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Lord Walton of Detchant: My Lords, I confess that as a lover of the more delicate nuances of the English language, I was a little dismayed earlier when the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, accused me of using sloppy terminology. At least he did not go as far as Disraeli, who referred to Gladstone as someone who was inebriated by the exuberance of his own verbosity.

I confess that in referring to the report of the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, I should have used a word a little less pejorative than "inconceivable". As I said at the time, I believe that it is remarkable—in fact, astonishing—that, in talking about the effects of second-hand smoke, a report produced by such an outstanding committee of your Lordships' House should include the remark,

Today we have heard much about the effects that second-hand smoke may have on those who are exposed to it. The scientific evidence is incontrovertible. In response to what the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, said, there are more than 50 peer-reviewed publications in major journals, many of them supported by very well organised statistical evidence.

Lord Vinson: My Lords, in talking about passive smoking, can the noble Lord clarify whether he is talking about someone popping into a smoky room with a plate of sandwiches and coming out again and going in at the end of the evening to clear up for five minutes, or is he talking about someone living perpetually in a smoky atmosphere during working
 
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hours? The nature of the malady is completely affected by the duration that one is subjected to an amount of smoke. The noble Lord is talking about the kind of people referred to under this amendment, who will pop in and out, delivering a plate of sandwiches in a club, as though they were going to have their lives threatened by living in a continuously smoky atmosphere. But here we are talking about very intermittent contact with smoke—casual exposure to passive smoking and not continuous exposure to passive smoking. I believe that scientifically the two things are quite different.

6.15 pm

Lord Walton of Detchant: My Lords, I have in my documentation—I shall not go into it in detail—evidence to show that research that is being undertaken in London has demonstrated that anyone in a London cab, who may be exposed to smoking as the cab is stopped in a traffic jam, is exposed to a significant number of particles of smoke. Even walking past someone who is smoking in the road exposes one to a minimal amount of exposure to particles. But no one can argue that that kind of exposure is harmful.

However, while I would support, without any reservation whatever, the right of any individual to smoke as much as he wishes when alone and not in the proximity of any other persons, I do not believe that we have the right to smoke in the presence of other people in any kind of enclosed space, such as a restaurant, a pub or a private club, and to impose that health risk on other individuals, not least the staff.

There are 20,000 licensed members clubs in England, covering a wide range of interests from sport and recreational clubs to political and working men's clubs. Exemptions for private members' clubs would be unworkable and unjust for all the same reasons as exemptions for pubs. Once the health and safety case and public health benefits are accepted, it is not possible to allow an effective compromise for private members' clubs as the staff of those clubs must be protected.

In Grand Committee I said that I had carried out a very limited range of inquiries. I had inquired about the feelings of the staff in two London clubs—namely, the Athenaeum and the Oxford and Cambridge Club. They said that unequivocally they would wish to see those clubs smoke free. I also inquired at two golf clubs, one of which is my own golf club in north Northumberland, Bamburgh Castle Golf Club, which the noble Lord, Lord Vinson, knows very well. It has a large bar where food, including sandwiches, is served, and a dining room which, at the moment, is smoke free as smoking is banned there. There is no other room in which anyone can smoke and there is no way in which the bar can be divided without doing irreparable damage to it. A very large number of other clubs are in exactly the same situation.

It is unacceptable that members of clubs should have the right to vote to damage the health of members of their staff. Children are often present in such clubs
 
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and are at particular risk from second-hand smoke. Many private clubs are, in effect, bars competing with pubs in their local areas. Exempting them from smoke-free legislation would also create unfair competition and was strongly opposed by the pub and hospitality trade as well as by the health lobby when the Bill was debated in the Commons. I believe that we owe it to the staff of private members' clubs throughout England to stand by the clause that the Commons debated and included in the Bill and to reject the amendment.

