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Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock) (Lab): The hon. Member for Wyre Forest (Dr. Taylor) spoke about MRSA and the massive cover-up that has gone on for years about the scale of MRSA. He makes a true and valid charge. I, along with others, had made it over many years and particularly drew the attention of the House to death certificates recording that a person had died of pneumonia or septicaemia, when in fact the underlying cause of death was a hospital-related infection.

In fairness, the previous Member of Parliament for Welwyn Hatfield—a Minister who lost her seat at the general election—instructed hospitals that death certificates were to be filled in with clarity and precision. Unfortunately, that was not enforced. I called on the House and I call again for it to legislate to discipline or sack civil servants at any level who do not spell out in detail the cause of death on death certificates. I include hospital managers, members of trusts and officials right up to the Department of Health who cover up and conspire to keep the facts from Parliament and the public. I feel strongly about that.

The hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley), who spoke from the Opposition Front Bench, and the hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Amess) spoke about MRSA. Plaudits are due to the present Government, who have belatedly begun to address the matter. I wish that they had done so earlier. In the closing stages of the previous Government, I drew attention to the scale of the cover-up of MSRA. Lord Fitt, in another place, drew it to the attention of Baroness Cumberlege, a Minister of Health. It is on the record. In a special debate in the House, I drew the matter to the attention of the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Horam), a decent man. I do not blame him, but he warned me from the Dispatch Box not to make party politics of it. It rubs me up the wrong way when I hear people accuse the Government of something that was neglected by the previous Administration. Two wrongs do not make a right. To some extent, both Governments are to blame.
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Mark Pritchard rose—

Andrew Mackinlay: No, I cannot give way; I do not have time.

We want more effort from the Government. They have begun to deal with the problem, but the message is that Ministers, Labour and Tory, should listen to Back Benchers more, instead of listening to civil servants, and give us at least some credit for possibly knowing what we are talking about. Legislation and administration would be much better, and we could have started to combat MRSA a lot earlier, had people listened.

On smoking, we are told that the chief medical officer nearly resigned. He should have resigned, in my view. It is not very brave of him to say that he nearly resigned. It is an extremely important issue. In a small way, I quit one course of my career partly because of smoking. When I was first elected to this place, I was persuaded to be a Whip. Let me share with the House the fact that I did not like that at all and found it very uncomfortable. I aspired to more than reading out the folder every night and being a choreographer. In opposition, the Whips were all men, so I qualified on that count, but they were all smokers—it was like pea soup in the Whips room—which was one of the things that made me quit. The situation was offensive and I could not alter it. I remember sitting there thinking, "I don't need to put up with this", which is when I went to see Mr. Foster and said, "I don't want to be a Whip." The rest is history.

The right hon. Member for Loughborough—

Mr. Dorrell: Charnwood.

Andrew Mackinlay: A large part of England, anyway.

Earlier, the right hon. Member for Charnwood (Mr. Dorrell) said that employers and employees are working gradually to provide smoke-free workplaces. The truth is that employers are now moving to insist on smoke-free workplaces because they fear litigation. Whether or not we pass the Bill, employers are receiving a growing weight of advice that they could face some serious class actions in the future, because they failed to provide their workers with a smoke-free environment.

The right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth), who is not in his place, has mentioned prison officers. We have a duty of care to prison officers and prisoners, regardless of whether we pass this legislation, and future Governments may face serious litigation by them.

I support the Bill, although it does not go far enough. I am deeply disappointed that it contains exemptions that will muddy the waters, that will not provide clarity and precision, but will provide the chemistry for division, argument and lack of enforcement. The burden of enforcement will be placed on bar owners and bartenders, whereas the ban in the Irish Republic has been enforced by peer pressure.

The Minister's notes state, "Keep repeating the mantra, 'It's in the manifesto.'" It will not wash. This is a good Bill, and I shall join the overwhelming majority of hon. Members in supporting it tonight because we want a ban. However, the manifesto did not say, "Thus far and no further." Does the Minister want me to conduct an audit of the policies that have not been
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implemented, although they were included in the manifestos on which we have stood, and the policies which have been implemented even though they were not in a manifesto? The Bill is in line with the manifesto, but so are my hon. Friends who are calling for a comprehensive and immediate ban along the lines of the policy introduced in the laboratory conditions provided for us by the Irish Republic, where the ban has worked.

