Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Grocott: My Lords, as the House will recall, I suggested at the conclusion of Starred Questions today that if we were to finish in time for 11 o'clock, which is an hour past our advisory time—we need to finish at 11 o'clock because of the rules of the House relating to the staff tomorrow—the House would need to agree to a six-minute time for Back-Bench speeches. The last contribution took 14 minutes. I need hardly tell the House that, should the other speeches follow at that length, it would take us until about midnight, in my rough paper calculations.
20 Jul 2005 : Column 1545

Of course, we are a self-regulating House. I can only say that when I advised a limit of six minutes, which is all that it is in my power to do, it seemed to be responded to nearly unanimously. At least, no one leapt up then and objected. So I urge the House in its fine tradition of self-regulation to try to stick to six minutes, otherwise we will really be causing difficulties.

7.57 pm

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, I will endeavour to meet the challenge laid down by the Captain of the Gentlemen at Arms by being extremely brief.

My first point concerns procedure. Many of us know that the original intention was that these Bills would be debated in March. It was not the fault of either London or Liverpool that they are now being debated in July. The reason flowed from the general election and the delays in legislation that necessarily followed from that.

Secondly, I listened closely to the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, and fundamentally disagree with him. That fundamental disagreement is precisely because I want to encourage local authority initiative and local authority pilot schemes. I want many more than we currently have. There is a great deal to be said for encouraging local authorities to experiment, especially in controversial areas, to see how it works out. It is the most effective form of consultation to try something in practice and then legislate when one knows the result of those experiments. So I do not for one moment criticise Liverpool or London for floating these Bills now, even though a government Bill is proposed later.

Thirdly, it is appropriate that the future European City of Culture, Liverpool, with which I am proudly associated, having been at one time Member of Parliament for Crosby, should be pursuing its renaissance by trying to bring in a far-reaching public health measure. London is now, delightfully, about to become the city of the Olympics in 2012. Again, what could be more appropriate for the world's sporting community than to see a city that has decided to get rid of smoking in public places? That is a very appropriate concomitant to a sporting occasion.

Finally, I turn briefly to the content of the Bill. There is a sharp distinction between the White Paper and, as far we know, what the Government are currently proposing and the London and Liverpool Bills, which is two substantial exemptions. The first is private member's clubs; the second is pubs that do not serve food.

Many others will be more knowledgeable than I am about private members' clubs; I have never been a great club member, so I will leave that discussion to other Members far better placed than I to contribute to it. However, I want to say something briefly about pubs that do not serve food, given that there is already an indication in the Government's consultation papers that they might allow certain sorts of food in pubs otherwise excluded from smoking. I leave that on one
20 Jul 2005 : Column 1546
side, although it is a slippery slope. It could quickly move towards certain kinds of food being served, and there is a much bigger consideration.

We know that, as a country, we are faced with an extremely serious problem of binge-drinking among young people. Pubs that do not serve food are likely to be much more popular with the binge-drinking community than pubs that do. For one thing, the whole clientele is different; for another, the emphasis is on drinking—drinking fast and a great deal—and not on an evening out with a nice glass of wine with a supper or dinner. There are great dangers in subjecting that section of our community, almost all of them young people—teenagers and young 20s—to a smoke-filled room. They are the most vulnerable, the least able to realise the risks, and the most likely to suffer throughout the rest of their lives from running those risks. The argument for the exemption falls to the ground at that first stage.

I wish the Liverpool and London authorities well. I am not in the least surprised that there is some opposition; there is bound to be on a controversial matter such as this. A pilot scheme in both cities is appropriate, and I hope very much that the House will give not only a Second Reading but a fair wind to the Bills as they go through. If at the same time they are a blow for the autonomy and independence of local government, that gives them a double argument in their favour.

8.1 pm

Lord Stratford: My Lords, may I say what a great pleasure it is to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Williams? As she was speaking, I remembered that I never really thanked her properly for coming to speak in my parliamentary campaign in Watford in 1979. Regrettably, that did not do me any good, but at least I perished in good company.

