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Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, I call the attention of the House to the fact that the Bill before us is not the Bill which appeared in the Labour Party manifesto; nor is it the Bill which the Government presented to Parliament in accordance with that manifesto. We are discussing a Bill that goes much further than the Government wanted and much further than the people voted for. When people are discussing this Bill they should take that into account.
 
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Secondly, I support the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Russell-Johnston. I think that it is too weak, but it is better than nothing. I support it for the reasons that he and other noble Lords have given. There has been a witch hunt against smokers for a long time. It is now continuing apace and in a completely irrational way, because in spite of what people have said about ventilation it is possible to separate smokers from non-smokers in public places. Modern ventilation techniques are very efficient in cleaning air; they are used in factories, offices and aircraft. Why on earth, if they can be used in such situations, they cannot be used in social situations—in restaurants and public houses—I simply do not know.

I believe that the agenda is completely and utterly different and that the junk evidence that is given is designed to demonise smokers in order that eventually we can have a smoking ban. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, envisaged exactly that when he said that he would like to see smoking banned in the home. So there is a different agenda.

On the evidence, which of course is statistical only, we are told that we should listen to the doctors. Well, of course we should—but doctors are not always right. There is adequate evidence to show that doctors are often very wrong indeed. There are 5,000 cases a year of medical negligence in hospitals, so we know that they are not always right. What is more, there is no clinical evidence to tie passive smoking to a higher death rate in many of the diseases claimed. The evidence is totally statistical, so why should we be told to listen to the doctors rather than the statisticians? And, of course, the statisticians are much divided on this: of 147 studies undertaken, only 24 have shown any statistical evidence at all that passive smoking represents any real danger, so even the statistical evidence must really be examined very closely.

I come back to the question of separation. It can and should be done, and this amendment enables it to be done. The noble Lord, Lord Turnberg, is qualified, I appreciate that—

Noble Lords: Oh!

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, I cannot see why that is amusing. When I throw a compliment to one of my colleagues, why should that be considered amusing? I meant it as a serious compliment, and I hope that the noble Lord will take it as such. But he did say that if we saw anybody spraying carcinogens into the atmosphere, we would be down on them. Well, there are about 35 million vehicles spraying carcinogens into the atmosphere every single day. What are we doing about them? Many people believe that the fumes from vehicle exhausts are far more dangerous than passive smoking and perhaps smoking itself. Indeed, the ODPM claims that some 20,000 people die every year from vehicle exhaust fumes. So why are we clamping down on smokers? The number of deaths estimated from passive smoking even by those in favour of this Bill amounts to about 600 a year, not 20,000.
 
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I believe that noble Lords are being misled by this Bill and many of the arguments put forward for it. It is a totally illiberal Bill; it is, in its present form, unnecessary. If the Government had brought forward the proposals contained in the manifesto and agreed by the people, there would have been little argument about it. They have not, and for that reason I shall support the noble Lord's amendment and, indeed, some others, which I hope will come later.

4 pm

Lord Tebbit: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, was just a little ahead of himself in the context of the amendments and was really rather pointing towards a later amendment about smoking in clubs. That will come later in the evening. I certainly look forward to it, because I look forward to the noble Lord telling noble Lords on this side of the House that we ought to vote against the Labour manifesto. This is a nice occasion. Having been told so frequently recently that it is very wicked to vote against the Labour Party's manifesto, tonight we will be told that it is very good to vote against it. I will save that touch of enjoyment for later.

I certainly enjoyed the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Walton, who spoke of the curious way in which lawyers insult those with whom they disagree. He then went on, in his own way, to say that it was inconceivable that the committee chaired by my noble friend Lord Wakeham could have reached the conclusions that it did. It is not only conceivable; it is a fact that it reached those conclusions. I worry when medical experts use the English language in such a sloppy manner as to say that something is inconceivable, when it has not only been conceived, but done.

Of course, doctors are, we all agree, extremely useful technicians, but they are not always right. If I were a statistician, I could observe that 100 per cent of patients who go to doctors die. This is statistical fact. I am surprised that on this Bill somebody has not by now ridden away with statistics of that degree of idiocy. The medical consensus of today is sometimes the medical heresy of tomorrow—and, very frequently, vice versa.

What worries me in all this is the attitude of the Government. We have not heard what the Minister is going to say today, but some of us who were in Grand Committee have heard a bit of it. If I am right—I am sure the Minister will indicate immediately if I am wrong—this Bill does not apply to prisons. Despite everything that has been said by supporters of the Bill and supporters of the Government about the monstrous injustice of condemning people to work in dangerous conditions, warders, who are government servants, will be required to work in public places. Is a prison a public place? It is a bit hard to distinguish just how public it is these days, as people come and go.

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Lord Warner): My Lords, I just wanted to see how far the noble Lord would go. I watched him going agreeably along this path. If he reads the Bill, he will see that
 
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there will be discussions about how the Bill will apply to prisons. I wanted to see whether the noble Lord had read the Bill and understood the explanatory memorandum. It is quite clear that he has not.

Lord Tebbit: My Lords, I always come here looking for guidance from Ministers about legislation. It is a bit rough when you say to a Minister "Have I understood this correctly?" and he says "I am going to stay mum". What is certain is that this Bill does not apply to prisons in the way that it would apply to clubs, pubs and restaurants.

Lord Warner: My Lords, it does not apply to old people's homes in the same way, either. There are all sorts of other places akin to the home where there are different arrangements. That is why it is an extremely well structured Bill.

Lord Tebbit: My Lords, it is interesting that a prison is seen as being akin to somebody's home. It is quite extraordinary. It is also akin to somebody's place of work. However, I will let the Minister argue his way out of his own convoluted legislation. As a non-smoker myself—I have always been a non-smoker—it is a great pity that the medical profession and the Government have not been more assiduous in bringing forward information that would help us to make our minds up about these things.

I mentioned in Grand Committee that the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, and I, having shared the same profession years ago, sat on the flight decks of civil aeroplanes for many long hours over many years, almost always in the company of smokers. I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, is a smoker but I, as a non-smoker, certainly had to put up with an awful lot of smoke—and so did all of my colleagues. All our medical records are held by the Civil Aviation Authority, which has watched our health through all our years. It would not be difficult to follow us up since we retired. It would be simplicity itself to look at those statistics and establish the facts with that perfect control group. Wonderful!

When I wrote to the Chief Medical Officer to suggest that he might do that, he said that he did not think it would be helpful. When one offers such information in that way and is told that it is unhelpful, the question in my mind is, "Unhelpful to whom, or to what?" Is it unhelpful to rational debate, or to the irrational debate that the Government have produced to justify large parts of this Bill?


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