Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Mr. Barron : I worked down coal mines for many years, and the National Coal Board had to take action to protect me from ill health. I have not made a claim, and neither have many other people like me. It is up to the employer, however, to be responsible in terms of how their employees are treated.

Mr. Robertson: For goodness' sake, I do not think that it is possible to go down a coal mine and discover it to be a very healthy working environment.

The Government say that the ban is about protecting the health of people who work behind bars, and I accept that their health should be protected, but there are many licensed premises and a great shortage of catering staff,
29 Nov 2005 : Column 226
which is why so many illegal immigrants are employed in catering. Surely if there are different kinds of pubs and restaurants, bar and restaurant staff can find employment in those that suit them.

As many Members have mentioned, if we take the assertion that staff are the primary concern a step further, how can it be right to expose some people in some pubs to smoke, and yet say that in other pubs where food is served people will be protected from a smoky atmosphere? That defies logic. It is nothing to do with liberty. We know why the Government have adopted this position—because the Cabinet could not agree. Everybody would have more respect for the Government were they just to admit that. It is absolute nonsense to suggest that they are protecting some people's liberty.

If we are talking about protecting staff in pubs, as we should, I will mention my pub—I do not own it, but I go in it, as it is in my village. It is the Village Inn in Twyning, if anyone wants to look it up, and it is a fine establishment. The landlord and his wife run it, they both smoke and they do not employ any staff. How does the Government's logic stack up in that case? The pub serves food—it has a very small menu, as it is a country pub. If the ban goes through, let us say that the pub stops serving food, as I think that it would, because many people in that pub smoke. If the landlord chooses not to serve food so that we can continue to go in his premises and smoke, will I be banned from personally requesting a meal? Will I be stopped from going to the landlady and saying, "I am aware that you smoke, that your husband smokes and that it is a smoky atmosphere, but I want to exercise my choice to have a meal"? If I have a meal prepared at home, it is prepared in a smoky atmosphere. Why cannot I exercise that choice? Why should that choice be denied to me? It is ridiculous.

Martin Horwood : I thank the hon. Gentleman—my neighbour—for giving way. I am sure that he is right about what a wonderful establishment the pub at Twyning is, but he will surely accept that Twyning is not typical of either of our constituencies. We share a primary care trust. The difference in life expectancy between the most and the least affluent areas is eight years, which is considerable. A large part of that health inequality is due to smoking. The Bill in its present form aims to deal with it partially; we would deal with it completely.

Mr. Robertson: The hon. Gentleman has made his point. If he will forgive me, I shall not respond to it in detail because there is not enough time.

If the Government are serious about stopping people smoking, which I do not doubt, and if smoking is so bad for us, which I do not doubt either, why do they not ban smoking altogether? There is a one-word answer: tax. We have heard from a number of Members how much smokers cost the national health service. By means of a parliamentary question, I established that not much research is done on whether those admitted to hospital are smokers. Let us, however, accept what the Minister told me in a separate answer—that the estimated cost of smoking-related diseases to the NHS is £1.8 billion a year. That is a lot of money, but we should also bear in mind that smokers put £8.1 billion a year into the
29 Nov 2005 : Column 227
Exchequer—more than four times as much. That is why I cannot see the Bill as anything other than a load of confusion, and rather hypocritical.

9.21 pm

Jeff Ennis (Barnsley, East and Mexborough) (Lab): I want to speak mainly about part 1, but I shall not repeat what has already been said. Essentially, there are two points of view. I shall only say that I believe that the Government will have to accept a full ban on smoking in public places, whether they do it now or later.

Michael Fabricant : Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Jeff Ennis: Certainly not. Some Labour Members may not be able to speak because of all the interventions that have already been taken, and I am not going to take any more interventions.

