HC Deb 02 May 1990 vol 171 cc1121-36

1. Premises in respect of which a justices licence to sell intoxicating liquors by retail for consumption on the premises (other than a Part IV licence within the meaning of the Licensing Act 1964) is in the force.

2. Shops used wholly or mainly for the sale of tobacco and smokers requisites.

3. Those parts of hotels, inns and similar establishments, used for the purposes of accommodation, designated as smoking areas.'.

Sir George Young

I regret that my enthusiasm not to miss catching your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, led me to lean forward in my seat a moment or two earlier than I should have done.

New clause 59 seeks to ban smoking in public places.

The welcome debate on environmental issues which has gathered pace over recent months and much of which is focused on this Bill has had two consequences. First, it has raised public awareness on environmental matters, and, with it, public expectations; secondly, it has shown the breadth of the environmental debate and also the length of the environmental frontier patrolled so ably by my hon. Friend the Minister.

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The new clause is a product of these two factors: growing awareness and rising expectations, on the one hand, and the range of areas where progress can be made, on the other. It seeks to protect the public from one particular type of pollution, tobacco smoke, and to respond to the changing mood on smoking generally. It is, I believe, the first time that passive smoking has been debated as an environmental issue rather than as a health one, and it starts from the principle that non-smoking should be the norm in enclosed areas frequented by the public or employees, with special provision for smokers, rather than vice versa.

I hope that no one in the debate will claim that tobacco smoke is not a pollutant. It is the major pollutant in indoor air. Given the welcome progress that my hon. Friend had made in removing pollutants from outside air, this needs to be accompanied by progress inside, where, after all, most of us spend most of our time.

Mr. Hunter

I am not so concerned with pollution as with prejudice. My old grandfather was born and bred in Liverpool a hundred years ago. He did not like Roman Catholics—he was prejudiced—and his great vendetta in life as a Protestant from Liverpool was against Catholics. I am a non-apologising consumer of nicotine and tobacco. I love my pipe. I refuse to be prejudiced in the way that my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir G. Young) continues to propound his thesis.

Sir George Young

I hope that my hon. Friend will see a distinction between being prejudiced against Catholics, and totally overlooking all the medical and scientific advice which shows that passive smoking is dangerous.

I quote briefly from the fourth report of the independent scientific committee on smoking and health, which refers to the number of deaths caused by passive smoking: It might however amount to several hundred out of the current annual total of about 40,000 lung cancer deaths in the United Kingdom, a small but not negligible proportion. I am sure that my hon. Friend's grandfather never said that the Catholics in Liverpool killed people. We are here talking about something which is different in concept from the prejudices of what I am sure was a very distinguished old man.

I hope also that no one will claim that this is not a suitable matter for legislation. The Government have already legislated on atmospheric pollution and on public nuisances such as litter, which after all harms no one's health. Tobacco smoke is airborne litter, but bad for one's health as well.

It is not just the case, in the immortal words of Frank Sinatra, that smoke gets in your eyes. Smoke gets in your hair. Smoke gets in your clothes. My hon. Friend's pipe smoke gets in my mouth. People who suffer from asthma and other bronchial infections have their illnesses aggravated by smoke—either raw smoke from the tips of burning cigarettes or, to use the jargon, recycled smoke exhaled by my hon. Friend and others. Others find that smoke irritates their nose and throat and aggravates coughs. The numbers exposed to this nuisance are huge.

This debate is about the fairly basic entitlement to breathe air unpolluted by unpleasant fall-out of an activity increasingly realised to be both dangerous and anti-social. Public opinion surveys show that the steps proposed are supported not just by the non-smoking majority, but by the smoking minority. Asked what their reaction was to the proposition that, in general, people who do not smoke should have the right to work in air free of tobacco smoke, 86 per cent. of non-smokers assented, as did 81 per cent. of smokers. Eighty-nine per cent. of smokers agreed that all restaurants should provide no-smoking areas—something which I hope the Services Committee will consider in respect of the restaurants and cafeterias in the House, particularly in respect of Annie's Bar.

In today's papers I see that just such a measure as I propose was introduced yesterday in the Republic of Ireland; and similar measures already exist in the United States, Canada, Australia, Belgium, Norway and Spain.

Mr. Stan Crowther (Rotherham)

I wonder if the hon. Member would care to propose a no-drinking area in Annie's Bar as well?

Sir George Young

Since, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you enjoy, I believe, both the activities that have been mentioned, you would rule me out of order if I attempted to extend new clause 59 beyond smoking.

I mention in passing the example that Ministers can set in their own Departments by making sure, for example, that the atmosphere at 2 Marsham street is pure. I remember, during my tenure at Marsham street, banning smoking in the lifts. All went well until my right hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) joined the Department, when the "no smoking" signs mysteriously disappeared. I hope that my hon. Friend will tell me that, following my right hon. Friend's departure for the Department of Trade and Industry, those signs have been reinstated and that his Department has an effective policy for its own offices.

