Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Dr. Stoate: May I assist my hon. Friend by pointing out that if smokers use the product as intended by the
29 Nov 2005 : Column 209
manufacturer, 50 per cent. of lifelong smokers will be killed by their habit? Can he think of any other legal product in the world of which that is true?

David Taylor: In just a sentence, my hon. Friend has demonstrated the lunacy of the case of the tobacco manufacturers.

Speaking as a Labour MP, I would argue that smoking is all the more important because of its impact on social and health inequality. The chances of a man in social class 1—the richest—living until the age of 70 are, on average, two in three. For a man in social class 5—the poorest—the chance of living that long is less than one in two. Half that difference is down to smoking. More poor people smoke than rich, and more poor people die as a result from lung cancer, emphysema, vascular disease and all the other terrible conditions that smoking causes.

We must lighten that burden of preventable suffering, not widen the gap. I shall look favourably on Government interventions with that objective. Part 1 of the Health Bill is just such a major intervention. A giant step is being taken to protect the great majority of workers and members of the public from carcinogenic second-hand smoke. However, the proposed exemptions will fail to protect a large group of employees and customers in the hospitality industry. They will introduce further market distortions, lead to unfair competition between licensed premises and generate public order problems. That latter point has not been made so far today.

No wonder affected groups have been so vociferous about the Bill, including those with pre-existing medical conditions such as asthma. Asthma UK has calculated that one in five people with asthma may still be prevented from using parts of their workplace where people smoke because of cigarette and other tobacco fumes. The best estimate of the number of premature deaths caused by workplace exposure to other people's smoke is 600 a year, although other estimates have been quoted today. Compare that to the 200 or so people who die in this country every year from all other industrial injuries and accidents. Let us stop pretending that smoking is not a workplace health and safety issue.

Bryan Ferry and other popular singers of recent times were only partly right. Smoke gets in your eyes, but it also gets into your hair and clothes, into your blood stream and on to your death certificate. Many workplaces still permit smoking and they are generally in sectors with the highest levels of exposure and, therefore, the greatest health and safety risk. Most of them are operated by small firms that employ relatively low-paid staff. Workplace smoking is particularly common in the hospitality trades, including restaurants, pubs and casinos, but it is not confined to such places. The latest Government survey shows that more than 2 million people in Great Britain work in workplaces that allow smoking throughout. A further 10 million people work in places where smoking is allowed somewhere on the premises. In total, that is almost half of the work force.

In Ireland, as we have heard, smoke-free legislation was introduced to tackle a similar starting position. Since its inception in March 2004, it has received wide
29 Nov 2005 : Column 210
public support and is well on the way to proving a great success. I was able to visit Dublin in September last year in a delegation drawn from the all-party group on smoking and health, which I chair. There were representatives from both Houses, including that excellent campaigner in the other place, Lord Faulkner. We talked to Irish parliamentarians at the Dail, including Health Minister Micheal Martin, licensed victuallers, cancer consultants, trade unionists, and drinkers and smokers in the Temple Bar area—the Dublin equivalent of Leicester square. The reaction to the then six-month old ban was hugely positive. I hear that the Health Committee visit this autumn had very similar findings. Objective Irish evidence does not bear out the claims of the tobacco lobby here and parts of our hospitality trade that smoking restrictions have been bad for business, which is in fact improving.

Welcome as the Health Bill is, the exemptions for pubs that do not serve food and for membership clubs make no sense at all. They will increase health inequalities. They will make the law harder and more expensive to enforce, and they will, as I have said, produce unfair competition right across the hospitality industry. On health inequalities, a major survey of more than 1,200 pubs, conducted by survey firm IFF Research Ltd., has shown that those not serving prepared food are concentrated in poorer communities—no great surprise—where smoking rates are already highest. On average, about 14 per cent. of pubs in the richest areas do not serve food, compared with 45 per cent. in the poorest areas.

Worse still, if the current exemption survives the parliamentary passage of the Bill, publicans say that many will stop serving food. The IFF survey suggests that in future the percentage of pubs not serving food in the richest areas will rise to 20 per cent. and in the poorest areas the majority will not serve food. That shift would also be disastrous for the Government's alcohol strategy, a key part of which is to cut binge drinking by encouraging consumption of meals when alcohol is drunk.

After the devastating evidence from, and indeed near resignation of, the chief medical officer last week, I have no doubt that the Health Committee will report in favour of the comprehensive legislation that was indeed the overwhelming choice of the 60,000 respondents to the Government's recent consultation. I suppose that it is possible that the Government might be able to keep the exemptions in the Bill if they are prepared to rely on Tory support to do so, although more and more Tory MPs are recognising the case for comprehensive legislation, too. I know that the Prime Minister will not be unaware of the political fall-out that such a situation could cause.

Thus an end to all smoking in workplaces and enclosed public places would protect non-smokers from the damaging effects of second-hand smoke, and would encourage many smokers to quit.

Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con): I have been listening—

Andrew Mackinlay : You've only just come in.

Michael Fabricant: I have not. I have been listening to   the hon. Member for North-West Leicestershire
29 Nov 2005 : Column 211
(David Taylor), and I wish to reassure him that the Opposition have a one-line Whip on the issue. I shall vote with him for an all-out ban, so he should not characterise Members on party lines.

David Taylor: I stand second to none in the Chamber in my admiration for the upright stance and integrity of my near-neighbour in Lichfield. I look forward to having a chat with him in the Lobby.

On health and safety grounds, there should be no exemption for any pub or membership club. It is wholly unacceptable to exempt any category of worker—I say that with great respect for my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Bill Etherington)—from an identified, controllable and significant risk. Good gracious me, the bulk of Labour Members were trade unionists in another life.

Exempted pubs and clubs will be in less well-off areas, where smoking prevalence rates are higher, and general health and life expectancy are worse than elsewhere. We have heard that that is shown at its starkest in Liverpool, with its sad and unique position as the lung cancer capital of England, and with average smoking prevalence in the most deprived areas at around 50 per cent. No wonder the call for change is even stronger on Merseyside than elsewhere. I commend the Smoke-Free Liverpool campaign; I wear its wristband proudly as a token of my support—the first such wristband I have ever worn.

While the partial ban proposed in the Bill will protect many workers and members of the public, it will leave some of those at most risk still exposed to the health risks of second-hand smoke. In summary, it will also reduce the number of smokers quitting as a result of the legislation, worsen health inequalities and produce perverse and unfair competition between licensed premises.

Smoke-free legislation is essentially a yes/no question, ideally suited to a Chamber with just two Lobbies. Once the health and safety case and the public health benefits are conceded, it is not possible to find a compromise, whether exemptions for some premises, ventilation systems or separate smoking areas are incorporated. All of that is lunacy. It is impossible to find a compromise that is practical, logical and enforceable.

There is still time for the Government to ensure that workplaces and enclosed public places in England will have the same protection from second-hand smoke as will soon be available in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and which already exists in the very enlightened Irish Republic. The benefits and popularity of such a measure would be enormous.

My parliamentary neighbour, the Secretary of State for Health, my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, West (Ms Hewitt), has said that a comprehensive workplace smoking ban will be in place by 2007. I hope that she is right, and that second thoughts and sound advice will prevent my Government from snatching a wholly unnecessary defeat from the jaws of a much-needed historic victory. For then, 400 years after the first tobacco ban was promulgated by an absolute monarch, an absolute ban in enclosed public and workplaces will at long last be a reality. If that is not a reason for public rejoicing, celebrations and, yes, bonfires, then I do not know what is.
29 Nov 2005 : Column 212

8.21 pm

Next Section IndexHome Page