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Session 2009 - 10
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Sunbeds (Regulation) Bill

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairman: Mr. Clive Betts
Binley, Mr. Brian (Northampton, South) (Con)
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing, West) (Con)
Clwyd, Ann (Cynon Valley) (Lab)
Evans, Mr. Nigel (Ribble Valley) (Con)
George, Mr. Bruce (Walsall, South) (Lab)
Gidley, Sandra (Romsey) (LD)
Griffith, Nia (Llanelli) (Lab)
James, Mrs. Siân C. (Swansea, East) (Lab)
Kirkbride, Miss Julie (Bromsgrove) (Con)
Merron, Gillian (Minister of State, Department of Health)
Morden, Jessica (Newport, East) (Lab)
Morgan, Julie (Cardiff, North) (Lab)
O'Brien, Mr. Mike (Minister of State, Department of Health)
Simmonds, Mark (Boston and Skegness) (Con)
Williams, Mrs. Betty (Conwy) (Lab)
Williams, Hywel (Caernarfon) (PC)
Sarah Davies, Committee Clerk
† attended the Committee

Public Bill Committee

Wednesday 10 February 2010

[Mr. Clive Betts in the Chair]

Sunbeds (Regulation) Bill

4.30 pm
The Chairman: I welcome everyone to the Committee, and remind them to switch all mobile devices to silent mode. That helps us to concentrate on our important proceedings. There are no amendments to the Bill, so we shall simply debate the clauses stand part and the schedule, and how many debates hon. Members choose to have is a matter for them.
There is a money resolution in connection with the Bill, and copies are available in the Room. I have told the hon. Member for Cardiff, North that if the Committee wants a general debate on the Bill’s provisions and purpose, that is appropriate in the stand part debate on clause 1, which we shall move on to now.

