Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Patel: My Lords, I was not going to go with the argument that my medical colleagues have already put across in case I was accused of colluding with my fellow medics.

It is true that doctors make mistakes, but I defy anyone to produce evidence that, on balance, they do more harm than good—I look forward to receiving that evidence from the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart. It seems to me that those who are against the Bill accept the evidence that suggests that there is genuine harm not only from smoking but from second-hand smoke. They might not accept the level of the ill effects but they accept that there is harm.

So the argument now concerns choice and whether effective ventilation can be put in place to separate smokers and non-smokers. But whose choice are we talking about? Even the Economics Affairs Committee report states that the majority of the population by far is in favour of legislation to ban smoking in enclosed public places. When it comes to ventilation, the noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, gave the evidence: the kind of ventilation required to remove even 90 per cent of the harmful effects of second-hand smoke would be equivalent to that found in a wind tunnel. That is why ventilation is not being implemented in Italy and other countries where it was thought that it would work, and the cost would be prohibitive. So those who argue on the basis of choice and of ventilation being effective do not have a cogent argument. I shall not rehearse the health argument. I said before Second Reading that it is rather like burying your head in the sand. I was challenged on that, but that is what it is and I do not need to go over that argument.

Viscount Simon: My Lords, I shall be very brief. I got asthma 12 years ago. We have heard numerous noble Lords talking about passive smoking and about how it can be harmful in certain ways but not always necessarily so. I am the only person here who can give practical examples of what happens to a person in my position. If I am in a car on a motorway travelling at 70 miles an hour with the windows closed and the ventilation turned off and a car overtakes me, and I can see not only that it is exceeding the speed limit but that the driver is smoking a cigar, I will have an asthma attack. I will have to take Ventolin as well as numerous other things. If my windows are open, it is likely that I will have to stop and that the paramedics will have to come very quickly indeed as I will be very ill.
19 Jun 2006 : Column 534

The noble Lord, Lord Palmer, who is sitting in his place, has known this in the past when he used to smoke cigars. Passive smoking is a killer. It can kill. It could kill me. I am led to believe that one in five children nowadays has to use an inhaler because of asthma and passive smoking. We are also ignoring them today, as it is the quality of their lives as well as ours. The amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Russell-Johnston, refers to definitely separated areas. What happens when the doors open? My definition of a smoking area and a non-smoking area has always been that the non-smoking area is a place where smoke is present but smokers are not.

Lord Cobbold: My Lords, I support the amendment. I am not a smoker, but it is important to resist the advance of the nanny state. It is a matter of individual choice, and it is important that the amendment should be accepted.

Baroness Barker: My Lords, I rise to sum up on behalf of our Front Bench on this matter. The noble Lord, Lord Walton, presented me with a problem because I wish to start by putting on record my genuine and long-held admiration for my noble friend Lord Russell-Johnston. In the past 25 years, he is one of the people whose speeches I have followed with great care; they were always of great interest to me when he was expanding on liberalism and the need for liberals to stand up for unpopular subjects. I am sorry to be the person on the Front Bench with whom he disagrees.

The noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy of Lour, asked about the Liberal view, and rightly cited the actions of my colleagues in the Scottish Executive. The liberal view was best put by John Stuart Mill in chapter three of On Liberty, when he said:

As the noble Lord, Lord Walton of Detchant, made clear, the evidence on passive smoking is becoming clearer all the time. I accept that some of the criticism of the Economic Affairs Committee has perhaps been overstated, but as the noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, said, it is becoming increasingly evident from research that passive smoking has a harmful effect. I do not wish to go back over the arguments on ventilation because they have been adequately explained by others this afternoon, but I shall return to the question of choice.

In our social life people are now becoming not only used to not smoking in public spaces, but are increasingly expectant that public spaces will be non-smoking. As the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, graphically showed, there are some people for whom there is no choice but to enter a public place to partake of an enjoyable social life with other people. There is always the choice for somebody who wishes to smoke to go outside, and increasingly they do so. Two weeks ago I was in Ireland where an unambiguous complete
19 Jun 2006 : Column 535
ban has been implemented. It is fair to say that it has been successful mostly because of its simplicity and clarity. Has it done irreparable harm to the social life of the Irish people? Absolutely not. There is no evidence of that whatever. In fact, it has possibly made it better. Pubs are now convivial places to which people go to enjoy extremely good food, and to which they can take children. The smoking ban has changed the nature of half of them.

There is a danger in my noble friend's amendment, in that it allows the potential to use the provision of food as a means of getting round the regulations. It thereby sets up and causes health inequalities which now exist, but may well be exaggerated if we have a loophole in the future over whether or not somewhere provides food and, if it does, what its means are.

