§ Postponed proceeding on Question, That this House takes note of European Community Document No. 4225/89 and Corrigendum on banning smoking in public places; recognises that if agreed it would allow the Government to continue its current successful policy of achieving progress in this area largely through voluntary rather than legislative means; and endorses the Government's objective of replacing the draft Recommendation with a mixed Resolution or Recommendation, which would recognise Member States' doubts about Community competence in this area, resumed.
§ 12 midnight
§ Mr. Freeman
In the earlier part of the debate on the motion in the name of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister I explained that the draft resolution of the Council of Ministers is non-binding on the member states and does not have the force of law. We would be permitted to continue our voluntary policy of encouraging those responsible for restaurants, pubs and transport, both public and private, to segregate smokers from nonsmokers, but it would remain essentially a voluntary policy, except when safety issues are involved, as they are on the Underground where smoking is banned.
The Government fully support the Europe Against Cancer campaign, but we believe that the Community should not be involved in setting standards for public health. The Commission, of course, does not agree with that view. However, it proposes to proceed on the basis of the treaty as a whole under this draft non-binding resolution, without any reference to a specific article. Therefore, any decision by the Council of Ministers to carry the resolution would require unanimity.
§ Mr. Nicholas Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West)
If the Government and, presumably, the Council of Ministers generally regard this sort of proposal as an impertinent irrelevance, why do they allow the Commission to waste its time on this offensive stuff? Why did they not say, "Mind your own business" at an earlier stage?
§ Mr. Freeman
I do not regard this issue as at all offensive. It is an extremely important issue on which I as a Health Minister, my senior colleagues in the Department of Health and the British Government—
§ Mr. Freeman
If I might finish my sentence, I will be glad to give way.
As a Health Minister, I take the issue extremely seriously and support the notion that we should encourage the segregation of those who wish to smoke from those who do not wish to smoke or inhale cigarette smoke from those who choose to smoke.
§ Mr. Budgen
Let us understand the Government's position. Do the Government welcome this interference from the EEC? If the matter may be dealt with by our domestic legislature, why is the EEC interfering in it? In the first instance, we are not interested in whether the Government think that it is a good thing. Is this matter properly left to the EEC or should our domestic legislature be left alone to decide it?
§ Mr. Freeman
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for drawing my attention to the matter.
We accept that some non-public health matters are involved in the draft recommendation and, hence, justify Community consideration—for example, environmental issues. The environment is being polluted by those who smoke in public places. Therefore, as there is a partial competence of the Commission to consider and make proposals under the treaty, as I said earlier, we should have a mixed resolution. That part which is correctly related to the treaty can be decided by the Council of Ministers. The rest of the recommendation requires that it should be collectively decided by Ministers outside the framework of the Community treaty.
§ Mr. Marlow
We all understand that these are important environmental issues which have to be decided at the European Community level. These are environmental issues which cross frontiers between one Community country and another one. Could my hon. Friend explain to the House how it is that, if an individual happened to be smoking at Dover, that would inconvenience or pollute the environment of Calais?
§ Mr. Freeman
Despite my hon. Friend's intervention, I am sure that he would agree that, on smoking in public places, there is an undeniable environmental aspect to the proposals. Therefore, it cannot be denied that, under the treaty, there is competence on the part of the Commission to bring forward proposals. They are non-binding, as I said before. They are recommendations that would permit the British Government to maintain their policy of the voluntary reduction of smoking in public places.
§ Mr. Frank Haynes (Ashfield)
Hon. Members regularly get this kind of thing from Europe, late at night when everybody is ready for going home. I am getting a bit sick of it. Why do the Minister and the Government not tell them in Europe to go to blazes—telling us what to do? We have Committee Rooms upstairs where hon. Members serve on Bills. Sometimes those hon. Members want to go out into the Corridor to have a cup of coffee and a cigarette or to light their pipes. Although through their Department of Health the Government try to encourage people not to smoke because, we are told, it is a danger, when people are trying not to smoke and when they are sucking the mint with the hole, why are they told in Committee that they are eating and that they must not do it? Why can the Minister not do something about that?
§ Mr. Freeman
The hon. Gentleman is complaining about us staying up late to debate this matter, but I am trying to speed the process.
