HL Deb 09 March 2005 vol 670 cc727-9
Baroness Morgan of Drefelin

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What discussions they have had with the authorities in the Republic of Ireland, Italy and the United States on lessons to be learnt from the introduction of restrictions on smoking in public places.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Warner)

My Lords, I begin by congratulating the organisers of today's No Smoking Day, which on past evidence will mean that more than 1 million smokers will try to quit.

There have been regular contacts and meetings with the Republic Ireland and New York. Italy reduced its restrictions only in January, and we are watching developments. We shall take into account any evidence from international developments that is relevant to this country's situation. Our proposals for England are based on extensive public consultation, which will continue while leading up to the legislation promised in the Choosing Health White Paper.

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply. I am glad to hear that we are open to learning from abroad. Does he agree that in the countries to which the Question refers many disasters were foretold but have yet to come about? Also, as it is national No Smoking Day, can he update us on the Government's tobacco control strategy, particularly on the reduction in the prevalence of smoking and on tackling advertising?

Lord Warner

My Lords, I thank my noble friend and can confirm that we are a learning government who continue to learn from others, with possibly one or two exceptions, in the area of health policy.

Several things that may be of interest to my noble friend and the House have happened since the Choosing Health White Paper. We have ended the practice of point-of-sale advertising and ratified the World Health Organisation's framework convention on tobacco control. With regard to the NHS Stop Smoking Service, we have published the latest statistics for the six months from April to September 2004. They show that around 201,500 people set a quit date in that six-month period and around 107,800 people quit after four weeks.

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, I have just enjoyed the most delicious lunch with the all-party smokers committee. Does the Minister share my views on the restaurateur quoted in the newspapers recently, who said, "This is my restaurant. If people do not wish to come to my restaurant, so be it. If they wish to come, and smoke a cigarette, equally so be it"?

Lord Warner

My Lords, I hope that the noble Baroness set a very good example to her lunching companions in the way she conducted herself.

Lord Chan

My Lords, what have the Government learned from other countries about tackling health inequalities, and particularly about helping those who are vulnerable, such as pregnant mothers and people from black and minority ethnic groups, to stop smoking?

Lord Warner

My Lords, as I said earlier, we watch the experience of other countries, and we have drawn on that experience in the Choosing Health White Paper, where we set out clearly our proposals for tackling the problems of second-hand smoke. In the media campaigns that we run on quitting smoking, we take account of the needs of all groups of people in this country.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

My Lords, how many Ministers in Her Majesty's Government still smoke?

Lord Warner

My Lords, I believe that data protection legislation prevents me being able to reveal that.

The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth

My Lords, would the Minister care to indicate whether the Government have any plans to ban the use of incense in places of public worship?

Lord Warner

No, my Lords, but if the right reverend Prelate wants us to work on that, I am sure that we could.

Lord Naseby

My Lords, can the Minister confirm that in the three areas discussed in the Question, there was extensive consultation with affected parties before any restrictions were introduced? Can he confirm that that is also the position of Her Majesty's Government?

Lord Warner

My Lords, we consulted extensively in this area and shall continue to do so.

Lord Harris of Haringey

My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, raises a very interesting point. Clearly it is open to restaurateurs to decide to pickle themselves and open to clients of that restaurant to decide not to go there. But what about the staff of such restaurants? What protection does my noble friend believe that they should be offered in such circumstances?

Lord Warner

My Lords, all employers are required to take account of the needs of their staff and we have the Health and Safety Executive to ensure that they do so.

Lord Walton of Detchant

My Lords, every few weeks statistics accumulate, clearly demonstrating not only the effect of smoking on human health of those who smoke cigarettes or pipes but the effect of passive smoking on others who are exposed to second-hand smoke. In the light of recent evidence and the Government's own White Paper, when will the Government complete the consultation process and introduce legislation to restrict smoking in public places?

Lord Warner

My Lords, today we published our delivery plan for the Choosing Health White Paper and identified in detail the work to be taken forward. The Government remain committed, as we made clear in the White Paper, that by the end of 2006 all government departments and the NHS will be smoke free. By the end of 2007 all enclosed public places and workplaces except for some licensed premises and membership clubs, will be smoke free. By the end of 2008, all licensed premises where food is prepared or served will be smoke free. This Government keep their promises.

Baroness Barker

My Lords, what discussions have there been with the authorities of the countries named in the Question about the cost of compliance with the change in the law? Who bears the cost of compliance with those changes?

Lord Warner

My Lords, I do not have the details of all the exchanges that took place in the contacts, consultations and meetings. I shall look into the matter and, if I can shed any light for the noble Baroness, write to her.

The Earl of Erroll

My Lords, does the Minister agree that people who suffer from stress should be allowed to choose to smoke to reduce it?

Lord Warner

My Lords, I think that we have made our policy on smoking very clear over a long period.

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