I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
I am delighted to present this Bill to the House. It is important for many reasons, the first of which is clearly the protection of children. I have been pleased to receive the support of Members from all parties in the House. I am also grateful for the support of the Government and the Minister of State, Department of Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Gillian Merron), who is responsible for public health.
I am grateful to those MPs from my party and other parties who are sponsoring the Bill and, in particular, I thank Cancer Research UK, the British Medical Association, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health and the Local Government Association for their wholehearted support. At this point, I particularly thank my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Mrs. James), who has campaigned tirelessly on the issue for many years. I was lucky enough to draw No. 5 in the ballot for private Members’ Bills. She has done a lot of the work over many years, so we are working together to try to get this Bill through the House.
I also want to thank all those Members who have signed early-day motion 537. Today, the number of signatures is 164. As all Members know, that is a large number of signatures for an early-day motion, so I am thankful for the support of so many people throughout the House.
It is also clear that this Bill will be popular with the public. Some 87 per cent. of the UK public believe that those aged under 18 should not use sunbeds. I am pleased to report that I went with other Members to No. 10 Downing street this week to hand in a petition signed by more than 10,000 people thanks to The Sun newspaper, which has run a long, vigorous campaign on the issue, too.
The Bill is very important, as the intention is to protect young people. The Bill aims to prevent under-18s from accessing sunbeds, seeks to create a duty on sunbed businesses to prevent the use of sunbeds by under-18s and gives local enforcement officers powers to inspect salons and penalise salon operators if under-18s are found to be using sunbeds. It also contains provisions to introduce regulations to ensure that under-18s cannot hire or buy sunbeds, that all sunbed salons are staffed and that clear and accurate health information is displayed in all salons and other places where sunbeds are used for commercial purposes. The Bill recognises that adults are free to make their own decisions about sunbed use, but they should also know what dangers are involved. That is why, under the regulations, there will be a requirement that health information should be made available.
It is also very important that the Bill would prevent operators from advertising unsupported benefits of sunbed use and ensure that all adult sunbed users wear protective eyewear when using a sunbed in a commercial setting. I must point out strongly that the Bill is not regulation for the sake of it. The sunbed industry has already tried to self-regulate and it has failed. Self-regulation has not worked. The Bill is about protecting young people and giving people the information they need to make an informed choice.
I warmly congratulate the hon. Lady on her Bill. It is a small measure but an important one. Does she agree that teenagers often feel invincible? They are not sufficiently risk-averse, and the Bill will not only inform them and control the industry, but give parents power and leverage over their youngsters so that they can guide them correctly.
Has the hon. Lady given any thought to trying other measures before we go for the nuclear option of an outright ban? For example, we could do the same as some 29 states in America where under-18s are required to obtain parental permission before they are allowed to use a sunbed.
There has been every opportunity to introduce voluntary measures, but clearly they have failed. As I said earlier, if unstaffed sunbeds remain, it will never be possible to stop under-18s using them. If the premises are not staffed, even if young people went along with something from a parent, who would see the permission? The hon. Gentleman raises an important issue, but we have reached the end of the voluntary road.
This is a useful debate and I am grateful to the hon. Lady for engaging in it. Her Bill, as she made clear, regulates to ensure that there will be no more unmanned sunbed shops. If that part of her Bill went forward, would it not enable us to try parental permission first before going to the nuclear option of an outright ban?
Does the hon. Lady accept that although the parental permission route may have worked in several US states, the culture there is quite different? Youngsters are prohibited from drinking, and the prohibition is actually obeyed. The parental permission route would not work in the UK as it does in the USA because of that cultural difference.
Is it not the case that the younger a person is when they start to use sunbeds, the greater the repercussions and consequences for their health? Whether they have parental permission or not, if they start to use sunbeds regularly between the ages of 13 and 17, they face a lifetime of potential damage and possibly death from cancer.
The intervention from the right hon. Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint) was telling. It has been established that a vast number of skin cancers that occur later in life are caused by exposure during the teenage years, and no doubt the hon. Member for Cardiff, North will go into those facts. Could she add a small clause to the Bill to force her Government, or a new Government, to remove VAT from sun creams that are health care and not cosmetic products?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. I shall now talk about the strong evidence base for the Bill.