Mr. Anthony Beaumont-Dark (Birmingham, Selly Oak)

Does my hon. Friend remember that, when we all thought that he was an excellent Minister in the Department of the Environment, he went to Sweden and got carried away—not far enough, as it turned out—and said that he hoped that one day smoking would be only between consenting adults in private as though it were somewhat worse than adultery in public? People like my hon. Friend wish to impose on everyone their wonderful sanctified piety and say that nothing with which they do not agree should be allowed to take place in public. That is not Conservatism but left-wing socialism.

Sir George Young

What my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Beaumont-Dark) does with his pipe in private is his business.

Mr. Hunter

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Sir George Young

May I finish my point? I note that two honourable pipe-smoking Friends are anxious to interrupt.

What my hon. Friend the Member for Selly Oak does in public, imposing his foul-smelling pipe on those who happen to walk behind him, is different. I do not mind if he smokes his pipe at home. If he smokes it in a public place he imposes his prejudices on other people. My new clause seeks to insulate people from his anti-social activities.

Mr. Hunter

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Sir George Young

I am anxious to make progress, because I suspect that many hon. Members wish to take part in the debate.

I hope that the Department of the Environment will at least issue guidelines to proprietors of public places on how to deal with the issue, perhaps working through environmental health officers. I accept that progress is being made on a voluntary basis. For example, the Department of Social Security office in my constituency has a smoke-free waiting area and the waiting room at Ealing Broadway station is now a smoke-free zone. Progress is being made in taxis and in some hotels and offices. But it is slow and sporadic.

One of the roles of the House of Commons is to reflect the shift in public opinion on social issues. There has been a shift in the role of the dog in our society, which we debated on Tuesday and to which the Government have responded. There has been a shift in public opinion on smoking, too. No one is about to ask that smoking be banned. But some of us will ask the Government to protect the most basic liberty to which our constituents are entitled—the right to breathe unpolluted air. We do that in this new clause which, in a nutshell, bans smoking in a public place except in a designated smoking area.

Mr. Crowther

I do not imagine for a moment that the House will be so foolish as to approve this ill-conceived new clause. Nevertheless, a few words need to be said to tone down the extremism of the anti-smoking campaign which has now reached an almost unbelievable pitch of hysteria.

I am sure that the hon. Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir G. Young) has studied the matter in detail. If so, he must know that there is as much evidence against his arguments about the dangers of so-called passive smoking as there is for it. I do not intend to go through all the evidence, but I have looked into it in some detail and I shall quote some of it.

The hon. Gentleman quoted in support of his argument the report of the Independent Scientific Committee on Smoking and Health. I think that he was referring to the report published in March 1988. Certainly, that is the most widely publicised report on which so many of the anti-tobacco campaigners have depended. They seem to have depended on it without reading it in full or even fully understanding it. The report was not based on any independent research. It merely aggregated several carefully selected previously published studies. The report admitted: None of the studies can be accepted as unequivocal. That was said by the very people whom the hon. Gentleman quoted in support of his new clause.

The committee did not include other studies in its report. It admitted that other studies tended to show that there was no danger or risk whatever to non-smokers from so-called passive smoking. I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman did not mention those matters in that same report when he quoted it in support of his new clause.

The report, which is now widely believed to be scientific truth, is nothing more than an expression of opinion.

Mr. Beaumont-Dark

It is twaddle.

Mr. Crowther

Yes, but it is couched in scientific language.

A symposium was held in Austria in May 1988 on environmental tobacco smoke, ETS. It was organised by Mr. G. Lehnert and Mr. E. Wynder. I am sure that the hon. Member for Acton is familiar with the symposium's report as he is such an expert in this matter. The statement issued at the end of that symposium said: A causal relationship between ETS and illness cannot be established … There is no positive evidence that cancer and other illnesses are caused by passive smoking. The professor of medicine at the George Washington university in the United States, Professor Witorsch, wrote in the New Zealand "Medical Journal" of November 1986: A thorough and critical examination of the relevant literature fails to provide compelling evidence that exposure to ambient tobacco smoke produces adverse chronic health effects. A group of scientists in New York carried out an interesting study of air samples taken from 26 office buildings and 48 restaurants. The House will be interested to learn that they concluded that a typical New York non-smoker would have to work for 450 uninterrupted hours in an office or dine continuously for 400 hours in order to be exposed to the nicotine equivalent of one cigarette. That is the extent of so-called passive smoking.

The hon. Member for Acton says that tobacco is the major pollutant, but that is not so. Far more contaminants in the air in most buildings are derived from factors other than tobacco smoke, and the sick building syndrome is extremely serious. Fungal and bacterial spores exist in the air and all kinds of chemical poisons are released from furniture, carpets and goodness knows what else. A lot more study of that syndrome needs to be done.