I represent quite a poor, working-class area, which has the highest indices of heart disease, respiratory complaints, diabetes and asthma. I resent it when hon. Members who represent constituencies where a ban will be implemented because of devolution tell me that a different duty of care will apply to my working-class constituents. I should have thought that a Labour Government would not want the West Lothian question to be raised, and I did not raise it—other hon. Members raised it by interfering in the health care of my constituents and of others in England.

I believe that there is a majority in this House for a comprehensive ban. A week and a half ago, the Government were comprehensively defeated—they persuaded me to join them in the Lobby, which I rather regret now. They are not reading the political tea leaves because there is a majority in this House for a complete ban, but if they want to go down to a further defeat, that is their decision.

When the Secretary of State discussed the Bill, she said that she was proud to introduce it. She should be proud because, as she said, when the Bill goes through—flawed as it is—hundreds, nay thousands, of people will live longer as a consequence. Why would she allow it to be spoiled or diminished by not introducing a total ban on smoking in public places?

Libertarians say that people have the right to choose. I believe in full knowledge and full consent. However, in this case, we cannot provide full consent. We will have a ban in pubs, but not in working-class clubs. Young children are entitled to go into those clubs, and they do. We need to recognise that fact. The Secretary of State says that the ban will apply not only in the bar area but in other areas. That is nonsense, because it cannot be defined. There is bound to be argument and avoidance based on that fudge.

I hope that the Government will have the humility and common sense to reconsider the one area that has aggravated many Members on both sides of the House, but particularly among their Labour colleagues, who welcome the Bill and are proud to support it but see it flawed by sheer cussedness. The problem is that—

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman's time is up.

9.1 pm

Mr. Charles Walker (Broxbourne) (Con): Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for calling me to speak in this important debate.

My father died at 46 from throat cancer. I am an ex-smoker who smoked a lot. We both made our choices. I might therefore be expected to speak in favour of a total ban, but far from it. I have read the briefs from the learned gentlemen and organisations proposing a ban—
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the chief medical officer, the British Medical Association and the British Heart Foundation. They are all experts and they all want the Government to implement a comprehensive ban on smoking. I congratulate the Government on having the courage to say, "Yes, you are experts, but the role of Parliament is to balance the interests of various groups, non-smokers and smokers." If Dr. Liam Donaldson wanted to have a hissy fit because he is an expert and the Government would not implement his advice, they would have been well advised to accept his resignation.

What confuses me about this debate is why we get so pious about second-hand smoke even though the science is still a little shaky. We all experience the implications of second-hand alcohol—drunks who turn our town centres into war zones, drink-drivers who maim and kill thousands of people on our streets, and alcoholic parents and children who destroy families. When, Madam Deputy Speaker, was the last time you smoked 20 B&H and went home and beat up your husband or partner? It simply does not happen. If we are interested in protecting innocent parties, why on earth did this House vote to have 24-hour drinking? The implications of alcohol are far more pronounced and far better known than those of smoke.

Is smoking the ultimate evil afflicting our modern society? I talked to a headmaster at one of my local comprehensive schools who said, "Yes, smoking is a bad thing, but what really worries me is young people coming to school hungover or drunk and unable to participate in the day from beginning to end. A few of my students may be smoking behind the bike sheds two or three times a day. I disapprove of that, but at least they can take part in the school day." We compare cigarettes to drugs and alcohol. Cigarettes are addictive, but they do not rob people of their free will as drugs and alcohol do.

We have several extremely bold and courageous charities in Hertfordshire that help people to break severe addictions that lead them to violence against others and themselves. Several of them smoke and I am pleased that the Bill provides for people in residential situations to be allowed to continue to smoke. However, the charities also provide day-care services. It would be appalling if the Bill did not allow those who receive treatment for drug and alcohol addictions to smoke and, because they could not smoke to relieve their tension and angst, they went back on to the streets and pursued a life of violence again to feed their habits.

I have probably spoken for too long—I am full of passion and I would love to go on for longer. I shall make one final point. In Scotland, it appears that £66 million will be provided over the next three years for enforcement. If that were extrapolated to the UK, the figure would be £660 million for smoking-cessation officers. If the British public were presented with a choice between £660 million for smoking-cessation officers and the same sum for 4,500 new police officers, I believe that they would opt for the latter.

9.5 pm

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