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Mrs. Siân C. James (Swansea, East) (Lab):
I speak today as a long-term campaigner on the dangers of sunbeds. My attention was initially drawn to the issue by the number of young people who frequented a shop a few doors away from my then constituency office. I was fascinated that so many young people appeared to be going in and out of the store and when I asked
parents in and around the area what was going on, I was shocked to discover that it was an unstaffed, unsupervised coin-operated salon. That was a new initiative-it was not something that I had come across-and I asked myself two questions. First, if it was unsupervised, who was there to give young people appropriate advice about using the machines about what was appropriate for their skin colour and the length of time for which they should be on the sunbed? Secondly-this was the most important question-was it dangerous?
My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Julie Morgan) introduced the Bill. I wholeheartedly support her and am very grateful to her for taking it on. I remind the House that the Bill enjoys support from the Government and is sponsored by a cross-party group of MPs, including a former Health Secretary, the Chair of the Select Committee on Health, the chair of the all-party group on cancer and the Liberal Democrat shadow Health Minister. More than 160 MPs from all parties have signed the most recent early-day motion. This issue is one of those that has generated the most debate when I have talked to colleagues and to people in my constituency, who are wholeheartedly behind me.
Nia Griffith (Llanelli) (Lab): Has my hon. Friend shared my experience in discovering that people who have no idea that there is no supervision are utterly shocked by that fact? Everybody I have talked to has been horrified, as they assumed that all these places were supervised. It has been a real revelation.
Mrs. James: Two hon. Members mentioned the Sunbed Association, with which I have been working very closely from day one. It does not want the unregulated end of the market. It does not want young people to put themselves at risk and it has been very supportive. Concerns have been raised about the regulation of business and allowing an industry to operate in the correct manner. This is not about getting at an industry, but about doing what is right and providing members of the public with an appropriate service. I do not think that it is appropriate to allow young people, or any member of the public, merely to go in and read a few posters, which, in many cases, can be misleading-on some occasions, they can be downright misleading, stating that it is healthy to use sunbeds-rather than having someone there to give that advice. It is shocking and it is not good enough.
The academic evidence is overwhelming. The COMARE report on the carcinogenic levels related to sunbed use is horrific. It frightened me as a parent and a grandparent. When I consider the number of soap stars, pop stars and sports stars who use sunbeds without thought, and their influence on young people, I realise that we need to get the message across.
I take on board what has been said about a campaign. There has been a campaign. The Health and Safety Executive guidelines have been updated. The use of sunbeds has been included in the SunSmart campaign. In many cases, young people do not make the link between going out in the sun and using a sunbed. They think that a sunbed is safer and healthier.
There have been questions about health benefits. People say they feel better and look better with a tan. That is a complete fallacy. When one has been in the
sun, there is a short-term benefit-a plumping of the skin and a rosy glow. But the effect is short-lived. People are not healthier, they just feel a bit better because they have seen some sun. It is a very short-term health benefit.
The Bill allows for cases when the use of sunbeds or sun lamps is appropriate. In my office, I have a photograph of the youngest tanorexic in my constituency: a three-day-old premature baby wearing a tiny pair of goggles who has to go under a sun lamp. That is entirely appropriate.
Cancer Research has worked closely with me and my colleagues and has provided much information. As we worked our way through it and considered how we could work with the industry to encourage it to take up safer guidelines and regulate itself, it was clear that nothing would happen voluntarily.
The industry has good operators; there are several in my constituency. They turn away young people. They ask the right questions, give proper advice and are very cross when they see young people immediately walk out of their salons and go to the nearest unstaffed, unsupervised salon where young people can feed the machine for as little as 25p a minute. Such salons are totally unregulated.
When we launched the Bill earlier this month, I was delighted to hear my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health offer his support for it and suggest that he would introduce regulation to tackle the unstaffed salon end of the market as soon as possible after it was passed. I warmly welcome his ministerial commitment, not only to introduce regulation once the Bill has completed its journey but to work with the industry to protect young people. I know that the Sunbed Association and the responsible end of the sun salon industry want to work with us.
Many operators in the unstaffed salon end of the market are not responsible. There is a job-creation opportunity for members of the public visiting those facilities. I have been told by cleaners who work in those salons that they would like to be on the premises longer. They would like to be trained and instructed in helping the public. There are opportunities for the industry to expand.
Several cities have tried local licensing arrangements to ensure minimum standards in salons and they have been adhered to, but it is clear that national legislation is preferable to inconsistent local action. The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health and COMARE clearly recommend national legislation. There is now legislation in Scotland, and I understand that the Irish Government have been convinced of the argument and will, I hope, be undertaking legislation too.
Caroline Flint: I commend my hon. Friend for her dogged determination to support the introduction of legislation. It has been said in the debate that, in terms of the total use of sunbeds, we are talking about a small part of the market and a small number of users, but is it not the case that unmanned coin-operated salons target the poorest and most vulnerable-possibly young people whose parents cannot afford a holiday in the sun once or twice a year? This is their way of getting what they consider a good tan to make themselves look good. The targeting of the poorest and most vulnerable by such outlets is cynical.
