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Lord Walton of Detchant: My Lords, at first sight this amendment looks acceptable, but it is acceptable only in a superficial way. Although I can understand fully the arguments that have been posed by the noble Lord, Lord Monson, and supported by the noble Lords, Lord Naseby and Lord Russell-Johnston, let us think, for example, of a hospital car transport service, where in between transporting patients to and from hospital the driver decides to have a smoke when he or she is alone. The car is then filled with smoke before the patient gets on board to be taken to or from the hospital.
Let us look at a taxi driver or a driver of a private hire vehicle who, between taking individuals from one place to another in the course of his or her work, fills that car with smoke. Let us think of a school bus driver who, having taken a group of children to school, fills the bus with smoke while driving back to the depot and picking up another group of schoolchildren to take them to school. It is possible to argue that the level of pollution remaining in those vehicles could well be below that likely to be hazardous to the individual, as the noble Earl, Lord Howe argued, but we cannot be certain that that is the case. I entirely agree with the view that if a vehicle is only ever used by one individual at work or at other times, it is perfectly acceptable for that individual to be able to smoke in that vehicle, but when it is also used to transport others, this amendment falls, and I would not support it.
Lord Monson: My Lords, would the noble Lord not agree that there is nothing in my amendment to prevent health or local education authorities making it a condition of employment that drivers of ambulances and school buses do not smoke when they are in their vehicles?
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, as the noble Lord is not going to reply to that, I shall say a few words on this amendment from the Spiritual Benches rather than the Labour Benches, and from the point of view of an independent Labour Member of this House rather than that of a Labour Member.
This is such a mild amendment that I would have thought that the Government would try to retrieve some of their reputation for authoritarianism by agreeing to it. The noble Lord, Lord Monson, outlined the circumstances when it might be used: when a car which might be used during the course of work is then used out of work by the driver and perhaps his daughter, and because it is a place of
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I believe that the whole Bill is lunatic in concept, but this amendment brings it into complete and utter disrepute. I cannot understand why the Government will not accept reasonable amendments. I do not smoke, and the reason I am opposing the Bill is because of its intolerance and its removal of personal freedoms that people have enjoyed for hundreds of years. That is why I and many others have been opposing the Billnot because we are smokers or have an interest, but because we believe that smoking is legal and that people should not be harassed as they are being.
The Bill is supposed to be about protecting people from second-hand smoke. There is no real clinical evidence that second-hand smoke hurts anybody, but even assuming that it does in some way, the propositions that have been put forward throughout the Bill are to protect non-smokers healthand indeed, their inconvenienceand at the same time to protect the right of people to assemble in public places, if they wish, provided there is separation. I know that the amendment is not totally about separation, but I want to emphasise the fact that the opponents of the Bill have been trying to be fair to both sides of the argument. However, the Government and the anti-smoking lobby will not listen to what is reasonable under all circumstances in what is supposed to be a democratic country.
I should have thought that, this afternoon, the Government would at least say to the noble Lord, Lord Monson, We are prepared to make this tiny concession to you at the end of the Bill, but judging by the look of the Minister, he has absolutely no intention to do so. He will stand by his extremist view that he has echoed throughout the passage of the Bill, the view that because the House of Commons and the Government have supported the measuresdespite the fact that it was not a manifesto commitmentthis House must accept it as it came from the House of Commons.
Frankly, I thinkI believethat this has been a wholly disreputable exercise in this House. Those people whose bigotry over a long period has demonised smokers and made them pariahs have based the Bill on junk science and are now allowing a most irrational measure to go through this House. I am thoroughly ashamed of this House and the House of Commons for what they are doing in the Bill.
Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, it was certainly not my intention to intervene, but having been, I assume, one of the people to whom the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, refers as bigoted and a zealot on these matters, I think that I should come to the Government's defence and say that I very much hope that my noble friend has no intention of accepting the amendment.
References were made to the science on second-hand smoke. The danger is that we will repeat earlier debates on the Billindeed, Second Reading debatesbut I commend to the House the very latest report from the United States Surgeon General, published last week,
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This attempt to imagine that we should exclude work vehicles, such as refuse vehicles where a gang of people may be at work and where people are coming and going all day long, because it is somehow safe if a couple of people smoke and it will not do any harm to the others is just absurd. The science does not support that point of view.
Lord Geddes: My Lords, I apologise for not being here at the beginning of the debate on the amendment, but I am so incensed by the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, that, with the leave of the House, I must speak. He quoted a long spiel, which I am sure that he read accurately, but the significant point that he cited, which I heard very clearly, referred to indoor spaces. Is the noble Lord referring to a vehicle as an indoor space?
The Minister of State, Department of Health (Lord Warner): My Lords, as someone who was described by one journalist as part of the anti-smoking Taliban, I suppose I should be quite pleased to be described by the noble Lord, Lord Russell-Johnston, as a zealot behaving untypically. That is a kind of promotion really.
We have accepted all reasonable amendments, if I may say so to the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, but we do not regard this amendment as one of those that we should accept. We have examined the Governments intentions in this House in respect to smoke-free vehicles in much detail during both the Committee and Report stages of the Bill. Again I make it absolutely clear that the Government have no intention to include private vehiclesincluding rental vehicles for private useunder smoke-free legislation. The Government will propose in regulations that the only vehicles to be required to be smoke-free will be those used for the transportation of members of the
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The Government have listened very carefully to the arguments that have been brought forward about smoke-free vehicles and remain entirely convinced that vehicles used for work purposes by more than one person, regardless of whether they are in the vehicle at the same time, should be required to be smoke-free at all times. I thought the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, put the point extremely well. The reasons for this are logical and simple: we wish to create consistency in the level of protection from second-hand smoke that this legislation would provide between people working in vehicles and those working in non-mobile workplaces.
