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Mrs. Williams: I shall ask the question again, because the answer is not as clear-cut as the hon. Gentleman suggests. May I press him, as a Front Bench Member, to tell the House exactly where he got the information from?
Conservative Members want to improve on the voluntary code. We especially look for much tougher action in all those places that are open to children and want firms to come up with much clearer and stronger priorities about how they protect their staff. Overall, the Government need to have a much more effective smoking cessation policy. An arbitrary ban on pubs and clubs serving food is unworkable, and many will simply go out of business. We should treat people as adults and
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allow them to make their own informed choices. The Licensed Victuallers Association in Wales today estimated that up to 1,000 pubs in Wales could close if such a ban were to be imposed on them. It is a commercial decision for pubs, clubs or restaurants to make as to whether they want to be smoke free and thereby appeal to the many people, some of whom are in this Chamber, who will not go to smoking environments, or whether they want to appeal to the minority of the public who still smoke.
Restaurants are private businesses and should be left to choose their own policy on smoking. If they think that they can get more customers by banning it, that is their commercial decision: it should not be for the Government to play nanny state again. This is not even an issue in many restaurants that already have smoking and non-smoking areas. Of course non-smokers should be given that consideration, but there should be designated smoking areas so that people can choose. It is right that we should have policies for Government buildings, NHS trust buildings and hospitals, with the caveats that I mentioned, perhaps particularly in relation to mental health patients. We should allow local councils to decide whether they want to have bans in their own offices and town halls. My local council in Worthing recently voted to ban smoking in the town hall. That is entirely a matter for those councils or institutions. We should be able to make informed choices as adults.
Right hon. and hon. Members have mentioned several specific points, and I will not go into great detail again at this stage. The hon. Member for Cardiff, North took my point about boats. Would the Bill ban smoking on stage in theatres, if required for effect? Some smoking cessation classes use smoking as a deterrent; would they be unable to do so if they were held in a public place?
There are many flaws in the Bill, and I am afraid that we cannot support it for the three reasons that I mentioned. First, this is a constitutional matter; it should not be left to a private Member's Bill to decide the relationship between this House and the Assembly in Wales. Secondly, should we really be giving more powers over health to a Government and an Assembly who already have an atrocious record in looking after their citizens in health care terms? Thirdly, and most importantly, will it have the desired effect in Wales, England or anywhere else?
The jury is still out, but some of us believe that we could be moving more effectively to a wider ban on smoking based on individual merit and commercial decisions if we worked for a voluntary agreement. I am afraid that I cannot support the Bill.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Don Touhig):
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Julie Morgan) on bringing her private Member's Bill to the House. She has worked hard to raise awareness of, and generate public debate on, smoking in public places, in both Wales and the wider community. Such a debate continues the process of helping people to understand the serious effects of smoking on themselves and others, and to make informed decisions.
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No one doubts the effects of smoking on the population. It can cause misery and pain for individuals and their families through serious disease or, worse, death. Every year in Wales, around 6,000 people die from smoking-related illnesses, which represents almost one in five of all deaths in Wales. The Government are addressing the problem of smoking through widespread education support programmes for those who want to quit, and we have achieved an enormous amount since we came to office in 1997.
Tackling second-hand smoking is an equally high priority for the Government, and the White Paper, "Choosing Health", which was published last year, sets out a package of measures that will progressively make almost all enclosed public places and workplaces in England smoke free by 2008. That will save thousands of lives and I join my hon. Friend in seeking, as a matter of urgency, the best way for Wales to reduce the number of deaths from cancer, heart disease and all other diseases caused by smoking.
The Government are working in partnership with the Welsh Assembly and do not intend Wales to be left behind in this crucial matter of health protection. The Assembly is implementing a comprehensive package of smoking prevention and smoking cessation measures in support of what the Government are doing. They include initiatives to discourage young people from starting to smoke, and to encourage and support smoking cessation and smoke-free public places. The Assembly's corporate health standardthe quality mark for workplace health development in Walesencourages organisations to develop and implement non-smoking policies and to protect workers from passive smoking. All those initiatives are having an impact on the population.
In recent years, several countries have introduced measures against smoking in enclosed places, including the Republic of Ireland, Italy and Norway, and the Scottish Parliament is considering legislation to end smoking in all public places and workplaces. A number of right hon. and hon. Members have referred to those matters.
The right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir George Young), who had the courtesy to advise me that he was unable to stay for the end of the debate, asked why the National Assembly for Wales does not have the power to ban smoking. The Government of Wales Act 1998 provides for only existing ministerial powers to be transferred to the Assembly. There are no such powers in existence, so primary legislation is the only way in which to give the Assembly that power.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Barron) referred to the health White Paper and some of its conclusions. The debate is continuing in Wales because the Assembly has a Committee examining the issue.
I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend, who is a long-standing campaigner. When I was successful some years ago in the ballot for private Member's Bills he tried to persuade me to take up this issue. Instead, I introduced a Bill to protect whistleblowers. I commend his commitment and dedication to this issue.
My right hon. Friend said that there may have been mixed messages in what the Government are trying to do and in what they say. When the White Paper, which
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sets out our intentions clearly, was published, the 2004 report of the Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health was also published. The report states that new evidence reinforces and strengthens the conclusion that exposure to second-hand smoke is the cause of lung cancer, heart disease, asthma attacks, childhood respiratory disease and sudden infant death syndrome. However, the report did not produce exact estimates of overall deaths nor of deaths due to exposure in different settings. As we said in "Smoking Kills":
The hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter) asked why the Government do not support the Bill, and I shall deal with that later. However, he was worried about the Assembly's having powers that were too wide. There is no fixed parameter for the scope of secondary legislative powers; for example, Henry VIII powers can be used to amend primary legislation. The question is what is appropriate for the Assembly to be able to do. Parliament has adopted a specific approach to each Bill. The hon. Gentleman referred to the Health (Wales) Bill and the Welsh Affairs Committee's request to include a smoking ban in that measure. As the Minister who took the Bill forward, I can tell him that the Assembly did not ask for the inclusion of such a provision.
My hon. Friend the Member for Conwy (Mrs. Williams) made several points. Like other hon. Members, she referred to the comments that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales made on 3 March in his capacity as Leader of the House when answering a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North. He said:
"We are not able to support my hon. Friend's Bill for various reasons, but in terms of the thrust of the policy that it contains she will find that we are with her in spirit. She will also be encouraged by subsequent legislation that we intend to introduce, which will give Wales the opportunity to implement policies in the way in which the National Assembly choose."[Official Report, 3 March 2005; Vol. 431, c. 1109.]
My right hon. Friend was right. We always try to work through consultation and in partnership with the Assembly in drafting legislation to try to meet the Assembly's aspirations. However, until the relevant Committee of the Assembly has reported on its deliberations and the Assembly has debated the report and decided exactly what it wants to ask of the Government, it would not be proper for me to enter into any commitments.
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