Despite our past success in reducing tobacco consumption, we are not complacent. Smoking continues to cause 100,000 deaths each year, or 300 people—
§ Mr. Haynes
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I asked the Minister a specific question and he has ducked 685 it entirely. He may agree with what goes on over there, but I can tell him that we are not going to stand for much more of it.
§ Mr. Freeman
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman knows that smoking regulations in the Palace of Westminster are not a matter for the Department of Health; they are a matter for the appropriate authorities in the House.
In conclusion, smoking continues to cause 100,000 deaths each year, or 300 people per day, and to cost the National Health Service over £500 million each year. We are continuing to monitor the situation and to seek new ways to encourage people to give up smoking. Our aim is to minimise the health risks that flow from smoking.
We have effective controls over cigarette advertising and sponsorship of sporting activities. We have secured a reduction in the average tar yield of cigarettes from 21 mg in 1972 to 13.6 mg today. We help to support ASH—Action on Smoking and Health—which is a voluntary group that campaigns against the use of tobacco. One third of the population smokes now compared with 40 per cent. in 1978. Tobacco consumption has declined faster in the United Kingdom than in any other European Community country, except the Netherlands, but we are not complacent and we need to make further progress. I commend the motion to the House.
§ Ms. Harriet Harman (Peckham)
I welcome the EEC document on passive smoking, but I am disappointed that the Minister has reminded the House that the document allows this country to continue with voluntary methods for segregating smokers from non-smokers. Those who have been concerned about this issue, and some hon. Members who spoke on the motion prior to our previous debate on the King's Cross Railways Bill and the Channel tunnel, are concerned about the legislation. Sadly, their fears are justified because, as the Minister explained, this country is allowed to continue its voluntary approach. My concern is that voluntary measures and public encouragement are not enough to protect people from lung cancer.
Passive smoking causes some risk of cancer. It also affects the elderly, people with cardiac diseases, asthma or allergies and can provoke respiratory diseases. It can endanger the development of the foetus. Smoking is also the cause of many fires.
We are talking not about making places smoke-free or about banning smoking, but about segregating smokers from non-smokers so that non-smokers have the right to breathe clean air.
In Britain we trail behind other EEC countries in only having a law which covers smoke-free areas on public transport. In all other public places there is no law to ensure smoke-free areas. Any restriction is merely voluntary. The result is that we still have restaurants and pubs in which there are no smoke-free zones for non-smokers who may be trying to eat or drink. We have smoking in schools and in hospitals that do not have smoke-free zones.
Any conflict of interest between the smoker and the non-smoker should be resolved in favour of the non-smoker. If backed by legislation, the EEC document would help to reinforce the important public health message that smoking is damaging. Legislation should be introduced to protect non-smokers from smoking in the workplace, restaurants and pubs.
686 I fully support the Bill that was introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton) which gained the support of the House by 99 votes to 90, but on which the Government have failed to act. There should also be legislation to protect non-smokers from smoking on commercial transport, such as coaches and airlines. Such legislation should also cover hospitals and schools and any place where services are provided to the public, either free or for a charge.
§ Mr. Budgen
Does the hon. Lady agree that this matter should be decided by the House and not by the EEC?
§ Ms. Harman
I hope that the House will decide that it supports the idea put forward in the document and that it will proceed to legislation. In fact, the document has been watered down; all it says is that it would be a good idea if people had smoke-free zones. I feel, therefore, that it is not worth the hon. Gentleman getting hot under the collar about—would that it were.
On 25 January the Prime Minister spoke at the launch of Europe Against Cancer Year. This is an opportunity for the Government to match her rhetoric with action.
The independent scientific committee on smoking and health reported in March 1988 that passive smoking could lead toseveral hundred out of the current annual total of about 40,000 lung cancer deaths in the UK.
§ Mr. Anthony Beaumont-Dark (Birmingham, Selly Oak)
Does the hon. Lady agree that the most powerful point was made by the hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Haynes), who in his usual absolutely right and passionate way said that we should not be interfering with the rights of the House? Even though the hon. Lady may have a bias against us poor wretched smokers, are we not really discussing whether those awful people in Brussels have the right to dictate to British people? Forgetting the hon. Lady's prejudice against smokers, does she want the people in Brussels to interfere?