Some 1,700 deaths a year are attributed to skin cancer, and it is calculated that 100 of those are directly attributable to sunbed use. In 2004, there were 65,000 new cases of skin cancer in Great Britain, so the problem is not small. Other countries have recognised the seriousness of the issue and legislated. They have done so willingly and collectively, and it is important that we follow suit.
Nia Griffith: Does my hon. Friend agree that, just as we are shocked when we look at old TV footage and see people smoking everywhere, the sunbed issue is of the same magnitude? Soon young people will be saying to us, "Why ever didn't you do something about this before now? Why ever did you let us get into this mess and develop these terrible cancers, which are so devastating and take so many lives?"
From those who have suffered with skin cancer, the message is clear and consistent: "Do something now. Don't let young people go through what I went through." It is a heartbreaking message. I was interviewed recently for a TV programme on the subject by a well-known celebrity, Nicola Roberts. She said that she had visited somebody who was dying of skin cancer and how difficult it is to explain to the person who is suffering why nothing is happening quickly.
Young people who are aware of the issues are saying to us, "Why don't you lot at Westminster get on and change the law as quickly as possible?" Very few people say to me, "Don't change the law. Don't bring in regulation. Don't ban use for under-18s." Not one person has yet approached me with that message.
The Welsh Assembly has led the way in this matter for us in Wales. The Committee on Health, Wellbeing and Local Government conducted an inquiry into sunbeds and found a need for immediate action. I put it on record that its key recommendations included, first, prohibiting under-18s from using sunbeds; secondly, that facilities should be staffed with well-trained staff; and thirdly, that information setting out the potential health risks should be prominently displayed.
We in south Wales know very well what it is like to be a sunbed hot spot. My constituency has a sunbed parlour on practically every corner. They are in places as diverse as above beauty salons, in hairdressers, in local facilities and even in corner shops. Once one starts looking for salons, it is amazing where one finds them.
I quote the words of the mother of a 14-year-old, Kirsty McRae, who was very badly burned last year. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Julie Morgan) has already referred to her. In evidence to the Welsh Assembly's Committee on Health, Wellbeing and Local Government, the mother said:
"As a family, we have always taken a responsible attitude to the sun and used the appropriate products, considered the time spent in the sun and the time of day we were in the sun. I am therefore quite happy that in educating her about natural sunlight and sun damage, I did as much as I could as a parent. I had expressly forbidden her to even consider using a sunbed, and, as has been reported previously, I acknowledge that she went against my wishes and she acknowledges her responsibility in that respect as well. The concern is that the operation of such a salon allowed her a facility to misuse the bed."
Clear warnings are needed. We have updated them, but we need to carry on. Posters need to be prominently displayed and we have to match our work to the campaign. Cancer Research UK, the Welsh Assembly Government, the Teenage Cancer Trust and other cancer charities have raised skin cancer's profile and prepared and distributed documentation.
There are no health benefits from using sunbeds. There are disbenefits, not benefits, and we need to get that message across clearly. Sunbed use is too cheap at 25p a minute. There are no parents around and it does not matter whether one has a sunbed at home or not; everybody uses sunbeds in communities such as mine. Having a tan is their little bit of glamour. It is so easy to achieve and people can access irresponsible and unstaffed salons. The question is, why are young people starting to tan at such a young age? Children aged 11 to 14 are saying that they want to go to salons and get a tan. We have to address that issue.
The hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) asked about restricted zones, and I understand that, in case of prosecution, the zone-the cubicle or the salon-is defined as a private area. The issue is simple, because one cannot see what goes on in such places, so the zone has to be defined to ensure that, if the young person enters it, there is a clear demarcation demonstrating that they went into an area where they were not allowed. I accept the point about inadvertently wandering into such a zone in a sports facility, but that is why the zone should be clearly defined. We need to know where it is, who is there and who has used it.
Do I think that sunbeds are dangerous? Yes, I do. Do we know that young people are using them? Yes, we do. It is now time to take action. I hope that my colleagues will join me in arguing for the greater protection of children and young people throughout England and Wales, and support the Bill.
Mr. Bruce George (Walsall, South) (Lab): I am truly delighted by the introduction of this Bill. However, I am a little sad, because as I said I have tried for 36 years to get a private Member's Bill just on to the bottom of the list on the notice board, and I have failed. Eventually, the Bill that I wanted on private security went through the House, but I would have introduced the Bill before us. My version of this Bill might have been differently worded, but I suspect not. I have three main reasons for wanting to introduce such legislation, and they include my knowledge of the statistics. Anyone who is forced to use 1995 statistics, as the hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) did, and, seemingly, nothing beyond that is either filibustering or has a desire to spend his time here today doing something useful.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Julie Morgan) has been fortunate with her friends but even more fortunate with her opponents, because I have not heard a greater profusion of erroneous facts in my life. I have attended and spoken in Parliament and at public meetings, but I have not used the arguments that I have heard today. I remember speaking for some time, during one of my rare appearances here on a Friday, about why in my constituency- [ Interruption. ] I argued that John Stuart Mill would have voted for the legislation on seatbelts. I have used some nonsense arguments- [ Interruption. ]
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman. He went in for a bout of sedentary commentary earlier, but I do not want any tit for tat from the hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies). Let us get on with the debate.