Research commissioned by Cancer Research UK last year found that, in England, 6 per cent. of 11 to 17-year-olds—more than 250,000 children—had used sunbeds. That is a shocking statistic. There are worrying hot spots, particularly in places such as Liverpool and Sunderland where 50 per cent. of 15 to 17-year-old girls are using sunbeds. In Wales, 8 per cent. of children aged between 11 and 17 have used a sunbed, and the figure is more than one in five for girls aged between 15 and 17.
Malignant melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, is increasing at an alarming rate across the UK. Sunbed use, particularly by those aged under 35, significantly increases the risk of developing skin cancer in later life, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint) said. About 2,000 people each year die from malignant melanoma and it is now the most common cancer in young adults aged 15 to 34. People from the most affluent areas have better malignant melanoma survival rates than those from deprived areas. The evidence for taking stronger action on sunbeds is clear.
My hon. Friend makes an excellent argument on the health issues, but does she agree that there is also the issue of personal safety, with predominantly young women in unmanned salons who, if they were to receive unwelcome attention, have no assurance from the industry about how long any security would take to get to them?
I thank my hon. Friend for her intervention. That is an important consideration.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer has reclassified sunbeds and placed them in its highest cancer risk category, alongside tobacco. We have all accepted the dangers of tobacco and almost universally support the work that the Government have done on the tobacco issue. The independent Health Protection Agency’s Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment—COMARE—has recommended that the Government take strong action to protect young people from the dangers of using sunbeds. The European Union believes that under-18s should not use sunbeds and the US Food and Drug Administration is considering taking stronger action on them.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is part of the World Health Organisation, upgraded its assessment of sunbeds to its highest level of cancer risk, with the conclusion:
“the risk of skin melanoma is increased by 75 per cent. when use of tanning devices starts before 30 years of age”.
We need to take that conclusion seriously.
It is clear that the sunbed industry has not regulated itself well up till now. Voluntary regulation is inconsistent and largely unmonitored. A lack of supervision or care means that young people regularly access sunbeds. Cancer Research UK has done a great deal of research with young people and has been told:
“I’ve gone in my school uniform but I was fine and I was only 14”
“they didn’t ask my age because we went with my friend’s sister.”
Signs from which customers can infer only that sunbeds are good for their health can still be found outside tanning salons around the country. Promoting unsupported benefits of sunbeds is irresponsible when we know that they significantly increase the risk of malignant melanoma, as well as prematurely ageing the skin.
I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. There are certainly examples of untrained people supervising sunbed use, where there is anyone supervising it at all. That means that young people—14-year-olds and young people in school uniform, as I said—can easily access sunbeds.
Is my hon. Friend aware that a recent BBC programme in the south-west took two 14-year-olds into an unstaffed salon in that area, where the cleaner helped the young women and showed them how to put their money into a slot machine and how to operate the machinery? That is an example of unstaffed and unsupervised salons, and untrained staff.
Thinking about the way in which tanning salons are promoted, they are almost pop-up businesses. Anyone can rent a unit and set themselves up. Will my hon. Friend comment on the fact that sunbed use is often presented as a cheap option—I understand that 15p has been charged for a couple of minutes on the machines—and that research found that young people got addicted? As soon as the tan went, they wanted to top it up, so although it is quite inexpensive, they are lured in to do more and more tanning, to the detriment of their future health?
Yes, there are many examples of young people who become addicted and feel that they cannot manage unless they go to a salon continually. They might think of going once a month, but they end up going once—and sometimes more than once—a week. We know that such activity is extremely dangerous because of its long-term consequences, so I thank my right hon. Friend for that intervention.
COMARE also emphasises that sunbeds are not a safe way of obtaining vitamin D
“due to the potential carcinogenicity and the high frequency of acute side-effects.”
