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The Earl of Liverpool: My Lords, I should like to preface my remarks by offering my sincere congratulations to the City of Liverpool on being selected European Capital of Culture for 2008. I believe that its 800th birthday charter year will come up in 2007. So Liverpool has busy and exciting times ahead and I wish the city council and other bodies well.

It is therefore with some sadness that I find myself unable to support the Bills before us today. I shall come to my reasons why in a moment but, before I do, I should like to declare an interest which was previously declared by my noble friend Lord Geddes, in that I am a member of the Lords and Commons Pipe and Cigar Smokers' Club.

I recognise that the promoters and supporters of the Bills are principally concerned about passive smoking, but I believe that some of the figures bandied about in this context are, to put it bluntly, wildly alarmist and difficult, if not impossible, to prove. I am not saying that the problem does not exist, just that it is very difficult to quantify. The noble Lord, Lord Harris of High Cross, has made this subject his speciality and I would not dream of adding anything to his contribution. However, on balance, I find myself in the camp of believing that our laws in this country must continue to protect the right of the individual to freedom of choice, which I consider to be a cornerstone of a free, democratic society.

There is no doubt that these private Bills are controversial, as has already been said by other noble Lords. Nineteen petitions have been lodged against the Liverpool Bill and 20 against the London local authorities Bill. It is unusual for private Bills to be of such a controversial nature, and, whatever else, they will result in considerable financial costs being incurred, as my noble friend Lord Naseby pointed out, to say nothing of the heavy demand on that most precious of resources—parliamentary time.

I believe the reality is that restaurateurs and licensees of other premises are entrepreneurs in their own right who should have the freedom to decide which market they wish to cater for and, provided they put in efficient ventilation and air purifying equipment and have designated smoking areas, they should be able to choose the smoking policy in their establishment. In some cases, they will have invested millions of pounds and it seems reasonable to me that they should be allowed to establish a smoking policy which best serves their business and their customers.

Although I accept that in some cases it is not altogether easy for people to move from job to job, staff have a choice about where they work and do not have to work in smoking restaurants or bars if they do not want to. In any case, I believe that these Bills are too draconian in their approach. Clause 10 in Part 3 of the Bill allows for fixed penalty notices to be issued by an authorised officer or accredited person. That to me conjures up the vision of armies of smoke wardens patrolling premises—they are given wide powers of entry under the Bill—and dishing out fixed penalty
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tickets in a similar manner to parking wardens. I find it hard to think of anything more likely to cause civil unrest, particularly on a Saturday night.

It would be far better in my view to have a voluntary code of practice, but if that is no longer possible I would prefer to see a Bill along the lines promulgated by the Government, possibly with some amendments, which I believe they propose to introduce to Parliament this autumn. As has already been said by other noble Lords, I wait with interest to hear what the Minister has to say on that later in the debate.

Perhaps I should address my next question to the promoter of the Bill, the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester. Can he explain the situation under Clause 4 of long-distance lorry drivers who wish to smoke in their cabs moving in and out of the areas that would become smoke-free under the legislation?

Finally, I shall touch on the confusion that would be caused if the Bills were to receive Royal Assent. We would end up with one law for London and Liverpool and no change to the present law for the rest of the country. We live in an increasingly mobile society, and it seems to me that to have a law on smoking in Liverpool that would not apply to Warrington, Bootle, St Helens, Manchester or anywhere else in the country except London is almost absurd. The really extraordinary revelation came when the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth of Breckland, introduced the London Bill. She stated that Kensington and Chelsea, Bromley, Kent and Havering had opted out of the legislation. We have already been told in this debate that we should now add Westminster City Council to that list. Confused, my Lords? I certainly am.

9.11 pm

Lord Turnberg: My Lords, the Bills are both necessary and timely, and I am pleased to support my noble friend Lord Faulkner and the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth.

The case for legislation seems to me absolutely clear-cut. The impressive publication of the Royal College of Physicians that came out last week, Going Smoke-free—I have it in my hand—sets out all the reasons clearly. The arguments are cogently made. I commend the publication to your Lordships if you have not already read it, and especially perhaps to the noble Lord, Lord Harris. I suspect that it is just possible that even he would get his confidence dented a little. I express my interest as a past president of the Royal College of Physicians, although unfortunately I had nothing to do with the writing of the report.

The Government have gone a long way down the route of banning advertisements and promoting smoking cessation, but there is rather more to be done. The measures proposed in the Bills would go a long way to improving the health of the population. The fact that smoking is harmful to those who indulge is now so well established that the surprise is that so many people still smoke. Smoking is not merely harmful; it is the most dangerous health hazard, way
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ahead of alcohol, obesity, overeating, driving dangerously, and acts of terrorism. They shrink into insignificance.

The primary aim of the Bills is to reduce the danger of passive smoking by innocent bystanders who do not smoke. The evidence outlined so clearly in the Royal College of Physicians report is compelling. Those exposed to the smoke of others at home or at work have all the same damaging chemicals in their bloodstream as smokers. Even in so-called smoke-free areas in restaurants there is evidence that chemicals get into the blood. I quote from the report:

That is non-smoking workplaces. Of course they are present in smaller amounts, but they are there and they are damaging. Those passively exposed to smoke have a higher incidence of lung cancer and heart attacks. Tellingly, for example, if you are married to a smoker your risk increases the longer you live with them and the more that they smoke. There is a straight line relationship.

It is estimated that about 500 deaths a year are attributable to smoke at work. The risk of lung cancer is 24 per cent higher in those exposed passively to smoke compared to the general population. The risk of ischaemic heart disease in those exposed is similar to that of those who smoke up to nine cigarettes. Those are all frightening but believable statistics.