An important issue relating to part 1 has not yet been raised. I refer to the possibility of raising the age of sale of tobacco from 16 to 18 to bring it in line with alcohol and other age-restricted products. That is a glaring omission from the Bill. I have tabled two early-day motions on the issue, and on 18 October I presented the Age of Sale of Tobacco Bill under the ten-minute rule. Its aim is to raise the age of sale of tobacco and tobacco products to 18. I am delighted to say that the Government have made good progress in adopting a more consistent approach to age-restricted products in recent years. Under the Gambling Act 2005 the use of many gaming machines will be restricted to those over 18, and through the Violent Crime Reduction Bill the Government intend to raise the age of sale of airguns and dangerous knives from 17 to 18.

The Government must now extend that important policy to tobacco sales, a move that enjoys popular support. In a recent survey carried out by the BBC, 80 per cent. of the public—particularly those aged between 18 and 24—expressed support for it. We should bear in mind that 80 per cent. of smokers start smoking as teenagers. Moreover, the proposal is supported by the Trading Standards Institute, the body responsible for enforcing the laws relating to age-restricted sales. In a recent press release, the TSI said

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. I wonder if the hon. Gentleman would relate his remarks to the content of the Bill that we are discussing.

Jeff Ennis: But, Madam Deputy Speaker, I feel strongly that the issue should be considered when we debate the Bill's later stages. I intend to table an amendment, although I believe that the issue is relevant on Second Reading. I have raised it in the House before. I will take advice from you, Madam Deputy Speaker, but I think that the issue ought to be considered in greater detail.

Madam Deputy Speaker: The hon. Gentleman has made passing reference to that. Will he now confine his remarks to the content of the Bill before the House?

Jeff Ennis: Obviously, I have to accept your ruling, Madam Deputy Speaker.
29 Nov 2005 : Column 228

I have already made the basic point that I wanted to make. Will the Minister, in her closing remarks, give me a steer on whether the Government would be willing to consider an amendment along those lines? If they are reluctant to accept one, I would like further guidance from her on the ways and means by which I could bring the question to the Floor of the House in future debates.

9.25 pm

Mrs. Nadine Dorries (Mid-Bedfordshire) (Con): I wanted to speak on three parts of the Bill, but as so many Labour Members seem so agitated about the Bill, and want to speak about it, I shall confine my remarks to one part of it, and to a few moments.

I want to talk about hospital-acquired infections and the code of practice. Would the Minister consider putting a statutory obligation on the code of practice? I ask that because a number of practices in hospitals are bringing about hospital-acquired infections, and that requires more than guidelines. Many guidelines and publications have been issued over the years, but as some hon. Members have said, our general election policy, the cleaner hospitals campaign, was probably the right way to go about things.

Staphylococcus aureus, the bug at the root of hospital-acquired infections, has now become vancomycin resistant, too. It is a nasty little bug. Most people here will not yet have eaten this evening, so I shall not go into great detail about it, but it is very vicious in hospitals. What will the hospitals move on to from vancomycin? Heaven only knows. Vancomycin was held back because of complications caused by renal infections and other renal problems when it was given. The fact that MRSA is now becoming VRSA is extremely worrying to people who work in health care.

Hot-bedding seems to be one of the main problems. I never thought that I would say, "In my day", but when I was a nurse I was a good nurse, because I was terrified to be anything else. My matron was a good matron, and when she walked down the ward I shook in my boots, because if our ward was not spotless, and the bedside lockers and tables were not clean, we were in trouble—and we did not have MRSA in the hospital.

Let me give the House an example. When a patient went home or, unfortunately, died, the bed and the bedside cabinet would be cleaned down with chlorhexidine solution, as would the bedside table, the window sills, the floors and the metal on the bed. Everything would be stripped out. Now, when a patient passes away in hospital or is discharged home, the bed gets a quick wipe down and the next patient is in.

A hospital administrator told me recently that the reason for that practice was targets: the hospital had to meet targets and get patients through quickly. I was told that there was a patient with MRSA at the end of the ward that I was standing in. Unfortunately, the administrator had not been allowed to close down the ward, or have it barrier-nursed or sterilised. Why not? Because the hospital management had told him that they had a target to meet.

Next Section IndexHome Page