HC Deb 15 January 1996 vol 269 cc405-6
35. Mrs. Anne Campbell

To ask the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed, representing the House of Commons Commission, when the Commission will introduce a smoking policy into the office areas of the parliamentary estate. [7477]

Mr. Beith

The policy on smoking in offices of hon. Members and their staff is a matter for the Administration Committee, not the Commission. The Commission's policy, promulgated through the heads of Departments, is directed at discouraging smoking by its employees. It is left to individual heads of Departments to make arrangements by mutual agreement with staff for the restriction of smoking in offices. A separate and more stringent policy is, of course, applied in the Refreshment Department.

Mrs. Campbell

As the dangers of passive smoking are now so well documented, does the right hon. Gentleman believe that it is appropriate to protect the employees of the House of Commons from passive smoking, for instance in the Library area and in office areas occupied by right hon. and hon. Members? Is it right that people in their workplace should be forced to breathe in the smoke of other people?

Mr. Beith

I do not think that it is right for people in their working environment to be forced to inhale smoke from other people. The Commission has not been notified of any case in which members of its staff are required to work in environments where smoking takes place. If there is an example, I would be grateful if the hon. Lady would draw it to my attention.

Mr. Matthew Banks

Although I do not pretend to defend smoke-filled offices or rooms in the Palace of Westminster, does the right hon. Gentleman agree that we would be far better off continuing the present policy of designating areas for smoking, so that members of staff have the right to choose?

Mr. Beith

My understanding is that in the Departments of the House members of staff do not inflict smoking on others, and where other occupants of an office are non-smokers, or simply prefer people not to smoke in the office, those smokers do not smoke there and seek suitable places to do so.