§ Ms. Harman
The hon. Gentleman's fervour is directed at the wrong EEC document. This is no more than a document urging a situation with which everyone would agree. My point is that the Government should go on from that to legislate to protect non-smokers from smoking in the workplace, restaurants, commercial transport, hospitals and schools, and situations where they cannot escape from smokers and the ensuing health risks.
I agree with the independent committee which went on to say:non-smoking should be regarded as the norm in enclosed areas frequented by the public or employees, special provision being made for smokers, rather than vice-versa.The Minister spoke about the Government's concern about smoking, but there was a great deal of anger and concern that in Europe Against Cancer Year—no doubt some hon. Members will object even to that—the Chancellor's Budget failed to raise the tax on cigarettes even in line with inflation.
The Minister mentioned the sponsorship of sport and leisure by the tobacco industry. Anybody who watches any sport on television will know that major indirect advertising from the tobacco industry is poured into people's homes daily. I believe that the Government should ban all advertising by the tobacco industry and end all its sport and leisure sponsorship, which is merely backdoor advertising.
§ Mr. Stephen Day (Cheadle)
Does the hon. Lady agree that many people smoke because they are under stress? Has she ever calculated what the cost to the Health Service would be of other diseases which would affect people who were forced to stop smoking and who would, therefore suffer greater stress? Is she also not aware that many Tory Back Benchers have been caused great stress—especially me as a smoker—by the British Medical Association?
§ Ms. Harman
The hon. Gentleman should visit his local hospital and see the many people in hospital because of conditions caused by smoking. I went around my local hospital and the doctors told me that 20 per cent. of the in-patients with heart disease, respiratory problems, circulation problems—some of them double amputees—low birth-weight babies and miscarriages were suffering as a result of smoking. [Interruption.] That is scientific evidence. Therefore, one of the important things we can do for public health is to encourage the existing trend to cut down smoking.
I welcome the document. It does not go far enough. I should like the Government to act on their stated intentions and to ensure that legislation is passed. We have had voluntary encouragement of smoke-free zones for a long time, yet in most restaurants, public houses, transport, hospitals and schools it has not worked. We should come into line with other EEC countries and legislate to ensure smoke-free zones.
§ Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)
As far as I know, nobody intends to divide the House on this and as far as I am concerned everybody can get the hell out of here.
I am not a non-smoker, but an anti-smoker. Smoking killed my father and I suffered second-hand cigarette smoke for the first 18 years of my life. Despite that, I am wholly amazed that the hon. Member for Peckham (Ms. Harman) said that she is content not only with the measure, but to allow the European Community to compel this country to introduce measures on smoking and health. We may have strong views and we may wish to introduce our own measures, but the hon. Lady said that she was prepared to accept rulings on this and to allow Brussels and European institutions to compel this House and this country to introduce measures on smoking and health.
§ Mr. Marlow
I caution my hon. Friend that such is the state of Europe and the balance of political power within the Commission and the nation states of Europe that Europe is spawning measure after measure of Left-wing, Socialist, interventionist, interfering legislation, and that is why the hon. Lady supports it. That is where she gets her inspiration from. Europe today is about Socialism.
§ Mr. Haynes
The hon. Gentleman is going on a Left-wing trail and he is completely wrong. That lot in the Common Market are dictators—Right-wing dictators—and that is what is wrong. It is high time we told them to come off it and to buzz off. We will determine our own destiny in this place and not be dictated to by that lot over there.
§ Mr. Marlow
In a second. One at a time.
The hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Haynes) has yet to become acquainted with something known as the social charter. It is being pushed by President Mitterrand of France, the other Socialist countries in the Community and the bureaucrats and Socialists in his Commission, and when it is pushed on his party, he will embrace it wholeheartedly because it is Socialism tooth and claw. He will love it and lap it up.
