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Mr. Lansley : I am grateful to the Secretary of State for giving way. Given that we are debating a public health measure and that the public may take the view that we should not interfere with smokers' right to continue smoking among smokers, where is the public health evidence that the impact of second-hand smoke differs according to whether one is in premises where food is consumed, as distinct from other premises? What is the evidence relating food to second-hand smoke?
Ms Hewitt: I regret that the hon. Gentleman did not tell us whether he supports the measure or not. It would appear that the Opposition cannot make up their mind whether there should be legislation. I have made it clear that in legislating on this matter, which is a matter that directly affects people's own choices about how they behave, we have made the judgment that the right balance to strike is between banning smoking in virtually every enclosed public space and work space, and exempting the membership clubs and the licensed premises that do not serve food, in order to protect freedom of choice for that minority of people whom nobody is forcing to go into a pub that allows smoking, but some of whom none the less continue to do so.
Ms Hewitt: The issue of health inequalities and reducing health inequalities is central to our purpose as a Government, whether it is in health policy and the work that we are doing to improve the national health service, or a series of other aspects.
The point I want to make in relation to the narrow but important proposed exemptions is that bar staff everywhere will have protection against smoking, which does not currently exist. There is at present no law at all
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in that regard. We will consult on the regulations in this and other areas, and ensure that even in the membership clubs and non-food pubs that decide to allow smoking, smoking will still be prohibited, at least in the area around the bar.
Ms Hewitt: I hear my hon. Friend from a sedentary position. He anticipates the point that I was about to make. We will consult in particular on whether the best way to achieve that is to designate an area that does not include the bar to be a smoking area or smoking rooma discrete, separate smoking room or smoking area that does not include the bar.
Mr. McFadden: Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Will my right hon. Friend clarify what she said a short time ago about the exemptions and a review? Is she saying that if the proposals go through the House in their present form, the Government will give the House an opportunity to review the exemptions inI think she saidthree years, and that those who favour a full ban will have an opportunity to revisit the issue then?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising an extremely important point. As I have said, the Bill provides for a full ban with the power to make exemptions, which will be made by statutory instrument and which will be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure. If after the review, which we propose to complete within three years, the Government and Parliament decide that they do not want to retain some
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or all of those exemptions, the matter will simply involve the repeal of the relevant regulation and not further primary legislation.
Mr. Bob Laxton (Derby, North) (Lab): What consideration has been given to making an exemption for what I term "inherently dangerous workplaces"? For example, Acordis Acetate Products has a large chemical site on the edge of my constituency, where there has been no smoking for 40 years because of the inherent danger. It has always provided smoking rooms, so there has been no mix between smokers and non-smokers. If an exemption is not made, employees, who cannot leave the huge site for a quick smoke, may, against all instructions and contracts of employment, smoke on site, and if they were to smoke in the wrong place, the repercussions for public safety would be serious. Has any consideration been given to granting exemptions for such sites?
Ms Hewitt: As far as I know, that particular point has not been put to uswe have considered the specific issue of oilrigs, where workers cannot leave the site. I undertake to consider my hon. Friend's point more closely, but at this stage my response is that we expect workers in such factories, as in other workplaces, to go off the site to smoke, if that is what is required by safety regulations.
As I have said, we shall seek to protect all staff, even in the limited number of premises that allow smoking, through the consultation on smoking areas. We are following the example of virtually everywhere else that has considered how to legislate on smoking in public: California, New York, Norway, Sweden, Australia and many others either have moved or are moving towards a full ban, and they all began by exempting licensed premises and, in some cases, the hospitality industry, before removing those exemptions as public support for the ban grew.
Mr. Laurence Robertson (Tewkesbury) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The Secretary of State keeps referring to the fact that licensed premises will be exempt. Is she aware that these days almost every pub serves food, so
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman has been here long enough to know that that is not a point of order for the Chair. The Secretary of State is being very generous in taking interventions. Equally, she is taking a generous amount of time and, hopefully, other hon. Members will be able to contribute in due course.
It is important to remember that the Government cannot force people to be healthy. The clear message from the public consultation and the central proposition in "Choosing Health" is that people want the Government to help them become healthy and stay healthy, but they do not want the Government to dictate to them. The huge public health challenges that we face as a nation, such as smoking, drinking and obesity, concern people's lifestyles. We must move with public
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opinion, because we need to help people make different, healthier decisions for themselves, rather than trying to impose such decisions.
This part of the Bill has already aroused considerable debate. Yet the changes that we propose will transform our public places. They will provide a modest degree of choice to those who continue to wish to smoke outside their own home, far better protection for all employees, and far greater choice for workers in the hospitality industry who want to work in a smoke-free environment. The provisions will help us to reduce the number of smokers by a further 0.5 million or more and save up to £100 million a year for the national health service. The measures that I mentioned earlier will help to protect patients from MRSA and other health care infections and modernise the provision of pharmacy and ophthalmic services. I am confident
Lynne Jones: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Some time ago, before she took a large number of interventions, the Secretary of State was moving on to discuss exemptions in respect of care homes, prisons and other establishments, but she has not continued with the relevant passages of her speech
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