Previous Section Index Home Page

Signs from which customers can infer only that sunbeds are good for their health can still be found outside tanning salons around the country. Promoting unsupported benefits of sunbeds is irresponsible when we know that they significantly increase the risk of malignant melanoma, as well as prematurely ageing the skin.

Mrs. Betty Williams (Conwy) (Lab): My hon. Friend gave an example of a schoolgirl attending a sunbed salon. Does that indicate that there could be many instances where untrained members of staff are looking after the salons, which is an added problem?

Julie Morgan: I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. There are certainly examples of untrained people supervising sunbed use, where there is anyone supervising it at all. That means that young people-14-year-olds and young people in school uniform, as I said-can easily access sunbeds.

Mrs. Siân C. James (Swansea, East) (Lab): Is my hon. Friend aware that a recent BBC programme in the south-west took two 14-year-olds into an unstaffed salon in that area, where the cleaner helped the young women and showed them how to put their money into a slot machine and how to operate the machinery? That is an example of unstaffed and unsupervised salons, and untrained staff.

Julie Morgan: My hon. Friend, who has worked so hard on the issue, has brought a shocking incident to the attention of the House.

Caroline Flint: Thinking about the way in which tanning salons are promoted, they are almost pop-up businesses. Anyone can rent a unit and set themselves up. Will my hon. Friend comment on the fact that sunbed use is often presented as a cheap option-I understand that 15p has been charged for a couple of minutes on the machines-and that research found that young people got addicted? As soon as the tan went, they wanted to top it up, so although it is quite inexpensive, they are lured in to do more and more tanning, to the detriment of their future health?

Julie Morgan: Yes, there are many examples of young people who become addicted and feel that they cannot manage unless they go to a salon continually. They might think of going once a month, but they end up going once-and sometimes more than once-a week. We know that such activity is extremely dangerous because of its long-term consequences, so I thank my right hon. Friend for that intervention.

COMARE also emphasises that sunbeds are not a safe way of obtaining vitamin D

29 Jan 2010 : Column 1058

By using them, people risk becoming sunburnt and damaging their skin. In south Wales, we had a very troubling example of a young woman aged 14 who went expressly against her parents' wishes to an unstaffed sunbed salon and suffered 70 per cent. burns. That was absolutely horrific, and through this legislation we want to try to prevent such incidents from occurring.

The UK's national skin cancer prevention campaign, SunSmart, says that

We do not need a sunbed to get our vitamins. Any assumption that we do is mistaken. I am concerned, because young people believe that they are doing no more damage to their skin on a sunbed than they are if they step out their house on a sunny day, but we know that sunbeds are much more dangerous.

The Secretary of State for Health and the Welsh Assembly Health Minister, Edwina Hart AM, are committed to introducing regulations if the Bill is passed. I am very pleased that it covers England and Wales, and that we have such strong support from the two Governments and, in particular, those Ministers.

Several colleagues have raised questions about the impact of the legislation on small businesses during the recession.

Mrs. Betty Williams: Before my hon. Friend moves on to another topic, I must note that she mentioned the discussions between the Department of Health and the Welsh Assembly. Are similar discussions about this very important issue taking place with other devolved Administrations? We should not have one rule for England and Wales only, because the rest of the UK is just as important.

Julie Morgan: I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. Scotland is certainly ahead of us, because it has already introduced such legislation.

If Ministers introduce regulations, there will be consultation on the provisions for coin-operated sunbeds and the display of health information. When we launched the Bill, the Secretary of State promised an extensive consultation with the sunbed industry. It is important to note that the Sunbed Association, which represents those parts of the sunbed industry with supervised tanning salons, supports the Bill.

Laura Moffatt (Crawley) (Lab): I congratulate my hon. Friend on introducing this fantastic Bill, which I sincerely hope becomes law. Does she agree that her actions will not just protect young people, but have the wider effect of giving people much more information about the dangers of sunbeds? We hope that the legislation will protect 16 to 18-year-olds, but parents may not understand why they should not let their daughters-it is mostly daughters-go on sunbeds that none of us should be using.

Julie Morgan: If the regulations are introduced, the required information will represent a major step in that direction.

The legislation is a not a move to inflict unnecessary new regulations on industry; it is about protecting children and giving people the right information to which my hon. Friend refers. They need that information when they make choices affecting their health. There will be
29 Jan 2010 : Column 1059
ample opportunity for the industry to have its say, and I am pleased that the main body for the industry has thrown its support behind the Bill.