By using them, people risk becoming sunburnt and damaging their skin. In south Wales, we had a very troubling example of a young woman aged 14 who went expressly against her parents’ wishes to an unstaffed sunbed salon and suffered 70 per cent. burns. That was absolutely horrific, and through this legislation we want to try to prevent such incidents from occurring.
The UK’s national skin cancer prevention campaign, SunSmart, says that
“the amount of sun needed to make enough vitamin D is always less than the amounts that cause tanning.”
We do not need a sunbed to get our vitamins. Any assumption that we do is mistaken. I am concerned, because young people believe that they are doing no more damage to their skin on a sunbed than they are if they step out their house on a sunny day, but we know that sunbeds are much more dangerous.
The Secretary of State for Health and the Welsh Assembly Health Minister, Edwina Hart AM, are committed to introducing regulations if the Bill is passed. I am very pleased that it covers England and Wales, and that we have such strong support from the two Governments and, in particular, those Ministers.
Several colleagues have raised questions about the impact of the legislation on small businesses during the recession.
Before my hon. Friend moves on to another topic, I must note that she mentioned the discussions between the Department of Health and the Welsh Assembly. Are similar discussions about this very important issue taking place with other devolved Administrations? We should not have one rule for England and Wales only, because the rest of the UK is just as important.
I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. Scotland is certainly ahead of us, because it has already introduced such legislation.
If Ministers introduce regulations, there will be consultation on the provisions for coin-operated sunbeds and the display of health information. When we launched the Bill, the Secretary of State promised an extensive consultation with the sunbed industry. It is important to note that the Sunbed Association, which represents those parts of the sunbed industry with supervised tanning salons, supports the Bill.
I congratulate my hon. Friend on introducing this fantastic Bill, which I sincerely hope becomes law. Does she agree that her actions will not just protect young people, but have the wider effect of giving people much more information about the dangers of sunbeds? We hope that the legislation will protect 16 to 18-year-olds, but parents may not understand why they should not let their daughters—it is mostly daughters—go on sunbeds that none of us should be using.
If the regulations are introduced, the required information will represent a major step in that direction.
The legislation is a not a move to inflict unnecessary new regulations on industry; it is about protecting children and giving people the right information to which my hon. Friend refers. They need that information when they make choices affecting their health. There will be ample opportunity for the industry to have its say, and I am pleased that the main body for the industry has thrown its support behind the Bill.
The Bill will also make it easier for trading standards inspectors to check that businesses are compliant with existing regulations. We know from COMARE that
“the irradiance from sunbeds can vary greatly”,
“in recent years, sunbeds have been produced that are too powerful for the type 3 classification”,
“the only class…suitable for general use in commercial sunbed outlets.”
Today we have the chance to decide what is the most important thing to do, and I think it is the protection of our young people.
At the launch of the Bill, I met a lady from Liverpool called Justine Shiels. Justine started using sunbeds at the age of 15 to get a tan before the summer holidays. In fact, I have often heard people say that they need to build up their tan before the summer holidays and then top it up again afterwards. At 32, she was diagnosed with malignant melanoma and had serious operations to remove two tumours from her chest and head. Justine came to the launch because she hopes that her story will help other young people to think about what using sunbeds is doing to their skin. She sees teenage girls in their school uniforms going into salons that she used to use, and she hopes that the Bill will succeed so that others will not have to go through what she has gone through over the past four years.
I congratulate the hon. Lady on introducing this Bill, and I am very pleased to support it. Does she think that there is a wider issue involved? Girls go along to these places because they think it is fashionable, and teenagers’ and women’s magazines have a huge part to play in that. I probably have an interest as a pale-faced, befreckled redhead, but I find it frustrating that it is always trendy to be tanned. The sooner we can get out of this mindset that a brown skin is a healthy skin, the better; we would all be a lot better off if we could accept how we are.
I thank the hon. Lady for her supportive intervention; that would be a good situation to arrive at.
