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29 Jan 2010 : Column 1075

The age of 11 is a key point at which young people get keen on their appearance. They look at all the magazines, and when they go up to secondary school they want to be big and join in with what the older young people are doing. They want to make themselves as grown-up as possible. They see tanning as one of the ways in which they can do that-they can get that glamorous tan. Of course, it is so easy when they can just walk in off the street, their friends are encouraging them, they feel a bit adventurous and they want to try new things. We all experienced such feelings when we were teenagers, but we are discussing a potentially lethal weapon, to which young people can subject themselves.

In a few years, those young people could be very bitter because we, as responsible adults, did nothing to prevent the availability of that opportunity, and they ended up suffering from a devastating form of cancer. Skin cancer is extremely serious; some people think of it as simply cutting out a little mole, but we know how quickly it can spread and develop secondaries. Sadly, many of us know people who have passed away from melanomas and various skin cancers.

It is therefore extremely important for us to take a responsible attitude. I know that some young people will feel that we are fuddy-duddies-"This is the adults again, trying to dictate, telling us what we should and shouldn't do." However, I know that many young people are concerned about what their fellow young people are doing and are aware of the dangers that tanning salons can pose. They know how easy it is for somebody not only to build up a long-term problem, but to suffer immediate damage, as in the sad case we had in south Wales of very severe burning. Clearly, that young person did not intend to do that to herself. It is so easy for such incidents to happen.

We must not lose our nerve. Our local authorities need the Bill to regulate properly. We do not want any nonsense about over-regulation. My hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East clearly made the case for regulation. She has talked and listened carefully to all those involved in the business. She knows that the Bill is the only way forward, and that responsible providers of such services welcome what we are doing and want proper regulation so that we do not have a position whereby young people can simply walk in with no advice, no notices-nothing to warn them of the dangers-and expose their delicate skins to the horrible effects of tanning salons.

Of course, we want more than simply to ban under-18s from the salons. We want proper staffing and proper advice available to us all. I hope that the Bill will mark the beginning of getting on to a good footing and taking a sensible approach to tanning salons. We must ensure that we protect our young people and also conduct information campaigns to inform all adults of the potential dangers. We must also ensure that we back up legislation with good education programmes in our schools. We can then say to young people in schools, "This is illegal," so that it is not simply a matter of exhortation, but of putting it plainly to them that they are not allowed to go to tanning salons. That added protection will contribute to the information campaigns. I hope that the Bill will have our full support today.

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1.13 pm

Mark Simmonds (Boston and Skegness) (Con): I congratulate the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Julie Morgan) on her success in the ballot, on her excellent choice of topic and on the work that she must have put in behind the scenes to get the Bill in its current form. She gave a succinct and articulate introduction, which credibly set the scene for the ensuing debate.

The hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mrs. James) should also be congratulated on her diligence and dedication in continually raising the issue, not giving up and pressuring the Government and hon. Members of all political parties to take it seriously. She was right to make the point that there are responsible operators and that the House needs to support them over those who do not operate in a considered and structured way.

I shall take the opportunity briefly to defend my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) and his contribution to the debate. He was right, particularly on two matters. First, he is right that, in a democracy, the other perspective must be presented-that is what the House is for. Secondly, he was right to suggest that just because something is popular, it does not mean that the House should follow that view.

The only defence for legislating on health care and banning something is if a ban is supported by clinical evidence. I have drawn different conclusions from my hon. Friend. The European Scientific Committee on Consumer Products produced a detailed report on the use of ultra-violet radiation devices in 2006, and it concluded that people should not be advised to use tanning devices, specifically if

It also says that the risks are high for people of "a young age". It concludes:

That is exactly what the Bill would achieve.

We have heard many statistics about the increasing use of sunbeds, some of which are very significant: more than 11 per cent. of 15 to 17-year-olds have used a sunbed; 6 per cent. of young people-250,000 children-a year use sunbeds. There are pockets of the country where sunbed use is high, and we have heard about south Wales, Sunderland and Liverpool. We need to introduce legislation that goes some way towards addressing the potentially detrimental outcomes of sunbed use by individuals under 18.

Other clinical evidence supports the premise behind the Bill. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has raised the status of sunbeds from "probably carcinogenic to humans" to "carcinogenic to humans". There is clear evidence to suggest that if people under 35 use sunbeds the risk of their getting cancer increases by up to 75 per cent. As has been said, more than 10,000 cases of malignant melanoma were diagnosed in the UK in 2006 alone, and there has been a significant increase in such cases over the past 30 years. Sunbeds are linked not only to skin cancer but to other health conditions, including eye damage, dermatological conditions, photosensitivity and premature skin ageing.

