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Lord Redesdale: As a non-smoker, I can well understand the noble Lord's motivation in tabling the amendment. There are obviously health implications of smoking in pubs. However, we do not support the amendment. I shall not give the detailed reasoning, as the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, has already done so, but we believe that such regulation should be part of the role of the Health and Safety Executive rather than part of this Bill.
Lord Skelmersdale: My noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, have responded to the amendment in moderate terms. I have been known to lose my temper on this subject inside and outside the Chamber. I do not intend to do so today.
My noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, are absolutely right. Knowing the background of the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, described in Dod's as a liaison Peer to the Cabinet Office, I was amazed that he tabled these amendments to the Bill. As my noble friend on the Front Bench saidor almost saidthe Bill was originally sold to us as a flagship deregulation Bill. It contains a lot of balancing of retained regulation on one side and easing on the other. It retains the need to maintain public order and safety. The amendments would be an unnecessary addition to the regulatory burden. I agree with everything that my noble friend said about smoking in the workplace.
The charter was agreed between the Department of Health and originally fivenow 14hospitality trade associations. It is very new, having come into effect only in 1999. The noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, mentioned 2003, which is when the first targets should have been achieved. The targets are that half the pubs and some restaurants must be signed by early 2003, in fewer than 65 per cent of which smoking would be allowed throughout. The noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, doubted whether that would be achieved. However,
Although the targets will not be exceeded, I have no doubt that over the next three or four years we shall find that around 80 per cent of pubs and restaurants will, at the very least, have smoke-free areas. At best, we shall find a significant number being totally smoke free. I accept that there is a public demand for improved air quality generally. As the noble Lord said, the charter is a voluntary agreement; but, as my noble friend said, it has the approval of the Secretary of State for Health. I believe that it will actually achieve its objectives.
I do not believe that anyone on this side of the Committee has spoken about Amendment No. 90. It is a very worrying trend when the state seems to know better than parents what is good for their children. I hope the noble Lord will accept that it is good for children to be with their parents, whether in pubs, restaurants, or anywhere else. Indeed, as I understand it, this is part of the thinking behind the Bill. Surely it should be for parents to decide where the family sits in a public restaurant; it should not be a matter of law. It follows, therefore, that it should not be a licensing condition.
Baroness Gibson of Market Rasen: I do not want my noble friend to feel that he is the only person in the Committee with such views, so I rise to support him. My noble friend outlined the reasoning behind these amendments. Therefore, I do not propose to reiterate the points that he made. I shall merely say that I wholeheartedly support the amendments, especially Amendment No. 78, which gives protection relating to the health, safety, and welfare of those working in licensed premises. At present, workers in this industry do not have a choice as to whether or not they work in smoke-free areas. I accept that there are provisions in other Acts that currently cover such workers, but, unfortunately, they are outstandingly inadequate. The proposed provisions would further protect workers in licensed premises.
I do not believe that these proposals represent a backdoor method of banning smoking in pubsI only wish that they did. I used to enjoy a drink in a pub. But, as I have become older and seem to be more and more affected by cigarette smoke, I can no longer do so. We shall have to wait for another day for such a ban. Indeed, we have been waiting for the ACoP for four years. I worked on the ACoP when I served as a health and safety commissioner. I do not know why we are still waiting. I have my suspicions, but I shall not verse them today. I support the amendments.
Lord Geddes: I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester, on two counts: first, I congratulate him on the impeccable and lucid way in which he read his brief, which was masterly. Secondly, I congratulate him on managing to keep a straight face
As the late Lord Benson once said, "Everything that I wish to say has been said". But just to reinforce my argument, I should point out to the noble Lord that if he wishes to bring in legislation of this type, Clause 1 is not the place to do so; neither is this the right Bill for such provisions.
Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: Before I speak to the amendments, perhaps I may declare an interest for the purpose of this Committee stage; namely, that I am a non-executive director of a large regional brewer, which operates 1,500 pubs countrywide, including the famous Pitcher & Piano in Westminsterthe subject of a good deal of publicity of which noble Lords may be aware. I quite understand the objectives that the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, has put forward. If he were to use the words, "discourage people from smoking", I could understand his argument, especially where passive smoking is involved. But I share the view that this is not the way to achieve the discouragement that the noble Lord outlined as his objective.
However, I can offer the noble Lord, my noble friend Lord Skelmersdale, and the noble Baroness, Lady Gibson, some comfort. Within the estate that we operate there is clearly a continuing and rising tide of public opinion in favour of smoke-free areas and the view that the number should be increased. Therefore, market forces and public opinion are on the noble Lord's side. That must be the way to achieve the objective, because we would arrive at the desired point with complete consent. Everyone would buy into the solution that had been found, which is better than trying to impose an anti-smoking provision in licensing legislation and, at the same time, increasing the regulatory burden on both the operator of the pub and licence holder of the premises.
Where attempts have been made to widen the smoke-free areas too far and too fast because of a vocal minority, there has been a backlash from smokers who believe that they, too, have rights. This proposal would put the personal licence holder, the premises licence holder, or the brewer, into the frontline of a battle of public opinion, which would not be fair on any of them. It is up to the legislature to set the framework; it should not be passed down the line and left to people on the frontline to arbitrate and address.
Baroness Blackstone: Perhaps I may begin by responding to the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, about the groupings of amendments. This is always an issue, and the Opposition have the right to degroup when they believe it to be necessary. However, my officials put forward these groups in good faith, in the belief that that was the best way to organise the debate. I do not believe that the extent of the degrouping carried out by the noble Baroness will help the debate, though I completely sympathise with some degrouping. We have a great many single groups that seem to deal with more or less the same issue.
Baroness Buscombe: I am grateful to the Minister, but surely it is the job of officials to help all of us in terms of the way that these groupings are presented. To group this debate with the whole transfer of the licensing system from magistrates to local authorities indicates, perhaps, the depth of misunderstanding of the Bill, which is most disturbing. It simply does not make sense when we are dealing with a Bill that has been coming towards the statute book for two-and-a-half years.
We have degrouped considerably because we believe that the Bill is worthy of full debate. The way that the original groupings were drafted was, to be honest, frankly dismissive of so many of the important issues that have been raised by both individuals and organisations. We have been lobbied extensively on this legislation. We believe that it is right for it to be properly scrutinised.
Baroness Blackstone: I am most puzzled by what the noble Baroness says about the group that we are debating at this stage. In its original form, this group was smaller rather than larger in size. It certainly did not have anything in it about transport. There is some misunderstanding in this respect. I saw the groupings that were put forward yesterday, and this first group of amendments was smaller. It did not refer to Amendment No. 90, which has since been perfectly legitimately added.
I must defend my officials. The groupings originally put forward were designed to enable a sensible debate to take place, without the need to repeat the same argument endlessly. That was the intention. The Opposition have a right to disagree, and they have done so. However, it is not fair to my officials to suggest that they approached the matter on any other basis than in good faith to promote the best possible debate. I am sure that Members on all sides of the Committee who have served as Ministers will accept that that is the case. I hope we can proceed on that basis, with that shared common understanding.
I turn to the amendments. As my noble friend Lord Faulkner said, Amendments Nos. 1, 78 and 90 seek to address concerns about smoking on licensed premises and the protection of those who work on such premises. Smoking is an issue that should be taken seriously. I take it very seriously, as I know do many other noble Lords. On a number of fronts, the Government are considering whether sufficient controls are in place to protect customers and employees in venues where people smoke. However, this Bill is not about smoking. I entirely agreed with the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, when she set out very clearly that this Bill is not about smoking. On that she was also supported by her colleagues on the Conservative Benches and by the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale .
