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Mark Simmonds: It was remiss of me, in my remarks on clause 1, not to mention the hon. Member for Swansea, East; I apologise for that, given her dedication and diligence in keeping the issue right at the forefront in Parliament, although, sadly, she did not succeed in getting a Bill on to the statute book. I know that she is extremely supportive of the hon. Member for Cardiff, North, who has just spoken very eloquently about the kernel of the Bill, clause 2. I do not wish to repeat either what was said on Second Reading, or what other hon. Members have said. For me the clinical evidence is clear and supported by the EU scientific committee which recommended a ban on sunbed use by those under the age of 18 and WHO, which upgraded the link in relation to exposure to UV and skin cancer and other skin ailments.
I do not think there is a serious debate to be had about the clinical evidence in terms of the relationship between young people being exposed to ultra-violet and normal sunlight without sufficient protection and rates of melanoma and other skin diseases. There is a debate to be had about whether 18 is the right age, but I understand why the hon. Lady has opted for 18. There are also significant numbers of young people who are exposing themselves through sunbeds, which I do not think they should be doing, so I think the Bill is absolutely right.
Like the Minister, I have been to Clatterbridge, although I have not been there today. I was very struck by the excellence of the work being done there; it is at the forefront and the cutting edge of cancer treatment. The Minister was right that prevention and providing the relevant information to enable people to make informed lifestyle choices are critical if we are to reduce the rates of cancer in this country and improve our current poor performance on five-year cancer survival rates.
This is the kernel clause of the Bill and there are three specific generic issues that I should like to raise with your permission, Mr. Betts. They need to be considered and should perhaps be brought into the Bill or discussed in relation to the subsequent regulations. The first is one of the points that I made on Second Reading and concerns the equipment and the strength of the UV tubes that are used in some sunbeds. As the Minister and her officials will be aware, in 2007 the Government signed up to an EU directive on the erythemal weighted irradiance level of tubes within sunbeds. This has not been implemented in the UK. It has been implemented in other countries in Europe. The Government are supposed to be timetabling the implementation of this directive, but they have not yet done so. Why are the Government not prepared to add this to the Bill, as the Sunbed Association recommends, and when will this directive be implemented?
The third issue on which I seek clarification is that in the impact assessment there seemed to be some confusion and duplication about who would be responsible for monitoring this Bill. Will it be the Department of Health or will it be the Health Protection Agency? In my view it needs to be one or the other, not both. There is already significant duplication within the NHS and one body needs to take responsibility for the monitoring of the enforcement of this Bill to ensure that it delivers what we all want to see.
I should like to go a little bit further than the hon. Member for Cardiff, North and ask about one aspect of the clause. Subsection (5) relates to the room in the relevant premises. There are occasions when a sunbed is in the same room as gymnasium equipment for example. It is clearly preferable, but it will not always be possible to screen off the sunbed. Does the Bill really say that if somebody is in that room using the gym equipment, the owner could be prosecuted even though that individual had gone nowhere near the sunbed? I am particularly concerned about that in relation to the way in which an enforcement officer discovers that a salon allows people under the age of 18 to use sunbeds. The enforcement is reactive rather than proactive, because someone has to tell an enforcement officer that a salon is breaking the law. I understand why the hon. Lady and the Minister have come to that conclusion. It is presumably a function of the cost, and it is particularly important to keep costs to a minimum in the current macro-economic climate. Whoever wins the next election, things will get worse regarding the constraints on public expenditure, but it is important to clarify as far as possible in Committee exactly what the hon. Lady and the Minister and her officials envisage for the enforcement of that inevitably grey area.
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Mr. George: The issues remain. We all have some concerns, which I trust will be addressed as the Bill passes through the Commons and the Lords and back to the Commons. Nevertheless, the Bill is well drafted. I will not insult its parents by being critical, or by suggesting that they simply took a document, because they are too judicious and competent to have done that. I cannot recall all the characters, but I remember the story of a President of the United States making a speech and somebody in the audience shouting, “Author, author”, when he sat down. I hope that those who had a hand in drafting the Bill are identified not for any reasons of admonition, but because the legislation is well drafted.
