§ 39. Mr. Beswick
asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if, in view of the new evidence regarding the danger to health of tobacco smoking, he will now give a general direction to the British Transport Commission not only to set aside adequate numbers of train compartments in which smoking is prohibited, but also that these compartments shall be more prominently indicated, and the prohibition enforced, with more adequate penalties for defaulters.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation (Mr. G. R. H. Nugent)
The Government's policy is to make known 1140 the risks of smoking, leaving it to individuals to make up their own minds. If the public want more non-smoking compartments, the British Transport Commission is ready to provide them. The present notices seem adequate, and the Commission are shortly submitting to us by-laws increasing the penalty for smoking offences.
§ Mr. Beswick
Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that there is very real hardship here and that the extraordinary amount of correspondence I have received since putting this Question down shows real suffering on the part of bronchial people? Will he, therefore, do what he can to speed up action on the part of the British Transport Commission in this matter?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Bromley-Davenport
Will not my hon. Friend agree that it is typical of our slow-thinking, bureaucratic, loss-making—at increased cost—nationalised industries that no action has yet been taken in this matter? Should not the nationalised industries support the policy of Her Majesty's Government? In other words, should they not label those compartments where smoking is allowed, whereas those where smoking is not allowed should be left without any signs whatsoever?
§ Mr. Nugent
My Department's policy, and indeed the Commission's policy, is exactly to follow the Government's policy on this problem of smoking and the dangers of heavy smoking. If the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Beswick) will give me any evidence that he has of a need to alter the Commission's present arrangements, I shall be very pleased to send them on to the Commission.
§ Mr. Shinwell
In view of the persistent propaganda on behalf of the nonsmokers, will the hon. Gentleman occasionally listen to a plea by a smoker and so arrange with the Transport Commission that, while protecting the interests of non-smokers, it should not permit them to clutter up compartments where smoking is permitted?
§ Sir A. Gomme-Duncan
Will my hon. Friend agree that the real difficulty is to stop people smoking in non-smoking compartments, and also in the Library of the House of Commons?
§ Mr. Usborne
Since few hon. Members could hear and nobody could understand the question put by the hon. and gallant Member for Knutsford (Lieut.-Colonel Bromley-Davenport), may I ask whether the Minister, in view of the fact that there are far more people who do not wish to smoke in trains than there are who do—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—will reverse the practice and label the carriages that can be smoked in and leave the rest alone?
§ Mr. Nugent
I will bear in mind the views ex pressed today, not entirely unanimously, on either side of the House, and I will pass them to the British Transport Commission.