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Baroness O'Cathain: My Lords, I draw the attention of the noble Lord—who quoted a letter from AIR—to paragraph 63 of the brief prepared for us by the Smokefree Action people, which says that research by D Kotzias and others at the European Commission Joint Research Centre's INDOORTRON facility concluded that,

this is the important part—

We should not take what various people say for granted, but go back to the experts. These are the experts. I am that sure the noble Lord has also received the same briefings as we all have.

Lord Walton of Detchant: My Lords, many of the arguments put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Russell-Johnston, and others are based on the view expressed by a number of noble Lords in Grand Committee that passive smoking carries very little, if any, health risk. When a lawyer says, "With respect", he means, "I do not agree with you"; when he says, "With great respect", he means, "You are talking nonsense"; and when he says, "With the greatest possible respect", he means, "You have gone off your head". With the greatest possible respect to the very distinguished Members of your Lordships' Economic Affairs Select Committee, I find the remarks made in its recently published report quite extraordinary and, indeed, inconceivable.

The evidence that has been accumulated over the past five years has become increasingly powerful in demonstrating the devastating effect that passive smoking may have on the health of those exposed to it. Second-hand smoke is now classified as a class A substance—a known human carcinogen—by the US Environmental Protection Agency. Other class A carcinogens include asbestos, arsenic, benzene and radon. About 50 international studies of second-hand smoke and lung cancer risk in people who have never smoked have been published over the past 25 years. Most recently, in 2004, the World Health Organisation's International Agency for Research on Cancer reviewed the literature and concluded that second-hand smoke is cancer causing and that non-smokers living with smokers increase their lung cancer risk by approximately 20 per cent for women and 30 per cent for men. For non-smokers exposed in the workplace, the risk of lung cancer is increased by 16 to 19 per cent. The Government's own advisory
 
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committee on the effects of smoking, the Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health, concluded that there is an increased risk of lung cancer for non-smokers of about 24 per cent.

In Grand Committee, a noble Lord referred to the fact that Sir Richard Doll was quoted some time ago as saying that active smoking was harmful, but that second-hand smoke did not worry him. He said that as a throwaway remark when being interviewed on Radio 4's "Desert Island Discs" in February 2001. I knew Richard Doll very well and, some years ago, I had the privilege of succeeding him as warden of Green College, Oxford. In February 2005, just a month or two before he died, he wrote:

and incontrovertible. He continued:

The evidence to the effect that to create smoking and non-smoking areas in places where food is served may overcome that risk is not at all convincing. All the medical bodies that I have consulted, and a huge number of public bodies acting on behalf of the communities in which they live, have come to the conclusion that that will not be an effective solution to the problem and that the only way in which the public at large and the workers in the catering and public house industries can be protected is by banning smoking entirely in those enclosed spaces. For that reason, I certainly could not support the amendment, particularly as recent public surveys have, in response to questionnaire exercises, indicated that across the country, and particularly in my native north-east of England, where the problem is very serious, more than 70 per cent of the public at large wish to see this ban imposed, as in the Bill that stands before us for consideration.

Lord Monson: My Lords, with the greatest respect to my noble friend Lord Walton, I believe that the committee chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, is broadly right. Experts can probably be found to advance a different point of view from those cited by the noble Lord and the noble Baroness, but we should look at the empirical evidence. I would guess that almost everyone in this Chamber today was born before 1955. Anyone born between, let us say, 1925 and 1955 would inevitably have been brought up surrounded by smoke, as everybody smoked in almost every public place and many people smoked at home as well, but we are all here, fit and well.

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, has the noble Lord ever been to a hospital and seen the effects of passive smoking on people?

Lord Monson: My Lords, I do not think that anybody has ever had a death certificate with the
 
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words "passive smoking" on it. I agree that heavy, active smoking is dangerous—although not everybody is affected by it because it depends on one's genes—but the danger of passive smoking is, as yet, unproven. There is bound to be a slight risk, but I do not think that it is very great.

To return to the amendment, the Minister will no doubt argue that the amendments are too narrowly drawn and therefore somewhat illogical. Why confine the Liberal approach—using "liberal" in both senses of the term—to places where food is served? I would agree, but that can easily be rectified at Third Reading or when the Bill returns to the other place. The principle is the important point. Under the arrangement proposed by the amendment, all employees would be protected from risk because no permission would be granted unless the room was totally segregated and sealed off and there was ventilation. That answers the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Walton. That protection would be at the cost of minor inconvenience to smokers, because they would either have to collect their food from a buffet and carry it to the smoking area, or there would have to be an updated version of the 19th century dumb waiter if they wanted to smoke at the table. Actually, I believe that in 90 per cent of cases people would not wish to smoke at the table and would be perfectly happy to eat their meal with non-smokers and then retire to a separate smoking room for a cigarette or cigar, coffee and, possibly, something stronger. In that way, although the restaurant, pub or hotel would have had to go to some trouble and expense to provide a fully sealed and well ventilated smoking room, everybody ends up a winner and there are no losers.

Rather than tamely following in the footsteps of New York City, California and a couple of other places in the United States that seem to have been seized by a modern form of puritan zealotry in matters of health, reminiscent of the disastrous experiment of prohibition about 80 years ago, we would do far better to emulate the Scandinavians. Indeed, the Government's marginally more liberal original proposals went, to some extent, in that direction before they were messed up on the Floor of the other place. Nobody could accuse the Scandinavians of being politically incorrect or in the slightest degree lax where health and safety are concerned; they are quite the contrary. Yet even the Scandinavians recognise that smokers deserve a fair deal and therefore they allow separate smoking rooms and smoking areas, provided that they are fully segregated. In that way, nobody loses out. That is surely far more in tune with our tradition of fair play than the puritanical absolutism we see across the Atlantic, an absolutism that is quite unnecessary for the purpose of protecting employees.

3.30 pm


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