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Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): I am grateful to the Secretary of State for moving forward with the Bill, not least because in the Rhondda more people now contract chronic obstructive pulmonary disease from smoking than they did from the mines. She will know that the Welsh Assembly has made it clear that it will not introduce exemptions along the lines of those proposed in clause 3. Will she go a little further and consider time limiting any exemptions that might be in the Bill for just two or three years?

Ms Hewitt: My hon. Friend makes an interesting point. I have made various changes in response to the consultation that we have had since May this year. For example, my hon. Friends will recall that the proposed implementation date for licensed premises was originally the end of 2008. I have brought implementation forward to the summer of 2007, when all the provisions relating to smoke-free places will take effect.

Several hon. Members rose—

Ms Hewitt: I want to finish this point.

I have also made it clear that we intend to monitor the impact of the ban, with the exceptions, from day one and to complete that review within three years. As I said, the Bill provides for a complete ban, but exceptions can be made by regulation. If, in the light of that review and monitoring, the Government and Parliament decide that they no longer want some or all of those exceptions, it will not require further primary legislation. It would be a simple thing to change.

Natascha Engel (North-East Derbyshire) (Lab): On the exemptions, my constituency, like many other former mining constituencies, has a large and lively network of miners' welfare clubs. They are not strictly speaking membership clubs. Do they fall under the exemptions?

Ms Hewitt: I am confident that those clubs, which many of us have in our constituencies, will be covered by
 
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our proposed exemption for membership clubs. However, I stress that the membership clubs that will be exempted will have to comply with the much narrower definition of a genuine membership club contained in the Licensing Act 2003.

Mr. Burstow : Will the Secretary of State explain how she came to the balance that she has struck and, in particular, why she appears not to have taken into account her regulatory impact assessment? It compares a comprehensive ban with a partial ban and shows that more than 200 additional people a year will die from second-hand smoking if we stick with a partial ban. Will not more people die if we do not go for a comprehensive measure?

Ms Hewitt: Some 95 per cent. of deaths that are related to second-hand smoking occur as a result of smoking in the home. That is where the real problem lies. It is why we have to continue to invest in the smoking cessation programmes and, more generally, to raise awareness so that adults who choose to smoke do not do so either in their homes, where their children might be present, or, indeed, in their cars. Unfortunately, about a third of parents who smoke do so in the car when their children are with them.

Mrs. Iris Robinson (Strangford) (DUP): Is the Secretary of State aware that according to Macmillan Cancer Relief, which is to be applauded for the excellent way in which it supports patients and families in the community, approximately 37,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with lung cancer each year? Surely that figure alone should mean that she considers completely lifting all exemptions so that there are none across the UK. There should be a total ban. Nothing else will do.

Ms Hewitt: Macmillan Cancer Relief does excellent work. It is precisely because of the damage that smoking and second-hand smoking do to people's health that we are taking this enormous step. I remind the hon. Lady that 99 per cent. of the work force will be guaranteed a completely smoke-free environment as a result of the Bill, along with the ban on smoking in virtually every enclosed public space.

Several hon. Members rose—

Ms Hewitt: I intend to make a little more progress before I give way.

On exemptions, clause 2 gives the National Assembly for Wales and, in the case of England, the Secretary of State the power to make exemptions, some of which I hope will be uncontroversial. They include private dwellings, along with premises that are clearly private space, such as bedrooms in a hotel or a bed and breakfast, and other places, such as care homes and prisons, that are a person's full-time place of residence for an extended period, although not necessarily as a matter of choice. We are respecting people's private lives and their freedom of choice.

Mrs. Louise Ellman (Liverpool, Riverside) (Lab/Co-op): Is the Secretary of State aware that the Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, my hon. Friend the Member for St. Helens, South (Mr. Woodward),
 
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informed Smoke-Free Liverpool that the main reason that he wanted a total ban on smoking in Northern Ireland was that he did not want two classes of workers—people exposed to smoke and people not exposed to smoke? If that is good enough for Northern Ireland, why is it not good enough for workers and employees in this country?

Ms Hewitt: Inherent to devolution and the constitutional settlement is the fact that different decisions will be made in different parts of the United Kingdom. Although the Northern Ireland Assembly is suspended, we are proceeding in Northern Ireland in the spirit of devolution. Just as different provisions are made on the NHS in Wales and in Scotland which we do not choose to follow, so we are making our own decision to strike the right balance on licensed premises.

Mrs. Betty Williams (Conwy) (Lab): The Secretary of State clearly acknowledges the position of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, but does she think that it is fair that workers and the public in England should be treated differently from Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland? Will she take into consideration the content of the Smoking in Public Places (Wales) Bill, which my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Julie Morgan) presented in the last parliamentary Session?

Ms Hewitt: As my hon. Friend is well aware, health is a devolved matter, so there are different approaches to NHS policy in Wales, Scotland and England. Not surprisingly, there are different approaches not to a general ban, but to the specific issue of whether there should be an exemption for licensed premises.

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The Secretary of State, no doubt inadvertently, implied that a decision made by a Northern Ireland Minister was a result of devolved government. Will you confirm that the Northern Ireland Assembly and devolution are not functioning, so that cannot possibly be a devolved decision? Can you help the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): The right hon. Gentleman must not draw me into the argument. I am sure that there are right hon. and hon. Members who can help themselves in this matter.

Ms Hewitt: I am most grateful, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Indeed, I said that the Northern Ireland Assembly was suspended but that we were proceeding in the spirit of devolution.

In making our judgment about licensed premises, we have taken into account the fact that England already has the lowest smoking rates in the United Kingdom. Our smoking rates have fallen faster and to a lower level than in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. We have also taken account of the tension in public attitudes. I referred earlier to the extensive public consultation that we conducted before publishing the "Choosing Health" White Paper. It demonstrated enormous support for a ban on smoking in restaurants and pubs where meals are served. People clearly want to be able to enjoy their meal without someone blowing smoke over their food and
 
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into their face. Similarly, people want an extensive ban in most enclosed public spaces, but when they are asked about membership clubs and pubs that do not serve food, most of those who do not smoke—the majority—believe that smokers, even though they are a minority, should none the less have some freedom of choice. They clearly view membership clubs as private clubs run by members for members. Such clubs have always been treated differently from other licensed premises because they are non-profit-making organisations.

Several hon. Members rose—

Ms Hewitt: May I make this point before accepting further interventions? Those clubs are non-profit-making organisations in which the members make the decisions, just as people make their own decisions in their own homes. It is therefore right to exempt membership clubs, just as it is right to allow people who continue to smoke to do so while they have a drink, provided that they are in licensed premises that do not serve food. This is a difficult judgment to make. It is one on which there has been much argument. I shall give way to the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley), then I will take further interventions.


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