I was doing a gentle trawl through Hansard today, and I thought I'd take a look at the Health Bill debate from 2006 concerned with bringing in an eventual smoking ban...it makes for some very interesting reading. I always believed that their Lordships were capable of nothing more than the usual rubber stamping of whatever came up from the commons. But that didn't appear to be the case at all.
This Health Bill was being read for the third time and concerned an amendment about smoking in vehicles. Not everyone thought that so called 'passive smoking' was as dangerous as the Government made out. Here is what Earl Howe had to say about it on the 4th July 2006.
“To say that there is a potentially lethal health risk from someone getting into the cab [of a lorry or tractor] after the previous driver has been smoking there seems ... ridiculous. If there is any residual smoke present, it will disappear rapidly ... there should be a common-sense cut-off point in these matters”.
It has to be said that Earl Howe wasn't the only noble Lord to find the nonsense spouted by the Government completely ludicrous.
Several Lords thought the same way, that the Government's response to something that was so trivial, was far too heay handed.
Lord Monson said this: "The Government seem to be arguing that second-hand smoke is not only disagreeable—few would quarrel with that—but also that it is one of the most deadly poisons known to man and that it remains poisonous hours after the last smoker has left the scene. That is ridiculous and it is certainly not borne out by the everyday experience of well over 99 per cent of the population". It's quite clear from reading their comments that they had a reasonably good grasp of the 'passive smoking' issue.
However one Government skivvy, Lord Faulkner always in favour of the ban, showed his ignorance or perhaps should I say intolerance. Here's what this bunteresque character had to say: "This attempt to imagine that we should exclude work vehicles, such as refuse vehicles where a gang of people may be at work and where people are coming and going all day long, because it is somehow safe if a couple of people smoke and it will not do any harm to the others is just absurd. The science does not support that point of view".
Earlier on in the debate Faulkner would not give way...and his naive comments just shows how deeply ignorant of the facts he is.
Faulkner was never able to present a shred of evidence that 'passive smoking' was as dangerous as the zealots so very often spout.
There were other Lords too (Lord Stoddart of Swindon for one) that fought their corner, but to no avail...no matter how reasonable their arguments.