§ Mr. Budgen
I do hope that my hon. Friend will stop talking about nation states in that old-fashioned way. He and I are proud to be part of a Conservative party which has voted for two massive handouts for the EEC and for the Single European Act, and which has been a most progressive instrument towards a federal Europe. It is no good making these silly remarks which give the impression that there is some reality to the Gaullist and nationalist rhetoric that comes from this party. My hon. Friend must realise that we are a federalist party. This silly talk about nation states simply shows how disloyal he is. That is what the Conservative Government are progressing towards, albeit backing into it.
§ Mr. Marlow
My hon. Friend makes his point, as usual, eloquently. I think that he will remember that he and I voted against this nonsense when it came through the House. He will also recognise that the balance of opinion within our great party is in favour not of a federal Europe at all but of a Europe of nation states. [Interruption.] My hon. Friend should wait and see. I am more confident than he is that our national party stands for the nation, not for federal Europe.
The issue before us is a recommendation on smoking in public places. In the translation, kindly provided to the House by the European Commission, the word "recommendation" is spelt "recommandation", with an "a" where there should be an "e". I do not know whether that is a Freudian slip or whether it was meant. As the Minister said, at the moment, there is a great argument about the treaty base of this instrument, about whether it should be before us or not and whether it is a matter for Community competence. I can assure my hon. Friend the Minister that when the argument is resolved it will be a "recommandation" and will be forced upon the House.
As day succeeds day, and month succeeds month in the Community, there is an inevitability that where there was at first a little grope or grasp for a small element of competence, it then becomes a definite area of Community competence. Bit by bit, the powers of the House and of British people to control their own destiny in areas where there is no necessity for Eureopean competence are being eroded. Why is that and how has it come about?
I have before me a scrap of paper called the Single European Act, to which are appended 12 signatures, including that of our own very pleasant, very popular, not very senior and not, to my constituents, a very committing Member, my right hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Mrs. Chalker). It is also signed, very appropriately, by a gentleman by the name of Goebbels. I jest not—his signature is here.
The measure that we are debating this evening has emanated from the Single European Act, the preamble to which says:Moved by the will…to transform relations as a whole among their States into a European Union689 We are going to have a European union on smoking and health. We might not like it, we might not have thought that we were going to get it or that we were voting for it when we had the referendum about joining a Common Market. We did not have a referendum about a single European state or a European union, but that is what we have got and that is what we have given the busybodies and that is the situation with which we must deal.
Mark it: the Single European Act that spawned this mischievous instrument will be used by those self same European institutions to envelop us in a web of unrequired, unrequited and unrequested European legislation, for our own good and to make us good Europeans, much of it with no other visible benefit. This measure will have a powerful, invisible effect of transferring power from this House to the European institutions.
This has gone on long enough and it is time that we put an end to it. I am pleased to say that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has grasped this issue and is aware of the problems that we face. She is aware, as the hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Haynes) is not, that many of the new measures coming from Europe are corporatist, Socialist and interventionist. She is aware, and the House should become aware, that the time will soon come to say to Europe in unmistakable terms, "Federal Europe, no. A Europe of nation states, yes." The time has not come with this instrument which is small, but the principle is important. This is the time when we should start to put across that message.
§ Mr. Ronnie Fearn (Southport)
I shall stick to the motion, which is about smoking.
I welcome and support European Community document 4225/89 and the draft recommendation on banning smoking in public places. We are all very much aware of the increasing amount of evidence which points to the dangers to health from exposure to environmental tobacco smoke or passive smoking. The fourth report of the independent scientific committee on smoking and health estimates that several hundred of the 40,000 lung cancer deaths in the United Kingdom result from passive smoking. There is a 10 to 30 per cent. increased risk of lung cancer in people who have never smoked but have been exposed to tobacco smoke for most of their lives.
We hear much evidence about the likely increase of respiratory-type diseases in children of parents who smoke, and the effects of that may come late in life. Most of this evidence is of the effects of smoking in the home, but there is also extensive information about the irritant and adverse effects of smoking in public places, such as restaurants, pubs, public transport and the workplace.
In Stockholm in Sweden, compensation has been awarded for occupational injury to a woman diagnosed as having small cell anaplastic carcinoma of the lung, which is a form of cancer. It is said that it resulted from sharing a poorly ventilated office with several habitual smokers.
