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The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): My Lords, I hope that it might be helpful to the House if I intervene briefly at this stage of these two Bills, because opposed private Bills do not come before your Lordships as frequently as they used to some time ago.

As the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, said, although we are at the moment debating the Liverpool City Council (Prohibition of Smoking in Places of Work) Bill, the debate should take place on both Bills, including the London Local Authorities (Prohibition of Smoking in Places of Work) Bill. At the end of the debate, the Question will be put on the Liverpool Bill, and the Question on the London Bill will be taken, I hope, purely formally.

As the noble Lord also said, there are a number of petitions—19 against the Liverpool Bill and 20 against the London Bill—a good many of which are in common. Most of those petitions are against the very principle of the Bill, and therefore there is not the slightest doubt that they will be not be withdrawn before the Bill goes to an opposed Bill committee. Therefore there will be every opportunity for those petitioners and the promoters of the Bill to argue their cases before an Opposed Private Bill Committee, which will take place after this.

I hope that the House will give this Bill a Second Reading. The difference here is that giving a Second Reading to a private Bill does not give approval entirely to the principle of that Bill, unlike with a public Bill. It is
 
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perfectly possible for the Opposed Private Bill Committee to throw the Bill out in its entirety or to amend the Bill, or whatever. Then the Bill must come back to the House for a Third Reading, at which time it is also possible for the House to reject the Bill on a Division.

I am hoping that your Lordships will not reject the Bill at Second Reading. I should point out that the last time that that happened was nearly 70 years ago, in 1937, and it is not our practice to do that now. If there are any further questions on procedure, I shall be happy to try to answer them. I shall be here for most of the debate, although not all, but I shall return for the end.

7.29 pm

Baroness Howarth of Breckland: My Lords, I rise to support the Second Reading of the London Local Authorities (Prohibition of Smoking in Places of Work) Bill. It is very similar in form to the Bill that has just been proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester. That is why they are being debated together. This Bill would give powers to each London borough to institute a ban on smoking in the workplace within the area of the individual borough.

The London Bill is being promoted by the Association of London Government on behalf of the majority of London boroughs. The association, the umbrella body that acts as a unified voice for the London boroughs and the Corporation of London, has a long history of promoting private Bills on a consensual basis on behalf of all the boroughs. Your Lordships will know that that is sometimes a difficult feat, but one that the boroughs see as being in the interests of Londoners. The Bill represents a compromise between differing approaches.

Some boroughs may be more enthusiastic about the early introduction of such a ban in their local area than others. Indeed, since the introduction of the Bill, three boroughs have decided to discontinue their participation; namely, Bromley, Havering and Kensington and Chelsea. That also explains why the Bill is adoptive. That means that it will come into effect, if the Bill as a whole is enacted, only when each borough passes a motion in full council to bring the Act into local effect. That will give each borough the time to reflect and consider the views of local residents. That is why the boroughs are joining together in a desire to see the issues debated and to see the case for a complete ban examined by your Lordships in detail, on the evidence, at the Select Committee stage. I hope that your Lordships will allow the examination of that case to happen by agreeing to a Second Reading today.

The issue deserves the full attention of your Lordships in Select Committee and at later stages for the following reasons. A recent investigation by SmokeFree London found that in the capital in 2001 an estimated 10,500 Londoners aged 35 or over died as a result of smoking. That amounts to one death an hour. In 2001, in London, it was also estimated that diseases caused by smoking accounted for 46,000 hospital admissions, and 1.7 million GP consultations were associated with smoking. Around 3,400 people died in 2001 in London from respiratory diseases due
 
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to smoking. A further 2,200 died due to chronic obstructive lung diseases. Smoking is one of the biggest health issues that we face, and that is why London and Liverpool are seeking the new powers. I believe that in the future—I hope sooner rather than later—we shall wonder to ourselves why we ever allowed smoking in places of work.

London and Liverpool have also been working together to collaborate on the drafting of the Bills. They are both based largely on the Irish legislative precedent. The noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, has already highlighted the main points of the proposed statutory approach, and I shall not therefore trouble your Lordships with undue repetition. However, the most important point that he raised, which I shall reiterate here, is that there is no satisfactory way to eliminate the risks of second-hand smoke in enclosed public places short of ending smoking in those places. The medical evidence of the dangers of secondary smoke, whatever others might say, is incontrovertible and comprehensive.