The bottom line is that the more that you are exposed to the smoke of others, the greater the harm. Regular exposure at home or at work is sufficient to cause significant ill health and shortening of life. All that should be enough to see the Bills enacted, but there are even more secondary reasons why they are worthwhile. There is good evidence that a ban on smoking in public places reduces the overall smoking rate in the population, which must be good.

I am particularly concerned about the number of teenagers who smoke, apparently oblivious to the fact that they may be shortening their life by five or even 10 years and that they will suffer unpleasant ill health on the way. Of course, they like to live dangerously and show their contempt for elderly do-gooders like me, but the evidence points to the example of parents who smoke as a prime reason why they start. That must lend support to the value of any reduction in overall smoking rates.

On top of all those reasons for the ban is the purely social one of having to put up with other people's smoke, which irritates the eyes and nose and makes you cough. That puts smoking in public places no higher than an anti-social act that interferes with the comfort of others—perhaps not by itself sufficient for new legislation, but certainly an added benefit gained by an Act designed to reduce the harm to health and life that we have heard about today. The evidence from Ireland is very encouraging, and I hope that we will soon follow.
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9.16 pm

Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall: My Lords, I start by congratulating my old and unexpectedly noble friend Lord Stratford on his typically rebarbative maiden speech, wishing him a happy time in your Lordships' House, and hoping that he finds the burdens of politeness not too irksome as time goes on and he gets more used to us.

I do not need to be convinced that legislation to ban smoking in public places is both desirable and necessary. Furthermore, I agree with nearly everything that has been said in support of the two Bills before us today. Unfortunately, despite my convictions, I must acquaint your Lordships with some consequences, which I hope are unintended, of the Bills that, if not addressed, would make it difficult for me to support them.

I declare an interest as a former member of the board of the Society of London Theatre and a current member of the board of the Almeida Theatre, which is a member of both the Society of London Theatre and the Theatrical Management Association which, unfortunately for the purposes of this debate, shares an acronym with the Tobacco Manufacturers' Association—but there you go.

The TMA and SOLT are both petitioners against the Bills, as was mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth of Breckland, for whom I have enormous admiration. However, I suspect that she does not get out a lot, because if she did, she might have attended the theatre, where she would have discovered that when gunfire is required on stage, actors do not point two fingers at one another and shout, "Bang!", they use real firearms—under strict health and safety regulation. That is relevant to what I want to say.

I invite your Lordships to consider the plays of Noel Coward and seeing them presented without the benefit of smoking jacket or cigarette holder, or to call to mind the variety of fine actors who, at different times, have brought the great Winston Churchill to life. Could they have done so successfully in the boiler suit without the cigar?

Those of your Lordships who attend the theatre will have seen many remarkable stage settings. Can we imagine, say the streets of 19th century Paris in "Les Miserables", the wide savannah of "The Lion King" or Mrs Hedda Tesman's oppressive drawing room illuminated by prominently displayed signs declaring that smoking is prohibited? I think not. But there is a real danger that such undesirable things will come about if the Bills go forward unamended. Insufficient attention has yet been given, in my respectful view, by the promoters to understanding what conditions are necessary for the creation and presentation of authentic performance.

For instance, Clause 4 of both Bills defines "place of work" in such a way as to include rehearsal rooms, stages, theatres and other indoor performance spaces. Clause 5 would have the effect of prohibiting smoking on stage during performances, and in rehearsals, whether in theatres or dedicated rehearsal spaces. Furthermore, the interpretation of "smoking product"
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in Clause 2 is drawn so broadly as to preclude the use of non-tobacco alternatives such as herbal cigarettes, which many performers already prefer to use where smoking is required by a text or a production style. As it happens, no one has yet come up with a satisfactory form of fake cigar but, even if some enterprising character were now to do so, his ingenuity would be of no use since the Bills as currently drafted prohibit even artificial smoking materials being used on stage or in rehearsal.

Clause 6 of both Bills provides that, where smoking is prohibited under Clause 5, a sign has to be displayed indicating clearly to the public that smoking is prohibited, and also giving the name of a person to whom a complaint may be made by a member of the public who observes another person smoking. That would mean, presumably, that not only would a set depicting the consulting room at No. 221b Baker Street require a "no smoking" sign to be sited in full view of the audience, but an actor giving his all as Sherlock Holmes would be liable to have a complaint laid against him if he lit up his famous pipe.

It is easy to score cheap points—I am afraid that I have tried to do so—by providing what may seem to be a reductio ad absurdum. It would also be misleading if I were not to acknowledge that the Bills' promoters looked at those issues earlier in the year, at least so far as the London Bill was concerned. However, the amendment offered at that time did not fully address the matters giving concern to SOLT and the TMA, and as I understand it no progress has been made since March in any event.

The Bills as drafted give powers to the promoters both to inhibit the process of creating work for the stage and to compromise the integrity of performance. I cannot believe that that is any part of their intention. I submit that an exemption can and should be provided in the Bills to allow smoking in rehearsals and on stage where it is part of the action of a performance, subject as at present to sensible safety precautions being observed. Such an exemption would automatically banish the possibility of "no smoking" signs at Elsinore.

I ask the Minister to tell the House what the Government's view is of the difficulties to which I have drawn attention. I also respectfully ask my noble friend and the noble Baroness, whose indefatigable efforts to get smoking banned in public places I support and greatly admire, to recognise that they may need to give further thought to the detail of the Bills. However dangerous and undesirable we now know smoking to be, it has been part of our culture and of other cultures for more than 400 years, and is embedded in much of our art. It is surely possible to preserve the excellent intentions of this proposed legislation without applying too heavy a hand to our history.

9.23 pm

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