The view that someone else smoking can be a serious health risk was given greater emphasis in the United States in 1986, when the bulk of the 18th report of the Surgeon General gave details about the risk of tobacco smoke to non-smokers. It said:To fail to act now on the evidence we currently have would be to fail in our responsibility to protect the public health.690 Many states in the United States acted, and more than 40 of them have laws that refer to smoking in the workplace and other public places. Some have total bans in certain areas, and others are restrictive, with designated areas for the smoker.
Those in the House who do not participate in the practice of inhaling the offending substance already know the unpleasant aspects associated with the habit—the smell, the discoloration, the stinging and watering of the eyes, the sore and dry throats. Those are just a few of the things to which non-smokers are exposed when gathering with others in an enclosed environment. People who suffer from various allergic conditions or from chest complaints are often in some difficulty when trying to go about their usual business or when attending a social or leisure function.
As I said, in the United States some states have laws that ban, restrict or regulate smoking in the workplace and other public places—laws in which the rights of the non-smokers prevail over those of smokers. In British law, the odds appear to be stacked in favour of the smoker, and the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 does not appear to apply to tobacco pollution—unless the Minister can tell me otherwise.
Although there has been an increase in public awareness of the dangers of smoking in crowded public places and of the risks to health from active and passive smoking, the Government's claim that their policy of achieving progress through voluntary means is a success story is possibly stretching the truth a little.
The message has clearly not got through to everyone. Some will always flout the rules and regulations—such as the group on the train on which I travelled to Glasgow last week. Seven over-21s sat in a non-smoking compartment and began smoking. An elderly couple in the compartment, one of whom obviously suffered from a chest complaint, began to cough and to be in a bad way. We asked the youths to stop smoking, but they refused. The guard also tried to get them to stop, but they still did not. In the end, the train was held up at Crewe station for half an hour. Two policemen came on board and the seven were removed from the train. They were allowed back on, after giving a promise not to do it again, and they got into another compartment. That was one instance where legislation was policed, but that does not always happen.
There are still many public areas and workplaces for which no restrictions or bans on smoking have been introduced. The unpleasantness, the risk to health and the danger from fire are allowed to continue. Many organisations which introduce their own regulations have difficulty in enforcing and policing them. Perhaps on British Rail we shall have policing. Others will not introduce restrictions until they have the law on their side.
I am aware that there is a civil liberty aspect to this matter, but the draft recommendation that we are discussing covers that. It does not recommend that a total ban should be introduced. It makes it clear that there should be provision to permit smoking in parts of public places, and it says:clearly defined areas must be reserved for smokers.If the Government wished to introduce stronger measures to improve the environment for non-smokers, opinion polls would be behind them. A recent NOP survey for the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys commissioned by the Department of Health and quoted at an Action on Smoking and Health briefing on 5 May 1989 691 found that 70 per cent. of the public agreed that there should be restrictions on smoking at work. That included 54 per cent. of smokers. About 80 per cent. of the public agreed that there should be restrictions on smoking in restaurants, and 67 per cent. of those were smokers.
In view of the evidence that is available on the damage caused by exposure to environmental tobacco smoke and to pollution of the air, and with the Government's new-found interest in green issues, I find their reluctance to take stronger action in this matter surprising. I am left wondering whether it has anything to do with the tobacco lobby. I hope not.
§ Mr. Christopher Gill (Ludlow)
Will the hon. Gentleman agree that it would be ironic if we in this place, representing some 600 people, were to enforce on 55 million or more people something which we are not prepared to do on a voluntary basis in our own workplace?
§ Mr. Fearn
The motion does not force people to do that. In my view, we are all Europeans. For that reason I could not appreciate the need for the debate which took place earlier.
I agree that education, information and health promotion are all important areas that we should not ignore in our attempts to reduce the effects of passive smoking by making people more aware of the harm that it can do. But the time has come for more positive and direct action. For that reason I hope that the Government are not successful in their attempts to have the recommendation—and it is a recommendation—changed to a resolution. It is clear that the Government would take little action under such a resolution.
I am concerned about the wording of the final part of the motion. I shall support the motion on the understanding that the phrasewhich would recognise Member states' doubts about Community competence in this arearefers specifically to smoking in public places. I am concerned about the wider implications that that phrase might have for the Community's competence in public health matters in general. I do not share the Government's view that the Community lacks competence in the public health policy of member states. There are issues such as food standards and pollution control that have a significant effect on public health for which the Community has responsibility and which is within its competence. I hope that the Minister will explain that point fully.