The trouble is that smoke is visible and therefore gets the blame, but all the other nasty things are ignored. Those other pollutants affect people's eyes, and a runny nose and a sore throat often have nothing to do with tobacco smoke, but are caused by those other poisonous substances. The trouble is that most of our buildings are not properly air conditioned and my goodness we know that better than anyone.

Mr. Hunter

The hon. Gentleman does not speak for Labour colleagues alone. Will he accept my invitation to join me after the debate is over for a good pipe and a chat when we can pursue the argument?

Mr. Crowther

I should be delighted to accept the hon. Gentleman's invitation so long as it is over a pint.

Far more attention needs to be paid to other causes of air pollution and air contamination rather than paying attention to the hysterical attitude that has been adopted in recent times towards tobacco smoke. Because one can see smoke it is assumed that it is the cause of the problem, but, in most cases, the cause is quite different. I hope that the Government will pay attention to this matter in due course.

Mr. Beaumont-Dark

I am happy to say that I speak as a pipe smoker. I know that there are hon. Members like my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir G. Young) who look upon that as something worse than a venal sin. I accept that to some people smoking is irritating. But would some people, who have a pious nonsensical attitude towards smokers, accept that smokers have a right to express the huge irritation they feel when, as soon as they light up in a room, even the size of the Chamber, people immediately go into paroxysms of coughing as though they were being laid open to mustard gas.

It is true that smoking is not necessarily good for one. I do not think that drinking is, and I am not sure whether sex is. I am certainly not sure whether jogging is. One of the few times I have ever laughed at someone else's misfortune was when the man who wrote the definitive book on jogging was found dead in a ditch after he had jogged.

9.15 pm

In a modern society it is fair for restaurants to have non-smoking areas, and I agree that aircraft, buses and trains should have such areas. But what many people who are getting more and more cranky about smoking do not realise is that many of us who smoke are willing to accept that when we go into a non-smoking carriage we should not abuse people. If a smoker accidentally goes into a non-smoking carriage and forgets, and someone tells him that it is a non-smoking carriage, he does not reply in language that we used to be told could not be used in the House, but immediately desists from smoking.

In a fair and sensible society there must be a basis of give and take. It is sensible not to smoke in a theatre. I like going to theatres, particularly concerts. In a concert hall any smoker realises that it is sensible to have no smoking in the auditorium because there are musicians and singers. Those of us who smoke are not trying to force some change in the law so that we can smoke wherever we want.

When we talk about pollution in society, it is often put down to cars or smoking; aircraft, which fly over all our houses, are not mentioned. It is likely that the greatest pollutants in this world are aircraft. If we take what people who are against smoking say to its logical conclusion, we should immediately ground aircraft because the great pollutants are cars and aircraft.

Sir George Young

We made it absolutely clear that we are not banning smoking. We have asked those who smoke to confine it to private places or to designated areas in public places.

Mr. Beaumont-Dark

With the greatest respect to my hon. Friend, and bearing in mind his wonderful speech in Sweden, what he wants us to do would make us act as though we were doing something furtive and always blow our smoke up the chimney so that no one else can smell it.

The hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Crowther) rightly described what all the cranks who want to stop us exercising our freedom want us to do. My hon. Friend the Member for Acton pedals away like billy-o on his bicycle, getting eggs thrown at his wife and not even wanting to get the muck out of her hair because he thinks it will be good for it. His poor wife rushes about the countryside on a tandem, sucking in carbon monoxide, and aircraft and car fumes, but then my hon. Friend says that if his wonderful wife sits in a restaurant for 45 minutes she will be on the path to death and lung cancer. A bigger load of nonsense was never heard. Even with the wealth of my hon. Friend—it is a legend to us all—he would have to feed her in that restaurant night and day for 115 years before she came to any harm.

Those who are against us exercising our freedom are saying no more than, "We don't like smoking." Well. I do not like some of the nonsense on television, or some of the colours that people wear—

Sir George Young

Turn if off then.

Mr. Beaumont-Dark

We live in a society in which we cannot turn anything off. I hope that this House, which is meant to be a bastion of freedom, will reflect the need for non-smokers, in the name of justice, to be as tolerant towards us as we are towards them. If we accept the measure before the House, we shall set man against brother and wife against husband. Happily, in my house we all smoke. I ask my hon. Friend the Member for Acton, who comes from a family with an honourable tradition of toleration, to show some of the tolerance that his family have shown for generations.

Mr. Simon Hughes

I want to make two simple points in response to what was in part a light-hearted but in part serious bid for tolerance towards smokers.

First, what should the presumption be? Surely it should be that we should have as pollution-free an environment as possible. People can opt out of that, but potentially harmful activities should not be allowed to take place in public—

Mr. Beaumont-Dark

We want a friendly society.

