Wales, but the Assembly has no primary legislative powers in this field, whatever the Richard commission's report eventually engenders. I am glad to be able to point to that particular weakness in the Government of Wales Act 1998. I will listen with great interest to the Minister's response to the points raised by the hon. and learned Member for Harborough (Mr. Garnier).
We in Wales called for this ban some time ago, but we have to lag behind Ireland and Scotland, which have already enacted changes, and will get our ban, if we do, on England's coat-tails. The vote in the National Assembly for Wales was overwhelmingly in favour of the ban, by 39 to 10, with representatives of all four parties supporting it. It should also be noted that the Bill has received the support of BMA Cymru Wales, the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research, Action on Smoking and Health and many others. Yet although we are pressing for this piece of legislation, we will be left waiting. I am sure that the people of Wales will be supportive if the Government eventually do something in respect of the Richard commission's proposals.
The health arguments have already been extensively rehearsed, but I should like to point to a few matters that may not have received the attention that they deserve.
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Smoking rates in Wales are marginally higher than in England. For men they are 29 per cent. in Wales and 27 per cent. in England; for women they are 26 per cent. in Wales and 24 per cent. in England; overall, they are 27 per cent. in Wales and 25 per cent. in England. That means that there is a more pressing need for action, particularly when one considers the wide class variations. In Wales, 20 per cent. of people in class 1, and 33 per cent. of people in class 5, are smokers.
Moreover, as the hon. Member for Conwy (Mrs. Williams) said, we have in Wales a history of industrial diseasesarising out of the slate industry in my area, and the coal extraction industry elsewhere. When we put together the high level of smoking among those in class 5and in class 4, for that matterand the prevalence of those industrial diseases, the argument in favour of the Bill is overwhelming.
Smoking is the biggest cause of preventable death that we know of, and is implicated in 80 per cent. of lung cancer deaths, 80 per cent. of deaths from bronchitis and emphysema and 17 per cent. of deaths from heart disease. In Wales the death rate from smoking from 1998 to 2002 was marginally higher, at 18 per cent. against 17 per cent. in England, which is an argument for taking action in Wales.
It has been estimated that 600 deaths a year are caused by passive smoking, but no official figures are available for Wales. Bar staff are particularly vulnerable, but staff in other public places such a hospitals are also affected. I recently visited a private home for the elderly which had a smoking room next to the front door and the staircase. Smokers had their own place in which to smoke, but smoke seeped throughout the building.
The hon. and learned Member for Harborough referred to the displacement effect of banning smoking in public places, and I gave him the information from the Library briefing that there has apparently been an increase elsewhere in Ireland. However, the figures are provisional and there is no definite evidence. It is, to say the least, a partial argument that because banning smoking in one place might increase it elsewhere, the first course of action should not be taken.
There has been discussion in Wales about the effect that a ban would have on trade, which is particularly important for the tourist industry. Tourism is probably the second most important industry in my constituency. The Library briefing states that there is no international evidence to support a prediction of a drop in sales, but I shall not go into the details because they are available to all hon. Members. I shall give the House the benefit of my experience in Dublin when I enjoyedperhaps over-enjoyedthe Irish experience without having to put up with smoke. I assure that House that there was no effect on the craic in Ireland. Perhaps that was down to me, but smoke certainly did not intrude.
A ban might have an effect on smaller establishments. It has been argued that larger establishments would be better able to cope with a ban and to absorb a drop in profits. My constituency and much of Wales have mainly small pubs, restaurants and hotels which compete against each other. There are no large premises to soak up any spare trade.
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I am slightly surprised that more attention has not been paid to the economic effects of smokingincluding not only the health of staff but the need for them to take time off to recover from illness. I had the experience of standing outside Gwynedd county council offices recently and saw a crocodile of people smoking outside in the cold, as in Victoria. It crossed my mind at the time that if those people smoked for 10 minutes a time, three times a daythat would be half an hour a dayfor five days, they would have about an afternoon a week away from work to smoke. I am sure that that has a negative effect on public services and possibly on private enterprise. That aspect has not been given as much attention this morning as I would like, but perhaps we will have the opportunity to discuss it in Committee if the Bill gets that far.
We must be especially concerned about today's BMA report on England. It notes that the Government are likely to miss their targets for bringing down the rate of smoking by 2010. It cannot have escaped hon. Members' notice that the Wanless report stated that if we banned smoking in public places, the reduction would be 4 per cent. That is the Government's specific aim.
A good deal of survey information from Wales shows that the majority of people there are in favour of the thrust of the Bill. Seventy-six per cent. support restrictions at work, 78 per cent. support restrictions in restaurants and the lowest percentage50 per cent.support restrictions in pubs. However, only 28 per cent. disagree with such restrictions, so we have a majority in favour even among the lowest count of supporters.
I shall conclude now, because I know that other hon. Members are anxious to speak. When I have discussed the matter with constituents, I have found general support for the thrust of the Bill. I have received one letter against it, and that was couched in such a muscular fashion that I think the writer had a particular axe to grind. The Bill should be passed. It will be a great step forward for the health of the people of Wales and the Welsh economy. It should be enacted with dispatch, and I am glad to support the hon. Member for Cardiff, North.
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