Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, I think this must be the fifth year I have debated this order on behalf of my party. Normally it comes in tandem with the Construction Industry Training Board levy. Could the noble Baroness tell us what has happened to that levy? Have we already approved that? I see that we have. Clearly I was not involved in that this year, but I have been in the past.

The levy is a remnant of the old industrial training arrangements of the 1960s—the levy grant system. With the industrial training legislation in the 1980s, this was the only industry which maintained the levy grant system. It is entirely voluntary, as the noble Baroness stressed. The industry has positively to ask for the levy to be levied and shared out. As she indicated, it is strongly supported by the firms which pay it—the larger firms in the industry. It does not apply to small firms. The Explanatory Notes show that it has a tougher impact on the larger firms which pay it than the smaller firms.

The construction industry and the engineering construction industry have suffered from an endemic problem of the free rider and industry cowboys. Firms that are good citizens and spend money on training can find that their expenditure is for naught because as
20 Jul 2005 : Column 1532
soon as they have trained somebody that person leaves to join a cowboy firm which does not spend anything on training and, as a result, can afford to offer higher wages. It was to avoid the free rider problem that the concept of the levy grant was originally introduced.

The engineering construction industry has been in the forefront of industries in trying to improve the skills situation, in particular to overcome the cowboy skills problem. The ACE scheme, which assures competence in engineering construction, is under way. The aim is to train 20,000 workers up to level 3 standard—the equivalent of A-level but in the vocational area—by 2008. In the engineering construction industry in particular, health and safety is very important. It is vital that people are well trained and understand the importance of health and safety regulations. All this is covered by the training provided under the scheme.

We on these Benches very much approve of the scheme. As the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, indicated, it is a co-operative partnership scheme of self-help. We applaud it and only regret that more industries do not follow this example. We would like to see the scheme applied more widely within other industries where training remains a very important issue.

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, I thank both noble Baronesses for contributing to this short but valuable debate. The noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, asked about the Government's investment in science and engineering; she was critical. There is a skills strategy in play. In July 2003, we published 21st Century Skills: Realising our Potential, which set out a cross-government agenda for tackling longstanding weaknesses in the demand and supply of skills.

Our aim is to ensure that employers have the right skills to support the success of their businesses and that individuals have the right learning and skills they need to be both employable and personally fulfilled. Significant progress has been made; the infrastructure is largely in place to tackle the issues that the noble Baroness raised.

On higher and further education, in 2003 we launched the Success for All strategy to raise standards and improve post-16 participation. That continues its work to improve the quality of teaching and learning. The national roll-out of the first phase of teaching and learning materials continues for the Success For All strategy. The noble Baroness will of course know about the centres for vocational excellence that have been set up in further education. She will know that we have invested £220 million in further education to support centres of vocational excellence.

The noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, asked what had happened to the construction board order. That was passed in February this year and was debated in Grand Committee. The noble Baroness also referred to the problem of free riders. I know that she has raised this issue previously. She saw that the levy system is to some extent an answer to that problem because it shares the costs of training across the whole industry, so that firms which do little or no training nevertheless
20 Jul 2005 : Column 1533
contribute to the costs of training carried out by others. So, to some extent, it is a block on the free rider problem.

I thank noble Lords for this short debate. The proposals before the House relate to a specific industry, the engineering construction industry. It continues to be the collective view of employers in this industry that training should be funded through a statutory levy system in order to secure a sufficient pool of skilled labour. I believe from our useful debate that this is not in dispute. I believe that the order should be approved and I commend it to the House.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Liverpool City Council (Prohibition of Smoking in Places of Work) Bill [HL]

7.11 pm

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. Its purpose is to protect employees and members of the public in Liverpool from the effects of second-hand smoke by prohibiting smoking in places of work throughout the city. The Liverpool Bill is identical in its purpose and content to the Bill that will be introduced by the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth of Breckland, shortly after I have spoken. We are grateful to all noble Lords who have put down their names to speak and particularly look forward to hearing the maiden speech of my noble friend Lord Stratford, who is temporarily out of the Chamber but who I am sure will be back in a moment.

Liverpool City Council has consulted widely and has twice voted by massive majorities to proceed with this Bill. It did so most recently on 26 January 2005 by 64 votes to eight—an eight-to-one majority. Surveys conducted across the city last October by John Dawson Associates show that more than 70 per cent of the city's population believe that all employees and customers should be protected by law from second-hand smoke. More than three-quarters of visitors to Liverpool say that they are bothered by smoking in enclosed public places.

