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Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras) (Lab): I should like to make one or two simple points.

Smoking in enclosed spaces kills people. It kills smokers themselves, and it kills non-smokers who inhale second-hand smoke. It is obviously a good idea to try to stop people smoking in enclosed public spaces if possible. There is no longer any "if" about it, however, as we know that it can be done. Smoking in enclosed public spaces has been banned in Ireland, where the sanction has proved both workable and enforceable. It has stopped people inhaling second-hand smoke, and it has helped smokers to give up. Fewer cigarettes are being sold in Ireland, and fewer people are smoking. The ban in the Irish Republic has been so successful that our Government are to introduce a total ban in Northern Ireland. Having checked with the Clerks, I believe that that will require a vote in the House before it can be brought into effect. The Scottish Parliament is introducing a similar ban in Scotland, and the Welsh Assembly intends to use the measure to do the same thing.

Stephen Williams: Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Frank Dobson: No, I would like to make progress, as other hon. Members would like to make a contribution.

The Government want only a partial ban in England. Smoking is to be banned where food is sold, but it will not be banned where food is not sold. Pubs, clubs and bars serving booze but not food are mainly located in poor neighbourhoods, and serve working-class people, so the partial ban will be good for the health of middle-class people but bad for the health of working-class people, who are ill more often and die sooner than the middle classes. The partial ban introduced by the Labour Government will widen the health gap between the social groups. No one has mentioned the fact that the partial ban will concentrate smokers and smoke in pubs where smoking is permitted, because smokers will move to them from places where smoking is banned. The partial ban will therefore make the situation worse for people in those pubs. It is hard to believe that a Labour Government are knowingly widening the health gap.

Smoking is one of the major causes of the health gap. Headlines in two Sunday papers said "Glasgow is Britain's smoking capital" and "Glasgow people have the shortest lifespan". There is a clear connection
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between smoking and early mortality, as has been pointed out by the chief medical officer in his advice to the Government and in his public statements. Professor Sir Liam Donaldson believes that there should be an outright ban, but the Government have decided to ignore his professional advice. It is his job to try to promote good health, but the Government have ignored his advice, just as they have ignored the advice of the distinguished doctor, Professor Dame Carol Black, president of the Royal College of Physicians, who also gave evidence on the matter.

The Government proposals are half-baked and half-hearted, without any merit at all. Most members of the catering trade take the same view, and they would rather have no ban or a full ban, because half a ban is a great deal of trouble for them. The environmental health officers responsible for enforcing the measure believe that a half-ban is unworkable and difficult to enforce. Under the measure, smoking in bar "areas" will be prohibited. What is the bar area? I represent an enormous number of lawyers, and I am sure that they have spotted that wording in the Bill. Some establishments that do not serve food consist only of a bar. Hon. Members may not visit such places, but they exist, so I think that the lawyers will do well. If anyone thinks that they can make a distinction between one part of a room that does not have any smoke and another part that does, they should have tried flying Iberia when the airline banned smoking on one side of the aisle, but permitted it on the other. That ban did not work very well.

May I tell my hon. Friend the Minister, who has the task of defending the Government's policy, that Professor Alex Markham, the chief executive of Cancer Research UK said yesterday that the Government had a huge number of achievements in tackling cancer to their credit. They have quite a few achievements in promoting the reduction of smoking and helping people to stop smoking, thus reducing the incidence of cancer and improving recovery rates. We should not be distracted and throw that credit away by coming up with this half-cocked measure.

We have had many debates in the House in the past few years about weapons of mass destruction. The worldwide weapon of mass destruction is the cigarette, which has killed more people than all the weapons, bombs, mines and bullets since the second world war, far exceeding anything that we have managed to do by trying to blow one another up or to shoot one another. In our country alone, it kills more than 100,000 people every year, but we are giving up an opportunity to make progress.

Finally, last year, I had the singular pleasure of speaking on the same platform in Edinburgh as Sir Richard Doll who, in his 90s, made a fine speech about his initial work to identify the link between smoking and cancer. I made the people present, who were from across Europe, stand in honour of a man who had saved millions of lives. We seldom meet people who save millions of lives, but he has left us an enormous legacy—a better legacy than most politicians are likely to leave, I might add. It would not be a bad addition to his legacy to persuade the Government to introduce an outright ban instead of a partial ban that will not do any good. It will not be enforceable. That partial ban should be avoided by a Labour Government who, as the Secretary
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of State has said, are dedicated to reducing social and health inequalities, because it will serve to do nothing but increase them.

6.29 pm

Mr. Stephen Dorrell (Charnwood) (Con): I agreed with two things that the right hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Frank Dobson) said. The first is that we all owe a great debt to Sir Richard Doll, and I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman spoke for the whole House in what he said on that subject. Secondly, the Government's policy on the subject of statutory smoking bans is, in the right hon. Gentleman's opinion and in mine, half-baked and unenforceable. The difference between us is that, unlike the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Northavon (Steve Webb), who both draw from that the conclusion that we should proceed to an outright ban, I shall speak against the principle of statutory smoking bans.

I do so, as the House is aware, as a former Secretary of State for Health. It would have been an unpopular argument for a Secretary of State for Health in office to advance. I also do it from a personal point of view, as a lifelong non-smoker and somebody who has a deep dislike of smoky atmospheres—so much so that when I go into a pub that has a smoky atmosphere, I go out again, because I do not like it. That is my freedom as an individual, and it is that freedom which lies at the base of my remarks.

As Secretary of State, I of course received advice from the chief medical officer, and successive chief medical officers have argued in favour of statutory action against smoking. I also met many, many clinical staff who were emotionally committed to the principle that it was part of the Government's job to tilt the system more heavily against smokers. However, we should not proceed on the basis of the Government's half-baked proposal, and still less in the direction that the right hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras and the hon. Member for Northavon advocate. I shall set out briefly why.

At root, my reason is that, like my hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron), I have always described myself as a liberal Conservative. By that I mean, among other things, that I think it is part of our job in this place to defend private space against the well-meaning aspirations of a well-meaning state. I have no doubt that the clinicians who argue for statutory smoking bans do so for the very best of motives. I accord to the Secretary of State and to my hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley), who argued from the Opposition Front Bench for a different form of compromise, the best of intentions, but sometimes we in this place should defend private space, particularly the private space of unfashionable minorities, among whom we should now number smokers.

Against that background, I shall go through the arguments that are used to justify the proposals for smoking bans. First—this is the weakest argument of all, which, with respect to him, was advanced by an hon. Member from the Liberal Benches—there are those who say, "It will help me give up smoking". It is not a safe guide for public policy to legislate to encourage somebody to do something that they want to do for their own private benefit. Of course, as a private citizen, one
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to another, I would encourage people to give up smoking. As a result of the work of Sir Richard Doll and his successors, we all acknowledge that smoking causes cancer and therefore premature death. We should not be mealy-mouthed about that, but we should not use the power vested in us as legislators to impose on people a private benefit that they may wish for themselves, but which they apparently cannot deliver for themselves without legislative backing. That is no basis for public policy.

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