I want to say again that this is not about regulating for the sake of it. We must protect our children from an activity that can, as we have heard, become seriously and dangerously addictive. I hope hon. Members have seen the briefing from Cancer Research UK, which I thank for its endless work on the issue. It carried out some focus group research with young people under 18, who said for example that they went
“twice a week with my sister—I’m a bit of an addict, I have a block booking”;
“I couldn’t see myself going pale again”,
reflecting the point made by the hon. Member for Romsey (Sandra Gidley); and
“It’s a bit addictive, once you see your tan starting to fade, you need to go back and top it up”;
“I went through a phase where I would just not come off them—and I’d keep getting a block booking and going on them…I just loved it.”
In Wales, a further 16 per cent. of the young people interviewed for Cancer Research UK said that although they have not yet used a sunbed, they may do so in future. In addition, one in five children who use sunbeds do so at least once a week. Anecdotally, I understand that it is not only young girls feeling the pressure to get a tan—young men are increasingly using sunbeds as well. This is a problem among our young people, and it requires action now.
It is important to point out that other countries are taking action. There is specific legislation on sunbed use in Belgium, Finland, France, Norway, Portugal, Spain and Sweden. In Scotland, action has been taken in the Public Health etc. (Scotland) Act 2008, which contains measures to better regulate the sunbed industry, including a prohibition on the use of sunbeds by under-18s. It is very important that we protect under-18s in England and Wales as well. Why should minimum health, safety and good practice guidelines be met in other countries, but not here? We must recognise that under-18s are still able to use sunbeds with ease in England and Wales, often in coin-operated, unsupervised salons. We have a duty to act.
We also have a duty to act on public opinion, remembering that 87 per cent. of the public support banning under-18s from using sunbeds.
My hon. Friend has done a great service to the House in securing this private Member’s Bill. I have had conversations with many people who could not believe that under-18s had unlimited access to such tanning provision. It is sometimes right that we take affirmative action, in a positive way, instead of always being held back by the sense that the nanny state is imposing too much. I found that the more the public knew about this terrible situation, the more they woke up to the fact that something that they thought was regulated was certainly not.
That is an essential point to make. It is important that the House supports the Bill, because we have the support of the public and all the organisations involved in the field. The only effective way to prevent under-18s from using sunbeds is to ensure that salons are supervised, and the only way to ensure that adults can make informed choices is to ensure that information is available to them at the time of use.
There has been a tremendous campaign to get legislation such as this on the statute book and we have had support from a wide range of people. We have a real opportunity to protect children from sunbeds. The Bill could save lives. I hope that Members will support it today, and I commend it to the House.
I begin by congratulating the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Julie Morgan) on her success in the ballot and on introducing the Bill. I do not doubt that she has identified a matter that needs some sort of action, that there is a problem or that she has introduced the Bill with the very best of intentions to improve public health in this country. I certainly do not quibble with her about that. I am in no doubt that the Bill will be given a Second Reading and will progress to Committee.
However, in debates such as this, particularly when it is trumpeted that 87 per cent. of the public support something, and especially in the run-up to a general election, everybody wishes to be on the popular side of the argument. Unfortunately, in too many cases, the other side of the argument is not put. For the sake of balance, it is important to put some other points forward, so that the House can at least consider them. At the end of the debate the House may well decide that the hon. Lady’s Bill is the right way forward and the best method, but it is important that we consider other points to try to get some balance.
It is slightly surprising to hear Labour Members argue, “Well, we must do this because such a large proportion of the population are in favour of it.” I could cite at length—you will be relieved to know that I will not, Madam Deputy Speaker—a large number of issues on which there is considerable support for a course of action that Labour Members would die in a ditch to prevent from being brought into law. I mention in passing capital punishment. It has popular support in this country, but I am not aware of any Labour Members standing up in the House and saying that we should bring it back because a vast majority of people are in favour of it. I understand why they decided to use that argument in relation to the Bill, but I am not sure that they are entirely consistent in using it.
There are clearly health issues to consider with regard to the use of sunbeds. The hon. Lady mentioned the various cancer charities and organisations that support the Bill, because they see at first hand the problems of skin cancer to which sunbed use contributes. Those points are very well made.