Clause 1

Main interpretative provisions
Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
Julie Morgan (Cardiff, North) (Lab): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr. Betts. I am pleased that so many distinguished Members who feel strongly about the issue are here today. I thank them for their attendance. The Bill covers England and Wales, and I am pleased that we have representatives here from England and Wales. The Bill’s purpose is to prevent children aged under 18 from using sunbeds. As you said, Mr. Betts, no amendments have been tabled, and we will find out whether we need a subsequent sitting as we progress today. I confirm that the money resolution attached to the Bill was passed by the Committee last night, and is available.
Clause 1 interprets the meaning of “sunbed” and “sunbed business”, and clause 2 is the crucial, main part of the business. I propose to speak briefly about clause 1, and then discuss the wider aspects in relation to clause 2.
Clause 1 sets out the meaning of “sunbed” and “sunbed business”, and those terms are used throughout the Bill. A sunbed is any electronic device that emits ultra-violet radiation for the purpose of tanning. A sunbed business offers sunbeds for use on business premises—places such as tanning salons, gyms and hotels—regardless of whether any payment is made. The definition of a sunbed business does not cover businesses that offer sunbeds for sale or for hire if the beds are to be used away from the premises from which they are sold or hired. That issue is addressed later in the Bill.
Mark Simmonds (Boston and Skegness) (Con): I look forward to working under your guidance this afternoon, Mr. Betts. I congratulate the hon. Member for Cardiff, North on bringing her excellent private Member’s Bill to this stage.
I want to raise a procedural issue. As you rightly said, Mr. Betts, no amendments have been tabled to the Bill, and although the Opposition support it and want it to have an expeditious passage through the parliamentary process, I do not believe that there was adequate time to table amendments. I was informed on Friday morning that the Committee would sit at this time, and that amendments, probing or otherwise, had to be tabled by the close of business at 2 or 2.30 on Friday, which allowed wholly insufficient time. I wanted to table a series of probing amendments to elicit further information from the hon. Lady and the Minister. That will not be possible, and it is not acceptable parliamentary procedure. I shall have to find other mechanisms for raising issues, but I wonder whether you would comment, Mr. Betts, on the lack of time for tabling amendments, probing though they may have been.
The Chairman: My understanding is that the proper amount of time—three sitting days—was provided. I shall try to ensure that the hon. Gentleman has sufficient opportunity to raise any concerns during stand part debates.
Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley) (Con): May I, too, say what a delight it is to serve under your chairmanship, Mr. Betts? I congratulate the hon. Member for Cardiff, North on introducing this private Member’s Bill. I have had a few of them in my time, and managed to get one on to the statute book. That was achieved quickly, because there was general support from both sides of the House, and I hope that that will be the case with this Bill. There are only a few weeks to go before the general election, and I hope that with the general support for the measure, the powers that be will ensure that it is expeditiously dealt with, and that it will be enacted in the name of the hon. Lady, to whom I pay tribute.
Members of the Committee will be able to tell from my appearance that I have never used a sunbed in my life. I am not therefore a huge expert on sunbeds, although I know about them from what I have read in newspapers and from what I have heard from people with whom I have spoken in the past. I believe that the legislation is absolutely necessary. The hon. Lady mentioned the sale of sunbeds. Despite the fact that the Bill does not cover their sale, I hope that their producers will give sufficient advice to the people who buy them—I assume that parents and adults normally buy the beds—on their use. Indeed, advice and guidance should recommend that, if the purchasers have children in their house, the sunbeds should not be used by anyone under the age of 18 in that non-commercial premises. The more information that we can give people about the harmful effects of sunbeds on youngsters, the better our younger generation will be protected.
I will do anything I can to help expedite the matter. Many members of the Committee have businesses in their constituencies that offer sunbed treatment and, if used properly, there is no case for concern. However, I hope that the Bill will be enacted so that we can better protect children in our constituencies and throughout the country. Moreover, I hope that the Bill will become the standard not only for this country, but for countries around the world.
Mr. Bruce George (Walsall, South) (Lab): I feel as though I should appeal for some protection on this side of the Committee, Mr. Betts, as I am rather outnumbered. I will make no comments on the monstrous regiment of women—that would be totally unfair.
I completely support the Bill and am delighted that it has been introduced. It is about time. It has arrived at the fag end—to use an unwise term—of this Parliament, and I hope that it will be enacted. A few hon. Members stand outside what is a substantial consensus, but this is clearly not a partisan political issue. I therefore hope that, in the spirit of non-partisanship and the desire to compromise, and because the legislation is obviously much needed, there will be no difficulties. I also hope that those who are not part of the consensus will not try to prevent this vital piece of legislation from reaching the statute book. It may not appear to be one of the major legislative items of the past few years, but the chances of survival for perhaps 100 people will greatly increase as a result of the Bill. Even much of the industry is in favour of it, as are all parties and the Government, and the Opposition spokesman gave a clear indication of substantial support in a speech two weeks ago. There is also overwhelming public support, so if this important Bill is not on the statute book by the end of this Parliament, something is seriously wrong with the legislative process and there will and should be genuine concerns.
Peter Bottomley (Worthing, West) (Con): I join the consensus and congratulate the hon. Member for Cardiff, North. It is important to use moderate language in the light of the impact assessment, for which I am grateful. The Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment has published its 13th report: “The health effects and risks arising from exposure to ultraviolet radiation from artificial tanning devices”. The report says that ultra-violet radiation is capable of producing skin cancer and recommends that use of sunbeds by people under the age of 18 should be prohibited. Presumably, such sunbeds would be in commercial use, and people who own them privately should try to abide by the same standards.
The World Health Organisation has raised sunbeds to the highest cancer-risk category, “carcinogenic to humans”, moving it up from “probably carcinogenic”. It is important to say these things to explain why this kind of intervention is worth while. According to the impact assessment, 6 per cent. of people in England aged 11 to 17 have used a sunbed. I do not condemn them for that, but it is clearly better if they do not.
Sunbeds are not the only way in which young people can be exposed to danger of scorching or burning their skin. Ordinary exposure to natural radiation is also a worry. I commend those parents who take more care than I did to ensure that their children are protected from ultra-violent radiation by the relevant creams and the like. They do not always send their children out in the midday sun.
The Minister of State, Department of Health (Gillian Merron): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr. Betts, particularly as this is such an important and well received Bill, not just in the House but also outside.
I would like to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North, who has a formidable team behind her. It is formidable in the nicest way and always has been. I know how much the hon. Lady appreciates—as I do—the support that she has had. We also pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East for championing the cause.
I have just a few comments to make. The hon. Member for Ribble Valley made an important point about information, which is dealt with later in the Bill. However, my view is that the Bill will do much more: people will have a greater understanding of the use of sunbeds in the home and of sun damage in general—not just to younger people but to over-18s. It will produce an awareness that we have not seen before. In that respect, the practical effect of the Bill will go way beyond its provisions.
I assure the Committee and you, Mr. Betts, that the Government will do everything we can to expedite the Bill’s passage. I ask Opposition Members to do the same. We can all assist in that, in this House and the other place. It is still possible, and I hope that we can manage it.
I have come to the Committee from a visit to Clatterbridge near Liverpool, which is a centre of excellence in cancer. I told staff that I had to get the train to get back for this Committee, and they were delighted that we were discussing in Parliament today a Bill that, as hon. Members have said, will save lives and protect people from damage. Those working on the excellent services I saw in Clatterbridge told me that prevention must be the start, not just something we think about at another time.
The Government support clause 1. It is important to have certainty about the meaning of terms, as they set out the scope of the main offence. I also assure the Committee that this is the first legislative opportunity to bring this on to the statute books since the evidence was gathered. The evidence is not just medical; it is the fact that the voluntary code has not worked. I am sure all hon. Members would expect us to have exhausted all other avenues before resorting to legislation. I hope that we will have a useful discussion. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Worthing, West for the manner in which he welcomed the Bill and for mentioning all the evidence, which I am sure we will discuss later.
It is a pleasure to be here, Mr. Betts. I look forward to our expediting this part of the Bill process.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 1 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 2