Mr. Hughes

Of course we do, and public places that permit smoking should allow a place in which smokers can opt out and smoke with other smokers.

Secondly, the evidence of the damage that smoking causes is becoming more apparent. I shall not go into the arguments about passive smoking, but it is now generally accepted that smoking causes deaths. We should therefore educate the next generation to be more healthy; such education will include teaching people about the dangers of activities that pose a risk to their health. They are of course free to choose thereafter, but we should teach children how to avoid smoking.

We can never legislate against sin or against weakness but we should legislate to encourage people to do what is best, without banning activities in which those who want to opt out of the norm wish to indulge.

Mr. Hunter

Last year, when I successfully piloted my private Member's measure, the Control of Pollution (Amendment) Bill, through the House, the Liberal Democrats did not argue in this way. They were happy to leave aside issues of tobacco smoking, so there is an inconsistency between the hon. Gentleman's argument now and that advanced by his party last year.

Mr. Hughes

I do not want to be taken down that road. The Bill was limited and we supported it. This new clause is specifically about smoking. It is interesting to note that it was selected whereas the one on CFCs was not. Those who want to smoke pipes, cigarettes or cigars must have the freedom to do so with others in certain areas in public, and to do so in private, but we should surely aim at the best possible environment, and smokers must accept that smoking does harm. They should take the risk themselves but not impose it on the rest of us.

Mr. Beaumont-Dark

Although we are being lighthearted, this is a serious debate. Although my wife and I both smoke—I more heavily than she—we bribed our children not to smoke, so I agree that you should not encourage smoking. My son still does not smoke, but my daughter does. You who are against the freedom of smokers should agree that as long as we do not try to lead people to the devil there is something to be said for the freedom of the individual, who should not be blackmailed, bludgeoned or made to feel guilty—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I wish the hon. Gentleman would not keep bringing me into these matters.

Mr. Beaumont-Dark

I apologise, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Hughes

The hon. Gentleman might think that he needs you in this debate, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Of course I accept that the hon. Gentleman cannot imagine that Parliament would wish to make social outcasts of people who engage in an activity which, like drinking and other activities, it is correct that they should have a right as adults to choose to do. However, there is a difference from the other examples that the hon. Gentleman cited. Activities such as drinking and watching television do not necessarily have an effect on other people. Of course the person who drinks and is then sick over somebody causes a problem, but there is no such problem for those who can hold their drink.

It is possible to turn off the television and to deal with other potential pollutants, but one cannot deal with people who are smoking except by going somewhere else. Why should it be presumed that those who wish to take the healthier option by not smoking should have to move away to find their private secret corner? The presumption should be the other way and those who choose to engage in an activity in which they are perfectly entitled to engage, even though it is potentially harmful to them and to others, should have to withdraw to do so, thereby keeping the healthier majority happy.

Mr. Robin Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)

Much of the debate has been misconceived, in that those who wish to smoke have drawn parallels with drinking. But nobody forces drink down somebody else's throat. The debate is about the alleged right of people who wish to smoke to compel other people to breathe in the smoke when they do not wish to do so.

Once upon a time there were separate smoking rooms. Let us look at a clearer and nearer analogy. When imprisoned suffragettes refused to take food there was considerable debate, including in Parliament, about whether they should be forcibly fed. But that was to save their lives. It was not because somebody else enjoyed doing it.

In the Palace of Westminster smoking is prohibited in the Chamber, in public sessions of Select Committees and in Standing Committee. Except for that, it is impossible for hon. Members to escape from other people's smoke that they do not wish to breathe in. That applies whether they are in the Corridors, in the Library—except for one room—in the Dining Room, in Select Committees in deliberative session, travelling to take evidence away from the House in buses or taxis taking Members of the Select Committee, or in party committees.

Hon. Members who do not wish to breathe in smoke are forced to do so by the minority who wish to be at liberty to pour smoke into the air. That is what the question is about. It is not about the right of those who wish to smoke to do so, but about the right of the minority who wish to smoke to force other people to breathe it in when they do not wish to do so.

The hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Crowther), for whom I have a great affection and respect, referred to nicotine, but it is not nicotine that does most of the damage to passive smokers; it is the tars. My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir G. Young), who opened the debate, referred to deaths from cancer as a result of passive smoking. Probably far more serious are the deaths from asthma, which is very much an increasing manifestation.

The argument advanced by the hon. Member for Rotherham was logically defective in that he pointed to other undeniable sources of atmospheric pollution as a reason for forcing people to breathe in tobacco smoke. The case for not forcing people to breathe in fungus spores or the fumes given off by furniture or carpets is a strong one, but it is not a case for forcing people to breathe in tobacco smoke when they do not want to do so.

