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Baroness Boothroyd: My Lords, I rise to support the amendment so ably moved by the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon. He spoke with a good deal of common sense, tinged with a good deal of humour. I shall not weary your Lordships. We have all heard the arguments, not only during this debate but also over the past few years. I rise to ask one question on the report itself. I refer noble Lords to Page 4, Paragraph 12.
We all know the Writing Room. I use it, as do many other noble Lords. The Writing Room is a very large room in which no staff work at any time. It is a room in which no food is ever served. Coffee and tea are available while we read or write our notes, but the Writing Room is a do-it-yourself area. We serve ourselves drinks by means of a machine, and we place money in the box with our very own little hands. There is no one there to help us.
As the two principles which the committee highlighted and by which it reached its recommendations do not relate to the Writing Roomwhere there are no staff and no foodperhaps the Chairman of Committees will enlighten the House, and certainly me, on why it is now out of bounds to anyone who wants to smoke a cigarette there. I think that it would be a very wise move if we were to refer this whole matter back to the committee for reconsideration.
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Lord Borrie: My Lords, I must declare an interest as a member of the Refreshment Committee. I should also say that I am a non-smoker and have been since my days of military service, which are some 40 years ago and therefore do not really count. It is not surprising, therefore, that I am in favour of the principles set out in the report and that I am largely in favour of the conclusions. In fact, I would go further. I feel confirmed in that view by hearing the two noble Baronesses who spoke earlier to their amendments and mentioned specifically the Truro Room of the Library and the Peers' Guest Room.
As regards especially the Peers' Guest Room, I find it extraordinary that when I want to discuss a work-related matter with people or when I am entertaining people simply for the sake of entertaining them, the only place I can take them for a drink before lunch or dinner is somewhere which, especially at dinner time, is most unpleasant to any non-smoker. It is most unpleasant because the air and the curtains are such that it is intolerable. I always prayin the summertime, at any ratethat one might be able to take people to the Terrace and get a bit of air, which I suppose is fresh, from the Thames. At least that is an alternative.
I noticed that the noble Lord, Lord Palmer, I think, referred to the number of smoker Peers. I know quite a number of them, and I realise that there are quite a few active, diligent smoker Peers among us. I therefore do not go along with the more extreme view that smoking should be completely barred throughout the part of the parliamentary estate for which the House of Lords is responsible. Surely we do not want our smoker Peers to be pariahs. I would suggest to your Lordships that many smoker Peers have tried, and probably more than once, to give up. But they are addicts. They are, if I may say so, socially disabled people. I hope that they do not mind my saying so. We have to make some provision for them.
I was therefore much impressed by the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, in paragraph (c) of his amendment, where he refers specifically to the Bishops' Bar. It is not beyond the wit of man, or the expense to which we go in the summertime to improve our premises, for the Bishops' Bar to be converted into two parts. Smokers should be able to go to one of them. I do not think it satisfactory that smokers should be barred completely from the premises and have to go into the wind and cold outside or be confined to a part of the estate where they cannot also have a chat and a drink. I put it that way because I do not think that the Truro Room of the Library is a substitute for a civilised place where our smoker colleagues can go.
Surely that is the minimum that we should allow, despite all the arguments which I fully acceptespecially those from the two noble Baronesses who spoke earlierthat smoking is most undesirable and that the staff must be considered as well as ourselves.
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Lord Russell-Johnston: My Lords, I rise to support the noble Lord, Lord Stoddartan experience that I have never previously enjoyed. The amendment that he has tabled is reasonable and moderate whereas those proposed by the Chairman of Committeeswho as an individual is well known to be reasonable and moderateare sweeping and draconian and, as has been remarked, are being introduced with insufficient consultation on the last day of the Session, when many Members have already gone. I do not think that such a rush is necessary.
Lord Russell-Johnston: My Lords, I have managed that because I never promise myself to stop altogether. I know that I like smoking and I know that I will smoke again. If I made a new year's resolution or something like that, I would break it and that would be bad for my self-esteem.
I do not deny that people who dislike or fear smoking should be protected, but I do not see why this should necessarily be by means of a complete ban which removes all choice, for staff as well. To listen to the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, one would think that the staff were 100 per cent non-smokers. We know that that is far from being true. I should have thought that it is not impossible for somebody on the staff to serve in the bar where smoking is permitted.
I suppose it has been clearly established, and I would not like to argue with the noble Baroness, Lady Howarththat smoking can have harmful and sometimes fatal results. That is even allowing for the 105 year-old lady that the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, unearthedalthough perhaps "unearthed" is the wrong word. The effects of passive smoking, however, upon which the whole of this report and recommendations rests, are not quite so certain. Like everybody else, I see surveys periodically in the press which claim it is injurious to some degree but never indicate the size of the area in which the test took place, how many were smoking there, how frequently they were smoking or whether, as somebody has already said, it took place in a city such as London. The noble Lord, Lord Borrie, spoke about going to the Terrace for a breath of fresh airhe must have been joking. The diesel fumes that belch out hourly in this city, of which we are at the heart, definitely have an effect.
I shall not delay your Lordships more, but turning to paragraph 3 of the amendment, the Bishops' Bar has already been referred to by a number of people. It is not impossible to have something fairly rigid in place. At the moment, there is a non-smoking room and a smoking room, but there is an open space between the two. But as several noble Lords have already said, it is possible for the two to be clearly distinct.
Nobody has yet mentioned that the Bishops' Bar has a fairly small but regular clientele. The same people go there all the time and the same people do
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not. This is anecdotal, but I would say that, of those who go there regularly, about 60 per cent smoke. Smoking is, after all, not always a solitary, but a social, pursuit. As has been said, a smoke and a drink relax people. I think it is reasonable to have that. Surely it will not do a great deal of harm to take a little longer at least to give a fair hearing to the criticisms that a number of your Lordships have already made. As the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, said, the Government's regulations nationwide will not come into effect until 2006, so surely we can afford to take a little more time.
Lady Saltoun of Abernethy: My Lords, I wholeheartedly support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, who is usually right in his views. In default of his amendment, I support those of my noble friends Lord Palmer and Lord Monson.
I have not smoked for some years, but I spent 40 years of my life kippering all my friends and relations. As a result, I have the greatest sympathy for poor smokers, who are now about to be hounded almost out of existence, and, if the noble Baronesses and their virtuous friends have their way, forced to stand in the street in the pouring rain in order to have a quick puff.
As a member of the Refreshment Committee, however, I have some concern about the Guest Room, the Barry Room and the banqueting facilities, on which the catering operation here depends to wash its financial face. Peers wishing to entertain guests who smoke may well decide to take them elsewhere, and quite a lot of the very lucrative banqueting trade, such as wedding receptions, could go elsewhere. People may well not be prepared to pay the prices charged herewhich are not small, although the value is extremely goodfor their guests to be made miserable. With the improved air-conditioning plants which are now available and which have been installed in, among other places, the Bishops' Bar, and with a ban on smoking before a certain time, as proposed by my noble friend Lord Palmer, it should be possible to accommodate everyone.
It ill becomes a Government whose exchequer benefits to the tune of some £10 billion a year from smokers to be so anxious to kill off the goose which lays such a large and sorely needed golden egg. We hear endlessly about the dangers of passive smoking, and how it is now scientifically proved to kill. Knowing how scientists continually change their tune, I shall not be surprised to be told in 20 years' time, should I happen to be alive then, that of course now they know better and it is not harmful at all.
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