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On that point, perhaps I could give a gentle reassurance to the hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies), who unfortunately is no longer in his place. He legitimately asked questions about whether we needed the legislation. When bringing forward legislation, existing routes must of course have been tried first and must have failed, and
alternatives must have been sought. I can say to the House that in five areas that has indeed happened. There has been no attempt whatever to jump to new legislation. First, as we have heard a number of times from hon. Members, voluntary self-regulation by the sunbed industry has simply not worked, and the industry acknowledges that.
Secondly, some local authorities have special licensing powers, but those powers have limited applicability and provisions vary, so they too have not done the job. The Health and Safety Executive has revised its guidance, but that is exactly what it is: simply guidance. That has not done the job either. SunSmart, the national skin cancer prevention campaign, has reported no changes in behaviour among young people in the 16-to-24 age group, in regard to their attitude to protecting themselves from the damage that the sun and sunbeds can cause. So despite attempting to improve young people's awareness, we have not seen the change that we need.
Lastly, no legislation is in place to deal with this issue. I can assure the House that I have done a thorough job of finding out whether we could achieve the same effect without new legislation, as that would have hastened the outcome of our efforts, but it was just not possible. That is why we are here today. The Bill tackles the problem head on. This is the only way we can protect young people from harming themselves, and this is the earliest opportunity that we have had to bring these provisions into law. The Government fully support the Bill.
Last night, I was proud to welcome to Westminster Dyllys Firth and Pam Connock. They are cancer survivors from Lincoln and they have done sterling work to raise money for a cancer charity called Candles, and to support the work of Professor Eremin. Their fundraising efforts are legendary. They had the opportunity to meet my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North last night before I took them to No. 10 to meet the Prime Minister, in recognition of their efforts. They wished my hon. Friend more power to her elbow today, because they felt strongly that we could wait no longer to take action to protect young people from the risk of cancer, and that legislation, information and a change of attitude were now required. We have heard those points being raised today as well.
My hon. Friend-hand in hand with Cancer Research UK, which is also to be commended-has created a truly exciting and memorable campaign, which has challenged the idea that tanned equals beautiful. Members might have seen the media interest sparked by Nicola Roberts of Girls Aloud when she addressed the parliamentary reception to launch the Bill. Miss Roberts spoke with great passion, and made a health message real and relevant to a generation of young people, particularly girls, who feel under constant pressure to look a certain way and fit in with the crowd, regardless of the cost to their health. The Secretary of State and I were proud to attend the reception and to confirm our support for the Bill. The attention that the campaign has attracted, and the progress of the Bill, shows that with the right combination of legislation and education we can break the invisible chain linking success to suntans.
Today the House is faced with a simple decision, and we can save lives now. The evidence shows that skin cancer is on the rise. In 2004, there were more than
65,000 new cases of skin cancer. Melanomas, one of the less common but most deadly types of skin cancer, caused more than 1,700 deaths last year in England alone. One study estimated that melanomas from sunbed use cause about 100 deaths a year in the UK. Those deaths are preventable.
One of the most harmful aspects of skin cancer is the delay between the exposure and the effects. Cases of skin cancer being reported today could be the result of exposure 10 or 20 years ago. Estimates suggest that skin cancer rates will triple over the next 20 to 30 years. We have a generation of people storing up damage for the future, and we have a duty to do all we can to protect young people today so that we can save their lives tomorrow.
Should the Bill receive Royal Assent, the Government would begin consulting on further regulations-for example, to tackle unsupervised sunbed use-at the earliest possible opportunity, because the evidence is compelling. Over the past decade, the case against the use of sunbeds by under-18s has gradually been building. First, scientists explored the links between sunbed use and skin cancer. In 2003, the World Health Organisation recommended that nobody under the age of 18 should use a sunbed. In 2006, the Scientific Committee on Consumer Products, which advises the European Commission, also warned of the specific health risks attached to sunbed use. Studies then began to examine the links between sunbed use during childhood and the increased risk of skin cancer.
The hon. Member for Boston and Skegness asked about the use of the age of 18. As I have suggested, this limit has been recommended by the Scientific Committee on Consumer Products, the WHO and the Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment-COMARE-to whose report I shall refer in a moment. The limit is also understandable and consistent with other age restrictions, for example those relating to alcohol and tobacco.
Last year was a real turning point, because in June the independent body COMARE reported that exposure to ultraviolet light could cause skin cancer, and that young people were particularly vulnerable to skin damage. In July, the International Agency for Research on Cancer's working group classified sunbeds as "carcinogenic to humans" for the first time.
James Duddridge: I welcome this Bill and its use of the 18 age limit. If that limit proves to be too low and it is felt that, on reflection, it should have been 21, would it be possible to change it through secondary legislation or would we have to use primary legislation?