The point at issue, as with all such matters, is not really whether sunbed use is or is not a problem, but whether the measure is proportionate. That is where discussion should focus. We all accept that there is a problem with sunbed use; we are arguing not about the science, but whether, at this stage, we need to introduce a ban on under-18s using sunbeds. I am delighted that the hon. Member for Cardiff, North implied—she will correct me if I am wrong—that she accepted the principle that, although sunbed use is undoubtedly bad for adults in some cases, people who are over 18 are capable of making their own decisions.
Although the hon. Lady made valuable points about information so that people can make an informed choice, she accepts—I think it is the general consensus—that people over 18 are capable of making decisions about whether they want to take the risks involved in sunbed use, and that is why the Bill covers only under-18s. I have a great deal of sympathy with that, because we in this place need to protect children who are not at an age when they are capable of making an informed decision.
However, I have several worries about the Bill. The first is the slippery slope. Some of the arguments that were deployed in various interventions on the hon. Lady’s speech were not for banning sunbeds for under-18s, but for banning sunbeds. I therefore wonder whether this is the first stage of a plan to ban sunbed use altogether.
There is an analogy with smoking. No one argues for banning smoking altogether—at least, not at this stage; perhaps some hon. Members would argue for that—but we ban it for children, because it is harmful. Are not the positions analogous?
Yes. However, the hon. Lady should be aware that many hon. Members would like to ban smoking and that only thing that stops them is public opinion. If she attended the debates on banning smoking in public places, through which I sat on many occasions, she knows that the arguments deployed were not for a ban on smoking in public places, but for a ban on smoking altogether. There is no doubt that some hon. Members would love to go down that route.
I do not disagree with that. I merely highlight the salami-slicer effect of legislation in this place. People who have agendas further down the line use measures such as the Bill as a Trojan horse, which enables them to pursue their other agenda later. Sometimes lines in the sand need to be drawn. I always took the view that I was not elected to Parliament to ban everyone else in the country from doing everything that I do not happen to like. I thought that my duty was to preserve people’s individual freedoms. In my short time in the House, I have learned that some hon. Members believe that they come to Parliament to do nothing but ban people from doing everything that they do not happen to like. I want to try to prevent that erosion of our freedoms.
Hon. Members, particularly on one side of the House, are good at trying to ban people from doing things. I object to that nanny-state approach, whereby we have to impose our views and beliefs on everybody else in the country and are not prepared to let people make up their own minds. I do not believe that Parliament should operate in that way. I would like to think that, as well as trying to protect children, which is a perfectly worthy aim for Members of Parliament, we consider protecting people’s freedoms a worthy aim. I regret that that does not happen as often as I would like. The question is whether or not an outright ban is the way to go, but it appears to be the first option.
The hon. Member for Cardiff, North said, quite rightly, that we have tried a voluntary code. There are many decent sunbed operators who do not try to breach the code. They behave extremely responsibly, and there is no particular problem with their operations. We ought to put on record the fact that there are many responsible outlets that do a very good job of protecting children. I would not want us to run away with the idea that this is, in total, an irresponsible industry, because that is not the case. The question is therefore whether or not we ought to adopt the measures in the Bill.
The hon. Lady claims that the voluntary code has not worked. Whether or not that is the case, it has not worked to the extent that she would like. When there is a disagreement, and someone wants to use their artillery to try to make their case, the first weapon of choice should not be the nuclear option. It seems to me that the nuclear weapon in all these debates is a ban. I am slightly nervous about the fact that after the voluntary code, the next weapon that we take from our artillery is the nuclear option of a ban. I wonder whether other measures could be used to do the job that the hon. Lady is seeking to do, without banning under-18s from using sunbeds.
I shall come on to discuss the ban. The hon. Lady did not mention it, but it extends beyond a ban on under-18s using sunbeds to children being banned from being in a room in which there is a sunbed. Other measures could have been tried first, such as the one that I mentioned in my intervention. Some 29 American states that recognise the problems caused by sunbed use and want to protect children have introduced a system to tackle the problem. In three states, there are provisions on sunbed use for under-16s; in other states, there is a ban for under-15s; and in others, there is a ban for under-18s. In all cases, people under the stipulated age require parental permission before they can use a sunbed. As a first stage in the process, trying a system of parental permission might be more appropriate. If we reach the stage at which parental permission is still not doing the job that the hon. Lady wants or that cancer charities think necessary, we can revisit the issue.