§ Mr. Roger Sims (Chislehurst)
I welcome the opportunity to discuss, albeit briefly, an important issue. I welcome much of what my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary said in introducing the debate. He reminded us that smoking is the largest preventable cause of death and disease in the United Kingdom and quoted some chilling statistics. He sought to assure us that the Government take these matters extremely seriously. I do not doubt for one minute my hon. Friend's personal commitment, but having a debate of this sort after midnight on a quiet Monday is not an especially convincing demonstration of the importance that the Government attach to the issue.
There appear to be two strands to the argument. One strand is that as smoking is an avoidable cause of death 692 and disease, there is an obligation on the Government to do everything that they can to persuade people, especially the young, not to take up the habit, and to persuade those who already smoke to smoke less or to stop. It is clear that reducing the number of opportunities to smoke has exactly that effect. Secondly, the non-smoker finds sometimes that he must breathe other people's smoke, which is extremely disagreeable. We know now without doubt that it is positively harmful. Therefore, there is an obligation to ensure that as far as possible we do not have to inhale other people's smoke if we do not want to do so. Restrictions on smoking in public places will achieve both the ends to which I have referred. They will dissuade the smoker and protect the non-smoker. That is exactly what is sought by the recommendation before us.
The United Kingdom is not obliged to implement the recommendation, and if it is reduced to a resolution it will carry even less weight. I understand that the Government are not prepared to legislate merely because the EEC requests them to do so, and question whether it has the competence to make the recommendation. I am bound to say that I regret the Government's unwillingness.
It is self-evident that public attitudes have changed a great deal. Only about one third of the adult population now smokes. There are more and more places where non-smoking is requested and more places where there are non-smoking areas. Legislation requiring non-smoking in public places, and especially in work places, would give impetus to the movement and be generally welcomed. The ban on smoking in tube trains and within the Underground system generally has demonstrated the extent to which the public will accept such measures. My hon. Friend the Minister said that the Government would have no hesitation in introducing legislation if that would be necessary for safety and hygiene. Surely health should be included in the hygiene.
The hon. Member for Southport (Mr. Fearne) quoted from a National Opinion Poll survey. I need not repeat the figures which he presented to us. The survey was commissioned by the Department of Health. The results of the survey tell us that 70 per cent. of those who were questioned agreed that there should be restrictions on smoking at work and that only 18 per cent. of offices have a smoking policy. The figures suggest that there is substantial public support for the rights of non-smokers, who are the majority.
A century ago, smoking was carried on by those who dressed for the occasion. They wore smoking jackets. They normally retired, even in this very building, to the smoking room. I do not see why nowadays the majority of us should have to seek out non-smoking carriages and non-smoking areas. I welcome that part of the document which we are considering that gives the rights of non-smokers priority everywhere except in specifically designated smoking areas.
I regret that the directive does not go far enough, but if only because of its recognition of non-smoking as the acceptable norm I welcome it as being at least a step in the right direction. My hon. Friend's Department promotes policies of preventive medicine, including support for the Health Education Authority and Action on Smoking and Health—though that support is somewhat modest compared with the sums spent by the tobacco industry on promoting its poisonous products.
I urge my hon. Friend to tackle, with all the vigour and diplomacy that he has already demonstrated in office, not 693 only the problem of smoking in public places but advertising, promotion and sponsorship—particularly that aimed at the young. If he does so, he will have my wholehearted support and that of my right hon. and hon. Friends in the all-party parliamentary ASH group.
§ Mr. Frank Haynes (Ashfield)
I get the impression that we have the no-smoking lobby here with us tonight. That is what is going on.
§ Mr. Haynes
I am not talking only about right hon. and hon. Members on one side of the House. I did not say that. The hon. Gentleman jumps to conclusions. The hon. Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) may laugh, but we are debating a serious matter. We are talking about jobs, for a start. That is one important aspect. I come from Nottingham, where many people work in the tobacco industry. So put that in your pipe and smoke it.
