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29 Jan 2010 : Column 1051

As other hon. Members have said, charities such as Shelter and Crisis have been campaigning for this for a long time. Citizens advice bureaux have been warning for a number of years about the cases they have seen in which the first that tenants know about the likelihood of their losing their home is when they find that the locks have been changed. I do not wish to cover everything that other hon. Members have said, given that we are all broadly supportive of the Bill. However, it is worth picking up on a couple of the points with which I particularly agreed.

The hon. Member for Bolton, South-East explained the difficulties for landlords and why they may sometimes not tell their mortgage provider things. It is worth our understanding why that might happen in order to understand how as many as 300,000 tenants may be in unauthorised tenancy agreements.

Bob Russell: Does my hon. Friend think we could examine that particular point in Committee, because when a local authority provides housing benefit to somebody in a private tenanted property it needs to be assured that the tenancy is legitimate under the laws of the land?

Sarah Teather: My hon. Friend talked earlier about seeking such money back from the landlord. Unfortunately, if we were to take that approach all that would happen is that we would speed up the process of repossession. If a landlord is already having his house or flat repossessed because he is unable to pay the rent, attempting to claw back the money that has been paid in housing benefit would not really work. I understand the point that my hon. Friend is making about ensuring that the tenancy is legitimate and the authorisation appropriate, but I am not sure that this Bill is the best place to do that. I hope that the Bill will go through Committee as quickly as possible and get on to the statute book.

I encourage anybody who sits on the Committee to concentrate on the Bill, because I do not want any excuses from the Government about delay, as the Bill might thus not become law. If lots of extraneous amendments are tabled to important provisions, that could be used as an excuse when the Council of Mortgage Lenders later decides that it is getting cold feet about the Bill and the Government then say that they do not have parliamentary time available. That is my greatest fear. I suspect that such a situation might be the reason why these provisions did not end up in legislation earlier this year or in the Queen's Speech; I suspect that the Council of Mortgage Lenders decided to throw its weight around and the Government said, "Do you know what, we will hold off doing this." Let us not provide the Government with any excuse for not supporting the Bill.

It is iniquitous that a tenant who has fulfilled all their obligations should find themselves in a position where they may lose their home. It is difficult for someone who is renting to ask to see details of their landlord's arrangements with their mortgage provider; that is not something one would ever expect a tenant to do, so such tenants take their tenancy in good faith. The hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies), who is no longer in his place, talked about tenancies that are not given in
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good faith. I have to say to him that a two-month delay is not significant in the grand scheme of a process of repossession, and I am not sure that it is a reason for not supporting the Bill's progress.

James Duddridge: I hate to correct the hon. Lady, but I was the one who made that point and, before doing so, I made it very clear that I fully support the Bill.

Sarah Teather: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his clarification and I am sorry for not recognising that it was he who made that point. It has been a long morning and we are only on the first Bill.

The other point that was made well by a number of hon. Members was that the "notice to occupier" is extremely unlikely ever to get read. Anyone who has lived in an area of high mobility, even if they are an owner-occupier, will be aware of the sheer weight and volume of paper that falls through the letterbox-that applies not only to Liberal Democrat target areas. Plenty of leaflets and notices to occupier that come through letterboxes simply get ignored or, at best, go into the recycling bin. What the Bill does well is to find a practical and simple solution to ensure that tenants should just get the appropriate notice period set out in their tenancy agreement.

In his interventions on the Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester (Bob Russell) asked whether the reason why we found ourselves in this position was the lack of affordable housing. I think I agree with him, up to a point. Many people live in poor quality, private rented sector accommodation because of a lack of affordable housing. However, part of the reason we find ourselves in this position is that the private rented sector has not been put on an equal footing with other forms of housing. It would be a better and healthier thing for the market if the private rented sector was treated not as a stop-gap between affordable housing for rent and home ownership, but as an option that should be supported to ensure that we have the highest quality and choice available for all.

One point that the Residential Landlords Association made well in its briefing on the Bill is that if tenants find themselves in a position where they might lose their home without being given any kind of notice period, it undermines both the landlords' ability to provide housing and the reputation of the private rented sector. I meet people in my constituency who are on the housing waiting list and could afford to rent privately, but they are afraid of the private rented sector because of the lack of stability. There are also other issues about quality, but this is not the place to deal with them.

Stability is a particular issue for people who have families and those who do not think that their income will go up significantly over the next five years. Those who are in a job in which they have already reached the ceiling on their income want to know that they can keep their home. If the Government's strategy is to support the private rented sector, it is essential that we deal with the issues that arise if tenants find themselves without a home with no notice period whatsoever.

