|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham) (Con): We have had a full and thorough debate, in which hon. Members on both sides of the House have made interesting and well-informed contributions. We heard first from the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Julie Morgan). She has the best intentions, which I applaud, and I congratulate her on securing fourth place in the ballot. Whatever the merits of the Billwe can argue over its wordingI certainly congratulate her on successfully continuing to focus on the curse of smoking. We would all agree that we need to do much more to address that.
My right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir George Young) apologises that he is not in the Chamber because he has to attend an event in Birmingham. He is a long-standing champion against the dangers of smoking. Although I do not necessarily share the conclusions that he reached during his speech, I respect his frank views. The right hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Barron) is also a long-standing champion of the cause and he told us about the experiences in New York of such legislation.
The hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter), who is not in the Chamber, made interesting points about the possible inappropriate constitutional aspects of the Bill. He also raised examples of anomalies and unintended consequences that could result from the Bill, such as the possible situation at the Roman site of Silchester in his constituency. I am sure that English Heritage would have something to say if it had to put signs about smoking around parts of Silchester.
The hon. Member for Conwy (Mrs. Williams) talked about problems in the workplace and focused on the experiences of employees, which is a legitimate concern. In a detailed and typically legal speech, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Garnier) raised all the possible anomalies that the Bill and other legislation to ban smoking would bring. He gave us various examples of unintended consequences, such as what could happen if he were to invite a church fête to use his houseI am sure that he would allow that, given his generosity. He also talked about the consequences of the Bill for a village football club. The hon. Member for Caernarfon (Hywel Williams), who is also not in the Chamber, gave us the Welsh angle.
Unusually, my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) was not in expansive mode, but none the less he gave us an incisive critique of some of the flaws in the wording of the Bill. He also pointed out the fact that it cuts against something that he has always stood up for: the rights of individual adults to make informed adult choices.
The problem that we face is well known, so I shall not repeat all the figures that we have. Despite everything that has been done over many years, 25 per cent. of people in England still smoke. The figure in Wales is a little higher at 26 per cent. The hon. Member for Cardiff, North said that smoking has quite a large social class gradient. In social class 1I am not sure what that
18 Mar 2005 : Column 554
stands for, but it is the terminology that we are given15 per cent. of men smoke, but as many as 45 per cent. of men in social class 5 smoke, which is three times as many. It is especially worrying that 10 per cent. of 11 to 15-year-olds are deemed to smoke regularly.
Smoking causes 121,000 deaths a year throughout the United Kingdom and more than 7,000 a year in Wales alone. It causes one in three cancer deaths and 90 per cent. of lung cancer cases. It remains the single largest cause of death and disability in the United Kingdom and costs the NHS at least £1.7 billion a year. Smoking is also reducing the female advantage of life expectancy and widening the social class divide in mortality.
There is evidencemore needs to be provided, I agreeabout the effects of passive smoking. The International Agency for Research on Cancer concluded that there is a statistically significant and consistent association between lung cancer risk and exposure to second-hand smoke. Exposure varies, but it was found that someone dancing for four hours in a nightclub in a city such as Vienna or Barcelona was likely to be exposed to as much second-hand smoke as someone who lived with a smoker for a month. No doubt the same effect is apparent in nightclubs in Wales. We might have to ask someone such as Charlotte Church to give us an authoritative statement on that.
The agency also calculated that non-smokers who live with a smoker have a 20 to 30 per cent. greater risk of lung cancer than they would in non-smoking households. The vulnerability of children especially concerns most people. It has been calculated that some 17,000 children under the age of five are admitted to hospital each year on account of the effects of smoking. We have heard figures on the effect of smoking on workplace health as well.
All of us in the House and outside are agreed that smoking is a thoroughly nasty habit. The Conservative party is committed to doing everything it can to encourage as many people as possible to kick the habit once and for all and, more importantly perhaps, to deter impressionable teenagers from taking it up in the first place, even if the Secretary of State for Health described smoking as one of the few pleasures remaining to single mothers on council estates.
I question the success of the Government's policy so far. In January, the Public Accounts Committee produced a report that showed that more than two thirds of quitters took up smoking again within 12 months of quitting. The British Medical Journal recently reported that smoking cessation services are having only minimal impact and are way off course to reduce smoking prevalence from 26 per cent. to 17 per cent. by 2011, to meet the Government's target. In 200304 the smoking cessation programme reduced smoking rates by between only 0.1 and 0.3 per cent. and will deliver less than 1 per cent. of the target fall, which is extremely worrying.
