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Business

3.06 pm

Lord Grocott: My Lords, with the leave of the House, a Statement will be repeated this afternoon on the European Council, June 2006. It will be delivered by my noble friend the Leader and will be taken at a convenient time after four o'clock.

Leicester City Council Bill

Read a second time, and committed to a Select Committee.

Liverpool City Council Bill

Read a second time, and committed to a Select Committee.

Maidstone Borough Council Bill

Read a second time, and committed to a Select Committee.


 
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National Health Service Bill [HL]

3.07 pm

The Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs and Lord Chancellor (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.

The Bill is the first of three linked Bills in my name on the Order Paper. If I may, I shall speak to them together and then move the second and third Motions formally. I am grateful to those at the Law Commission and the Department of Health who have worked on all three Bills.

The National Health Service Bill relates to the health service in England. Its structure refers to health service bodies, services, conditions, consultation and scrutiny committees.

The National Health Service (Wales) Bill is structured in much the same way. It sets out the promotion and provision of the health service in Wales, followed by discrete parts focused on the structure of the National Health Service in Wales, local authorities and the National Health Service, primary care services, and charging.

This is part of the Government's programme of consolidation, and consolidation is part of the Government's better regulation agenda. It makes the law easier to use and understand, and it improves the statute book and saves time and money for those who have to consult it.

The third Bill is the National Health Service (Consequential Provisions) Bill. It makes provision for repeals, revocations, consequential amendments, transitional and transitory modifications and savings in connection with the consolidation of National Health Service law in England and Wales. Although this Bill is an essential part of the consolidation, it is not, strictly speaking, itself a consolidation Bill; rather, it is ancillary to the other two Bills. As such, there has to be a specific Motion to refer it to the Joint Committee. I am very grateful for the work of the Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills in supporting the consolidation of statutes that affect so many people in England and Wales.

If your Lordships are content to give the National Health Service Bill a Second Reading, it will of course be subject to consideration by the Joint Committee, to which this and the National Health Service (Wales) Bill will be referred in the usual way. The National Health Service (Consequential Provisions) Bill will be referred to the other place before making its way to the Committee. I commend the first Bill to the House and beg to move.

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

On Question, Bill read a second time, and referred to the Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills.
 
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National Health Service (Wales) Bill [HL]

The Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs and Lord Chancellor (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.

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

On Question, Bill read a second time, and referred to the Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills.

National Health Service (Consequential Provisions) Bill [HL]

The Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs and Lord Chancellor (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): My Lords, I have already spoken to this Bill—on more than one occasion. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.

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

On Question, Bill read a second time.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I beg to move that the third Bill in my name be referred to the Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to; and a message was ordered to be sent to the Commons to acquaint them therewith.

Health Bill

3.13 pm

Report received.

Clause 2 [Smoke-free premises]:

Lord Russell-Johnston moved Amendment No. 1:

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the amendment that I am moving is essentially the same as that moved by my noble friend and colleague Lord Steel when the Committee met under the calculating eye of Moses on the wall. Unfortunately, my noble friend has a lunch engagement in Edinburgh, connected with cancer research, oddly enough, so I am standing in for him. I hope that he will be here later.

The amendment must be read in conjunction with the new clause, in which there is a small change—the word "adequate" having been removed before the word "ventilation". While "adequate" is a word that is understood in common sense, it appears to have no clear legal definition.

The amendment is about choice, which I regard as being fundamental to a liberal society. Having spent much of the weekend reading the Official Report of the Committee stage, I believe that the clear distinction between those who support my amendment and
 
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related later ones and those who do not is our wish to provide choice and the Government's intention to deny it. The Government are, I am sad to say, supported by my own Front Bench, which in my 42 years in Parliament I have never previously opposed but now very firmly do so.

This is not a divide between smokers and non-smokers; it is about the rights of both. I support many non-smokers who want to find a fair way forward. People like me who are equally aware of the more harmful effects of excessive drinking do not preach prohibition. It is one of the moral contradictions of previous and proposed legislation, as the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, has often pointed out, that at the same time as imposing draconian laws preventing smoking we are easing restrictions on drinking. The number of deaths from alcoholism is about the same as that from smoke-induced cancer, but the pain, misery and crime related to drinking exceeds that related to smoking by 100 per cent.

In my opinion, the whole Government case rests on poorly substantiated arguments about the supposed dangers of passive smoking. Having looked at the evidence on display, I suspect that going into a room in which three or four people are smoking puts you at rather less risk than walking down Victoria Street. The noble Lord, Lord Harris of High Cross, has written an excellent pamphlet, Smoking out the Truth. I quote only the British Medical Journal's publication of the work of the American Cancer Society, which tracked 118,000 Californians over 40 years and concluded that the results did not support the existence of a causal relationship between passive smoking and tobacco-related mortality. More recently, we have the report of our own Select Committee on Economic Affairs on responses to risk. It said that,

I mention passive smoking right at the beginning of our debate because the issue affects every aspect of the Government's proposals and the Government's case is clearly not scientifically substantiated. My amendment is nevertheless an attempt to compromise, suggesting a solution in which the risk of passive smoking—if risk there indeed be—is removed by the provision of physically separate smoking and non-smoking areas in restaurants. The amendment also stresses that the smoking areas should be well ventilated. A letter that I have received from AIR states:

I question the view cited by my noble friend Lord Clement-Jones, who is not with us today, that there is no such thing as adequate ventilation. Effective ventilation basically means air displacement and replacement; therefore, there is such a thing. This amendment, if implemented, would in no way detract from the Government's intentions to isolate smoking, even though I consider their argument ill founded. It
 
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would, however, protect freedom of choice and uphold the rights of smokers and non-smokers alike. I beg to move.


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