Mr. Crowther

The hon. Gentleman will recall that nicotine was specifically referred to in only only one of the studies that I mentioned. All the others spoke about health in general terms and looked at factors other than nicotine, such as tar content. Only the New York study referred to nicotine and I do not want that to be assumed to be the case in all the studies about which I spoke. We are all forced to breathe in the carbon dioxide that other people have breathed out. We do not notice it, but that is similarly polluting the air.

9.30 pm
Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

People cannot help breathing out carbon dioxide, but they can help breathing out smoke which they force other people who do not want to to breathe in. The one is unavoidable and the other is not.

The new clause and the amendment are not about preventing people who wish to from smoking, although my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Beaumont-Dark) was inaccurate when he said that his daughter did not smoke. If she shares her father's house, she has to smoke, like it or not. She is merely a passive smoker rather than an active smoker. Her medical history later in life is likely to be less favourable as a result of her parents' habit—

Mr. Beaumont-Dark

Absolute rubbish.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

—whether they like it or not, than if she were not living in a household where she had to breathe in the smoke. Her medical history will not be representative of somebody who will be exposed to tobacco smoke. It will be representative of somebody who is compelled to breathe in the smoke while she lives in her parents' house. I cannot see how she can possibly avoid it. This debate is about the right of people who want to exercise a pleasure—there is no reason why they should not exercise it as mature people—in circumstances where they do not force people who do not wish to do so to breathe it in.

Mr. Robert N. Wareing (Liverpool, West Derby)

I am a non-smoker and am broadly in agreement with the new clause, but it does not define "public place". For example, what about a racecourse or a football ground?

Mr. Simon Hughes

It says "enclosed".

Mr. Wareing

What is "enclosed"? A football ground could be defined as "enclosed" and so could a racecourse. That deficiency must be remedied. Although I am in favour of the principle behind the new clause, the hon. Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir G. Young) should look at it again and define it more clearly.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

Amendment No. 327 deals with "Smoking in Public Places". If the hon. Gentleman looks at it, he will find considerable elucidation of new clause 59. If it were in any way defective, there are later opportunities for correction. This is the right Bill and the right time for incorporating this measure, even though, as is often the case, it may need refinement at a later stage, including in the other place.

Mr. Anthony Steen (South Hams)

The issue is not the danger about which the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Crowther) spoke, but the simple one that I do not like smokers. I do not like the smell of smoke, which makes my eyes water and my clothes smell and causes me to lose my voice. The smoking sections on British Rail are so open to the non-smoking section that, as I travel up and down to Devon, this dreadful smell of smoke has progressively worked its way into my throat and, as a result, over the last week, I have progressively lost my voice. I unwisely spent an hour in the Members' Smoking Room this afternoon and that virtually finished it off.

I see no reason why I should be subjected to the tobacco smoke from the pipe of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Beaumont-Dark). I remind my hon. Friend the Member for Selly Oak of a short exchange we had in the Harcourt Room a few months ago when I was entertaining some guests. It was lunchtime, about 1.30 pm, and the table at which my hon. Friend was sitting was, as it were, lighting up. I remonstrated with him. I told him that I did not want to smell the smoke of all the smokers at that table. I explained that I did not want all the food that my friends and I were enjoying to be ruined by the dreadful smell of the pipe smoke of my lion. Friend or that of his guests.

My hon. Friend was extremely understanding of my plight, although slightly resentful of my intervention. He properly advised the people at his table that it might be prudent not to incur the wrath of such an articulate campaigner as myself on anti-smoking. I am glad to say that everyone at the table, including my hon. Friend, extinguished his pipe or cigarette. We have had a continuation of that discussion.

Mr. Beaumont-Dark

I shall remind my hon. Friend of what I said. When my hon. Friend intervened, I told my friends, "I'm sorry, but this man is a bit of a crank about smoking. Rather than have trouble with someone who is going to get tired and emotional about it, and as we have almost finished our meal, let's let this nut have his way and we shall go outside." Those were the very words that I used.

Mr. Steen

My hon. Friend's intervention illustrates the intolerance and indifference of some to others in this place. He has shown that pipe smokers and cigarette smokers have no idea of the discomfort that it may cause to others. That, of course, applies also to cigar smokers. My hon. Friend has shown that he has no idea of the anger, irritation and discomfort that he creates by his pipe smoking. The aim of the new clause is to make the nation realise that we who support it have nothing against pipe or cigarette smokers. In public places, however, they must not impose their smoke on the increasing mass of people who do not want to smoke. I am not concerned for the moment about the health risk, to which the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Crowther) referred. That is an important issue that we can debate on another occasion.

The real issue is that I do not want to smell the smoke that comes from the pipe of my hon. Friend the Member for Selly Oak, for example. I see no reason why, in a dining room in this place or in a restaurant elsewhere, I should have to suffer the smell of smoke. Most Members of this place are not as intolerant as my hon. Friend and not so insensitive of the wishes of the nation. I am sure that most people would not support his line.