Gillian Merron: All these things are, of course, a matter for Parliament. The important thing to emphasise is that the 18 limit is based on scientific evidence, practicality and workability. I am sure the hon. Gentleman would agree that we only want legislation that can work and be enforced.
Last year, research also confirmed what my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East had been saying for some time: that sunbeds were routinely being used by young people across the country and that voluntary action by the industry was simply not going to be enough to protect their health. Health Ministers recently commissioned two surveys on sunbed use by children in
England. They were carried out by Cancer Research UK and they found that 6 per cent. of 11 to 17-year-olds had used a sunbed, with many starting at the age of 14. The evidence showed that the use of sunbeds by under-18s is widespread, that voluntary regulation alone cannot protect public health and that the link between sunbeds and skin cancer is extremely clear and present.
I wish to deal with a few of the comments made by the hon. Member for Boston and Skegness. I can reassure him about the impact assessment's reference to pilot projects, because this is a standard paragraph in the documentation and, in fact, the entry says "not applicable", so there are no pilots to refer to. He also mentioned the technical standards and compliance issue. This is a matter for my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North and other Members, but technical standards are about product safety and this is a Bill about public health, so its focus should remain on public health and any other issues should be addressed elsewhere. Adherence to standards is not within the scope of the Bill, although I am happy to raise with the Business Secretary the issues that the hon. Gentleman has discussed. I can, however, assure him that a regime is in place to deal with this issue and it involves trading standards and the Health and Safety Executive.
Estimates of the number of sunbed outlets vary considerably and, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint) said, these businesses pop up all the time and disappear regularly. What is clear is that only a fraction of sunbed outlets are covered by the voluntary code.
We are moving ever closer to a health service that not only treats illness but tackles its causes-one that looks beyond life years and towards the quality of people's years of life. Cutting the risk of skin cancer means acting on a number of fronts: we need to educate young people better so that the risks are known; we need to regulate better so that children are not exposed to damaging environments; and we need to challenge the culture that links tanning to beauty. I believe that the
Bill is a significant step in the right direction. This is a Bill whose time has come and I am proud to support it on behalf of the Government.
Julie Morgan: With the leave of the House, I want to thank everybody for their contributions. In particular, I thank the Opposition spokespeople for their good, measured responses, for which I am very grateful. The hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) is not in his place at the moment, but I want to make a few quick points about what he said. I can reassure him that there is no intention of banning adults from using sunbeds. We want there to be information so that they know the risks. There is an exemption in the Bill that will allow under-18s to use sunbeds for medical treatment, which is something else he was concerned about. I am pleased that he recognised the need for supervised salons, which will come about as a result of the Bill.
I believe that parents do their best to try to stop their children accessing sunbeds. I do not think that parents are irresponsible and I think that they try very hard. However, what can they do if sunbed premises are not staffed? Parents recognise the dangers and will, I believe, be fully supportive of the Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Mrs. James) covered many of the other issues that have been raised, as did the Minister. I want, finally, to say that I think Opposition Members were right to say that we should not do things because they are popular. However, we should do things because they are right.
I am very fortunate in that, for the second time in my political life-although the first came only a couple of years ago-I have managed to be successful in the ballot. I am grateful to have the opportunity to present the Bill to the House. I am grateful that the Minister is in his place and I hope that I can say things that can command general support. This is not intended to be a matter of party political division, but it is a matter that concerns us all greatly. It is about how we release more money to improve housing and for social housing in all parts of England where the need is significant. I am grateful to my 11 hon. Friends who have shown their support for the Bill and who sponsor it with me.
This is a simple Bill that seeks to amend the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, which contains a section, often referred to in local government circles-section 106. That is the section under which, when a developer applies to a local council for permission to carry out a development, there is a negotiated payment by the developer to the local council that is meant to compensate for the disruption and to pay for the changes that were necessary to the infrastructure as a result of the development.
One problem with that legislation has been that it has been a bit vague. That is one reason why the Government have started to look for an alternative. In the Planning Act 2008, they decided that they wanted to create something called a community infrastructure levy. They went out to consultation on that last year and in that consultation were some draft regulations. The consultation has finished, but the draft regulations have not yet turned into regulations so we do not yet have in place the community infrastructure levy. In any event, it was never the Government's intention to get rid of section 106 and replace it, but to have both mechanisms operating in parallel. In the draft regulations for the community infrastructure levy, it is proposed to exclude housing from certain categories that could benefit. Section 216(2)(g) of the 2008 Act would be amended to read
"such housing as CIL regulations may specify."
I am keen to respond to the needs of boroughs such as mine-Southwark-and to colleagues who are in the joint administration of the council there, as well as to colleagues in all parts of the country whatever the colour of the administration. We want to meet the desperate need for more social housing. We still have a social housing crisis. There are too few affordable homes for rent, as my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East (Sarah Teather) knows as well as anybody. She speaks for us on the matter regularly. Much of our existing stock is in a state of disrepair. I want to allow every possible future revenue stream, from developers and everywhere else, to be used to carry out urgent renovations to local housing stock or to build new homes, if that is what the council wants.