The Bill will also make it easier for trading standards inspectors to check that businesses are compliant with existing regulations. We know from COMARE that

and that

which is

Today we have the chance to decide what is the most important thing to do, and I think it is the protection of our young people.

At the launch of the Bill, I met a lady from Liverpool called Justine Shiels. Justine started using sunbeds at the age of 15 to get a tan before the summer holidays. In fact, I have often heard people say that they need to build up their tan before the summer holidays and then top it up again afterwards. At 32, she was diagnosed with malignant melanoma and had serious operations to remove two tumours from her chest and head. Justine came to the launch because she hopes that her story will help other young people to think about what using sunbeds is doing to their skin. She sees teenage girls in their school uniforms going into salons that she used to use, and she hopes that the Bill will succeed so that others will not have to go through what she has gone through over the past four years.

Sandra Gidley (Romsey) (LD): I congratulate the hon. Lady on introducing this Bill, and I am very pleased to support it. Does she think that there is a wider issue involved? Girls go along to these places because they think it is fashionable, and teenagers' and women's magazines have a huge part to play in that. I probably have an interest as a pale-faced, befreckled redhead, but I find it frustrating that it is always trendy to be tanned. The sooner we can get out of this mindset that a brown skin is a healthy skin, the better; we would all be a lot better off if we could accept how we are.

Julie Morgan: I thank the hon. Lady for her supportive intervention; that would be a good situation to arrive at.

I want to say again that this is not about regulating for the sake of it. We must protect our children from an activity that can, as we have heard, become seriously and dangerously addictive. I hope hon. Members have seen the briefing from Cancer Research UK, which I thank for its endless work on the issue. It carried out some focus group research with young people under 18, who said for example that they went


reflecting the point made by the hon. Member for Romsey (Sandra Gidley); and

29 Jan 2010 : Column 1060


In Wales, a further 16 per cent. of the young people interviewed for Cancer Research UK said that although they have not yet used a sunbed, they may do so in future. In addition, one in five children who use sunbeds do so at least once a week. Anecdotally, I understand that it is not only young girls feeling the pressure to get a tan-young men are increasingly using sunbeds as well. This is a problem among our young people, and it requires action now.

It is important to point out that other countries are taking action. There is specific legislation on sunbed use in Belgium, Finland, France, Norway, Portugal, Spain and Sweden. In Scotland, action has been taken in the Public Health etc. (Scotland) Act 2008, which contains measures to better regulate the sunbed industry, including a prohibition on the use of sunbeds by under-18s. It is very important that we protect under-18s in England and Wales as well. Why should minimum health, safety and good practice guidelines be met in other countries, but not here? We must recognise that under-18s are still able to use sunbeds with ease in England and Wales, often in coin-operated, unsupervised salons. We have a duty to act.

We also have a duty to act on public opinion, remembering that 87 per cent. of the public support banning under-18s from using sunbeds.

Caroline Flint: My hon. Friend has done a great service to the House in securing this private Member's Bill. I have had conversations with many people who could not believe that under-18s had unlimited access to such tanning provision. It is sometimes right that we take affirmative action, in a positive way, instead of always being held back by the sense that the nanny state is imposing too much. I found that the more the public knew about this terrible situation, the more they woke up to the fact that something that they thought was regulated was certainly not.

Julie Morgan: That is an essential point to make. It is important that the House supports the Bill, because we have the support of the public and all the organisations involved in the field. The only effective way to prevent under-18s from using sunbeds is to ensure that salons are supervised, and the only way to ensure that adults can make informed choices is to ensure that information is available to them at the time of use.

There has been a tremendous campaign to get legislation such as this on the statute book and we have had support from a wide range of people. We have a real opportunity to protect children from sunbeds. The Bill could save lives. I hope that Members will support it today, and I commend it to the House.

12.1 pm

Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): I begin by congratulating the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Julie Morgan) on her success in the ballot and on introducing the Bill. I do not doubt that she has identified a matter that needs some sort of action, that there is a problem or
29 Jan 2010 : Column 1061
that she has introduced the Bill with the very best of intentions to improve public health in this country. I certainly do not quibble with her about that. I am in no doubt that the Bill will be given a Second Reading and will progress to Committee.

However, in debates such as this, particularly when it is trumpeted that 87 per cent. of the public support something, and especially in the run-up to a general election, everybody wishes to be on the popular side of the argument. Unfortunately, in too many cases, the other side of the argument is not put. For the sake of balance, it is important to put some other points forward, so that the House can at least consider them. At the end of the debate the House may well decide that the hon. Lady's Bill is the right way forward and the best method, but it is important that we consider other points to try to get some balance.