My hon. Friend and others should be allowed to smoke wherever they like in their own homes. If they want their clothes, their children's clothes, the upholstery of their furniture and their cars to smell, that is their choice and they are entitled to have that smell. If that is their wish, let them have that nasty smell around them. They have no right, however, to expect the public to make way for them if the majority do not want it.

It is argued that smoking should be an exception, and that the presumption should be that of non-smokers. Hon. Members should be allowed to smoke in public places, but not at the inconvenience of others. The attitude of my hon. Friend the Member for Selly Oak shows the intolerance of smokers. I hope that the House, with the help of the Minister, will ensure that the vast majority of people who believe that smoking is dangerous, bad for health and most unpleasant for those who do not like it, will have the right to choose to avoid smoke.

The new clause is brilliantly drafted, as we would expect from my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir G. Young). The House should give it a fair wind.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

A fresh wind.

Mr. Steen

That is right. The Government could do a great service to the nation by ensuring that the vast majority of people who do not smoke do not have the pipe smoke of my hon. Friend the Member for Selly Oak imposed on them in the way that he would wish.

Mr. Gwilym Jones (Cardiff, North)

I have been tempted briefly to contribute to the debate because of the slightly aggressive remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for South Hams (Mr. Steen), although in an intervention he had an equally aggressive response from my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Beaumont-Dark).

I am a non-smoker, or, to be more precise, I am an ex-smoker. It is usually among ex-smokers that there is the greatest hypocrisy about smoking. I hope that I will not be guilty of such hypocrisy. I wonder how much hypocrisy there has been already this evening. I managed to give up smoking more than two years ago, and since then I have occasionaly wondered whether I did the best thing. I have had to have two nasal operations. My general practitioner tells me that, previously, my nasal passages were anaesthetised by cigarette smoke, but now fresh air is getting into them. I very much hope that the surgeon was successful in my last operation and that it will not become an annual occurrence.

Much reference has been made to the smells caused by cigarette smoking. As a result of my operations and of giving up smoking, I am sure that I have an improved sense of smell. However, I do not find the pipe smoke from my hon. Friend the Member for Selly Oak objectionable—indeed, I quite like it. I find pipe smoke preferable to cigarette smoke. What I find objectionable in this place—and I have only noticed it since I gave up cigarette smoking—is body odour. It is very prevalent when we press together in the Division Lobbies late at night in the warmer weather. All sorts of smells can be regarded as offensive. Perhaps it is all in the eye of the beholder.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir G. Young) referred to the independent study on smoking and health. The hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Crowther) rightly responded with a quotation from it to the effect that none of the studies could be taken as unequivocal. I did not think that my hon. Friend the Member for Acton placed very great store on the study. In fact, the most specific direct quotation that he cited from the study was: It might, however, amount to". Have hon. Members ever heard such a woolly set of words in what is supposed to be an independent, authoritative report?

We are dealing with prejudices. This debate is a mirror of a debate I attended in a previous incarnation when I was a member of the Cardiff city council. It decided to become a non-smoking body. Some of my hon. Friends might be inspired by that message. No good reason was advanced in the debate for imposing a non-smoking rule. In the fine city hall of the capital city of Wales, with lofty ceilings in imposing rooms, there is no good reason for imposing such a rule. The same applies to places with air conditioning. I have heard no good cause, only what I suspect to be prejudice, for making these no-smoking demands.

Sometimes I get the impression that smokers realise that the balance of fashion has changed and are much more willing to accede to the wishes of non-smokers when requested not to smoke or to ask first before they smoke in the presence of other people. I am generalising and there may be exceptions, but I imagine that the vast majority of smokers would not go into somebody's house and start smoking without asking permission. There seems to be a lot more give and take on the part of smokers than there often is on the part of those who are agin it.

We could make more progress if there was more balance in the argument. The anti-smoking lobby should consider whether its negative and hysterical approach to smoking is counter-productive. My hon. Friend the Member for Acton talked about banning smoking in public places except in designated areas. He should withdraw the clause so that the matter can be given more mature consideration and perhaps equal provision can be made for both sides. There should be freedom in this. There should not necessarily be designated places for one group, but designated places for both groups. Let us have a balanced approach to the problem, not a display of prejudice.

9.45 pm
Mr. Morley

The hon. Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir G. Young) has bravely brought forward his all-party new clause. We have had a useful discussion in which the contradictory views of those who support the rights of smokers and non-smokers have been put forward.

I am a life-long non-smoker. I like to think that I am a tolerant person and I recognise the right of people to smoke if they so choose. But there is no doubt that in public places such as restaurants, cinemas and bars an area must be set aside for those who do not smoke and, understandably, find smoking objectionable.