Much more needs to be done to provide a much greater variety of smoking cessation services, which at present concentrate largely on nicotine replacement patches. A great deal more needs to be done to address the problem of teenage smoking, not least the pressures
18 Mar 2005 : Column 555
from peers and the images of sporting and TV celebrities that influence children. On its own, the ban on tobacco advertising introduced by the Government will not achieve the desired result. We need to do more, but I am not sure that the Bill is the answer, although I applaud the good intentions of the mover.
Let us consider the Bill on three levels. First, regardless of what the Bill is about, it is designed to give extra powers to the Welsh Assembly, and it needs to be judged on that basis. Secondly, should the Assembly be doing other things to improve health generally in Wales? Thirdly, is an outright ban the best way to promote health? With regard to the powers of the Welsh Assembly, another anomaly of devolution is thrown up. The Assembly has responsibility for health promotion in Wales. Under the Government of Wales Act 1998, the National Assembly should have control over all aspects of public health in Wales, including food safety, but excluding international issues where the Department of Health or other agencies lead for the United Kingdom. I hope that the Minister will deal with that anomaly when he explains why smoking is not covered by that public health agenda.
I recognise, as hon. Members have already mentioned, that previous attempts have been made to enact such legislation, with the noble Baroness Finlay of Llandaff introducing a Smoking in Public Places (Wales) Bill in the Lords in December 2003. Lady Finlay was reflecting the will of the Assembly, which had voted for a ban on smoking in public places in January 2003 by a pretty large majority. The cross-party motion carried by the Welsh Assembly on 22 January 2003 called upon the UK Government to bring forward a public Bill relating to Wales that would give the Assembly powers to prohibit smoking in public places. The motion will now be included in the list of proposals for primary legislation submitted later this year by the Assembly to the Secretary of State for Wales for consideration by the UK Government, as the spokeswoman for the Welsh Assembly Government said after that debate back in January 2003. But no such primary legislation has since been allowed in Government time. It was reported that Labour Assembly Members had complained to the Secretary of State for Wales about the failure to introduce a Bill to ban smoking in public places. Since the vote in the Welsh Assembly, a Committee on smoking in public places has been established to determine how a ban may be introduced. Its terms of reference have been set out and that Committee is due to report by the end of March 2005.
The Secretary of State for Wales appears to have back-tracked, and, in any case, has recently called into question the whole wisdom of hurrying through outright bans on smoking in public places, as his own Government had appeared to set out in the public health White Paper "Choosing Health", published only last November. So this is a spat between the Secretary of State and his Government and the Welsh Assembly, and it is they who need to sort the whole thing out, and in Government time. A private Member's Bill is not the way to do thatit is not the medium for such a constitutional tangle.
18 Mar 2005 : Column 556
The Opposition are opposed to the Bill on the basis that it will give further powers to the Welsh Assembly without first consulting the people of Wales in a referendum. It is clearly set out that we can debate whether the Welsh Assembly is to have further powers, but the decision should be made by the people of Wales through a further referendum and after a proper consultation process. On that basis, the Bill fails to meet our criteria.
The Scottish Parliament has the power to ban smoking in public places, and on 17 December 2004 it introduced a Smoking, Health and Social Care (Scotland) Bill to bring in a comprehensive ban to cover all enclosed public spaces from March 2006. It is perfectly entitled to do so. That was in the legislation setting up the Scottish Parliament. That is a matter for the Scottish Parliament.
Furthermore, as has been pointed out by several. Members, we are likely to face other such anomalies and other similar pieces of legislation for parts of England. The Liverpool City Council (Prohibition of Smoking in Places of Work) Bill had its First Reading in the upper House on 24 January 2005. I think that it would have had its Second Reading in the upper House last Friday if both Houses of Parliament had not been detained on other matters, and we would have seen what happened to it there. Many of us will have seen the literature produced by the SmokeFree Liverpool campaign. London may be looking to do the same, and will be applying to this House for legislation to enable bans on smoking in public places. But this is no way to proceed. There will be chaos between certain parts of the country. There will be chaos where borders lie. Smoke, like pollution, is no respecter of municipal boundaries.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|