Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. There were two things wrong with that intervention: first, the hon. Gentleman used the second person when he should not have done so; and secondly, most of his remarks were not addressed to the Chair.

Mr. Barron: I will leave clause 18 to my hon. Friend the Minister, who may talk about that issue. I am more concerned about the fact that health trusts other than strategic health authorities will have someone specifically responsible for such drugs. That is the most important thing, no matter who in the system does it.
29 Nov 2005 : Column 173

I am concerned that the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley) talked about the weakness of the codes that are likely to come into being to protect us from health-care acquired infections. I may be wrong, but I thought that he said that the draft code was not good enough, but that he had not seen it. That seems a bit of a jump that should be addressed. I understand that the Bill will give the Secretary of State the power to provide a statutory code of practice and to place a duty on NHS bodies to comply with that code, as well as the power for the Healthcare Commission to issue improvement notices to non-compliant bodies. I spoke to Healthcare Commission representatives at a meeting yesterday and they want the Bill to ensure that that can happen. They also want the existing intervention powers of the Secretary of State and Monitor—the Independent Regulator of NHS Foundation Trusts—to be used to take enforcement action.

Mr. Lansley rose—

Mr. Barron: I will certainly give way to the hon. Gentleman, but I would have thought that he was reasonably happy with that aspect of the Bill. Given that that seems to be the only health policy on which the Conservative party fought the last general election, I would have thought that Conservative Members were cock-a-hoop about the fact that what they said that they would do with health care within about 12 to 18 months of winning a general election has been done.

Mr. Lansley: For the purposes of accuracy, I did not say that I had not seen the code of practice on health care-associated infections, but simply that the Government consulted in July on a draft that struck me as deficient and that they are not proposing to show us a new code, following the consultation, until after the Bill has completed its passage.

Mr. Barron: I misheard the hon. Gentleman.

I want to move on to the aspect of the Bill that is more contentious. I am very conscious of the fact that I am the Chairman of the Select Committee on Health, which is investigating smoking in public places. The Select Committee has not yet reported to the House, so I want to limit my remarks to the three evidence sessions on 20 October and 17 and 24 November, which are marked on today's Order Paper as relevant to the debate on Second Reading.

The Government's intention to exempt drink-only pubs and membership clubs has inevitably caused frustration and anger, not just among the health community but in large sections of the leisure industry that did not want to ban smoking in the first place, but would now prefer a comprehensive ban as that would create a level playing field for them. They do not want to have to consider whether or not they should get out of food and into drink only, given that some sort of ban will be introduced under the Bill.

During a number of evidence sessions, I talked about my apprenticeship as a young man drinking in South Yorkshire pubs. They were largely full of smoke and men and there was little food beyond a packet of crisps.
29 Nov 2005 : Column 174
I hope that that culture has changed in many of those public houses, which I sometimes frequent, and that food and families can be seen in them. They are a lot better than they were in years gone by. I would hate to think that we were going to reverse that change in the culture of drinking in our public houses by introducing a Bill that was not specific.

Mrs. Iris Robinson : Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is more than likely that pubs serving grub will eventually give up food and that massive redundancies will therefore take place in the catering trade?

Mr. Barron: I am not too sure whether that is the lesson of the Irish Republic. None the less, there is a danger, and no one knows what will happen on day one if exemptions are granted in the way that the Government propose.

The Health Committee has obviously considered enforcement. Under the Government's proposals, enforcement will be more difficult to achieve, more open to misinterpretation and more costly than under a comprehensive ban. The Health Committee went to Ireland for two days, and one thing that jumped out at us when we talked to people there is that the ban was enforced by people who used the pubs, not by people who work in them or own them, or by people whose duty it is to visit pubs occasionally to ensure that they are run properly. The people who went into the pubs had the opportunity to complain if their pubs were not meeting the requirements set down by their legislation.

Of course, another issue that has been touched on several times in the debate is health inequalities. Exempt pubs and clubs are more likely to be found in areas where health inequalities already exist. The current proposals are likely to work against meeting the Government's targets. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, who is not in her place, said in her opening address that health inequality targets are central to Government policy. Some of the information received by the Health Committee would suggest that the proposed exemptions will not help to reduce health inequalities.

Most Members have received correspondence from the Local Government Association, whose research shows that in Newcastle 47 per cent. of pubs and clubs would be exempt; in Northamptonshire, 54 per cent. would be exempt; and in Corby, the figure is as high as 85 per cent. Not every pub in my constituency has changed the culture in the way that I explained earlier, and quite a large number of pubs and clubs that are on the wrong end of health inequalities will suffer if the proposal is introduced unchanged.

Julie Morgan (Cardiff, North) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend agree that by exempting bars that do not serve food, young people will be particularly at risk? Certainly, in many city-centre pubs in Cardiff, young people tend to stand in big groups, drinking without food. Would not such an exemption be very dangerous?

Mr. Barron: It is likely to be very dangerous, but I do not want to go into all the issues about drinking. I see that the clock is ticking away and I do not know whether I have any added time for interventions this afternoon, so I will move on very quickly to what I want to say.
29 Nov 2005 : Column 175

Listening to the Government's arguments, one of the conclusions that I reach—it may be that no one else, including the Health Committee, reaches this conclusion—is that the Government do not want to introduce a complete ban because they believe that it is unpopular. I think that they are wrong. I beg to differ with them. I will briefly look at two issues. First, hon. Members will know that the Office for National Statistics conducts an annual smoking-related behaviour and attitude survey. In the autumn of 2003, 20 per cent. of people believed that no smoking should be allowed anywhere and 51 per cent. believed that there should be mainly no smoking, but that there should be separate areas where smoking could take place. In the autumn of 2004, those figures had changed to 31 per cent. and 47 per cent. respectively. The fact that the second figure had dropped a bit is understandable.

Action on Smoking and Health got YouGov to do the same survey in August 2005. First, people were asked the straight question that the ONS asks in its surveys. It found that 41 per cent. of people believed that no smoking should be allowed anywhere in places they visit when they go out, while 39 per cent. of people believed that there should be separate smoking areas. YouGov then told people about the science of secondary smoking before asking the question again, and found that the proportion of people who said that they would ban smoking in all public places rose to 52 per cent. The evidence shows what has happened in other parts of the world where a ban has been brought in, so I would like to think that we could act a bit more strongly.

Stephen Williams (Bristol, West) (LD): Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Barron: No, I will not give way again.

The Health Committee and I did an experiment with "You and Yours", the well-known and popular Radio 4 programme. I went on the programme the other week and did a half-hour phone-in. A mixture of people phoned in and all the evidence from the letters and e-mails that the programme received was collated. Some 60 per cent. of listeners—626 people—said that there should be a complete ban.

All I want to say is that what can happen in the rest of the UK should happen in England as well. It is inequitable and I find it—

Next Section IndexHome Page