This is not about prejudice-the facts are there in vast numbers for people who take the trouble to read them. There is an enormous case for acting on this matter, and at last there is the prospect of legislation, although that is not a panacea-it will not eliminate the cancer that young people, and older people, are dying from as a result of exposure to the sun. I chair the all-party group on skin. I will willingly send a copy of our report to the hon. Member for Shipley, who would find in it a lot of the evidence, of which there is an enormous amount. He said that he was not opposed to the Bill, but every word that came out of his mouth led me to a very different conclusion. His arguments are even opposed by people he cited by way of support. He cited the words of the Sunbed Association in 1995. He should have read through his post and seen the letters that all Members of Parliament received saying that there had been some criticism of the Bill by the Sunbed Association, but only to say that it was not strong enough. He cited a source that is totally opposed to the arguments that he evoked.
Philip Davies: The right hon. Gentleman is giving the most nauseating performance that I have heard in my time in the House. Perhaps it would help if, instead of trying to misrepresent the points that I made, he could try, if he is capable of it, to make a cogent argument as to what he believes.
Mr. George: I tried to make an argument, unlike the hon. Gentleman, who came out with a series of nonsensical words from his mind that he just invented this morning. I will carry on with my speech. He should listen to and read about the enormous number of very worthy people and organisations who have supported the Bill, together with the group that I represent. He may not think much of my views, but if he dares to come along to one of our meetings and put those arguments, he will hear a strong set of ripostes.
An enormous number of reputable organisations take a serious interest in the problems of skin and skin cancer. We are discussing one small aspect of the much broader issue of skin cancer, which the statistics clearly show is rising dangerously, with young people as the main victims. They enthusiastically go into these salons, not knowing what might lie ahead in 20 or 30 years. Not many young people think 20 or 30 days ahead, let alone 30 years. They should know that the figures for skin cancer are rising exponentially. That is without getting on to the big issue of global warming, which is likely to cause even more problems on top of those that are already being experienced.
"The Sunbed Association would strongly urge you to use the opportunity at the Second Reading of the proposed Bill...to call for the Bill to be amended to include a requirement of compliance of all sunbeds in operation prior to 1 April 2009 to a maximum irradiance level of 0.3W/m(2). Alternatively, as a minimum, seek a commitment to a timescale for compliance implementation."
I have talked to the Sunbed Association and am delighted to say that it is supporting the proposals, because it recognises the enormous dangers. It probably knows the problems more than anybody, so to have the largest association of sunbed owners supporting the Bill is a great boost to the campaign.
No suntan is safe, and the consequences are there for all to see. We know how laxly young people treat the sun, despite the many consequences, and the use of sunbeds increases the risk of skin cancer. As I have said a great deal, the more and earlier an individual uses one, the more the risks rise.
Cancer Research UK found that of 4,000 sunbed users, 82 per cent. had first used them before they were 35, and some had cancer. A distinguished hospital in Dundee has produced a great deal of research that people ought to examine, as has the Health and Safety Executive. One can examine-not that I do, but it was brought to my attention-the amount of research being produced in other countries and by legislatures elsewhere that have seen the importance of tackling the problem far earlier than we have. That should spur us on.
My all-party group on skin supports the Bill, and our research has reached the conclusion that a number of sunbed institutions offer seemingly unlimited sessions, have tanning accelerators and high-powered machines, ask for no proof of age, make no comments on the risks for those who have fair skin and offer insufficient information on risks in general. That is the area of the market to which the Bill is targeted. Maybe it is an omission that it does not allow for chasing people into their houses and examining all their equipment, but that is beyond its scope and, I suspect, even beyond the hon. Gentleman if he were enthusiastic about the idea. The Bill is not intrusive, but if others do deem it intrusive, it is so for a purpose and most sane people would welcome it.
I am glad that the hon. Gentleman made no attempt to filibuster-I do not accuse him of that at all. He is entitled to spend 40 minutes talking about anything that he likes, subject to your will, Mr. Deputy Speaker. However, I hope that the Bill is not seen as party political and that Opposition Members will support it. I hope that time will be found for it, and I really hope that it gets through before the election, whenever that is, so that all parties and all MPs can take credit for the fact that a small piece of legislation might save at least 1,000 lives a year. If that happens, we can all feel satisfied.
Nia Griffith (Llanelli) (Lab): It gives me enormous pleasure to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Julie Morgan) on coming so high in the ballot and on choosing this extremely important Bill to ban the use of tanning salons by young people under the age of 18. My hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Mrs. James) has championed that cause unstintingly for a long time.
I have been shocked to find out how many people simply do not know what is happening. When I have talked to constituents about what we would be doing today, they have asked, "Aren't salons already staffed? Aren't there any regulations? Aren't young people already banned from going?" They have been horrified to find that it is quite easy for any youngster to walk off the street and into a salon.
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