I shall not cause controversy by identifying anybody, but on Second Reading a number of criticisms were made. Although I thought that most of them were nonsense on stilts, they need to be addressed. One was: why should we busy-bodies interfere in the rights of parents? When it comes to people under the age of 18, it should be the parents who instil sufficient knowledge and awareness in their offspring to encourage them to desist from attending such institutions and running the risk of cancer. I agree with the general point that it should be parents who instil those values, but we all know that not all parents are as aware or as concerned as the ideal parent, parents or relatives. Many young people do not have that set of wise advice.
I received a letter from a distinguished dermatology professional who has been very much involved in the campaign outside Parliament. He told me that he could not control his kids. One of them worked in a salon and he did not know. She was clearly under age and she used the devices. Even a good parent—I do not speak as a parent—would not in this day and age have such control over their offspring as to ensure that they kept out of harm’s way by not going on a sunbed under age. There are some things the state has no right to do, but over the centuries, especially in the last century, Parliament has been prepared to interfere in some areas of private existence. If not a classic case, this is a substantial case in support of the state, if it has the evidence, doing that. Despite what we heard two weeks ago, there is overwhelming evidence of a clear link between sun-tanning, sun and the incidence of cancer. Not everything has been discovered, but there is more than enough evidence to convince any reasonable person, and even some unreasonable people, of the case for 18 as a limit. The case for the link between the two, as I mentioned earlier, is sufficiently overwhelming as to underpin any effort by hon. Members, the Executive and Parliament as a whole to step in and say that there must be a limit of 18.
Mrs. James: One of the questions about the Bill that has come up on several occasions is what is happening in America. Apparently some states have a complete ban, and others have introduced parental consent, whereby the parent gives consent for their child to use the sunbed or accompanies their under-18 child to the sunbed salon.
The interesting thing about the research that has been undertaken in America is that the process is not working. I am not surprised by that. In three of the states where research was undertaken, 11 per cent. of salons were still allowing access to young people who did not have anybody with them or any form of parental consent. Seventy-seven per cent. were getting away with it in Wisconsin, and 80 per cent. in Illinois. States such as Virginia and Washington are introducing legislation to ban the use of sunbeds by young people under the age of 18 because parental consent does not work.
As my right hon. Friend said, we need a concentrated, co-ordinated approach. Parents do their best and try to explain the dangers to their children, but young people want to experiment. What we are seeing in America is that parental consent is important, but it does not work.
The Chairman: For future reference, hon. Members should keep interventions brief. If they want to make a speech, I am sure that they will be able to catch my eye.
Mr. George: I pay tribute to one of the most significant people—perhaps the most significant person—involved in this legislation. There has been good co-operation with our hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North to ensure that the Bill gets through as a result of luck in the raffle, which I said two weeks ago I never succeeded in defeating.
To cite the US is a waste of time. There are 50 states, and they are all different. I would have thought that Wisconsin, with its German traditions—I am not being disparaging in any way—would have been tough, whereas some states that one would have thought would not be tough are quite strong.
The evidence is there. I spent a couple of hours looking at different journals and counting the organisations—not just strong non-governmental organisations but international organisations and Governments—that saw the link and produced valid reports. Truly, there cannot be anyone who is not prepared to accept that the state has a right to indicate 18 as the legitimate age for sun-tanning treatment, and that it is important for the state to lay down standards for how regulation is to be implemented. Local authorities or national organisations must do their job properly. If they just make a perfunctory visit once a year, it will not be good enough. They must check, check and check. There are 8,000 salons around the country, and the research shows that they are largely concentrated in fairly poor areas, so it should not be too onerous for whichever Department or local authority body is responsible to go around and ensure that the standards laid down by the legislation are met.
I cannot imagine or calculate the cost—I am obliged to listen to what the Department says—but even if there is a cost and even it is more expensive than anticipated or calculated, the health of the population aged under 35, especially those aged up to 18, is sufficiently important not simply to pass legislation but also to say that if that legislation costs, it costs. I hope that the costs will be under control, because, as the hon. Member for Boston and Skegness said, we live in difficult times and we cannot squander resources, but I do not want to argue over a relatively small sum of money if the legislation has beneficial consequences. Only recently has there been an awareness of the issues.