I am slightly nervous about going straight for an outright ban. We need to consider the wider picture, which is why I have mentioned parental permission. On so many issues, we send out the wrong message to parents. The premise appears to be—I am sure that many hon. Members disagree with me and will seek to correct me—that the problem with parental permission is that some parents are totally irresponsible, so we have to protect their children. That argument is used to explain why we do not allow parents responsibility on other issues, but I think it is extremely dangerous to go down that route. It instils a culture in which we say to parents, “It doesn’t matter what you do. It doesn’t matter how you bring up your children or whether you take responsibility for this, that or the other. If you don’t do it, the state will do it for you.” We have seen in recent years how dangerous that route is.
Surely all hon. Members want parents to take responsibility for their children. The only way in which we can make parents take such responsibility is to give them that responsibility. Rather than saying to parents, “It doesn’t matter what you do, the state will deal with it for you,” it would be far better for this country in the long term if we said to parents, “Being a parent is a very very responsible thing. There are certain things that you are responsible for that the state is not going to do on your behalf. You must take responsibility for your own children, because if you don’t, no one else will.” Society would be far better if parents knew that being a parent involved responsibility, that they could not farm out their responsibilities to all and sundry, and that they had to take those responsibilities for themselves.
My fear is that the Bill is yet another nail in the coffin of parental responsibility, where the state decides that it does not really matter what parents think or do, because it will take over the running of their children’s lives. Whatever the merits of the measure, I worry about the long-term consequences of such an attitude towards public policy on children. As we have seen in recent weeks, there are many cases where we despair at parents’ lack of responsibility, but taking more responsibility away does not help to address that.
I ask the hon. Lady to think again about some of the measures in the Bill. I have no doubt that the Bill will be given a Second Reading and go into Committee, but some parts of it are somewhat excessive. Clause 2, on the duty to prevent sunbed use by children, prevents their entering a “restricted zone”. I am sure that the hon. Lady will correct me if I am wrong, but it seems that the Bill not only prevents under-18s from using sunbeds, but does not allow them to be in the same room as a sunbed. If the sunbed is in a big area rather than a private room, the restricted zone becomes the whole area.
That is my understanding of the measure. Whatever the merits of banning under-18s from using sunbeds, it seems a bit over the top for a whole host of reasons to ban people even from being in a room where there is a sunbed. If a sunbed is in a big, wide open space, other things might be going on at the same time. For argument’s sake, let us say that fitness gadgets are available for people to use in the same room. I often hear Members on both sides of the House lecturing people on how they should do more exercise and saying what a shocking problem obesity is in this country. It would be perverse, when we are supposed to be dealing with the problem of obesity, if a Bill that is supposed to stop children using sunbeds ended up preventing them from using exercise bikes or other fitness equipment. I wonder what on earth we are doing. I would like to think that, on reflection, hon. Members would agree that that is slightly perverse and probably somewhat excessive.
As we have said, adults can make up their own minds about whether they wish to take the risk of using a sunbed. A parent may decide to use a sunbed while they are looking after their young children. The best way for a parent to know that a child is safe is for the child to be sitting in the same room while the sunbed is being used, rather than the child being carted off somewhere else. So why would we want to ban children from being in the same room as a sunbed? If parents wish to use a sunbed, it is understandable that they may wish to have their children close by. In Committee—I fully expect the Bill to make it into Committee—I hope that the hon. Lady will look again at some of these points. I hope that on reflection she will accept that some aspects of the Bill are excessive and might have some perverse outcomes.
