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Ms Hewitt: I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. Of course, that is a matter for the House authorities, rather than for the Government, but I believe that I am right in saying that several of the bars in the Palace of Westminster have already decided to go smoke-free, and I hope that others will follow. However, as I say, that is a matter for the House, not for me as a Minister.
John Hemming (Birmingham, Yardley) (LD): I hope to refer later to licensed smoking areas. We effectively have a licensed smoking area in the Committee Corridor. Should we not be doing something similar nationwide?
Ms Hewitt: As I have already indicated, the arrangements that we make in the Palace of Westminster are matters for the House, not for the Government, nor for the Bill.
Dr. Ian Gibson (Norwich, North) (Lab):
Is my right hon. Friend astonished that a prominent Opposition Member who extols tobacco smoking across the world and makes a tidy sum from the products of that industry is not present today?
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Ms Hewitt: I do indeed share my hon. Friend's surprise at that. All Labour Members believe that it is right to legislate to ban smoking in the vast majority of workplaces and public places, and I welcome the fact that at least someperhaps manyOpposition Members now agree with us. However, there are different views inside and outside the House on exactly how far smoke-free legislation should extend and on where the balance should be struck between protecting people from harm and protecting people's freedom of choice.
Dr. Howard Stoate (Dartford) (Lab): My right hon. Friend is right to say that a balance must be struck, but does she agree that the most important thing is to protect all workers in bars, whether food is served in them or not, and to protect the whole public, whether they are smokers or not? Therefore, we should give people the opportunity to be able to eat and drink in a non-smoky atmosphere. Those who wish to smoke can always do so outside.
Ms Hewitt: My hon. Friend makes a very important point. I shall come to those precise issues in just a moment.
As I was saying, there are different views on exactly where the balance should be struck. I am particularly grateful to the Select Committee on Health, led so capably by my right hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Barron), which has made a very important contribution to the debate. The Government have therefore introduced amendments to the Bill to enable the House to express its view on exactly how the balance should be struck.
Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): Can the Secretary of State explain the difference between a worker in a normal place of employment, a worker who goes to carry out a job in a private home where there are smokers, and a worker who goes into a club to carry out a job?
Ms Hewitt: I am not sure whether the right hon. Gentleman is saying that there should be a smoking ban in people's own homes or whether he is saying that there should not be a smoking ban at all. No doubt, he will make his views clear in the debate. However, his question reflects the confusion that we know exists among Conservative Members.
New clause 5 replaces the existing clause 3 of the Bill.
Mr. Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight) (Con): Will the Secretary of State give way?
Ms Hewitt: Let me make a little progress before I give way again.
The new clause provides a general power to make exemptions from the smoking ban. This is necessary to exempt from the ban people's own homes and places that are, in effect, someone's home, at least temporarilyin other words, long-term adult residential care homes, hospitals and mental health hospitals for adults, prisons and hotel bedrooms. We are taking the power to make the
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limited exemptions not only because we believe that it is right in principle, but to fulfil our obligations under the Human Rights Act 1998 on respect for private life.
Mr. Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con): If it is wrong for prisoners to be able to drink alcohol in prison, why is it right under the Government's legislation for them to be able to smoke?
Ms Hewitt: We believe that it is right for prisoners, who quite properly have no choice about where they live, to be able to exercise choice in the matter of smoking within appropriate restrictions. My Department and the Home Office are discussing with the prison authorities precisely the nature of the limited exemption that should apply in prisons.
Mr. Jeremy Browne (Taunton) (LD): I do not understand the Secretary of State's answer to the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood). If the purpose of the Bill is to protect people in the workplace, why are au pairs and other people who work in homes not protected under it? That is a straightforward question that deserves a straightforward answer.
Ms Hewitt: I note that the manifesto policy of the Liberal party is for a total ban. That is not, of course, the policy of most of the contenders for the leadership of the hon. Gentleman's party. I do not believe, and nor do Labour Members, that it would be right to legislate to ban people from smoking in their own homes.
Dr. Tony Wright (Cannock Chase) (Lab): Under new clause 5(7), would it be possible to have designated smoking rooms in all kinds of premises by regulation?
Ms Hewitt: No, it would not. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that point but, as I shall explain in a moment, new clause 5 provides only quite limited powers to make exceptions to the general ban on smoking in enclosed public places that we have introduced in the Bill.
Mr. Andrew Lansley (South Cambridgeshire) (Con): Just so we are absolutely clear about what the Secretary of State is now proposing, as opposed to what she outlined on Second Reading, will she confirm that new clause 5 would not only prevent the designation of smoking roomsalthough the original proposals would have allowed that, and she said on Second Reading that the Government would consult on the matterbut not permit pubs that did not serve prepared food along with drink to be exempt? Is it not the case that as distinct from when she gave evidence to the Health Committee, she has expressly moved away from the manifesto position that she extolled on Second Reading?
As I shall explain, new clause 5 is expressly designed to include under the smoking ban all pubs and licensed premises, including those that do not serve food. The details of the limited range of exemptions for long-term residential homes, hospices, mental health
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hospitals for adults and so on will be consulted on and set out in regulations. All such regulations will be subject to the affirmative procedure.
David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire) (Lab/Co-op): I am grateful to my right hon. Friend and neighbour for giving way. Would she consider it unjust, or merely ironic, if the 120 or so Members who have been returned from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were to vote for the weaker framework to protect our employees in pubs and clubs in England and thus impose on the 520 or so English Members weaker protection in every sense? Surely that would be not only ironic, but unjust.
Ms Hewitt: My hon. Friend makes his point and I am sure that he will develop it during the course of the debate.
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend give way?
Ms Hewitt: I will make a little more progress before I take further interventions.
We have begun to explore two controversial issues. There is the question of whether all pubs and licensed premises should be covered by the smoking ban, or whether, as we originally proposed, those that do not serve food should be exempt. Unlike clause 3, new clause 5 would not allow any exemption to be made for licensed premises. In other words, all pubs, bars, discos and night clubs, including those that do not serve food, would be entirely smoke-free. It is right to have a complete ban on smoking in public places, including all licensed premises, so I hope that my hon. Friends and other hon. Members will join me in voting for new clause 5.
Mr. Lansley: Will the Secretary of State explain whether she thought the opposite on Second Reading on 29 November? Did she believe at the time that it was right to exempt pubs that did not serve food? Who in the Government believed that the policy that she presented to the House then was the right approach?
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