It is slightly surprising to hear Labour Members argue, "Well, we must do this because such a large proportion of the population are in favour of it." I could cite at length-you will be relieved to know that I will not, Madam Deputy Speaker-a large number of issues on which there is considerable support for a course of action that Labour Members would die in a ditch to prevent from being brought into law. I mention in passing capital punishment. It has popular support in this country, but I am not aware of any Labour Members standing up in the House and saying that we should bring it back because a vast majority of people are in favour of it. I understand why they decided to use that argument in relation to the Bill, but I am not sure that they are entirely consistent in using it.

There are clearly health issues to consider with regard to the use of sunbeds. The hon. Lady mentioned the various cancer charities and organisations that support the Bill, because they see at first hand the problems of skin cancer to which sunbed use contributes. Those points are very well made.

The point at issue, as with all such matters, is not really whether sunbed use is or is not a problem, but whether the measure is proportionate. That is where discussion should focus. We all accept that there is a problem with sunbed use; we are arguing not about the science, but whether, at this stage, we need to introduce a ban on under-18s using sunbeds. I am delighted that the hon. Member for Cardiff, North implied-she will correct me if I am wrong-that she accepted the principle that, although sunbed use is undoubtedly bad for adults in some cases, people who are over 18 are capable of making their own decisions.

Although the hon. Lady made valuable points about information so that people can make an informed choice, she accepts-I think it is the general consensus-that people over 18 are capable of making decisions about whether they want to take the risks involved in sunbed use, and that is why the Bill covers only under-18s. I have a great deal of sympathy with that, because we in this place need to protect children who are not at an age when they are capable of making an informed decision.

However, I have several worries about the Bill. The first is the slippery slope. Some of the arguments that were deployed in various interventions on the hon. Lady's speech were not for banning sunbeds for under-18s, but for banning sunbeds. I therefore wonder whether this is the first stage of a plan to ban sunbed use altogether.

29 Jan 2010 : Column 1062

Sarah Teather (Brent, East) (LD): There is an analogy with smoking. No one argues for banning smoking altogether-at least, not at this stage; perhaps some hon. Members would argue for that-but we ban it for children, because it is harmful. Are not the positions analogous?

Philip Davies: Yes. However, the hon. Lady should be aware that many hon. Members would like to ban smoking and that only thing that stops them is public opinion. If she attended the debates on banning smoking in public places, through which I sat on many occasions, she knows that the arguments deployed were not for a ban on smoking in public places, but for a ban on smoking altogether. There is no doubt that some hon. Members would love to go down that route.

Sarah Teather: The fact that some people want to ban smoking is not an argument for not banning smoking for children. Presumably the hon. Gentleman does not disagree that we should stop children smoking.

Philip Davies: I do not disagree with that. I merely highlight the salami-slicer effect of legislation in this place. People who have agendas further down the line use measures such as the Bill as a Trojan horse, which enables them to pursue their other agenda later. Sometimes lines in the sand need to be drawn. I always took the view that I was not elected to Parliament to ban everyone else in the country from doing everything that I do not happen to like. I thought that my duty was to preserve people's individual freedoms. In my short time in the House, I have learned that some hon. Members believe that they come to Parliament to do nothing but ban people from doing everything that they do not happen to like. I want to try to prevent that erosion of our freedoms.

Hon. Members, particularly on one side of the House, are good at trying to ban people from doing things. I object to that nanny-state approach, whereby we have to impose our views and beliefs on everybody else in the country and are not prepared to let people make up their own minds. I do not believe that Parliament should operate in that way. I would like to think that, as well as trying to protect children, which is a perfectly worthy aim for Members of Parliament, we consider protecting people's freedoms a worthy aim. I regret that that does not happen as often as I would like. The question is whether or not an outright ban is the way to go, but it appears to be the first option.

The hon. Member for Cardiff, North said, quite rightly, that we have tried a voluntary code. There are many decent sunbed operators who do not try to breach the code. They behave extremely responsibly, and there is no particular problem with their operations. We ought to put on record the fact that there are many responsible outlets that do a very good job of protecting children. I would not want us to run away with the idea that this is, in total, an irresponsible industry, because that is not the case. The question is therefore whether or not we ought to adopt the measures in the Bill.

Next Section Index Home Page