In conclusion, I am extremely supportive of this Bill. I have campaigned on this issue for some time and have questioned most of the previous Housing Ministers on it, urging them to bring forward this legislation. I congratulate the hon. Member for Bolton, South-East
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on promoting this Bill. It is a fitting tribute to all his work and commitment. What an amazing achievement it is to have two Bills on the statute book from one's time in Parliament. I hope that the Minister will grant the hon. Gentleman's wish and that of the whole House and ensure that parliamentary time is made available for this Bill. We do not want any excuses from this Government that will allow the Bill to fold. The House is very supportive of it and it must go through.

11.32 am

Dr. Iddon: With the leave of the House, I want to thank all Members in the Chamber this morning and who have supported this Bill, as well as the political parties, in general, for supporting it. It is pretty obvious that this is a desperately needed piece of legislation and we have got that point across.

I want to refer to some simple points made by one or two Members. First, I can assure the hon. Member for Castle Point (Bob Spink), who unfortunately could not remain in his place, that the Bill will cover those tenants whose problems he raised. If lenders take independent proceedings against tenants, those tenants will be covered by the Bill. I thank the hon. Member for Rochford and Southend, East (James Duddridge) for his support, too, and I can offer him a place on the Committee, if he is willing to accept it, so that we can explore a little further the issues that he mentioned this morning. I can assure him, too, that the Bill protects only assured or Rent Act 1977 tenancies; and, of course, holiday lets are excluded from those tenancies. I regret that I can confirm what I said earlier: those tenancies are not covered by the Bill.

I thank the hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) for mentioning the concerns raised by the Council of Mortgage Lenders. He mentioned some technical issues and I think that the best way of dealing with them, especially since he has not been able to remain in his place, is to promise to write to him about all those difficulties and to offer a meeting with him, too. I thank the House for everybody's support this morning.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time; to stand committed to a Public Bill Committee (Standing Order No. 63).

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Sunbeds (Regulation) Bill

Second Reading.

11.34 am

Julie Morgan (Cardiff, North) (Lab): I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

I am delighted to present this Bill to the House. It is important for many reasons, the first of which is clearly the protection of children. I have been pleased to receive the support of Members from all parties in the House. I am also grateful for the support of the Government and the Minister of State, Department of Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Gillian Merron), who is responsible for public health.

I am grateful to those MPs from my party and other parties who are sponsoring the Bill and, in particular, I thank Cancer Research UK, the British Medical Association, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health and the Local Government Association for their wholehearted support. At this point, I particularly thank my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Mrs. James), who has campaigned tirelessly on the issue for many years. I was lucky enough to draw No. 5 in the ballot for private Members' Bills. She has done a lot of the work over many years, so we are working together to try to get this Bill through the House.

I also want to thank all those Members who have signed early-day motion 537. Today, the number of signatures is 164. As all Members know, that is a large number of signatures for an early-day motion, so I am thankful for the support of so many people throughout the House.

It is also clear that this Bill will be popular with the public. Some 87 per cent. of the UK public believe that those aged under 18 should not use sunbeds. I am pleased to report that I went with other Members to No. 10 Downing street this week to hand in a petition signed by more than 10,000 people thanks to The Sun newspaper, which has run a long, vigorous campaign on the issue, too.

The Bill is very important, as the intention is to protect young people. The Bill aims to prevent under-18s from accessing sunbeds, seeks to create a duty on sunbed businesses to prevent the use of sunbeds by under-18s and gives local enforcement officers powers to inspect salons and penalise salon operators if under-18s are found to be using sunbeds. It also contains provisions to introduce regulations to ensure that under-18s cannot hire or buy sunbeds, that all sunbed salons are staffed and that clear and accurate health information is displayed in all salons and other places where sunbeds are used for commercial purposes. The Bill recognises that adults are free to make their own decisions about sunbed use, but they should also know what dangers are involved. That is why, under the regulations, there will be a requirement that health information should be made available.

It is also very important that the Bill would prevent operators from advertising unsupported benefits of sunbed use and ensure that all adult sunbed users wear protective eyewear when using a sunbed in a commercial setting. I must point out strongly that the Bill is not regulation for the sake of it. The sunbed industry has already tried to self-regulate and it has failed. Self-regulation has not
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worked. The Bill is about protecting young people and giving people the information they need to make an informed choice.