I do not accept all the arguments put forward in support of the sick building syndrome. I have spent much of my political career in the archetypal smoke-filled rooms. When I was a member of the Hull city council Labour group, by the end of one of our evening meetings, which often lasted until midnight, I could not see the chairman due to a combination of smoke and my streaming eyes. We no longer care to tolerate such an atmosphere.

I am pleased that a reasonable attitude on both sides, not legislation or coercion, has led to more and more non-smoking areas being set aside. I am not sure whether society is ready for the new clause, but, as fewer and fewer people smoke and as more and more people want the right at work and in their leisure time to have areas set aside for non-smokers, that will be the inevitable course.

Mr. Crowther

I am sure that my hon. Friend appreciates the essential difference between setting aside a place for non-smokers, to which he is now referring, and setting aside a place for smokers, which is what the new clause is about. To my delight, my hon. Friend begins with the assumption that smoking is allowed in places other than those where it is not allowed. I am happy with that, but the phraseology of the new clause is precisely the opposite.

Mr. Morley

My point is that there is a trend in society as a result of which smokers are now in the minority and that trend must be reflected by provision in our public spaces for smokers and non-smokers.

Mr. Steen

I imagine that the hon. Gentleman travels, as we all do, on trains and planes. Does he agree that in the past 10 years the non-smoking areas in trains and planes are full and the smoking areas are increasingly empty? Does he further agree that that needs to be reflected in our public transport policy with more places for non-smokers and designated pens for smokers?

Mr. Morley

I would not use the hon. Gentleman's terminology, but I understand from people who deal with airline tickets that there is over-demand for airline seats in the no-smoking section of aeroplanes and under-demand for the smoking section. That has caused many airlines to reconsider their policy on the number of seats that they put aside for non-smokers. I think that the same will happen with British Rail because of the changing trend.

The trend towards non-smoking is unstoppable. I do not want people to be coerced. I recognise a person's right to smoke and I believe that smokers recognise that smoking causes offence to non-smokers. They appreciate that, in public areas, the rights of non-smokers must be respected and that facilities must be provided.

Mr. Trippier

It is perhaps unfortunate for my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir G. Young) that, out of the eight Ministers in the Department of the Environment, I am the only one who smokes. I am not proud of it, but I am not ashamed of it either, and I am proud to be a member of a political party which believes in freedom above all else. I do not want to introduce party politics into the debate. I agree with much of what the hon. Members for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley) and for Rotherham (Mr. Crowther) and my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Beaumont-Dark) have said, as I shall try to explain.

The Government support the view that non-smokers should not be obliged to be exposed to tobacco smoke when visiting public places. but we do not believe what hon. Members propose in the new clause is necessary or—what is more to the point—enforceable.

Government policy has been developed in the light of medical evidence and aims to create a non-smoking environment with facilities for those who wish to smoke, by encouraging voluntary policy on smoking in public places. That is in contrast to the use of legislation. Our approach is flexible and results in policies which are tailor made for each situation and respond to public demand.

The common misconception is that the voluntary approach is less effective than the statutory approach. That is not true, as voluntary measures arise from popular demand and are accepted.

The statutory ban proposed by the hon. Members who have put their names to the new clause would create overwhelming difficulties. For example, who would enforce the legislation? Do we want to divert the resources of the police or environmental health officers to do the work? The legislation would apply to so many thousands of premises that detection and enforcement of such a blanket ban would be utterly impossible.

The Government have made it clear that they wholeheartedly encourage the implementation of smoking policies and the provision of smoke-free areas. Progress during the past year has been encouraging. Many major companies and organisations have introduced or strengthened smoking policies. Smoke-free areas are widely available in cinemas, shops, restaurants and on public transport. Some cinema chains and airlines provide completely smoke-free facilities. Even such traditional no-go areas for smoking restriction as pubs and betting shops are rethinking their approach where consumer demand for no-smoking facilities is apparent.

Voluntary policies are the best way to proceed because they are produced in response to consumer or employee demand, they cater for the needs of smokers and non-smokers and they can more easily be tailored to individual areas and workplaces. Voluntary policies usually have a greater chance of success than those imposed by legislation, as they secure local commitment by management, staff and the public.

When banning smoking is necessary for reasons of safety and hygiene, we have not hesitated to introduce legislation—for example, in the preparation of food or on the underground.

Many hon. Members who considered the Bill carefully in Committee are smokers. It is interesting that this issue has been raised on Report, as it did not arise at any juncture—

Mr. Morley

It did.

Mr. Trippier

To my recollection, it never arose in Committee. I apologise if I am wrong. I believe that the voluntary controls adopted by the Government are the best way forward. As we have seriously considered the rest of the Bill, I hope that those hon. Members who have put their names to the new clause will not press it.