Our problem is that lot across the Channel. It is not a question of "You should smoke" or "You shouldn't smoke." The hon. Member for Chislehurst (Mr. Sims) was talking about smoking in certain areas and wearing a smoking jacket. I can see that what will happen next is that the Smoking Room down the corridor will be closed. What has happened to the freedom of the individual? Very often I pop into the Smoking Room to see who is there, and the right hon. and hon. Members in there all have their cigars and cigarettes going. Does the hon. Member for Chislehurst want to deny them that pleasure? The hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but I am convinced that that will be the next move.
The hon. Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) has left the Chamber, but I agree with his comment earlier about directives from Europe telling us what we should and should not do. I remember a debate early one morning on a Community directive that we should allow 40 tonne lorries on our roads. As the hon. Member for Northampton, North said, the next step will be a non-smoking directive. Who will be squealing then? I hope that we all will. I have had a bellyful of the people on the other side of the Channel telling us what we should do.
As to polluting the atmosphere in the House of Commons, what about pollution of the atmosphere outside this place? What about nuclear pollution in Cleveland and Cumbria? We are not doing a great deal about that. I squealed in Committee on the Atomic Energy Bill about what action that we should be taking on nuclear pollution. Youngsters are developing leukaemia, and we know how that is being caused.
I return to the point, Madam Deputy Speaker. I am just leading up to all the European directives that we are asked to approve—in the same way, I believe, that we shall be asked to approve one on smoking in public places.
§ Mr. Graham Riddick (Colne Valley)
Clearly the hon. Gentleman does not like intervention from across the Channel in the form of actions by the European Commission. Does he not find it a little disquieting that his hon. Friend the Member for Peckham (Ms. Harman) seems happy to accept the Commission's proposals so meekly in this instance?
§ Mr. Haynes
The hon. Gentleman will not lead me down that road. I am not going to fall out with my hon. Friend. She is a lovely lass, and so are you, Madam Deputy Speaker.
§ Mr. Haynes
I am talking about the freedom of the individual. My hon. Friend is entitled to her opinion, like the hon. Members for Derbyshire, South and for Chislehurst, but I have had a bellyful of being told what to do from across the Channel.
§ Mr. Haynes
My hon. Friend the Member for Peckham (Ms. Harman) is entitled to her opinion, and I am not going to fall out with her. I have said the same about the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South, but I disagree with her. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I have even got support on the Conservative Benches.
I think that you have heard enough from me, Madam Deputy Speaker. I have made my point. [HON. MEMBERS: "What was it?"] There are some sarcastic Conservatives in the Chamber tonight. My hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Mr. Dixon), the Opposition Deputy Chief Whip, is always here—like me—until the end of the day, even if it is 4.30 am. But many hon. Members are not here when we are dealing with European matters such as this. Thai is what I say—that I have had a bellyful. Many hon. Members have not experienced what we have experienced in the early hours of the morning. These debates come on far too late, and we are not given proper time to discuss the matters involved.
I am trying to deliver a message: let us get together and say that enough is enough. As I have said before—let me now say it yet again—I have had a bellyful. I am a little disappointed that the hon. Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor) is not here, because we usually stand together on such matters, almost arm in arm. We entirely disagree with what is happening. The hon. Member for Northampton, North who has probably gone to bed, disagrees as well. We shall continue to disagree until they shut up over there and let us get on with our job here, and determine the destiny of the people of the United Kingdom. They are the people whom we represent here; that lot over there can look after themselves.
§ Mr. Gerald Howarth (Cannock and Burntwood)
In the absence of my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor), perhaps I may walk arm in arm with the hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Haynes). I entirely endorse what he has said. The House is always delighted when the hon. Gentleman is championing a cause, not least when it is the cause of individual liberty. I am not quite sure how he manages to reconcile it with his amazingly competent role as an Opposition Whip: he is a most fearsome character in that role, but a most delightful one when speaking on individual rights.
I do not wish to detain my colleagues, so I shall he brief. My hon. Friend the Member for Chislehurst (Mr. Sims) —like my hon. Friend the Minister and the hon. Member for Peckham (Ms. Harman)—has advanced very good arguments about the dangers of smoking, while others have argued that it is a perfectly legitimate occupation. I believe, however, that the debate is not actually about the 695 merits or demerits of smoking: I think that it is about the competence of the European Economic Community to regulate our lives.
