Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Administration and Works Committee

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara) rose to move, That the first report from the Select Committee (HL Paper 209, Session 2003–04), be agreed to.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Administration and Works Committee decided to revisit the issue of smoking policy following a request from the Refreshment Committee; requests from Members, both via Written Questions and privately to me; and representations from all three trade unions and the Staff Association, regarding health concerns of the staff of the House.

As set out in the report, the committee recognised the valid health concerns of both Members and staff, and agreed the principle that,

In addition, the committee agreed with the principle set out by the Refreshment Committee that,

That principle is also in line with the principles set out in the Government's White Paper Choosing Health, which, coincidentally, was published on the very day that the committee met.

Although the committee agreed those two principles, its members were also keenly aware of the views of those who wished to continue to be permitted to smoke. The report, therefore, balances those views with the principles agreed by the committee. That is why the report recommends that smoking should not be permitted where food is served but should, for example, continue to be permitted in the Peers' Guest Room, where food is not served.

The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, has suggested that further consultation should take place. Staff have already been consulted through the trade unions and the Staff Association, and the matter was discussed at length at the annual Whitley Committee meeting of representatives of management and staff. Members have been consulted in the domestic committees, and I remind noble Lords that both the Refreshment Committee and the Administration and Works Committee agreed that changes to the House's smoking policy should be put forward.

In addition, noble Lords are being consulted in this debate and have the opportunity to put forward the views of other organisations, if they so wish. The report was not written to impose the views of the Administration and Works Committee; instead, the committee's recommendations have been set out in such a way as to provide noble Lords with the opportunity to table amendments. That opportunity has been enthusiastically taken up. This debate, and any votes that may follow, provides a highly effective way of consulting Members and ensuring that all views are fairly reflected in any smoking policy.
21 Dec 2004 : Column 1668

I think that it is clear both from experience and from the first two amendments to the Motion that opinions on the matter are widely divergent. The Administration and Works Committee, in this report, has put forward one possible compromise, which takes into account our obligations towards our staff and the divergent views of Members. It is now for the House to decide whether that compromise is acceptable.

Before I sit down, it may be helpful if I say a word on how it is anticipated that the debate should proceed. As noble Lords will have seen, a skeleton list of speakers has been circulated, which I hope will prove of assistance. After the Question has been put on my Motion for the first time, Amendment No. 1, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, will be called. After the noble Lord has introduced his amendment, the Question will be put and a single debate will then take place on the original Motion and all the amendments tabled, which, for the convenience of the House, have been numbered 1 to 8.

As indicated on the list, the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, in whose name Amendment No. 2 has been tabled, will speak first in the debate, to be followed by those noble Lords who have tabled the remaining Amendments Nos. 3 to 8. Thereafter, the debate will be open to any other noble Lord who wishes to take part. After all noble Lords who wish to do so have spoken, I will reply to the debate, before the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, replies to his own Amendment No. 1. A decision will then be taken on Amendment No 1.

As my noble friend on the Woolsack will confirm when it is moved, if Amendment No. 1 is agreed to, the remaining amendments cannot be called. If, however, Amendment No. 1 is withdrawn or disagreed to, Amendment No. 2, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, will be called. In the usual way, Amendment No. 2A, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Palmer, which is an amendment to Amendment No. 2, will be called immediately after Amendment No. 2 has been moved. If Amendment No. 2 is agreed to, whether or not amended, Amendments Nos. 3 to 8 cannot be called. If Amendment No. 2 is disagreed to, each subsequent amendment will be called in turn and decisions reached on them. Finally, the Question will be put on my original Motion, whether or not amended. I hope that that explanation is helpful. I beg to move.

Moved, That the first report from the Select Committee (HL Paper 209, Session 2003–04), be agreed to.—(The Chairman of Committees.)