During my 22 years in the other place, I made around 1,400 speeches and interventions, but none of them presented me with the sort of problems that I face today making my first speech in your Lordships' House. The first reason is that I simply never anticipated being here—neither, I suspect, did a fair number of your Lordships expect to see me here. Secondly, I am finding the inherent politeness of this place quite destabilising. Having come from a House where politeness is about as rare as an orderly queue at a London bus stop, the culture shock on entering your Lordships' House has been profound. Indeed, such relentless politeness is not merely destabilising, but positively exhausting.

The reality of all this came home to me during the debate on the Speakership last week, when I finally realised that I had raised my last point of order, spurious or otherwise, and that my days of political hooliganism were destined to become just fond memories. Of course I might not survive the transition from political pugilist to polite Peer, but I will give it my best shot and see who cracks first.

Before turning to the Bills to ban smoking in places of work, I record my grateful thanks to my two noble friends who supported me when I was introduced to your
20 Jul 2005 : Column 1547
Lordships' House on 4 July. The noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, and the noble Lord, Lord Hoyle, represent two areas of interest that I hope to pursue in this House; namely, the arts and animal welfare. If a third supporter had been allowed, I would have chosen the noble Lord, Lord Attenborough, with whom I share a passion for football and, in particular, a divorce-threatening love of Chelsea Football Club, where he is of course our distinguished life vice-president.

I turn now to the Second Reading of the London Bill. I give it my strongest possible support. I do so not because I am overly bothered about what people do to themselves, whether it is smoking, drinking or taking drugs, but because those habits impinge on others. If people wish to smoke in the face of all the overwhelming evidence, it is their problem. Unfortunately, it soon becomes my problem and a problem for others who find themselves affected by that vile, unhealthy and anti-social habit.

However, I readily confess to not always having thought that way. In my younger days, smoking was naively synonymous with pleasure. I well remember those Christmas and Boxing Day matches at Chelsea, where it seemed to me that the entire crowd was wearing brand new yellow knitted gloves and smoking Wills's Whiffs in a fuggy atmosphere of shared good will and Christmas cheer. Of course, it never occurred to any of us at the time that we were probably slowly killing each other. Indeed, my dear old dad, who introduced me to Chelsea all those years ago, died of cancer undoubtedly caused by smoking.

I must also tell your Lordships that I could have been a serious athlete, only to have my promise cut short when I discovered Woodbines and women. Thankfully I have long since given up the former, and the latter have long since given up on me—except, of course, for the lovely Lady Stratford, who for reasons beyond my comprehension still tolerates my presence. But neither Lady Stratford nor myself is ready to show a similar tolerance for smoking in public places. As I said earlier, that is nothing to do with stopping people pursuing their own habits, however damaging they might be to their own health. However, it is virtually impossible to prevent that habit affecting the health and well-being of those who either do not smoke or do not wish to smoke in public places.

I read the submission from the Tobacco Manufacturers' Association carefully, but I remain unmoved. The TMA made much of allowing smoking in designated areas and in separate rooms, but unless those areas are effectively hermetically sealed and smokers defumigated before they re-emerge, others will be affected. Personally, I do not want my space violated by smokers' fumes or their smell, both of which are most unpleasant.

Equally, it is wrong to expect those who work in clubs, bars, pubs and restaurants to endure other people's smoking habits. Again, the TMA made much of the alleged willingness of staff to work in such smoky atmospheres, but how realistic is that? Many jobs in those places are casual, relatively low paid, and
20 Jul 2005 : Column 1548
undertaken by workers who often have no great choice they can exercise. "Take it or leave it" is not much of an option.

I well remember—my noble friend Lord Faulkner reminded the House of it—the fuss made by the cigarette industry when the bans on smoking on public transport were introduced in this country. Now those bans are well observed and unexceptional. Even in the Irish Republic, the smoking ban in public houses went ahead successfully, despite the reservations and warnings of the police, the tobacco industry and the breweries. Speaking as an Irishman—not many people know that—I say that if a smoking ban can work in Dublin pubs, to be sure, it can work effectively in London. I support both Bills.

8.7 pm

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page