Through this amendment, people could still be exposed to second-hand smoke. Some suggest that windows could be wound down to let in fresh air. Perhaps they could bebut how can an employee be assured that the person before him who had smoked in a work vehicle would let in fresh air? Indeed, what would happen when the smoking employee handed a vehicle over to a non-smoking employee at the end of a shift? Are the noble Lords who propose the amendment suggesting that there should be some time lag before the vehicle can be used again, to let the smoke clear? That would also require windows to be left open, which could present problems with security. What would be the cost to industry?
The noble Lords who tabled the amendment are suggesting that people who use a vehicle for work should be given less protection from the risks of second-hand smoke. I fail to see a single defensible reason why a person who uses a work vehicle should be at risk of exposure to hazardous second-hand smoke when an equivalent worker in a non-mobile workplace is protected from these proven health risks. I emphasise again that they are proven health risks.
I shall provide two examples to demonstrate my point. Let us look at a security guard who works alone on shift in a security cabin. At the end of his shift, another security guard takes over. If in this example the cabin was not required to be smoke-free at all times, smoking by the first security guard in the cabin would result in the second security guard being exposed to the health risks of second-hand smoke. For this reason, we have made it clear that the workplace needs to be smoke-free at all times.
Let us now look at a driver working alone on shift in a delivery van, which is his workplace. At the end of his shift, another driver takes over. If in this example the van was not required to be smoke-free at all times, smoking by the first driver could result in the second driver being exposed to second-hand smoke, as there can be no guarantee that second-hand smoke would have cleared entirely from the cabin. For this reason, we have made it clear that the mobile workplace needs to be smoke-free at all times. The
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We have examined exhaustively the scientific and medical evidence for this legislation. I recognise again, despite giving all the sources to a number of noble Lords, that we have failed to convince them. I shall not go through all the evidence again. People can read the sources in the reports of the Committee and Report stages.
My noble friend Lord Faulkner has drawn attention to the most recently published reportover 700 pagesby the United States Surgeon General. He examined in great detail the evidence and made a number of conclusions. He made it absolutely clear in those conclusions that second-hand smoke has immediate adverse effects on the cardiovascular system and causes coronary heart disease and lung cancer. That report confirms and adds to the extensive body of evidence of the health risks associated with second-hand smoke.
20 per cent of people with asthma feel excluded from parts of their workplace because other people smoke there. This inhibits their daily life as well as opportunities for promotion and development.
Suppose someone with asthma had to use a work vehicle in which someone had previously smoked and where second-hand smoke was still present. Given that there are over 5 million people living in the UK with asthma, and given that we know that second-hand smoke can linger often for extended periods in enclosed spaces, there could be a real health risk.
Lord Warner: My Lords, I do not have to explain it. I have already explained that second-hand smoke is a trigger for asthma. That is all we need to know in the context of this Bill. Second-hand smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals in the form of particles and gases. The WHO and the United States Environmental Protection Agency have both classified tobacco smoke as a known human carcinogen. We must remember that 85 per cent of second-hand smoke consists of invisible, odourless gases.
It is essential to retain the Bill as it is to protect people in their workplaces. I can reassure the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, about Scotland. In Scotland all vehicles that are for use for work purposes by one or more persons must be smoke-free at all times. We have not modelled this legislation on Scotland. We propose offering leeway for smoking in vehicles that are for the sole use of the driver and are not used for work purposes by anyone else as a driver or passenger. That is different in content from the Scottish position.
The Governments intention on smoke-free vehicles has been made absolutely clear. It is right to give workers who share a vehicle that same protection from second-hand smoke exposure as people who share other kinds of workplaces. I explain to the
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One can see that the Governments intention on smoke-free vehicles is entirely consistent with our approach towards smoke-free public places and workplaces. The amendment, as I believe I have made clear, would be totally unacceptable to the Government and could leave workers in vehicles at risk from the hazardous effects of second-hand smoke in the workplace, which is wrong in principle and wrong in practice when having regard to peoples health. The Government do not accept the amendment.
Lord Monson: My Lords, I am most grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken in favour of the amendment from almost all quarters of the House. I am particularly grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, for reminding us that this part of the Bill will largely be unenforceable and, accordingly, will bring the law into contempt, which is surely not desirable. I am grateful too to the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, for reminding us of the value of fairness, surely a particular British virtue. But the Minister stands totally firm and unyielding, sadly but not surprisingly. I point out to him and to the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester, that if second-hand smoke in motor vehicles were as lethal as they claim it to be, I and my siblings would have been dead long before we reached our teens.
Alas, the sensible Dr Reid is no longer in the driving seat on this matter. The present incumbent seems to prefer a doctrinaire and unyielding position to flexibility and common sense. It is true that even if this amendment is agreed to, the Bill will remain much more severe and draconian than anything proposed in the Labour election manifesto. Still, even a minor move in the direction of genuine liberalism, as represented by the noble Lord, Lord Russell-Johnston, his colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Steel of Aikwood, and by many noble Lords on other Benches in this House, is better than total illiberalism. Accordingly, I wish to test the opinion of the House.
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