Bob Spink (Castle Point) (Ind): I warmly congratulate the hon. Lady on her Bill. It is a small measure but an important one. Does she agree that teenagers often feel invincible? They are not sufficiently risk-averse, and the Bill will not only inform them and control the industry, but give parents power and leverage over their youngsters so that they can guide them correctly.

Julie Morgan: I thank the hon. Gentleman for that important intervention. There is ample evidence that under-18s use sunbeds without their parents' permission and against their parents' wishes. The Bill would help to deal with that issue.

Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): Has the hon. Lady given any thought to trying other measures before we go for the nuclear option of an outright ban? For example, we could do the same as some 29 states in America where under-18s are required to obtain parental permission before they are allowed to use a sunbed.

Julie Morgan: There has been every opportunity to introduce voluntary measures, but clearly they have failed. As I said earlier, if unstaffed sunbeds remain, it will never be possible to stop under-18s using them. If the premises are not staffed, even if young people went along with something from a parent, who would see the permission? The hon. Gentleman raises an important issue, but we have reached the end of the voluntary road.

Philip Davies: This is a useful debate and I am grateful to the hon. Lady for engaging in it. Her Bill, as she made clear, regulates to ensure that there will be no more unmanned sunbed shops. If that part of her Bill went forward, would it not enable us to try parental permission first before going to the nuclear option of an outright ban?

Julie Morgan: That would not be the way forward. We have already reached the stage when we need legislation. I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising an important point of discussion.

Bob Spink: Does the hon. Lady accept that although the parental permission route may have worked in several US states, the culture there is quite different? Youngsters are prohibited from drinking, and the prohibition is actually obeyed. The parental permission route would not work in the UK as it does in the USA because of that cultural difference.

Julie Morgan: Yes, that is an important point. I thank the hon. Gentleman.

Caroline Flint (Don Valley) (Lab): Is it not the case that the younger a person is when they start to use sunbeds, the greater the repercussions and consequences for their health? Whether they have parental permission or not, if they start to use sunbeds regularly between the ages of 13 and 17, they face a lifetime of potential damage and possibly death from cancer.

Julie Morgan: My right hon. Friend makes an important point and I shall provide evidence about the number of young people using sunbeds.

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Bob Spink: The intervention from the right hon. Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint) was telling. It has been established that a vast number of skin cancers that occur later in life are caused by exposure during the teenage years, and no doubt the hon. Member for Cardiff, North will go into those facts. Could she add a small clause to the Bill to force her Government, or a new Government, to remove VAT from sun creams that are health care and not cosmetic products?

Julie Morgan: I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. I shall now talk about the strong evidence base for the Bill.

Research commissioned by Cancer Research UK last year found that, in England, 6 per cent. of 11 to 17-year-olds-more than 250,000 children-had used sunbeds. That is a shocking statistic. There are worrying hot spots, particularly in places such as Liverpool and Sunderland where 50 per cent. of 15 to 17-year-old girls are using sunbeds. In Wales, 8 per cent. of children aged between 11 and 17 have used a sunbed, and the figure is more than one in five for girls aged between 15 and 17.

Malignant melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, is increasing at an alarming rate across the UK. Sunbed use, particularly by those aged under 35, significantly increases the risk of developing skin cancer in later life, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint) said. About 2,000 people each year die from malignant melanoma and it is now the most common cancer in young adults aged 15 to 34. People from the most affluent areas have better malignant melanoma survival rates than those from deprived areas. The evidence for taking stronger action on sunbeds is clear.

Jessica Morden (Newport, East) (Lab): My hon. Friend makes an excellent argument on the health issues, but does she agree that there is also the issue of personal safety, with predominantly young women in unmanned salons who, if they were to receive unwelcome attention, have no assurance from the industry about how long any security would take to get to them?

Julie Morgan: I thank my hon. Friend for her intervention. That is an important consideration.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer has reclassified sunbeds and placed them in its highest cancer risk category, alongside tobacco. We have all accepted the dangers of tobacco and almost universally support the work that the Government have done on the tobacco issue. The independent Health Protection Agency's Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment-COMARE-has recommended that the Government take strong action to protect young people from the dangers of using sunbeds. The European Union believes that under-18s should not use sunbeds and the US Food and Drug Administration is considering taking stronger action on them.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is part of the World Health Organisation, upgraded its assessment of sunbeds to its highest level of cancer risk, with the conclusion:

We need to take that conclusion seriously.

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It is clear that the sunbed industry has not regulated itself well up till now. Voluntary regulation is inconsistent and largely unmonitored. A lack of supervision or care means that young people regularly access sunbeds. Cancer Research UK has done a great deal of research with young people and has been told:


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