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Mr. Charles Walker (Broxbourne) (Con): I am not a scientist, but one of the drawbacks of the prolonged use of sunbeds and exposure to the sun is that people can end up looking like a shrivelled prune or a leathery turtle. I do not think young people are aware that short-term beauty has a long-term cost for their skin, purely from an aesthetic point of view.

Mark Simmonds: My hon. Friend makes a good point, but I would go further. Not only are people under 18 unaware but many people over 18 are unaware of the negative side effects, both of using sunbeds and tanning salons and of staying in the natural sun for far too long without sufficient protection. We need much more easily understandable and accessible information, so that people can make informed decisions about what they want to do with their lives.

Significantly, the Sunbed Association is in favour of the Bill, but there is uncertainty about the number of sunbed outlets. It is estimated that there are 8,000, only one fifth of which are registered with the association. The vast majority are therefore outwith the existing regulatory structure. It would be helpful if the Minister explained either today or perhaps at a later stage what estimate her Department has made of the number of sunbed premises in the country, and whether there is any research on prices and the cost of using sunbeds. The right hon. Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint) made the point that a session can cost as little as 15p; the cheapest session that I have come across costs 40p, which is peanuts.

The existing voluntary regulatory structure has not worked, and there is a much bigger agenda to tackle. I am not going to be deflected into discussing it, but we must find ways of reducing the incidence of cancer and of improving five-year cancer survival rates in the UK which, the whole House will know, are extremely poor compared with survival rates in other EU countries. We could do so by increasing and ring-fencing the public health budget at the Department of Health, and by providing much greater access to information. There is a strong argument for that, as there is a causal link in pockets of socio-economic deprivation to growing health inequalities, which is why we have said that we need to increase the resources going into those areas and why we have introduced our patient premium.

We in this House should not introduce legislation lightly, but the Bill is moving in the right direction. We need to support informed choice. I am as disappointed as other hon. Members that voluntary regulation of the sunbed industry has proved ineffective, so the Bill is a necessary step.

The key to the success of any such measure is enforcement, evaluation and monitoring. There is already too much duplication in evaluation and monitoring in national health service structures, and I notice from the impact assessment that the Department of Health and the Health Protection Agency will both be responsible for collecting data and pulling the assessment together. It would be much better to have one or the other-I would opt for the HPA. Perhaps as the Bill progresses, we need to look at that detail.

There is a slightly quixotic reference in the impact assessment-on page 14, for the Minister's officials-to pilot projects. I wonder what pilot projects there could be for an outright ban on the use of sunbeds by those aged under 18.

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Another issue that needs to be thought about as the Bill progresses, which I hope it will, is whether 18 is the correct age. Are we saying that people who are 16 and 17 do not have the ability to make informed choices, or is there specific clinical evidence of a problem with their going on to get melanoma and other skin problems? I have looked for that research and not found it, but it would be helpful to know whether it exists.

I strongly agree with clause 5, which requires sunbed businesses to display information about the health risks of sunbed use. However, it would be interesting to know much more about that information: who will be responsible for it and will it emanate from the Department? Should that not be in the Bill rather than in subsequent regulations, despite the Secretary of State's assurances that they would follow quickly? I would like GPs and pharmacists also to have a role in disseminating that key information, as well as it being on premises where there are sunbeds.

Clearly, the objectives of the Bill are to protect young people from harmful effects of sunbed use and to raise their awareness, but there is concern about the equipment that is currently used in many tanning salons in the UK. The Minister will be aware that in 2007 the Government signed up to an EU declaration on the erythemally weighted irradiance level of tubes in sunbeds. As a consequence, all new sunbeds must comply with that limit, but the Government have failed, first, to implement their commitment to ensure that all existing equipment complies with the regulation, and, secondly, to set a time scale for its implementation.

The directive has already been implemented elsewhere in the EU-Austria, for example, has done so completely, and Denmark and Germany almost completely. It would be helpful to the House if the Minister explained where that has got to. Clearly, it is potentially significantly more damaging for UV output levels to be higher than those of the midday Mediterranean sun, which is why the regulation was introduced. The hon. Member for Cardiff, North and the Minister need to consider amending the Bill to ensure that sunbeds comply with the EU directive, which was supposed to be in operation from 1 April 2009. Alternatively, there should as a minimum be a commitment in the Bill to a time scale for compliance. For the edification of hon. Members, I confirm that the directive is not aimed solely at new sunbeds. It is also retrospective, so all existing sunbeds have to comply.

The explanatory notes and impact assessment refer to the costs of the Bill, relating to the authorised officer and the enforcement capacity. That seems sensible, but the total cost-supposedly-of these additional responsibilities for every single local authority in England and Wales is assessed at only £100,000. I find that very hard to believe, and we need a much more accurate assessment of the additional responsibilities and costs for local authorities, especially given the deteriorating macro-economic situation and fiscal deficit. Whoever is in power after the next election, that situation will have to be rectified.

