|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, when I seek advice on medication, I tend to ask my doctor. When it comes to other health matters, I prefer to listen to medical experts rather than to people who regard themselves as experts in other fields. The Economic
19 Jun 2006 : Column 521
Affairs Select Committee is made up of individuals of extraordinary quality and huge ability, but if one looks at what they have done in their lives, one sees that not one of them has any medical experience whatever.
Medical experts are united on passive smoking. There is not one reputable medical authority opposed to what the Government seek with this Bill. Their Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health describes second-hand smoke as,
Similar points were made in a letter to the Times, which was published last Thursday, signed by the chairman of the council of the BMA, the chairman of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and the general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing. They said:
The approach proposed in this amendment is not novel, although, interestingly, it was rejected by the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties at the last election. Both parties were committed to a smoke-free policy wherever food was served, whether in a pub or a restaurant. The noble Lords, Lord Russell-Johnston and Lord Monson, are correct that the policy has been followed in a number of countries, but, inconveniently for them, in most cases where that approach has been followed, it has either been abandoned or found to be unworkable. The report published by the Health Select Committee in another place reported at paragraph 36 that,
"the law in Italy provides for separate smoking areas with illuminated signs, automatic doors and an approved ventilation system. However, because of practical difficulties in creating such an environment in many premises, it is estimated that 97% of outlets in Italy have in fact introduced a complete ban on smoking".
In Scandinavia, Norway is an interesting example. I had the good fortune to visit Oslo with the All-Party Parliamentary British-Norwegian Group during the Whitsun Recess. We met Dr Bjrn-Inge Larsen, the director-general for health and social affairs in the Norwegian Government; he is the equivalent of our Chief Medical Officer. He has since written to me and is happy for me to quote from his letter:
"Prior to 1 June 2004, Norwegian legislation on smoking in bars and restaurants allowed smoking in 50% of the premises. An evaluation study from 1999 showed that the smoking zones were not a satisfactory arrangement. Results from this study showed that the enforcement of the law was not satisfactory. In at least 30% of Norwegian communities, there was no supervision at all. In the remaining communities supervision was random and often superficial. Approximately 50% of the inspectors said it was impossible to follow the regulations concerning zones in practice. Few of them were satisfied with the current regulations, and a majority wanted stronger restrictions. Among guests, a majoritytwo-thirdsreported that they preferred staying in smoke-free areas. Evaluations after the ban came into force, show that the hospitality industry itself reports that compliance after the total ban is 90% as opposed to only 51% when the legislation required smoking zones".
The noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, has said exactly what I wanted to say on ventilation, so I will not tire your Lordships by repeating it, although it is interesting that again the Select Committee dealt with the matter very convincingly in the other place.
The noble Lord's amendment proposes that staff would not be forced to work in smoking rooms. How workable is that? Just imagine what it would mean. Let us suppose that it has been a long, tiring day working in the pub. The smoking room is full of dirty glasses and perhaps the remains of uneaten food. The ashtrays are full. The atmosphere is disgusting. Then the boss asks the 19 year-old waitress from Poland to go in and clear up. She says, "I am sorry. I am taking advantage of the protection given to me by Lord Russell-Johnston's amendment and I refuse to do it". It is not a conceivably sensible or workable proposition.
"The argument that workers can choose where to work and therefore can decide whether to take on health risks goes against the grain of most legislation to protect workers. The same point could have been made about child chimney sweeps".
Lord Wakeham: My Lords, I thought it possible that there might be some reference to the Economic Affairs Select Committee's report on risk management and therefore I thought I would take the earliest possible opportunity to repeat what we said in our report, not what I think most people who have probably not read the report will deduce as what we said. It was a report on the Government's management of risk in its widest sense. The report is favourable to the Government and states that they have rather good policies in relation to risks. We gave one or two examples, but the one that is clearly of interest to the House at this stage of the Bill is what we said about passive smoking.
First, we said that we accept that there are health risks in smoking and that it is better not to smoke. Secondly, we said that there are health risks in passive smoking but that the issue is how much risk. This was not based upon our views, as one noble Lord on the other side of the Chamber said. Everything in our report was evidence-based and anyone who cares to look at it will see that the people who gave evidence actually know what they are speaking about. We had evidence on this issue, particularly from Sir Richard Peto, the professor of medical statistics at Oxford University, whoif I may summarise what he said in his evidenceis in favour of banning smoking for entirely different reasons from the Government. He is in favour of banning passive smoking because that will make it so damn difficult for anyone to smoke anywhere that they will not smoke. That is his reason. But he said that the risks are small and difficult to measure.
The Minister's colleague, Caroline Flint, also gave evidence. She pointed out to us that 95 per cent of all the deaths from cancer take place from smoking in the home. The Bill does not deal with smoking in the home. Indeed, the argument put to us is that it might actually increase smoking in the home because, in so far as people are not able to smoke in the way in which
19 Jun 2006 : Column 523
the noble Lord, Lord Russell-Johnston, would like, they will smoke in their homes. So, in that sense, the Bill will increase the risk of cancer because more people will smoke at home and more children will be affected.
The issue about which we were concerned and which we wished to put to the Government is that there is a little bit of risk but there is also an infringement of human liberties. It is the necessity of governmentand the Government's responsibilityto judge those two factors and to reach a conclusion. Having listened to the evidence, we came to the unanimous conclusion that the infringement of human liberty was sufficiently high in our scale of priorities and the risk of passive smokingparticularly as the Bill does not affect matters in the homewas sufficiently small that in our judgment it did not justify this policy. So that is what we said.
Anyone who wants to read the report is welcome to do so. No doubt there will be a debate on our report in another place, but it does not quite say what some people wish to interpret it as saying. I think that the report is fairly moderate and reasonable. I agreed with the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, when he said that the committee was made up of eminent peoplethat was a good startbut his speech went downhill a little after that. The report was unanimousand the overwhelming bulk of the members of our committee do not smoke.
Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, the speech that we have just heard is a little prejudiced by reason of the fact that the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, presided over the committee. That does not mean to say that the committee came to the right conclusion.
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|