To those who have talked about public opinion and, in particular, the nanny state, I say that it is increasingly evident that the private sector is well ahead of us on this. More and more coffee shops and restaurant chains are seeking to change their ways, way ahead of any legislation. Today's vote—as my colleagues will hope—to keep the Bill as it is will not be detrimental to choice or the economy. It will, however, make an important difference to addressing health inequalities. That is a fundamental role of the state.

4.30 pm

Lord Sandberg: My Lords, I was at school during the war, and about the only thing I learnt—because we were distracted by the probability of getting killed—was how to smoke. So I am rather sad that the one thing I learnt at school should now be so heinously voted against. My colleague's amendment is sensible and reasonable. I do not see why we should be killjoys in what we are doing today.

Of course, no one pretends that smoking is good for you but, if it gives pleasure to people, we should not takes their pleasure away.

Lord Warner: My Lords, before turning to the amendment's deficiencies, I must, on behalf of the Government, respond to one or two of the points made during what I can only describe as almost a Second Reading debate.

The provisions in Part 1 are based on robust evidence and the management of risk to health from second-hand smoke. Of course, important issues such as personal liberty and the regulation of business have been important in framing this policy. The risk to health, however, is the driving force behind this Bill. That is, ironically, the vital point that the Select Committee on Economic Affairs seems to gloss over in a slightly cavalier fashion.

The evidence of the health risks of second-hand smoke is now extremely well established. The single medical expert that the committee sought evidence from was indeed Professor Sir Richard Peto, who has already been described as a distinguished medical epidemiologist. He told the committee in his evidence that:
19 Jun 2006 : Column 536

The risk level is set out in the two reports of the Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health, of which Professor Sir Richard Peto is a member. In its 2004 report, the scientific committee concluded that there is an estimated overall 24 per cent increased risk of lung cancer in non-smokers exposed to second-hand smoke and a 25 per cent increased risk of heart disease. As a result, the committee advised that,

It was not just Caroline Flint who said that. She repeated that evidence of a committee, one of the members of which gave evidence to the Select Committee.

A number of noble Lords have, I suggest, rather pooh-poohed the evidence that I tried to set out on behalf of the Government in Committee. The evidence base is recognised not just in this country but internationally, not least by the 168 nations that are signatories to the World Health Organisation's framework convention on tobacco control. The evidence on the risk of second-hand smoke comes from across the world, and has been scrutinised and reviewed in great depth. The literature base is substantial and the WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer report, Tobacco smoke and involuntary smoking, published in 2004, reviewed all the evidence of the health risks associated with smoking and second-hand smoke. It is over 1,400 pages long. The evidence is absolutely overwhelming, whatever people choose to say.

A number of people, including the noble Lord, Lord Monson, have asked for choice and fair play. The Government are very interested in securing fair play for all those who suffer at the hands of second-hand smoke, such as all those with medical conditions like lung cancer, heart disease, asthma attacks, childhood respiratory disease and sudden instant death syndrome. Those are not myths; they are the facts of life in our country regarding people's exposure to second-hand smoke.

The noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, drew attention to the fact that his Select Committee's report was unanimous. I suppose that most noble Lords would pay tribute to his success as a Chief Whip in the past. I am not altogether surprised that he managed to achieve a unanimous report. He also drew attention, as have other noble Lords, to the fact that public bans on smoking may mean more smoking in the home.

Let me give the House the evidence on that. International experience provides no evidence to support the view that smoke-free legislation will encourage more people to smoke at home; we know that bans encourage smokers to give up or to reduce the number of cigarettes that they smoke, which is a beneficial secondary effect. We also know that seven out of 10 people who smoke say that they want to give up. We have assessed the impact that a ban on smoking in public places would have in reducing smoking prevalence: up to 650,000 people would be affected, which would, thereby, have a beneficial impact of
19 Jun 2006 : Column 537
reducing smoking at home. Indeed, evidence from New York suggests that 100,000 people have quit smoking since the ban was introduced there. Recent research, reported by the Royal College of Physicians in the publication Going smoke-free points to a statistically significant increase in the percentage of smokers who banned smoking in their own home after smoke-free laws were introduced.

Important research was published on 16 June in the Irish Medical Times, which reported a household survey that was conducted in Ireland before and after the introduction of smoke-free laws. Before the ban, 58 per cent of people allowed smoking in their homes, but after the workplace legislation came into effect, that figure fell to 50 per cent. The evidence points in absolutely the opposite direction as regards smoking in the home to that stated by a number of noble Lords.

Perhaps I can correct the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, who cited the Chief Medical Officer's failure to take up his suggestion about conducting a study among airline pilots. The Chief Medical Officer has responded that he did not think that that would be helpful, because the research proposed by the noble Lord would not have resulted in a study of a scientific calibre that could be relied on; there were good grounds for not accepting the helpful suggestion from the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page