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Ms Hewitt: I said on Second Reading that I was delighted to be bringing forward a Bill that is an enormous step forward for public health, regardless of the question of non-food-serving pubs. As I indicated, the issue is how we strike the right balance between protecting people from harm on the one hand and protecting people's freedom of choice on the other. One such balance is reflected in clause 3, but I and many of my hon. Friends believe that it would be better to achieve the balance of imposing a smoking ban on all licensed premises, regardless of whether they serve food.
Mr. Laurence Robertson (Tewkesbury) (Con): Will the Secretary of State confirm that a mass murderer in prison will be able to exercise his right to have a cigarette, even though prison staff will inhale his smoke, yet law-abiding people who go into pubs will not be able to do so?
As I have already indicated, we are working with the Home Office on the precise nature of
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the limited exemption that should be permitted for prisoners. The regulations on prisons and other matters will come before the House. If the hon. Gentleman takes the view[Interruption.]
Ms Hewitt: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. If the hon. Member for Tewkesbury (Mr. Robertson) believes that there should not be an exemption for prisons, he is perfectly entitled to take that view and he can vote against the regulations when we introduce them.
Mr. Quentin Davies (Grantham and Stamford) (Con): The Secretary of State is quite right to listen to the consultation and to propose to amend the original Second Reading formulation. However, new clause 5 contains a potential anomaly, as it says:
to provide for exemptions. Theoretically, if the Bill is enacted and comes into force before the national authority makes those regulations the absurd prospect arises that it would be illegal to smoke in one's own home. Can the Secretary of State assure us that she will make sure that those regulations are made in time to prevent that anomaly from arising?
The second issue on which there are genuine differences of opinion both inside and outside the House is that of private membership clubs. Government new clause 5 would exempt genuine private membership clubs from the ban. To allow hon. Members to express their views on that issue separately from the question of licensed premises generally my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary has tabled amendments (a) and (b) to (d) to the new clause. Those amendments, taken together, would not allow any exemption to be made for private clubsin other words, the smoking ban would extend to them as well. By "membership clubs" we mean only the qualifying clubs operating with a club premises certificate under the specific rules of the Licensing Act 2003, including the stipulation that the club is not open to the general public and that it is run on a not-for-profit basis.
Steve Webb (Northavon) (LD): The Secretary of State pointed out that for procedural reasons her ministerial colleague has tabled amendments to the new clause. She will have talked to her colleagues about their intentions this evening so, lest the House is confused and thinks that there is division between Ministers, can she confirm that all the Ministers in her Department will vote in the same way on these issues?
The right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Sir Menzies Campbell) said that it is entirely sensible to make some places available for people to smoke in. However, he also thought that we should not necessarily
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extend the ban to private clubs. The hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Oaten), when he was a candidate for the leadership, said:
Mr. Robert N. Wareing (Liverpool, West Derby) (Lab): Would my right hon. Friend clarify the question of private membership clubs? If, in fact, they are exempt under the Bill, would it be possible for such a club to have a small bar on the premises, where drink would be allowed and smoking would be permitted?
There are about 18,500 registered membership clubs in England, representing a wide range of interests. There are working men's clubs, political clubs, military and sporting clubs and so on. I believe that the arguments on membership clubs are very finely balanced. On the one hand, there is a case for making even more places smoke-free and establishing a level playing field for pubs, licensed premises and membership clubs. On the other, there is the case, strongly put to me by many of my own constituents, that a genuinely private membership club that is not for profit and is effectively owned and run by the members themselves should be treated in the same way as people's own homes, where people decide for themselves. I believe that that is a very strong argument, but I will listen to the debate extremely carefully, and on this point in particular.
Ms Hewitt: Let me make it clear that if Parliament should decide to exempt private members' clubs, the regulations that followwhich will be subject, as I said, to the affirmative resolution procedurewill require members to have an annual vote on the smoking issue, and in order to fulfil our manifesto commitment to protect employees even in those exempt premises, smoking will be banned in the bar. Furthermore, we will review those and other provisions of the new law within three years.
Mr. Clelland : As my right hon. Friend knows, I have added my name to her new clause 5. However, I am a little concerned about what she has just said. I heard her say the same thing on the radio this morning. When she says that smoking will permitted in the bar, does she mean any room with a bar or just the main bar of the club? Will she clarify that?
What I have just said to the House, and what I said this morning, is that even if membership clubs are exempt following the vote in the House and the
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final decision of Parliament on that point, in the regulations we will ensure that smoking cannot take place in the bar itself. We will want to consult widely on the precise details of the regulations, and those will come to Parliament through the affirmative resolution procedure.
Mr. Jim Devine (Livingston) (Lab): Is this not a simple health and safety issue? Passive smoking kills. Full stop. It does not matter whether it takes place in private members clubs or in public bars. Is that not the case?
Ms Hewitt: My hon. Friend is right. It is also the case that about 95 per cent. of the deaths that result from passive smoking occur as a result of passive smoking in people's homes, not in public places or in membership clubs.
Mr. Doug Henderson (Newcastle upon Tyne, North) (Lab): Further to the points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Livingston (Mr. Devine) and the hon. Member for South-West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous) about workers in private clubs, can my right hon. Friend confirm that all workplace health and safety legislation will still apply in private clubs, that workers compensation legislation will still apply in private clubs, and that all those requirements will be the responsibility of the private club, regardless of what happens in the House today?
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