I shall refer briefly to the latest report of the Government's own Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health, which consists of 15 of the most eminent medical experts in the country. Its report was published with the White Paper on public health. The committee reported that exposure to second-hand smoke increased the risk of contracting lung cancer and heart disease, in both cases by about a quarter. It described second-hand smoke as,

Of course, not everyone accepts the evidence. Take British American Tobacco, for example. Its last annual report stated that,

Your Lordships will remember that the company spent years and many millions of pounds denying first that smoking killed, and then, when it had lost that argument, that nicotine was addictive. FOREST has challenged the Chief Medical Officer to prove claims regarding passive smoking. Needless to say, the promoters of both the London and Liverpool Bills intend to adduce that evidence in the Select Committee, if your Lordships agree to the Second Reading today. I suggest to the supporters of FOREST that if they believe in evidence-based decisions, the Select Committee would be an excellent place for that to happen.

I turn briefly to one of the myths associated with the issue: the merits or otherwise of ventilation. Despite the best endeavours of the tobacco industry to promote ventilation as a solution to the problem, there is as yet no ventilation system that would be fully effective that would not also be entirely disproportionate. For example, the atmospheric physicist, James Repace, has stated that truly effective ventilation systems would require air-recycling rates of tornado-like force. It might be worth the absurd expense of installing such a system—assuming that one could ever be created or found—just to watch some of the opponents of action against second-hand smoke trying to light up a cigarette while it was in
 
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operation, but I shall not recommend that, as I believe in an evidence-based approach and we might not achieve that.

Some opponents of the Bill have also suggested that new legislation is not required because responsible employers will act on their own initiative. Many employers in London have already done so and deserve public credit and support. However, many have not, and the London councils need to be equipped to take action where action is necessary in relation to the health of local residents and people who work in the boroughs.

There is an odd fact associated with the debate, and that is that when opinion polls are carried out a large majority favours the banning of smoking in the workplace, but a rather smaller majority is in favour of banning smoking in pubs, restaurants and clubs. We are quite prepared to affect the health of others in our leisure, but of course, those are places of work too, and there is no reason why the health of the office worker should be given a higher premium than the health of a bar or restaurant worker.

I shall also give no ground to the argument that people can choose to work in smoke-ridden atmospheres and that if they do not they should find another job. That is like arguing that we do not need a minimum wage because people can always get a higher-paid job. That ignores the realities of working people's situations.

Studies in California before the state passed its legislation on the issue showed that the level of second-hand smoke in restaurants that permitted smoking was commonly around 200 per cent higher than in offices that permitted smoking, and that the level in bars was up to 600 per cent higher. Research in seven European countries, published earlier this year, showed that in some nightclubs, for example, customers would routinely inhale more second-hand smoke in four hours than they would in a month living with a smoking partner.

I touch briefly on the claim by opponents of smoking restrictions that ending smoking at work will simply increase smoking in the home and possibly around children. Your Lordships will know of my commitment to children's issues. A series of Parliamentary Questions recently tabled in the other place revealed that the Government knew of no research to justify that assertion. It seems to be the political equivalent of an urban myth.

Ending smoking in all workplaces, accompanied by publicity about the damage done by second-hand smoke, will not in fact increase smoking at home. On the contrary, it encourages many smokers to quit. In Ireland, for example, cigarette sales fell by 16 per cent after smoke-free legislation came into effect. Moreover, such a law increases public understanding of the risks of second-hand smoke and therefore discourages irresponsible smoking around children. Finally, it helps to prevent smoking from being seen as a normal, or even desirable, adult activity, and therefore removes a major incentive for young people to begin smoking—another huge problem in our society.
 
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There are some further points that I should address. The promoters of the Bill can see arguments for some very limited exemptions in public places that also have a residential purpose—for example, for long-stay patients in hospitals and care homes, which is a subject I have an interest in. However, the Royal College of Physicians in its document Going Smoke-free suggests that that should be on a case-by-case basis. No doubt that point could be addressed in detail in the Select Committee.

There is also a novel form of objection from London theatres, who fear that not being able to smoke real cigarettes on stage will damage their ability to represent smoking in plays. Of course, one might argue that not being able to use real guns in the theatre does not mean that such things cannot be portrayed—it is called "acting"—but nevertheless the promoters have listened to those concerns. That matter could also be addressed in Committee and, indeed, if people wished, an exemption could be proposed.

The Bill would protect non-smokers from the serious risks of inhaling other people's smoke at work and in enclosed public places. It is supported by all the major health charities, including the British Heart Foundation, the British Lung Foundation and the Royal Colleges of Nursing and Midwifery and many others. It would particularly protect employees in the hospitality industry and others at most risk, including children. It would sharply cut the number of smokers throughout London and save hundreds of lives every year as a result. It would be a great step forward for public health in London.

I also have a personal agenda. Both my parents were smokers. My father died from cancer, and my mother suffocated from emphysema. My sister and I both have respiratory problems caused by our childhood environment. Our parents were loving people; had they known then what we know now they would have given up. Despite my personal experience, I believe that the evidence should be considered in the committee as evidence. I am proud to sponsor the London Bill, and I commend it to the House.

7.42 pm


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