The hon. Members for Cardiff, North and for Swansea, East were right to raise the issue of coin-operated salons, and I share their concern. That is not an acceptable approach. I understand from those in the industry that the Department of Health has been reluctant to discuss the impact of the Bill with those in that sector of the sunbed market. It would be helpful to know whether any research has been done or calculation made about
29 Jan 2010 : Column 1079
what proportion of a sunbed salon's revenues is generated by under-18s and therefore what impact the Bill would have on the industry.

My hon. Friend the Member for Shipley mentioned the possible displacement impact, encouraging people to have sunbed treatments at home in unregulated conditions, rather than in salons, and that point needs to be considered. I am supportive of the medical purposes exception highlighted in the Bill, but I would like to know whether the Minister thinks that that will have to be achieved by prescription or just on a nod and a wink from a GP or other clinician.

There is legislation relating to sunbeds in other parts of the world-in the US, as we have heard, and in parts of Europe and Australasia-and we need to know what lessons can be learned from that. Has the legislation made a difference? What contact has the Department had with health departments in those countries to ensure that the Bill has the maximum impact?

We think that this legislation is going in the right direction. We will support the Bill, but some key issues remain to be addressed, which I hope will come out in Committee.

1.27 pm

Sarah Teather (Brent, East) (LD): I shall be brief, as I do not wish to detain the House. I congratulate the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Julie Morgan) on securing second place in the ballot and using it for such a good cause. My colleagues and I support the Bill. Indeed, my hon. Friend the Member for North Norfolk (Norman Lamb) has spoken about this issue on many occasions, and the hon. Lady will know that he is very supportive of the Bill.

My hon. Friend the Member for Richmond Park (Susan Kramer), who is no longer in her place, asked me to tell the House about her husband, John, who died about three years ago of melanoma. He was told by his doctors that it was a result of sunburn suffered as a child. He had not used sunbeds, but his example highlights the fact that skin damage as a child can cause damage 30 or 40 years later. The hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) spoke about freedom of choice, but it is very difficult to make an informed decision on this issue, especially as a child. The information provided about the level of ultraviolet light is often incorrect, and the hon. Member for Boston and Skegness (Mark Simmonds) spoke about the variability of the amount of UV light provided by various sunbeds. It is difficult even for an adult to make an informed choice, so it is impossible for a child or a teenager to make one about the damage that they might do to themselves 10, 15, 20, 30 or 40 years later. As my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond Park said to me, she was told by John's doctor that when a melanoma metastasizes, that person's chances of survival are extremely low. Melanoma is a difficult cancer to treat if it has metastasized. It might be easier to treat if it is picked up early, but it is difficult to treat if it spreads.

James Duddridge (Rochford and Southend, East) (Con): I am sympathetic to the argument that it is difficult for a child to make such a decision. The age chosen in the Bill
29 Jan 2010 : Column 1080
is 18, and the hon. Lady agrees that it is difficult for a child between 16 and 18 to decide whether they should go on a sunbed. Why then does her party support giving young people the vote at 16? Surely that decision is a little more complicated.

Sarah Teather: Oh, crikey. I am not sure that I really want to get on to that.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. Can I share the hon. Lady's feelings?

Sarah Teather: I am eager to speak briefly so that my hon. Friend the Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes) might have a chance for his Bill too to be read a Second time, particularly as I am wholly supportive of the Bill that the hon. Member for Cardiff, North has introduced.

Lastly, we think that the Bill is a proportionate response to the potential danger, particularly to young people, and also to unsupervised coin-operated slot machine salons. We support the Bill and hope that the Government will make parliamentary time available to ensure that it gets on to the statute book.

1.31 pm

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Gillian Merron): I warmly congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Julie Morgan) on bringing the Bill before the House in a well informed manner that also demonstrated enthusiasm and great sensitivity to the importance of the issue. I know that the House will want to pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Mrs. James), who has championed the cause and been well supported by many of her colleagues and rightly so. It is a mark of the energy and commitment that my hon. Friends the Members for Cardiff, North and for Swansea, East have shown that the measure has gathered such strong cross-party support.

I am extremely proud to add my voice to the chorus calling time on under-age sunbed use. Today that chorus has included well supported and informed contributions from my right hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George) and my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli (Nia Griffith). I am also grateful to the hon. Members for Boston and Skegness (Mark Simmonds) and for Brent, East (Sarah Teather) for giving their parties' agreement to the Bill, which I hope will come to fruition.

Anybody who has spent time outdoors with children will know just how quickly young skin colours and how fast a suntan can become sunburn. Luckily we can see the warning signs and take action to stop children inadvertently harming themselves. That is the essence of what today's Bill is all about. We cannot continue to allow children and young people to burn. The evidence is clear: sunbeds are a health risk, and the risk is greater for young people. I am convinced that legislation is required to protect the health of our young people.

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