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Mrs. Iris Robinson: I want to underpin what the right hon. Gentleman is saying about the economy suffering. Is he aware that one year after New York's smoke-free air act was introduced in 2003, tax receipts for restaurants and bars had risen by 8.7 per cent.? Over the same period, jobs in bars and restaurants increased by more than 10,000.
Mr. Barron: I agree with the hon. Lady, who will also know that Ireland's retail sales figures now show that bar sales rose sharply, by more than 5 per cent., in the year to October 2005. Such legislation is good for business.
David Lepper (Brighton, Pavilion) (Lab/Co-op): Does my right hon. Friend agree that there is a point at which economics and health are linked? The landlord of a pub in my constituency, Chris Beaumont of The Greys, which is the only Egon Ronay-listed pub in Brighton, points out to me that he wants to carry on serving food, but there are 17 other pubs and two clubs within a square mile of his premises. If the measures suggested in new clause 5 are not introduced, people will either leave his pub to drink elsewhere or he will have to stop serving food. He points out to me, however, that if there were a total ban on smoking in all pubs, his customers would simply have to get used to it and possibly stop smoking
Mr. Barron: My hon. Friend read out almost the whole e-mail, but not quite. Small businesses ask hon. Members on both sides of the House for a level playing field every day of the week. They want any legislation that gives them a level playing field and say, "Let us know that next week is predictable." We should not introduce exemptions that could throw small businesses into chaos and which would have major effects in constituencies such as mine that have many small villages and pubs.
Did not our hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Stephen Pound) make a particularly vacuous point in suggesting that an increase in sales in off-licences was evidence that more people were going to
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drink at home? In fact, a pre-existing trend was in place well before the banning of smoking in Irish pubs, and it was not affected by the ban.
The new clause and amendments (a) to (d) would bring England into line with the law that is soon to come into effect in Scotland, that has now been promised in two votes by the National Assembly for Wales and that the Government have announced for Northern Ireland, on which I suspect we will legislate in the next few months. I hope that hon. Members from all three countries will see no difficulty in joining us in giving the same protection to workers and members of the public in England as the rest of the United Kingdom is getting.
The tobacco industry and its allies often argue that smoke-free laws are an infringement of liberty, but I suggest that, once it is accepted that breathing in other people's smoke is dangerous to health, we will recognise that we are really dealing with a conflict of interest. I recognise people's right to smoke and that tobacco is a lawful product. Smoking may be self-destructive, but it is ultimately a matter of choice. I say to people, including my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North, that people in the Irish Republic make that choice. They step outside into unconfined spaces and still enjoy drinks and cigarettes as well without affecting other people in the pub, including bar workers. That view is certainly widely shared by the general public. Recent polling shows that about 70 per cent. of the public back comprehensive smoke-free legislation, including all pubs and bars.
Finally, I want to mention the enormous public health benefit offered by smoke-free legislation. One in four adults in our country still smoke, and more than 100,000 of them will die as a result. It is by far the greatest cause of preventable deaths and the biggest single contributor to health inequalities and the difference in life expectancy between social classes. I see that my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North has found some fun in the matter, but I have great difficulty in making jokes about it.
The Government's figures in the regulatory impact assessment suggest that a comprehensive smoke-free law would reduce smoking prevalence rates by 1.7 per cent. That would mean 700,000 people giving up smoking across England, which would lead as night follows day to thousands fewer dying each year from cancer, emphysema, peripheral vascular disease and other illnesses that can be caused by smoking. Over time, that would decrease health inequalities, which are far too great in many parts of this country.
Last night, the House debated ID cards, including how useful they will be in preventing terrorism and saving lives. Tomorrow, we will debate the Terrorism Bill, and again the question will be how useful the legislation is in saving lives. Tonight, if hon. Members
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vote for amendments (a) to (d), they will do so in the certain knowledge that the legislation will save lives and drastically improve the health of our constituents.
Mr. Roger Gale (North Thanet) (Con): Amendment No. 8 would delete part 1 of the Bill in its entirety, which would force the Government anddare I say it?Her Majesty's official Opposition to think again.