Duty to prevent sunbed use by children
4.45 pm
Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
Julie Morgan: This is the main clause. It states that businesses that offer sunbeds for use on their premises would have to ensure that no one under 18 uses a sunbed or is offered the use of one. Failure to carry out that duty would be a criminal offence. An offence would still be committed if an offer was made to an 18-year-old, even if it was not taken up because the person changed their mind. The clause is crucial.
Let me mention the evidence and say why we are discussing the Bill. The hon. Member for Worthing, West has already mentioned some of the medical background. There is clear evidence of a link between sunbed use and an increased risk of developing skin cancer that is widely accepted. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has upgraded its assessment of sunbeds to its highest level of cancer risk following the publication of a comprehensive meta-analysis in The Lancet Oncology that concluded:
“The risk of skin melanoma is increased by 75% when use of tanning devices starts before 30 years of age.”
That is a crucial comment. It means that sunbeds are now in the same risk category as tobacco.
The scientific evidence is clear: young skin is more vulnerable to harm from ultra-violet radiation. Restricting under-18s from using sunbeds is proportionate, based first on the science evidence and, secondly, on practical considerations. Under-18s are not allowed to buy alcohol or cigarettes, so the Bill would bring the age at which people are able to use commercial sunbeds in line with other age restrictions across the UK. I believe this to be practicable and workable, and it will ensure clarity of messages. That is the medical reason for the Bill.
The clause states that under-18s should not have access to a “restricted zone”, which is defined in the clause. If an under-18 went into a private area with an over-18, it would not be possible to know which person had used the sunbed. If a parent is accompanied by a child, the parent would be expected to make alternative arrangements for the child to be cared for and not to let the child be exposed potentially to UV radiation. That is the reason for restricting access to a specific area.
If a sunbed is in a room with no private area around the sunbed, which seems unlikely, the whole room would be a restricted area. In such circumstances, the owners would naturally be expected to put a screen around the sunbed. The purpose of this provision is to cut down the opportunity for under-18s to use sunbeds. There was some debate on Second Reading about that matter.
The definition of a restricted zone was raised by the hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies). I reiterate that it would be highly unusual for there to be no private space close to a sunbed. In practice, that would mean that a sunbed user would have to get undressed in a room with no private space or dressing area. In the unlikely event that such premises exist—Committee members may know of such premises—it would be quick, easy and cheap to rectify the situation. A sunbed operator could create a private space by enclosing an area: that could be done with a simple screen or even a curtain. Alternatively, they would need to ensure that under-18s did not enter the restricted zone. It is important that we cover those issues, because there was concern about them on Second Reading. The purpose of this sensible, practical proposal is to try to stop under-18s getting access to sunbeds.
We know from research commissioned by Cancer Research UK in 2008-09 that in England, more than 250,000 children—that is 6 per cent. overall—have used sunbeds. I am sure that all members of the Committee will agree that that is a huge number of children who have been exposed to the danger that we are talking about. There are hot spots in England: sunbed use among 11 to 17-year-olds in Liverpool was 20 per cent., and worryingly, among 15 to 17-year-old girls in Liverpool and Sunderland it was 50 per cent. When I visited Liverpool recently, I was struck by the number of sunbed salons that I saw when walking around the city, so there are areas of the country where the issue is particularly acute.
The evidence demonstrates that young people are using sunbeds across the country, and there is evidence that this law is needed. Adults can make their own informed choices, but children are often enticed by cheap prices. At 25p a minute, we are dealing with pocket-money prices. The myth that a tan will protect them before they go out in the sun, or the idea that having a tan makes them look somehow better or healthier, is often strong in young people’s minds.
That point was made forcibly by my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East, who, as the Minister said, has fought for such legislation for many years. My hon. Friend said that young people in her constituency perceive getting a tan as their little bit of glamour. Somehow, we have to move away from that perception. We need a lot more than legislation—we need to work very hard to change the perception. However, if we passed this law, we would be well on the way.
We in England and Wales are not alone in taking action on sunbeds. Specific legislation on sunbed use exists in Belgium, Finland, France, Norway, Portugal, Spain and Sweden.
Mrs. Siân C. James (Swansea, East) (Lab): I congratulate my hon. Friend on her words so far. She is making a point about legislation in other European countries. We know that in European countries that have introduced such legislation, such as in France, it has made a difference. It has reduced not only under-18s’ access to sunbeds, but the number of melanomas and the number of young people suffering from skin cancer. That point was raised on Second Reading, and it is worth reiterating it now. The measure can make a difference. Legislation is a good thing, and it will help on this matter.
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Prepared 11 February 2010