As we expected, these Bills have attracted some opposition, and the petitions reflect that. The promoters are willing to listen to suggestions to improve them that may be made in Committee and meet some of the concerns expressed by petitioners. Your Lordships would not expect the promoters to agree to amendments which would create loopholes and negate the Bill's purpose of significantly improving the health and welfare of the people of Liverpool and London.

The Bills are modelled on the very successful legislation introduced in Ireland in 2004 and adopted by numerous authorities and countries across the world, including Norway, many states in the USA and, most recently, Italy, Sweden and Scotland.
20 Jul 2005 : Column 1534

It may be suggested that, with government legislation imminent, there is no need for these private Bills. I can answer this in two ways. First, there is no certainty yet that the Government's Bill will provide the same comprehensive protection for all workers in the hospitality industry, particularly in the pubs which do not serve food and in members' clubs, as the Liverpool and London Bills will achieve. Indeed, were the White Paper proposals to be enacted, they would widen health inequalities and deny to some of the most lowly paid workers the protection from second-hand smoke which the great majority of employees will enjoy from the Government's Bill.

The Government would also create commercial inequalities in the pub and licensing trade. It is striking that virtually every participant in the Government's consultation so far seems to be demanding that everyone should be treated similarly. If there are to be restrictions on smoking, they should apply to all.

The Government's claim that up to 90 per cent of pubs would be smoke-free because they prepare and serve food certainly would not apply in Liverpool. Indeed, if we relied on the White Paper proposals, 59 per cent of the pubs in the city would be exempted because they do not serve food. In the poorest parts of the city, the figure rises to 80 per cent. Of the 20 per cent of pubs that serve food, nearly a third say that they would stop serving it if that meant that their customers could continue to smoke. Such widening of health inequalities cannot make sense.

There is a second, perhaps even more compelling reason why these two Bills should proceed. Committee proceedings on private Bills are different from those on government Bills in both this House and in the other place. I understand that the Lord Chairman will briefly intervene after I have spoken to explain a little bit more about this rather unusual procedure for private Bills which we are following tonight and in Committee.

Where there are petitions against the Bill, the promoters call evidence from expert witnesses, on oath, before a committee of five of your Lordships who are lucky enough to be selected. The case for these Bills will be introduced by a Queen's Counsel. The promoters are likely to seek evidence on, among other matters, the effects of second-hand smoke, the effect of ventilation and the experience in Ireland. The committee will be given the chance to consider the issues in an unprecedented level of detail with highly experienced witnesses. I am sure that the Minister will acknowledge that, by subjecting these Bills to such intensive examination in Committee, we shall be assisting the Government's deliberations on their own Bill enormously. It will be an unusual, but extremely helpful, form of pre-legislative scrutiny.

I should make clear that the promoters of the Bill are not flying a kite. They intend to see it through. Liverpool City Council's proposals have been long in gestation, and it is worth noting that the Bill was deposited last November, long before the Government made their manifesto commitment.

Ten of the 19 petitions against this Bill come from licensees and their representative bodies. There are no petitions from bar workers or their representatives.
20 Jul 2005 : Column 1535
They strongly support such legislation, not least because they are an occupational group at particular risk, as the latest report of the Government's Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health makes clear. The latest epidemiology, published in March in the British Medical Journal, suggests that premature deaths from exposure to second-hand smoke in the hospitality industry number more than one a week.

Why Liverpool? Liverpool has a reputation as a pioneering public health city. The Liverpool Sanitary Act 1846 was the first piece of public health legislation in Britain, and the city created the first medical officer of health post. That private legislation was subsequently incorporated into the national Public Health Act 1848. There are numerous examples and precedents of local authorities introducing their own health-related legislation. More recently, in the 1940s and 1950s, many cities, including Liverpool, introduced their own clean air legislation. This was all consolidated in the first national Clean Air Act in 1956.

The scale of death and disease in Liverpool caused directly by smoking is among the worst in the country. The proportion of the population in England which smokes is now 27 per cent; in Liverpool, it is 36 per cent. In some of the poorest wards of the city, the figure rises to 48 per cent. The result is that across Liverpool at least 1,000 people every year die from smoking-related illnesses, such as lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema and all the other dreadful conditions that smoking can cause.