I chair the all-party group on skin. I do not think that I need to declare an interest, as I have derived no financial benefit. I have suffered from psoriasis since I was a student, and I think I have almost singlehandedly sustained the skin problem profession because none of the treatments have worked, but maybe I am a bit of an aberration. The all-party group produced a report, but frequent attempts to influence the Department simply to talk to us about it have not yet been successful. I hope that things will change.
The case has been well made outside this place by distinguished people who are experts in their field, and everybody seems supportive. There is an opportunity for those who support the Bill, but have criticisms or issues that need to be clarified, to express their views, either now or at later stage, so that we can sustain our near unanimity to ensure that the Bill proceeds. Surely, we do not want a little coterie of individuals, who may have every right to do so, trying to mess things up at a later stage or people being lobbied strongly in this House or the House of Lords.
Even the respectable side of the sunbed business is supportive because the profession realises that the criticisms will not evaporate—they will be sustained. The number of people who stayed on last night at the end of proceedings, when they thought that someone would be difficult over the proposed legislation, was a clear example of overwhelming support. When I looked at the screen, I thought, “I must have slept all the way through the night, because it is 4.30—time to get in.” A lot of people thought that someone would be difficult, not constructively critical, as I suspect the overwhelming majority are, but potentially hostile by raising issues that would have been superfluous.
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I say no more at this stage, other than that there are many desirable things in the Bill. The research sustains all the arguments that have been proposed. The Health and Safety Executive got most of the recommendations right, and they are included in the legislation—18 should be mandatory, the institutions should not be unstaffed, coin-operated sunbeds are not sufficient, there should be a mandatory point-of-sale information unit, all sunbed providers should be prevented from undertaking any positive health care advertising, and public bodies, such as local authorities, should be involved in the process.
Lastly, as an academic used to quoting eminent academic sources—
Mr. Evans: Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that there should be sufficient encouragement for the owners of tanning salons to ensure that they have sufficient proof of age? We know that some people under the age of 18 may be attracted to use such machines and have been able to do so until now. It is quite difficult these days to work out whether young people aged 16 or 17 are under the age of 18. However, to take away that possibility, if people are in doubt and think that someone may be under 18, even though they look 25, they should show proof of age.
When we were conducting the study, I visited a number of establishments. Most of them appeared to be good, and they were good. Yes, they are supervised, but the supervision is done by someone who has a rota to undertake and complete. Yes, the signs are all around, assuming that people read them, but many do not. It could be a disaster if someone slips through the system, even though there is a reasonable degree of supervision. There are a number of issues that I would like to raise.
Before the hon. Gentleman interrupted me, I was saying that I had quoted all sorts of learned sources, but there is one that is not normally on my list. There was a wonderful launch of the campaign to secure support for the Bill—it was superb. I do not think people came to watch any of us, they came to watch Nicola Roberts, from a group I have seen, although I am too old for it. I am still in the Jerry Lee Lewis era—I haven’t quite matured, or immatured, beyond that point. Perhaps it is a bit naughty to quote a speaker from somebody else’s meeting, but that young lady, Nicola Roberts of Girls Aloud, said:
“Tanning is a subject that is very close to my heart. I was once in a place where I did feel the pressure to have a tan. Having a tan made me feel more attractive. It made me feel more accepted. And as a young girl I became very influenced by peers, by media, by everybody in society and that was just the way I felt. If I didn’t have a tan, I didn’t feel attractive. I didn’t feel very good at all and it’s about teaching young men and young women that it is ok to be your own colour, you don’t have to conform”
to the norms. She added:
“You don’t have to be tangoed to be accepted! It’s not the way it’s supposed to be”.
I thought that was eloquently delivered, and it resonated when that young woman said how she felt—I presume she meant at that time; she may or may not have been 18 years of age. She expressed a view that may not be one we experienced in our day, but one involving pressures from a very different cultural environment. There are pressures to look beautiful. If beauty means having darker skin, young people think “It won’t cost me much to get it. Some old people might say that in 25 or 30 years’ time I might have cancer, but they’ll have cured it by then. I’m not worried—it’s a long time ahead. My attention span is 25 hours, not 25 or 30 years.” We can understand that pressure.
Young people may not thank us for spoiling their choice, but I hope that in time they will recognise that we are doing the right thing and that we have to protect people who might wish to be protected. I have cantered around the field. There are some more specific issues to consider. I hope that they can be ironed out in the next few weeks.
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