The report can be found at:

The Deputy Speaker (Lord Elton): My Lords, I should inform the House that if Amendment No. 1 is agreed to, I cannot call Amendments Nos. 2 to 8, because of pre-emption.
21 Dec 2004 : Column 1669

12.17 p.m.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon rose to move, as an amendment to the above Motion, to leave out "agreed to" and insert "referred back to the committee for further consideration, including:

(a) consultation with Members of the House, staff of the House and others concerned with smokers' rights, including the Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco;

(b) consideration of the rights of smokers in any future plans for the Writing Room and the possible partition of the present Writing Room on a temporary basis; and

(c) consideration of a possible reorganisation of the Bishops' Bar so that smoking could be permitted in one of the two rooms."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I thank the Chairman of Committees for his explanation of the Motion. My amendment seeks to refer the report of the Administration and Works Committee for further consideration. Let me say straight away that I am a non-smoker but a member of the Lords and Commons Pipe and Cigar Smokers' Club, not only because I enjoy the company there but because I believe that smokers have rights.

I do not believe that those rights are properly recognised generally, and the Administration and Works Committee has not given adequate consideration to them in its report. Everyone except smokers seems to have rights: rights of equality; disability rights; rights to enter Britain, even if suffering from transmittable diseases; and new rights for same-sex couples and sex-change people. Only last week, the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General told us that housebreakers, burglars, muggers and other criminals also have their rights. Everybody seems to have rights except law-abiding smokers. They are hounded, verbally abused, witch-hunted, and apparently, in the eyes of some people, are not fit for decent company.

My amendment seeks to ensure that people in this House who are concerned with smokers' rights should be consulted, not only because they are concerned with those rights but because some of them, like the noble Lord, Lord Harris of High Cross, have great knowledge and experience of the issues involved. I have also suggested that FOREST should be consulted, because it has great expertise in reconciling disputes that arise over smoking and non-smoking areas. I believe that separation is the correct way forward. FOREST is widely consulted by industry.

I also make special reference in my amendment to the Writing Room and the Bishops' Bar, both of which are well used by noble Lords and are capable of accommodating smokers and non-smokers alike because they have separate entrances. In the case of the Bishops' Bar, it is possible to isolate staff from smokers in the smaller of the two rooms. In the case of the existing Writing Room, staff have little need of access, particularly now that self-service beverages are available. In any new accommodation for the Writing
21 Dec 2004 : Column 1670
Room, provision must surely be made for smokers and non-smokers. I hope that the Chairman of Committees can give the assurance that that will be so.

There will be objections that the work required to provide for both smokers and non-smokers in the two places mentioned in my amendment, and in the areas suggested in amendments tabled by other noble Lords—which I would expect to be considered in any event if my amendment is accepted—would be too expensive. But the amount involved is likely to be relatively small and would pale into sheer insignificance when compared with the tens of millions of pounds being spent on the parliamentary estate for works that are often, in the opinion of some of us, completely and utterly pointless.

I have made the case for my amendment in as short a time as possible. But if it is accepted more evidence and suggestions will be made to facilitate the rights and interests of smokers and non-smokers alike.

However, before I sit down—I do not want to speak again before I wind up—I would like to voice my total opposition to the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, which seeks to ban smoking throughout areas of the Palace of Westminster and the parliamentary estate under the control of the House of Lords. That would mean everywhere—I repeat, everywhere—including indoors and outdoors. That is absolutely monstrous. Anyone wanting a quick smoke would be banished to the street where they would probably be in far more danger from vehicle emissions than from the tobacco they were smoking.

This is anti-smoker zealotry gone mad. The proposition is based on junk science and a great exaggeration of the risks involved from so-called passive smoking. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Harris of High Cross, will deal in detail with that if he speaks in the debate. I would point out only that the risks from so-called passive smoking are far smaller than those, for example, of going into hospital where there are 5,000 actual deaths from MRSA. According to an article in the Daily Mail, 72,000 deaths in hospital have a contributory cause of medical blunders. Perhaps the medical profession should put its own house in order before demanding bans on smokers.

Furthermore, it is far more dangerous for people to walk in the street than to be in the presence of smokers. Apart from 3,500 deaths, 45,000 injuries and billions of pounds of damage from road vehicles, it is estimated that there are 30,000 deaths a year from vehicle emissions, which is 30 times the alleged number of deaths from passive smoking. So why are we not banning all cars?

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page