I shall be relatively brief, because I want the hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr. Jackson), who speaks for the Conservatives, my hon. Friend and the Minister to be able to contribute in the hope that they will all be favourably disposed and we can make progress with the Bill.
Housing has been one of the biggest issues in my constituency for all the 26 years since my election. Southwark is the third largest council landlord in the country and the largest local authority landlord in London. As of last October, 40,485 properties were let to social tenants. The borough is the freeholder for approximately 15,000 properties that people have bought under the right to buy. Things may have changed-in the '70s, nearly 70 per cent. of all housing in the area was social housing; the figure is now down to 45 per cent.- but a third of all the houses in the borough are the council's responsibility. The waiting list is still in the order of 15,000. On 1 April last year, 15,000 households were registered with the council as wanting social housing. In the same year, only 3,691 social rented homes became available. Southwark faces the same challenge as everybody else in local government-trying to maximise the amount of housing available when there is such huge demand both from people who need their first home and from people in an overcrowded home wanting to move to a better one.
I could easily give more figures, but without doing so, I can say that there has been a changing pattern in the provision of social rented dwellings. In England, 25,000-plus new social homes were provided every year at the beginning of the '90s. There was a peak of 57,000 in 1992-93, but the number went right down in 2004-05-the lowest year-to 21,000 new homes a year. It has picked up a little since then, but nothing like enough to meet demand.
The same pattern applied in London, as my hon. Friend knows well. In the early '90s, just over 4,000 new social homes-council and local authority-came on line over a year. The highest number in any one year was 12,000 in 1995-96, since when the lowest was in 2004-05 when just over 5,330 new homes came on stream. In Southwark, which is obviously the borough of most interest to me, in the last full year, 2008-09, no new dwellings were started, although many dwellings were being built as replacement stock. In the same year, 81 social dwellings were started. None was formally recorded as completed, though many have, happily, been completed in the past few months and people have been happily moving into them. The challenge is still the shortage of social housing.
My hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East, our party leader, my right hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Clegg) and others launched a policy the other day that would allow us to bring 250,000 empty homes back into use. That is one strategy that we are committed to, and we have set aside the money to do that. We have also made a commitment that, in a future Parliament, income would be used nationally to build new homes, renovate others and make every home, as far as possible over a 10-year period, a warm home. That would create many jobs and insulate homes, but it does not deal with the fact that many local authorities have hesitated to use section 106 money for housing or improvement of housing.
Jeremy Wright (Rugby and Kenilworth) (Con): Although I do not disagree with the hon. Gentleman's argument, may I draw his attention to the concern that his Bill raises? It may be something that he intends to deal with, in which case I apologise for diverting him. He has explained clearly the difficulties that councils face in providing enough housing. There is huge pressure on them to do so. As I understand it, the original purpose of section 106 agreements and planning obligations was to prevent a failure to provide the necessary infrastructure to go with those housing developments. If he enables councils to spend that money on housing, are we in danger not only of failing to solve the problem of inadequate infrastructure, but of adding to it by bringing in more housing without that attendant infrastructure?
Simon Hughes: The hon. Gentleman makes a good point, which I entirely understand. What often happens is that the local authority, when consulted by the developer, would prefer the money to be used for improving housing adjacent to the development or for building more housing, rather than for what is strictly infrastructure.
I shall give the very best example I can. There is a huge development, which has had local support, called the Shard of Glass at London Bridge. It will be the tallest building in London. It has obtained planning permission and there was no significant objection, but it is cheek by jowl with housing estates, mainly local authority ones. When the development was applied for and agreed to, local people asked, "What's in this for us?" Obviously, it will change their skyline when there is a huge building outside their windows.
The council in that case has been able to negotiate to get some section 106 money, but what it most needed it for was not what could strictly be called the infrastructure to do with that development. It would rather have used the money for something else. My Bill seeks to give the option-only to give the option, not to be prescriptive-to the local authority to say, "We are satisfied that the infrastructure consequences of the development can be met. We do not need to adjust the pavements, re-route the roads or put in more drains. What we need locally is, for example, to insulate the windows of the estate next door so that the noise from the construction work and later, when the building is in use, will not adversely affect the homes on that estate."
I understand that the hon. Gentleman wants to make sure that there is clarity about using the money for such purposes. Some local authorities have taken the risk, as I understand it, and used section 106 money for those purposes. Most of them believed that that was slightly beyond the original purpose, so have not done so. The Bill makes it clear that that is an option if the local authority wants it.
Following from the hon. Gentleman's good point, I should say that sometimes in a development negotiation, the outcome can be that the developer agrees voluntarily to build some affordable housing next door as part of the development or to give money for it to be built or to improve housing.
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