I am sure that the hon. Member for Ashfield and my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) speak for a large vein of opinion in the United Kingdom. The more that the EEC continues to poke its nose into affairs that have nothing to do with the Economic Community and are increasingly to do with social matters which do not require unity across the Channel, the more it will alienate the British people and put at risk some of the great advantages to be had from EEC membership.
This is a question of competence. The unwarranted interference of Brussels bureaucrats is far more dangerous than any smoke that is likely to be exhaled by the citizens of our country when smoking cigarettes or pipes. It is vital that the Brussels bureaucrats should be kept in check. They should be told to keep their noses out of our business and to allow this Parliament to determine these matters.
I agree that it is regrettable that European legislation is debated late at night, with the result that any hon. Member who wishes to make a contribution feels that he must keep his remarks short. The Government were right to refuse to be drawn down the path advocated by the Liberals. It is astonishing how many times the Liberals come to this Chamber to tell the people of Britain what they wish to force upon them. They are a bunch of nannies. They are as bad as any Eurocrat in wanting to interfere in the affairs of the people of Britain. They are jolly good candidates for jobs in Brussels. They are far more in sympathy with what is going on there than they are with the mood of the British people. Last Thursday's election results prove that point. Many of them will soon have to look for jobs in Brussels, because they will no longer be here.
I welcome the fact that the Government have decided not to introduce compulsion but to replacethe draft Recommendation with a mixed Resolution or Recommendation, which would recognise Member States' doubts about Community competence in this area.I hope that the Minister will make it absolutely clear to those with whom it is his responsibility to negotiate in Brussels that he speaks with the full authority of this Parliament and nation, that we shall not brook interference in our affairs and that he is speaking not simply for himself but for the British people.
§ Mr. Freeman
This has been a brief, illuminating and somewhat humorous debate. Nevertheless, several serious points have been made, and I shall seek to answer them.
696 My hon. Friend the Member for Chislehurst (Mr. Sims) —to whose work for Action on Smoking and Health, which is much appreciated by many of his colleagues and friends on both sides of the House, I pay tribute—spoke about the serious effect of smoking and the damage that it can do to one's health. I endorse entirely what he said. Sitting next to him is my predecessor in office, my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie), who in last November's debate also underlined the serious effects of cigarette smoking on health. I endorse entirely what she said in the debate, and I have just re-read it. My hon. Friend the Member for Chislehurst asked for an assurance that when we renegotiate the voluntary agreements we shall vigorously pursue them. I give him that assurance.
The hon. Member for Southport (Mr. Fearn) referred to the importance of no-smoking areas. I agree with him. That is enshrined in the draft recommendation and also in my statement to the House earlier today. He asked me whether the Government believe that the Commission has competence to introduce proposals concerning public health. The answer is no, we do not believe that it has. I hope that I have made that quite clear to the House.
The hon. Member for Peckham (Ms. Harman), who spoke on behalf of the Opposition, asked why our policy of voluntary control could not be replaced by United Kingdom legislation. I hope that I have made it quite clear that the Government do not believe that that is appropriate. It is important to continue with voluntary control. We have had substantial success with voluntary control, and we want more success of that kind. The Opposition believe that legislation is required, but the Government do not share their view.
My hon. Friends the Members for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) and for Cannock and Burntwood (Mr. Howarth) and the hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr Haynes) believe that this is a stalking horse for EC control of public health. It is not. The draft recommendation is non-binding. It does not involve the British Government in taking legislative action. The measure is modest, and while the Commission is right to be concerned about smoking in public places, we disagree that it has the competence to pronounce on public health policy. Nevertheless, I commend the motion to the House.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That this House takes note of European Community Document No. 4225/89 and Corrigendum on banning smoking in public places; recognises that if agreed it would allow the Government to continue its current successful policy of achieving progress in this area largely through voluntary rather than legislative means; and endorses the Government's objective of replacing the draft Recommendation with a mixed Resolution or Recommendation, which would recognise Member States' doubts about Community competence in this area.