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Lord Rea: My Lords, I strongly support the Bills, but I shall try to be extremely brief in explaining why they are important.
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The first reason is that the scientific knowledge of the damage to health caused by passive smoking or environmental tobacco smoke—ETS—is becoming increasingly clear. In fact, it is becoming crystal clear, as new peer-reviewed papers are published almost monthly. Many of them are cited in the report of the Royal College of Physicians mentioned by my noble friend Lord Turnberg. The studies that it describes are both epidemiological, measuring the effect on large populations, and laboratory-based, describing the pathological effects on individuals and their tissues.

The list of unpleasant components of tobacco smoke includes, in the particulate phase, tar, which contains a number of carcinogens, as well as benzene, benzpyrene and nicotine. Perhaps that is why recent ex-smokers, when trying to give up their addiction, like to sit near smokers—in their slipstream. In the gas phase are found carbon monoxide, ammonia, formaldehyde, hydrogen cyanide, acrolein and many others. As the noble Lord, Lord Chan, said, 40 of those components are suspected carcinogens, and many have irritant properties. It is small wonder that the immediate effects of contact with environmental tobacco smoke include eye irritation, headache, cough, sore throat, dizziness and nausea. As we heard in the eloquent speech by my noble friend Lord Simon, asthmatic attacks are often precipitated in people who are prone to asthma.

So, I must disappoint the noble Lord, Lord Harris, and tell him that the overwhelming majority of the scientific community now accept the validity of the studies that I have outlined. While the scientific evidence against smoking in enclosed public spaces is thus increasingly clear, certain members of the Government still hold the view that the public are not ready for a total ban. It is true that, although the great majority of the population are now non-smokers, many people have a lenient view towards smokers—many having been smokers themselves—and feel that the Government's present approach of allowing smoking in pubs with no food should be the next step.

Some would go further and allow smoking rooms in all pubs and restaurants, or they believe, erroneously, that extractor fans are effective. What people with those beliefs forget is that staff working where smoking is allowed are condemned to inhale tobacco smoke while they serve customers. The Bills are expressly designed to protect those staff, who may be unaware of the dangers to which they are exposed, quite apart from being unable to find another job in a smoke-free workplace, as the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, described.

Since the Bills were first due to come before us in March, I have had the privilege of visiting Ireland in early April. The total ban introduced in May last year had been in force for nearly a year. It has been even more successful than its architects envisaged, and polls show that it is now more popular than when it was first introduced. A key reason for its success was that the Ministry of Health and the Irish Government, as a whole, had a consistent tobacco policy and introduced a series of control measures over the past decade. At all
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stages, there was a national debate with good scientific information forming the basis of the dialogue, making full use of the media. There is no evidence that the measures had any effect on the profitability of the hospitality trade, which was on a slight downswing before the measures were introduced. If anything, there has subsequently been a change for the better, as my noble friend Lord Faulkner pointed out. Certainly, the pubs that I visited in Dublin were doing a roaring trade, and there was no sign of the civil unrest feared by the noble Earl, Lord Liverpool.

Outside one of those establishments were two men and a woman who were smoking cigarettes. I suggested to them that perhaps they might be a little fed up with a law that banished them to the outdoors if they wished to smoke. They strongly denied that and said that it was a good law and that having to smoke outside the pub meant that they smoked less and saved money. The woman said that the only problem was that reducing smoking had led her to put on weight.

I hope that the Bills will receive strong support from the Government. They will allow Liverpool and London to act as pilot projects, in effect, for the similar national measures that should follow in their footsteps—I hope sooner rather than later.

9.28 pm

Lord Rosser: My Lords, I wish to express my support for the two Bills from Liverpool City Council and the London Local Authorities. Those contributions from noble Lords that have been dismissive of the impact of passive smoking seem to me to equate to the George Bush approach to the impact and causes of climate change. As has been said by a number of noble Lords, the evidence of the damaging effect of smoking on the health both of smokers and non-smokers is overwhelming.