Sir George Young

This has been a useful and, at times, somewhat heated debate. My hon. Friend the Minister said that he was in favour of freedom, but it became clear during the debate that there are two freedoms which are incompatible. It is no answer for my hon. Friend to say that he is in favour of freedom without saying whether he is in favour of the freedom of those who wish to smoke in public and impose that pollution on others or in favour of the freedom of those who do not wish to inhale polluted air. We are all in favour of freedom, but there is a choice to be made and a priority to be determined.

The principle is: who has to give way? Who has to go to a designated area? Should it be the majority who do not smoke or the minority who do? What is the premise from which we start? The new clause says that the premise is that, by and large, people have the right to breathe unpolluted air and those who wish to pollute it should go to a designated area and pollute it together.

The new clause, which I proposed some time ago, has the support of most of those who smoke. I gave the figures at the beginning of the debate—more than 80 per cent. of smokers support these measures. Yes, there is intolerance and prejudice. We must decide who is being intolerant arid who is being prejudiced. We argue that we are not imposing anything on anyone. The imposition is made not by us but by those who wish to smoke in public places, with all the adverse consequences that were so eloquently described by my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) and by my almost speechless hon. Friend the Member for South Hams (Mr. Steen), whose vocal chords, we understand, are disintegrating because of the volume of smoke on British Rail services and in the Harcourt Room and the Smoking Room.

I am not sure that now is the right time to push further forward the frontiers of social legislation. I have not been totally reassured by the response by my hon. Friend the Minister. The Government have a role to play in setting an example and giving advice to others. I do not agree that this measure is unenforceable. We already have legislation to prevent smoking on London Transport services and buses, and it is self-enforcing. The Government have introduced a range of legislation—for example, covering dogs wearing collars and people having to keep the areas outside their shops free of litter—which will be much more difficult to enforce than the provisions in new clause 59.

I do not wish to press the new clause to a Division. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Hon. Members


Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 31, Noes 131.

Division No. 191] [9.57 pm
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Jones, Ieuan (Ynys Môn)
Beggs, Roy McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)
Beith, A. J. Maginnis, Ken
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish) Meyer, Sir Anthony
Boateng, Paul Michael, Alun
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Molyneaux, Rt Hon James
Callaghan, Jim Morley, Elliot
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g) Mowlam, Marjorie
Duffy, A. E. P. Skinner, Dennis
Eastham, Ken Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Flynn, Paul Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Foster, Derek Wallace, James
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Hood, Jimmy
Howells, Geraint Tellers for the Ayes:
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Mr. Robin Maxwell-Hyslop and Mr. Anthony Steen.
Ingram, Adam
Jessel, Toby
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Arbuthnot, James Carrington, Matthew
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Chapman, Sydney
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove) Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)
Ashby, David Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Cope, Rt Hon John
Baldry, Tony Cran, James
Batiste, Spencer Crowther, Stan
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)
Bellingham, Henry Davis, David (Boothferry)
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Day, Stephen
Benyon, W. Dixon, Don
Bevan, David Gilroy Dorrell, Stephen
Boswell, Tim Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Bowis, John Dover, Den
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Dunn, Bob
Brazier, Julian Durant, Tony
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Fallon, Michael
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Fenner, Dame Peggy
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South) Fookes, Dame Janet
Burt, Alistair Forth, Eric
Butcher, John Freeman, Roger
Butler, Chris French, Douglas
Carlisle, John, (Luton N) Fry, Peter
Garel-Jones, Tristan Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Goodlad, Alastair Paice, James
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) Pike, Peter L.
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Portillo, Michael
Ground, Patrick Rathbone, Tim
Hague, William Renton, Rt Hon Tim
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Riddick, Graham
Hanley, Jeremy Ridsdale, Sir Julian
Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr') Rowe, Andrew
Harris, David Ryder, Richard
Haynes, Frank Sackville, Hon Tom
Heathcoat-Amory, David Shaw, David (Dover)
Hind, Kenneth Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Howarth, G. (Cannock &, B'wd) Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W) Skeet, Sir Trevor
Hunt, David (Wirral W) Speed, Keith
Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne) Speller, Tony
Hunter, Andrew Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
Irvine, Michael Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Jack, Michael Stanbrook, Ivor
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Stern, Michael
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Stevens, Lewis
Kennedy, Charles Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Key, Robert Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Kilfedder, James Summerson, Hugo
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield) Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Kirkhope, Timothy Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Knapman, Roger Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Lee, John (Pendle) Tredinnick, David
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh) Trippier, David
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe) Trotter, Neville
Lightbown, David Waller, Gary
Lilley, Peter Watts, John
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Wells, Bowen
Lord, Michael Wheeler, Sir John
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Widdecombe, Ann
McLoughlin, Patrick Winterton, Mrs Ann
Mans, Keith Wood, Timothy
Monro, Sir Hector
Moss, Malcolm Tellers for the Noes:
Mudd, David Mr. John M. Taylor and Mr. Irvine Patnick.
Nelson, Anthony
Nicholls, Patrick

Question accordingly negatived.

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