Lord Tebbit: My Lords, I would not want the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, to think that I have fully joined his club. I do not find it inconceivable that the Government should have ratted on their manifesto commitment. That sort of thing goes on all the time. What I find not inconceivable—for inconceivable is not a pejorative word, but simply a statement of fact—but unusual and surprising is that the Government, who have been lecturing us, on this side of the House in particular, on the duty of the House of Lords not to vote against a manifesto commitment of the Government, are now arguing that we should vote against a manifesto commitment of the Government. The noble Lord, Lord Pendry, was extraordinarily kind to his own side in not putting down an amendment to put the Bill back to what the Government promised the electors they would do. I think he is very modest indeed and despite his modesty, I will support him up hill and down dale on this issue.

Let us put aside all the technicalities, the arguments about passive smoking, how good or bad it is for you and all the rest of it. Let us stick to the constitutional issue, which the Leader of the House and many other noble Lords on that side have pushed on us time and time again—that this House should not object to a Labour Party manifesto. I must confess that I might do at some time in the future, but not tonight.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My Lords, about 40 years ago, I failed to persuade the Law Lords that working men's clubs should be treated as public places for the purpose of colour bars. As a result of that, in the Race Relations Act 1976, the Government, whom I served, decided to overrule the Law Lords and ensure that a colour bar was unlawful, whether in a private members' club or otherwise. What I learnt from that experience is of some relevance today; it is the great difficulty in distinguishing between those clubs that are very private indeed—such as the Garrick Club, to which I used to belong—and clubs that are not very private but are still clubs in law, such as working men's clubs. There are thousands of working men's clubs and they are, in practice, but not in law, indistinguishable from pubs. If this amendment were passed, we can be quite sure that there would be a drift from pubs to working men's clubs.

Lord Naseby: My Lords, I have been a member of working men's clubs in Northampton. Some are large, some are very small. Believe me, one is not
 
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automatically allowed to join them. On occasion, they are every bit as difficult to get into as I believe the Garrick is.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My Lords, I am sure that is right, and it simply illustrates the difficulty. There are big clubs and little clubs; there are clubs that are bogus and some that are genuine; there are clubs that are really private; there are clubs that are snobbish and social and some that are not. But in law, they are identical. Were we to pass this amendment, we would simply add to the real practical difficulties that the noble Lord, Lord Walton, indicated.

Lord Skidelsky: My Lords, I support this amendment. I wish that I could persuade your Lordships, even your medical Lordships, to think about risk in a statistical manner. I know that this is a very boring subject which has nothing to do with manifesto commitments, but it is the essence of the rationale of the Bill. I accept that there is a risk from exposure to environmental tobacco smoke. The question is how big the risk is.

Let me go very briefly through just one argument. It is generally estimated that the risk of lung cancer among the general population is 1 per 10,000, which is 0.001 per cent. It has been argued that the risk among non-smokers exposed to environmental tobacco smoke goes up by 25 per cent. When that is bandied around, it sounds like a large number and looks like a significant increase. It is a significant increase in the risk, but from a very low base: a 25 per cent increase on 1 in 10,000, or 0.0025 per cent. If I now take the Minister's argument, accept that ventilation systems are not perfectly effective and assume that they are only 50 per cent effective, the risk of getting lung cancer from ETS falls to 0.00125 per cent. Let us look at it in millions, which may be a bit easier to understand. The risk of getting lung cancer among the general population is 100 per million. A 25 per cent increase in the risk brings it up to 125 per million. A 50 per cent reduction in the risk because of improved ventilation brings it down to 112.5 per million, and that is the risk of getting lung cancer, not dying from it. This is ordinary, simple statistical thinking.

However, the main point is that, given that the risk of lung cancer among the general population is so low, the increased risk is statistically insignificant. Technically, it falls within the margin of statistical error; that is, it is too low to register on the statistical radar screen. Now, on the basis of a statistically insignificant risk, people are to be forbidden by the state to set up genuine membership clubs that allow members to smoke. Even on the wildly unrealistic assumption made by the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, that membership clubs that allow smoking will be staffed entirely by non-smokers, the risk to non-smoking staff is so minute as not to be worth thinking about, at least by the Government. I accept that the avoidance of premature death is of high moral
 
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significance, but it should not necessarily be the object of public legislation. That is going over the top, which is why I support the amendment wholeheartedly.


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