In Liverpool, mortality from lung cancer is 109 per cent higher for women and 73 per cent higher for men than it is across England and Wales as a whole. Mortality in Liverpool from coronary heart disease is 23 per cent higher for women and 29 per cent higher for men than across England and Wales as a whole. There is a huge pride in Liverpool that the city has been chosen as the 2008 European Capital of Culture. It is not surprising that it now wishes to be rid of its current title as the lung cancer capital of England.

Smoking is the greatest single contributor to health inequalities and to differences in life expectancies between social classes. To quote just one stark statistic, on average across the UK a man in social class 5—that is the poorest—has one chance in two of living to the age of 70. A man in social class 1 has two chances in three, and by far the largest factor in that difference is smoking.

It is well established that the most powerful policy lever now available to cut smoking rates is to end smoking in workplaces and in all enclosed public spaces. That is a fact that the tobacco industry has long recognised. On the Internet, there is an internal document produced by the Philip Morris company in 1992, released as a consequence of litigation being carried out against the tobacco industry in the United States. The document said that,

20 Jul 2005 : Column 1536

Those are the words from Philip Morris. So when your Lordships read the latest lobbying material from the Tobacco Advisory Council, I ask you to remember that that argument is not about liberty or freedom but about selling cigarettes.

In his report to the Government on public health health issues, Sir Derek Wanless estimated that a complete end to smoking in all workplaces could cut smoking prevalence rates by up to 4 per cent. That would reduce the rate from more than one in four—the national average today—to close to one in five. The Liverpool Bill will be good news for the 70 per cent of smokers who repeatedly say that they want to quit, and good news for their families and friends. If the Bill is passed, many hundreds of lives will be saved—and that in itself is a powerful argument for this legislation.

Of course, I accept that we cannot tell people what to do for their own good; much as we might want to encourage people not to smoke, we cannot force them to quit. That is why it is so important that we see an increase in the number of smoking cessation clinics and other aids to persuade people to give up smoking. Liverpool has pioneered those projects in the poorest part of the city and will do more after the Bill is passed. Meanwhile, we can properly require people not to smoke when and where their habit will damage the health of others—and that is what smoking does.

On the basis of the figures contained in the report of the Government's own scientific committee on smoking and health, it is possible to estimate that around 100 premature deaths a year across Liverpool are caused by second-hand smoke. For every premature death, there will be many cases of serious illness. For example, a recent Department of Health survey for England shows that people who are exposed to other people's tobacco smoke for six or more hours a week were 50 per cent more likely than those who were not to develop asthma symptoms and breathlessness, coughing and wheezing.

Asthma UK states that one in five people with asthma are prevented from using parts of their workplace where people smoke because of cigarette fumes. I am very pleased to see my noble friend Lord Simon in his place today—and I wish him a very happy birthday. As an asthma sufferer himself, he has impressed your Lordships on many occasions by telling us what hell it is to work in a building where smoking is permitted. He knows better than any of us that cigarette smoke is the second most common asthma trigger in the workplace.

British researchers Peto and Doll have expressed the risk of developing lung cancer from passive smoking as being about 90 times higher than the risk of developing an asbestos-related cancer due to asbestos in buildings. It is astonishing that we have not up to now taken the risk of smoking more seriously.

Smoking restrictions do not require intensive or costly enforcement. That has been the experience in Ireland, New York, on the London Underground, on other UK metro systems and on buses and trains. Such restrictions are generally observed by popular consensus, and the Liverpool Bill will be no different. It is alleged by some business and tobacco lobbyists
20 Jul 2005 : Column 1537
that smoking bans will do serious economic damage, particularly in hospitality venues. Frankly, there is little objective evidence for that assertion. Indeed, in New York, employment and tax revenue from the hospitality sector have both risen sharply since the city's smoke-free ordinance came into effect. The picture is much the same in Ireland, where the dire prediction of the drinks trade that the hospitality industry would collapse have proved completely unfounded.

As recently as 14 July, the Morning Advertiser reported the results of a survey that it had commissioned on a smoking ban in pubs. It said that smoke-free pubs would create a potential pool of new custom, with a quarter of the 2,350 people questioned saying that they would go to pubs more often if they were smoke-free.

The economic costs to employers of smoking among the Liverpool workforce is approximately £28.5 million per annum, as a result of increased illness and reduced productivity. The Royal College of Physicians said only this week that an outright ban on smoking in public places would save the UK economy £4 billion. So cutting smoking rates would bring great economic benefits, and this Bill will make a real difference to the health of the people of Liverpool. I am proud to be its sponsor, and I commend the Bill to the House.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(Lord Faulkner of Worcester.)

7.27 pm

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page