Last March the presidents of the Royal Colleges, in supporting the Liverpool City Council Bill, stated that passive smoking caused an estimated 1,000 deaths in adults each year. The Government's White Paper Choosing Health, published in November 2004, said that lung cancer, heart disease, asthma attacks and sudden infant death syndrome were conditions linked to second-hand smoke.

The Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health, whose report was published with the White Paper, indicated that non-smokers exposed to second-hand smoke faced a 24 per cent increase risk of lung cancer and a 25 per cent increased risk of heart disease. It also found that bar workers were the occupational group who were most at risk from other people's smoke.

I hope that the Minister will speak positively about these Bills when she replies. They go in the same direction that the Government are travelling and the fact that their destination may be another stop down the line towards better health and saving lives, and they may want to get there more quickly, is no justification for my noble friend being anything other than positive in her response. These Bills do not go in a direction that is significantly different from that of the Government, and they certainly do not go in the opposite direction.
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These Bills reflect what elected, accountable representatives of the people of Liverpool and the overwhelming majority of London boroughs are saying is wanted. If they have it wrong, and that is not the case, they will be the ones in the firing line, accountable to their electorates. The impact of the Bills over and above the Government's proposals will not extend beyond the London boroughs concerned and the city of Liverpool.

While there are very good reasons for having policies over a great range of issues applied nationally, including the Government's policy on the issue of shifting the balance significantly in favour of smoke-free environments, there can be no reason for denying the additional powers to make variations in different localities that want them, where they do not challenge or thwart the basic direction of government policy and do not have an impact outside the locality or area concerned.

Local authorities have powers that give some flexibility in their approach to reflect the needs of their area and the wishes of their constituents; for example, in planning, parking, the allocation of resources for education, the provision of leisure facilities, support for public transport, and, shortly, licensing applications. There seems no reason at all why the city of Liverpool and the London boroughs should not now be given the powers in the Bills.

The case for the Bills is overwhelming. This is, as my noble friend Lady Gould said, a straight health and safety issue. No one should have to work in an environment that jeopardises their health and most certainly not as a result of an entirely non-essential activity carried out by others purely for their own personal satisfaction or enjoyment or to meet the needs of their own addiction. The number of people who die each year as a result of exposure to second-hand smoke in their place of work is well in excess of the number of people who are killed by workplace accidents. The argument that people do not have to work in smoke-filled environments is an argument that could be used against all existing health and safety measures on the basis that if there is any danger in a workplace, you do not have to work there.

In Liverpool alone, around 100 people die each year from cancer or heart disease, not because they smoke, but because of exposure to second-hand smoke from other people. There is a cost to the National Health Service for treatment, there is an economic cost to employers from absence at work and there is a social cost to families that arises from the completely avoidable loss of a loved one, who may also be a breadwinner, a parent or both.

It is a heartless argument that states that others should be free to smoke in what is someone else's workplace when the evidence clearly shows that the exercise of that freedom by the former could potentially be akin to signing a delayed illness or even death warrant for the latter. It is not personal freedom of choice that is being protected, but personal irresponsibility, callousness and indifference to others that is being promoted.
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The trade union movement supports these Bills precisely because they address an important health and safety issue and seek to protect people at work. Individual unions and the Trades Union Congress are calling on the Government to close the loophole in their smoking ban proposals that would permit certain pubs and bars to allow smoking. I hope that my noble friend will say some helpful words on this point when she responds.

Reference has already been made to the pending ban on smoking in Scotland, the decision of the National Assembly for Wales to end smoking in public places and the introduction of a smoke-free law in Ireland in March last year. That law has proved to be a major health success, has overwhelming public support and is widely observed. Independent research conducted in March this year on behalf of the Irish trade union, Mandate, showed that 94 per cent of bar workers in Ireland had experienced little or no difficulty in implementing the smoke-free workplace law in the first year of operation. The research also showed that 87 per cent of bar workers supported the law, a similar percentage felt that the law had already had a positive impact on their health and 90 per cent felt that in the long-term it would have a positive impact on their health.

I hope that both these Bills have a smooth passage. We have a responsibility to provide people at work with as safe a working environment as we can. That is what these Bills do and they deserve the support of your Lordships' House.

9.35 pm

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