Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Naseby: My Lords, noble Lords will have noted that it has taken 27 minutes to propose two private Bills, which we are told are almost identical. That in itself is a sad reflection on the way in which these two Bills are being presented to your Lordships' House.

The main content of my speech will be as much on procedure as matters to do with smoking, although I will use one or two facts as opposed to allegations. Your Lordships should know that I tried to persuade the promoter of the Liverpool Bill—who I think is the senior promoter of the two Bills, if I may put it that way—that it would be more appropriate to deal with the two Bills after Her Majesty's Government's consultation, which ends on 5 September. It seems to me that part of the role of your Lordships' House is not to duplicate consultation. Certainly, we know from manifesto commitments and from the Queen's Speech
20 Jul 2005 : Column 1542
that we are promised a Bill from the Government. Your Lordships' time is, in my judgment, precious, and it should not be used to debate issues that Her Majesty's Government are debating almost at the same time. Sadly, my words were not sufficient to persuade the noble Lord who is promoting the Liverpool Bill.

The Chairman of Committees has encouraged us to give the two Bills a Second Reading. Indeed, the noble Lord is quite right that 1937 was the last time that we had a vote on such private Bills—on the North Devon Water Bill and the North Devon Electric Power Bill. I, for one, would not wish to interfere with the precedents of your Lordships' House, so if that is the normal procedure, that is acceptable to me—except I shall deploy some arguments that may persuade the promoters to withdraw their Bills.

First, as far as I can see, and as far as those noble Lords who have studied the Bill can see, the Bills are virtually identical to the Government's proposed Bill in their consultation paper. Furthermore, we know from the Queen's Speech that the Government are bringing forward a Bill. They have affirmed numerous times that they are confident and strong on that. This is not one of those wishy-washy Bills that may or may not happen—we know that it is coming. In my judgment, the two Bills are superfluous.

We also know that the consultation that the Government are undertaking contains an element about the risks, likely benefits and costs of enabling local authorities to make their own legislation on smoking. It is not as though the Government have ignored the evidence produced by local authorities. The Government are proposing that in their consultation, which is taking place at this very moment. Somewhere people may be discussing this in a pub—with or without smoking—or in some of the local authorities that meet of an evening.

The promoters of the two Bills are stated to have undertaken extensive public consultation, but upon investigation it is pretty thin. It is nowhere near as extensive as Her Majesty's Government are doing, and doing correctly. They should be praised for the depth at which they are undertaking it. So the proposition that the two Bills—the Liverpool Bill and the greater London area Bill—have had extensive consultation does not stand up to examination.

What would happen if the Bills were agreed by your Lordships' House? It would result in a confused system up and down the country because some local authorities might make their own legislation and that may not be the same as the next-door local authority. The promoters are correct in saying that it would affect the hospitality industry more than any other industry other than pubs and clubs. That is an important industry and we cannot ignore its views—we would be wrong to do so. Clearly, the hospitality industry feels that if there is to be change it should be universal change, which is basically what Her Majesty's Government are proposing in their consultation.

We do not know the costs. It is all very well in life to promote this, that and the other as wonderful ideas, but costs are involved in any of these things. I shiver when I hear some eminent QCs, some of whom are in
20 Jul 2005 : Column 1543
this House. They know better than I do how many thousands of pounds they earn in a day. All I know is that the local authority bills will come back on council tax payers. Have they been consulted? I do not hear either of the promoters confirming that all council tax payers have been consulted. I am a council tax payer in Westminster; we have not been consulted. I can tell noble Lords that that is the position.

Frankly, we know that there are 19 or 20 petitioners. Those petitioners are not the British major tobacco manufacturing companies; they are representatives of restaurateurs, individual restaurateurs, pubs and licensees—those sorts of people. They are not equipped with huge sums of money with which to compete with these eminent QCs funded by council tax payers to promote two Bills alongside an existing government Bill.

Then I hear from the noble Baroness this evening that three of the London boroughs have pulled out already. Before your Lordships' House has even had a chance to debate the issue, three have pulled out. It is not three, is it? It is four actually. I am not accusing the noble Baroness of misleading the House, but she must know that Westminster City Council has stated:

So that is four which have pulled out. One begins to wonder, especially with these eminent QCs at a vast cost to council tax payers, whether other local authorities will also pull out. Far from a common front, we have four major boroughs—Bromley, Kensington, Havering and Westminster—all pulling out. They will not take part. Frankly, they have put a hole in the Bill.

As I understand it, regardless of political persuasion, a government are pretty neutral on private Bills until such time as they decide whether to legislate. It seems to me incredible that we could have a government Bill starting its life—presumably in the other place—while alongside it we are sitting in a Select Committee listening to identical evidence and debating the same issues. That does not mean that the issues are not important; of course they are. But the right place for that debate is, initially, in the other place on a government Bill before it comes here.

For those councils that proceed, the cost should be referred to the district auditor, because it is an abuse of council tax payers' money that those resources are funding two Bills running at the same time as a government Bill. That is not the least bit acceptable to any council tax payer.

Great play was made by the noble Baroness about workplace smoking. She knows as well as I do that smoking is now allowed in only about 8 per cent of
20 Jul 2005 : Column 1544
workplaces. That does not represent a huge proportion of people at work. The balance has been reducing and, I expect, will continue to reduce. So I question whether the priority should lie in the workplace. Only 8 per cent is left. Even the Health and Safety Commission, which has not changed its view, stated in 1999:

So those are not my words.

The argument should now concentrate on pubs and bars. Some chains—Wetherspoons, for example—have already stated that they will ban all smoking. That is their judgment; that is fine. Others may make a different judgment. I suspect that what people want is a recognition that pubs are a little different from ordinary workplaces. What do the public want? I have a few figures as well. I will not produce too many, but the two most relevant ones are those from the Government—we believe government statistics, do we not? These were supplied on 7 July—this month. Then, 68 per cent were not in favour of a total ban on smoking in pubs and bars; 31 per cent were. Those are the government statistics on the public's view.

Great play is made about those who work in pubs and bars; it was made in our more recent debate. A recent survey at the end of June by AIR stated that 89 per cent of those surveyed among bar staff and licensees, the majority of whom were bar staff, said that smoking should be allowed in pubs; 70 per cent were happy to work there; 91 per cent thought that ventilation could be improved; and 71 per cent thought that it should be left to the owners to decide. Those figures seem conclusive evidence that this is a difficult area that should be dealt with with sensitivity.

I say in conclusion that I shall not comment on the medical side, because I am not qualified to speak on it, but I know that the noble Lord, Lord Harris, will contribute. I finish by saying that the new alcohol licensing laws in Westminster are in chaos because that legislation was rushed. Rightly, the Government are consulting in depth. That is good. These two Bills mirror government legislation. There has not been adequate consultation. They are causing considerable worry to those who have petitioned, most of whom run smallish businesses. The public does not want such draconian laws as proposed in these two Bills. They interfere with the Government's consultation. Above all, I submit that they are a waste of your Lordships' time when we can expect a Bill from the other place pretty soon after we are back.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page