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Stephen Pound: I am grateful to my hon. Friend, as is, I believe, the whole House. So it is "Goodnight Irene" for the walled city of York. However, it must be said that those of us in the wide open spaces of west London seldom consider ourselves enclosed, and very seldom restrained.

There is a desperately serious point. We are trying to do something about public health, and the group of people about whom we are most worried—young
 
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people aged between about 11 and 13 who are taking up this habit—are the very people who do not go to pubs. To a large extent, discussing pubs in the context of stopping smoking is nonsense, because in doing so we are not dealing with the people whom we actually want to address. We must never forget the Oscar Wilde quote:

As long as tobacco smoking is seen as this dreadful, wicked thing that film stars do and there are people in pubs doing it, it will be attractive to children. We must address the issue of role models and public practice. Were I a role model, I would plead guilty in this regard, but fortunately I am not. So this is a very serious issue and the question is how we best deal with it. Frankly, as with so many things, there are three different options.

The first is the pure libertarian view, eloquently expressed by the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan) in his famous book, which is compulsory bedside reading for many of us, that everything should be allowed. That is a legitimate intellectual argument.

The second option is the counter-argument that everything should be banned. Tobacco is bad for people—ban it. Cars are bad for people—ban them. Alcohol is bad for people—ban the lot. Ban everything, and we will subsist on a milk toast diet of muesli as we shuffle through the empty streets of our city, looking for a little stimulation where we may find it.

Those are both perfectly legitimate intellectual arguments: everything bad is banned; everything bad is allowed. Or, we can opt for—dare I say it?—co-existence and compromise. Instead of concentrating on what divides us, let us concentrate on what unites us. Would it not be possible—

Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras) (Lab): To become a Cameronian?

Stephen Pound: I am more of a Cameroonian—a fan of Samuel Eto'o.

Why should it not be possible for those of us who wish to do so to go to our Royal British Legion, where the staff are happy and prepared to work, and where the members are happy and prepared to enter, to have our cigarette and our pint? Others prefer the smoke-free sushi bars of—I was going to say Primrose Hill, but my right hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Frank Dobson) is in his place, and I do not wish to embarrass him. Why cannot we have the choice? It would be sensible to step back a little as putative legislators and accept that sometimes simply banning something does not make it disappear.

Lembit Öpik (Montgomeryshire) (LD) rose—

Stephen Pound: On the subject of those things that one would not wish to ban, I give way to the hon. Gentleman.

Lembit Öpik: I would say that the hon. Gentleman has my full support, but that would probably be the kiss of death to his argument, and perhaps to his career.

I suggest a middle way—a fourth way, perhaps—that has not been much discussed. Why do we focus on the process of smoking, rather than on the outcome of clean
 
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air? Does he agree that we should be willing to entertain the challenge of an indoor clean air Act and leave technology the challenge of finding a solution? A multimillion pound business such as smoking surely has the creativity and willingness to make the investment to find that solution, instead of our taking away people's freedom of choice.

Stephen Pound: I am grateful for that intervention, although by and large the Liberals should resist making too much legislation, because it can be habit-forming.

I was about to mention the practicalities of the ban. Amendment No. 8 has been tabled by the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth), with whom I seldom have much in common, but on this occasion I trail behind him. He is not in his place at the moment, but I am sure that he is not having a cigarette outside. The amendment recognises a way in which we can co-exist. To see that way, one does not need to search out some distant nirvana or go to some distant nation that has somehow managed to structure the perfect legislative process. One need go only to the Upper Committee Corridor, where one will find an oasis, capped with graceful brushed aluminium, beneath which the discerning man or woman may stand, enjoy a cigarette, do whatever damage to themselves they will, and do no damage to anyone else. The tobacco smoke is swept up into the cowl, where it is filtered and exuded—

John Hemming: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Stephen Pound: Possibly it is exuded in the hon. Gentleman's constituency. I shall give way to him so that he may correct me.

John Hemming: The hon. Gentleman makes a very good point about Ireland. The issue is where people smoke. There is evidence that since the ban there has been a 5 per cent. drop in the consumption of tobacco in Ireland, but if 95 per cent. of deaths from passive smoking occur from smoking in the home, the number of deaths from passive smoking may increase as a result of a ban on smoking in public places.

Stephen Pound: The hon. Gentleman is an expert in many fields. I was coming to the point that Ireland has seen a considerable increase in off-sales, which leads one to believe that those people who do not recognise the reality of the patio heater and the false ceiling are taking six-packs and 40 fags back to their homes, where their children will be. We need to think about that.

Mr. Kevin Barron (Rother Valley) (Lab): Will my hon. Friend give way on that point?

Stephen Pound: Well—[Hon. Members: "Go on!"] I will give way, but my right hon. Friend is nearly always right and I am nearly always wrong, so I am always reluctant to give way to him. I wish to finish my point, and then I will give way to him.

Technology is our friend on this issue. It is possible to scrub and clean the air. We have an example on the Upper Committee Corridor—
 
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Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con): It does not work.

Stephen Pound: It does work, and all independent air testing verifies that. However, I have a terrible suspicion gnawing at my vitals that my right hon. Friend may be about to prove me wrong.

Mr. Barron: The press release of 17 October last year from the Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, my hon. Friend the Member for St. Helens, South (Mr. Woodward), made it clear that ventilation does not work.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Stephen Pound) spoke about people in Ireland moving from pub to home to smoke. The Select Committee on Health took evidence from numerous organisations in Ireland, and was told on three occasions that what a senior politician on this side of the Irish sea had said was not true. There is no evidence that more people in Ireland are smoking at home. That was confirmed by the Under-Secretary of State for Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint), who has responsibility for public health, when she gave evidence to the Committee during our inquiry.

Stephen Pound: I am grateful for my right hon. Friend's contribution.

Frank Dobson: Withdraw.

Stephen Pound: I would withdraw my remarks, but the reality is that off-sales have increased in Ireland. I was structuring an exegesis on that, and assumed that the off-sales would be consumed.

Mrs. Iris Robinson (Strangford) (DUP): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Stephen Pound: In a second. I know that the hon. Lady knows more about off-sales in Ireland than I do, but I was assuming that they were being consumed in the home. It is entirely possible that people are thronging to Phoenix park and drinking in the open air, but my assumption is that an increase in off-sales implies an increase in home consumption.

Mr. Barron: There is no evidence.

Stephen Pound: The evidence is of an increase in off-sales.

Untypically, I shall turn to a more serious matter before I finish. However, on the subject of seriousness, I give way to the hon. Member for Strangford (Mrs. Robinson).


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