Previous SectionIndexHome Page

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Caroline Flint): It has been quite a journey over the past eight months or so. This afternoon's debate has paralleled the discussion of the matter that has gone on in the public domain over that period. Speeches have been made by the hon. Member for Northavon (Steve Webb), my right hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Barron), the right hon. Member for New Hampshire—[Interruption.] I mean the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir George Young). In addition, my hon. Friend the Member for Cannock Chase (Dr. Wright), the hon. Members for Belfast, South (Dr. McDonnell) and for Wyre Forest (Dr. Taylor), and my hon. Friends the Members for Selby (Mr. Grogan) and for City of York (Hugh Bayley) all argued that the legislation on restricting smoking in public places should go as far as tonight's votes allow.

However, my hon. Friends the Member for Ealing, North (Stephen Pound) and for Tyne Bridge (Mr.    Clelland), and the hon. Members for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley) and for Birmingham, Yardley (John Hemming), all felt that there should be more compromise on the matter. If I heard them correctly, the hon. Members for Christchurch (Mr. Chope), for North Thanet (Mr. Gale) and for Tewkesbury (Mr.   Robertson) said that there should not be legislation in this area at all.

This is an historic debate. We are celebrating this week the 100th anniversary of the parliamentary Labour party. It is fair to say that many of the most challenging pieces of health legislation over the past century have been introduced in the short periods of Labour government. We hope to serve for much longer in the 21st century, but I am pleased and proud to be here this evening to endorse and put into law for the first time proposals that will restrict smoking in public places. As far as I am aware, the Opposition, despite what they say, had no intention of introducing similar measures if they had won the general election.

David Taylor: My hon. Friend has described the long path that we have followed over the past decade and
14 Feb 2006 : Column 1337
more. Is she aware that it is 40 years since the lead story in the Daily Mirror was headlined "Shock plan to ban smoking in public"? There was a Labour Government at the time, and there have been at least two others in our progress to this point. It is an historic matter to get from that headline to the public health improvements that the Bill will secure.

Caroline Flint: It is another triumph of this new Labour Government.

I turn now to the specifics of the amendments. Amendment (b) deals with specialist tobacconists, for which I said in Committee I was minded to include an exemption. However, that should be tackled in regulations. I reject amendment No. 8, which would remove clauses 1 to 12, as that would effectively kill the premise on which the Bill is based. The view of the public is increasingly that we should take legal measures to restrict smoking in public places.

The hon. Member for Christchurch mentioned prisons. We are working with the Home Office to determine how to make progress in that respect, but I remind the House that some prisons are smoke-free. Prisons are places of detainment and also residence, so we must strike a balance.

The hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley tabled amendment No. 10, which would permit local authorities to license and designate premises. The Government believe that a piecemeal approach is inappropriate, as we want a national approach to creating smoke-free places. That is the ideal, but I give credit to those local authorities around the country who have campaigned strongly and made their views known to the Government.

Several hon. Members spoke about amendment No. 6, which deals with private vehicles. Six Standing Committee sittings were devoted to the smoking parts of the Bill, and I made it clear that there was no intention to require vehicles in exclusively private use to be smoke-free. Clause 5(2)(d) makes provision for regulations that may exempt classes of vehicles, including private or rental cars hired for private use. The Bill's regulation-making powers are more than adequate to exempt vehicles for private use.

Mr. Chope: Will the Minister give way?

Caroline Flint: No, but the hon. Gentleman can see me later. We can talk about the regulations. [Laughter.]

Amendment No. 36 is hard to understand. It seems to be intended to limit the premises that may be exempted from smoke-free legislation to those where a person has his home, or licensed premises and membership clubs. I am worried that it would remove the general regulation-making power in clause 3(1), which takes account of the fact that people who, for example, work on oil rigs are not able to smoke outdoors for reasons of safety. Likewise, if the amendment were adopted, no exemption could be made for laboratories concerned with testing tobacco products. That would mean that the tobacco companies would not be able to test their products, as the law requires.
14 Feb 2006 : Column 1338

Government amendment No. 24 extends the fixed-penalty notice provisions in part 1 of the Bill to the offence of failing to display no-smoking signs, in accordance with the requirements set out in regulations. However, in light of the responses that we received last year, we will add the option of a fixed-penalty notice for the offence of failing to display those signs.

After the debate in Committee, and as a result of lobbying from various organisations and groups, I am minded to propose that the fines for failing to display no-smoking signs should be raised from a maximum of £200 to a fine not exceeding level 3, which has a maximum of £1,000. I propose to raise the fine for the offence of failing to prevent smoking in smoke-free places from a maximum of £200 to a maximum of £2,500. That sends the strong message to those responsible for enforcing the law that they should make sure that they do so.

The hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire tabled amendment (i), aimed at protecting children from second-hand smoke in private members' clubs. However, I am perplexed by his argument: first he said that the members of those clubs should be able to decide what happens in their space, but then his amendment seemed to want to tell parents what they should do with their children in those private spaces. That is another demonstration of how the Conservatives are all over the place on this issue.

I shall finish by recapping on how the new clause and our amendments will work and the choice they offer Members—[Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): Order. I am finding it increasingly difficult to hear the Minister against the buzz of conversation, which seems to be growing by the minute. May we please listen to the Minister in the last few minutes of the debate?

Caroline Flint: Conservative Members were shouting, "Boring"; I suppose that it is boring to try to save lives—[Hon. Members: "Oh!"] I thought that we were in a new Cameron era that was not about yah-boo politics, but there we go.

We have heard a wide range of arguments about the merits of the various options that the Government have proposed in the new clause and the amendments. I hope that the second reading of new clause 5 will be a formality. We shall then turn to the amendments to the new clause. As it stands, the new clause allows exemptions for membership clubs but not for licensed premises. Members who believe that private members' clubs should also be smoke-free should vote to accept the amendments tabled in my name. Those who want them to be exempted should vote against.

Once the amendments to the new clause have been dealt with, we shall vote on the new clause itself, either as drafted or as amended. Regardless of any amendments that may be passed, the main point of the new clause is to prevent any exemption for licensed premises so if Members believe that all pubs, bars, nightclubs and so on should be smoke-free, they should vote for new clause 5. However, if they support clause 3, they should vote against it. Amendments Nos. 18, 19, 20 and 21 are consequential to new clause 5.
14 Feb 2006 : Column 1339

The debate has represented a huge range of views on both sides of the House and has reflected the views held by the public.

Lynne Jones: Will my hon. Friend explain whether the Government's definition of "substantially enclosed" would include the outside areas of an establishment that served food and drink?

Caroline Flint: We discussed that issue in Committee, and it was felt that it could be dealt with in regulations. We considered whether some areas—for example, the concourse of a railway terminus—which are substantially but not wholly enclosed, should be smoke-free. There are other examples, but we felt it right that such issues should be sorted out through regulation. They have been raised with me and others, and we shall look at them case by case.

Next Section IndexHome Page