I share some of the views of my noble friends Lord Faulkner and Lady Gibson and the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale. I am not a smoker and I do not like going into pubs full of smoke. I absolutely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, that public opinion has been shifting quite dramatically and that the market itself will lead ever more pubs to want to restrict smoking. I think that he will have more customers in the pub chain where he is a non- executive director if that organisation moves in that direction. I am sorry that I do not know the story about the pub in Westminster, but perhaps on another occasion he can tell me and other noble Lords who are a little curious about what went on there.
As my noble friend Lord Faulkner said, one way in which we are already addressing public smoking in pubs and bars is through the public places charter to which various speakers have referred. The charter is a Department of Health initiative focusing on the link between smoking, drinking and eating. It does not ban outright the right to smoke in various premises, but it has provided a number of helpful practical solutions to smoking issues in what are known as "hospitality venues" in England and Wales, making it possible for customers to know whether the premises have smoke-free areas and the quality of the ventilation provided.
I have not seen the statistics quoted by my noble friend Lord Faulkner. However, I am inclined to agree with the comment of the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, that much progress is being made, and rather more than he suggested. The noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, also mentioned that and quite rightly pointed out that, as the targets do not have to be reached until next year, there is still quite a lot more time for people to put in place better provision for those who prefer to be in a non-smoking environment. I think that he quoted a figure of 80 per cent of pubs responding. I cannot comment on that as I do not yet know the figures, and I am not sure that we yet have figures on which we can rely.
I tell my noble friend Lord Faulkner that the Good Practice Guide issued by the Magistrates' Association and the Justices' Clerks' Society advises the licensing justices not to set conditions that generally relate to health. I think that we should be absolutely clear about that. The Good Practice Guide states that these matters are properly for local authorities under their responsibilities for environmental health and are not properly dealt with in a licensing context. I think that we should all expect local authorities to take seriously their duties under other legislation such as environmental health law about health and safety matters, and I believe that they do.
The Bill's four licensing objectives were developed after extensive and detailed consultation with stakeholders. From the first consultation, and including the Government's White Paper, it was made clear that the purposes of the licensing regime needed to be absolutely clear and focused. The result of consultation was to choose for that clear focus the prevention of disturbance and disorder, as well as ensuring public safety wherever possible in places
Amendment No. 90 would require licensing authorities to have regard to the need to exclude children from areas of licensed premises where smoking is permitted. For exactly the same reason as we do not believe that the regulation of smoking on premises where other licensable activities take place should be included in the Bill, I am not able to accept this amendment. However, I am ready to consider what more might be done to bolster the charter we have discussed, to discuss this with my right honourable and honourable friends in the Department of Health, and, in particular, to encourage its adoption by the licensed trade. I am sure that there will be general agreement across the Committee on that.
Lord Faulkner of Worcester: I am most grateful to everyone who has spoken. I particularly appreciate the comments of my noble friend Lady Gibson and the reply just now from my noble friend the Minister. This is an issue that will not go away. It is clear from the tone of all the contributions that the climate on smoking in public places, in licensed premises and indeed elsewhere, is changing steadily; on that the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, is absolutely correct. I would expect that the climate will have changed sufficiently for the great majority of businesses to realise that it is good commercial practice to provide properly for those who dislike the smell and taste of other people's tobacco smoke.
The purpose of moving and speaking to these amendments was to give a helping hand to my friends at the Department of Health who are desperately attempting to secure a proper tobacco control policy in this country. I pay tribute to what they are doing. The Answers that they are giving to parliamentary Questions and other Statements in this place and in the other place show that they are absolutely on the right lines. These amendments were a contribution, I thought, to joined-up government.
I should like to pick up one or two of the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale. I am pleased that he did not lose his temper this morning; he is an agreeable and equable character most of the time. I do, however, have to make the point about children and adults. Of course I am not suggesting that children should be separated from adults when they go into licensed premises. What I am saying is that, because of the damage which we know that passive smoke does to children, adults should be persuaded not to smoke in front of their children. Clearly that cannot be enforced at home, but it does not appear to be an unreasonable aspiration in public places and in licensed premises.