This evening, we have heard a series of arguments shot full of inconsistencies. In his peroration, the hon. Member for Northavon (Steve Webb) said that he would vote for a total ban. Oh no he will nota total ban is not on the agenda. If hon. Members on both sides of the House believe that smoking is so bad for one's health, that those who work bars, restaurants and private clubs suffer so much, and that 95 per cent. of the damage done by secondary smoking is done in the home and only 5 per cent. in other locations, surely, without looking too closely at the emperor's clothes, the argument must be that smoking should be banned altogether. People who do not adopt that approach are a little bit pregnant, and they must decide how far they are prepared to go down that ludicrous road.
I do not smoke and I am asthmatic, but I believe that while the law of the land says that smoking is legal, the British publicthe English publicshould have the choice whether to smoke in smoking clubs, pubs and restaurants. They should also have the choices not to smoke in non-smoking clubs, pubs and restaurants and whether to work in such establishments. I do not know a single employee who has had a gun held to their head and been told, "You must go and work in that pub, where they allow smoking."
There is an answer but it is not on offer, which is why those Members who support amendment No. 8 want to delete part 1 of the Bill and make the House think again. The answer is that every drinking establishment, club, restaurant and pub is licensed to sell alcohol, and it does not take a great leap of imagination to work out that it is possible to licence every pub, club and restaurant to be either smoking or non-smoking. The public and employees would then choose which type of establishment they want to patronise, and they will choose smoke or smoke-free. I have no problem with making the installation of cleansing equipment a condition of obtaining a smoking licence. It has been said in this House this evening that air conditioning does not work, but we are not talking about air conditioningwe are talking about air purification. Air purification systems do work. It is eminently reasonable to say that if a publican wants to have a smoking pub he should invest in the machinery that will keep the air clean for the benefit of the staff.
We know perfectly well that the Exchequer could not bear the cost of banning smoking, which is why there will be no smoking ban. We know that prison staff could not control prisons, which is why there will be no ban on smoking in prisonsit has nothing to do with the health
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of the prison staff. The debate to date has reeked of hypocrisy, and we need to get some common sense and consistency into it. I urge the House to dismiss this whole package and think again.
Mr. Clelland : I support the case for excluding private members' clubs from the ban. I am grateful to Ministers for giving all Members the opportunity to vote for a number of options, but I want to emphasise that clubs are different. That was outlined in the guidance issued under section 182 of the Licensing Act 2003, which states at paragraph 9.2:
"The 2003 Act recognises that premises, to which public access is restricted and where alcohol is supplied other than for profit, give rise to different issues for licensing law than those presented by commercial enterprises selling direct to the public."
"The Secretary of State wishes to emphasise that non-profit making clubs make an important and traditional contribution to the life of many communities in England and Wales and bring significant benefits. Their activities also take place on premises to which the public do not generally have access and they operate under codes of discipline applying to members and their guests."
I am not a smoker, but I do not like smoke blowing in my face from smokers sitting nearby any more than anyone else does. Nor am I opposed to a ban on smoking in private members' clubs. However, I believe that the decision on whether to ban it should be for the members of that club to make. That is the important principle that I wish to pursue.
I do not refute the health arguments, although there is a great deal of exaggeration in that regard, particularly when hon. Members accuse club members of killing their staff. That is a little over the top. As the hon. Member for North Thanet (Mr. Gale) pointed out, the Bill does not make smoking illegal. Smoking in private will still be legal. Unless we want to take the bull by the horns and ban smoking completely, some of the arguments smack of hypocrisy.
We have long maintained in this country the right of people to form private clubs in which theythe membersdecide what legal activities go on. Clubs must be allowed to make those decisions for themselves and in their own time. They are democratic, non-profit-making organisations, and many of them are struggling. If this is forced upon them and they cannot make these changes in their own way and in their own time, many will close, and their staff, far from being in a smoke-free environment, will be in a work-free environment.
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