The Bill also includes penalties. The punishment for failing to comply with its requirements is a fine of up to £20,000, which seems excessive to me. However, I seek the hon. Lady’s guidance on an apparent contradiction. On the one hand, the Bill suggests that it does not matter if the offender intended for the under-18 to use or be in the same room as a sunbed or took steps to prevent that from happening, because he or she would still be guilty under the provisions of the Bill. On the other hand, the Bill also appears to include a due diligence defence. If someone takes steps to prevent something from happening, they have a due diligence defence, so I do not understand that. I shall give the hon. Lady an example to try to illustrate my point.
I used to work in retail, which has many age restrictions connected with the sale of goods. For example, alcohol may not be sold to under-18s. If a retailer is charged with selling alcohol to someone aged under 18, they have a due diligence defence if, for example, they can produce training material that shows they train their staff not to do that and refresh that training each year. In that case, the retailer can argue that they took all reasonable steps to prevent alcohol from being sold to an under-age customer. That is only fair, if the retailer has done everything possible to stop such sales.
I hope the hon. Lady will clarify the due diligence defence and confirm that if the owner of a salon could demonstrate that they had taken all possible precautions to prevent an under-18 from using a sunbed, but they still had, it would qualify as a due diligence defence under the Bill. It is important to try to help responsible operators who are trying to do their best, instead of lumping them in with those who are not taking reasonable steps. The first part of the Bill, which says that it does not really matter whether anybody takes any steps to prevent the offence from taking place, is not particularly helpful. I hope that on reflection she will introduce measures in the Bill to clarify that those operators who do everything possible to prevent under-18s from using sunbeds will be protected and ensure that her fire, so to speak, is directed against those retailers whom she might consider to be more irresponsible.
It is important to point out that the hon. Lady includes an exemption from the requirements in the Bill for those who use sunbeds for medical treatment. That is a useful and sensible provision because, as she rightly recognises, some people are encouraged to use a sunbed on occasions, for their skin complaints or whatever it might be. It would have been perverse if the Bill had prevented sunbeds from being used for legitimate medical purposes if a doctor had encouraged such behaviour.
I want to run through some of the research, because that will help to determine whether the measures in the Bill are proportionate. However, we perhaps lack strong recent research—proper, independent research—into the extent of the problem. That includes research not just on how many people use sunbeds—the hon. Lady went through the figures for that—but on the nature of their use, how long people tend to use them for, how many times a year they use them, whether they use them at home or in salons, and people’s patterns of use. At this stage it seems that we lack strong, independent research on those issues.
In 1995, the Health Education Authority published the results of a survey of suntanning and sunbed use, which was commissioned by the Department of Health. Based on the results of that survey, and using the British Photodermatology Group’s recommendation that people have
“not more than 20 sessions per year of up to 30 minutes for each session”,
that research concluded that
“people were putting themselves at risk by using sunbeds too often and for too long,”
“the public needed more information about the risks of using sunbeds.”
The reason I mention that is that one of the Members on the Government Benches—it might have been the right hon. Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint), but it might not; she will no doubt correct me if it was not her—mentioned evidence that some salons are still advertising the health benefits of using sunbeds, which is irresponsible. [Interruption.] It was not the right hon. Lady who said that; I do apologise.
On the proportionality of the Bill, the hon. Member for Brent, East (Sarah Teather) mentioned the analogy with smoking. I just wonder whether requirements for health warnings would be a better first step, along with making parental responsibility part of the solution. Before we resort to the nuclear option of introducing an outright ban, part of the solution might be to ensure that sunbed operators do not market their products in such an irresponsible way, but have to give clear warnings to people about the dangers of sunbed use, which under-18s would be able to read just as easily as adults. If such irresponsible marketing is being used, we have an opportunity to make a big difference with the messages that we give to people before they use sunbeds. We could have regulations about the size and nature of the warnings, for example, just as we do with the warnings on cigarettes. I therefore ask people to consider whether other steps could be taken before we impose an outright ban.
Other research into the use of sunbeds was carried out in 1996 by the Sunbed Association. Obviously, that was some years ago, so I am not sure whether the figures are still relevant. However, it is the best information that I have. If other Members have more up-to-date research, perhaps they will be able to catch your eye later, Madam Deputy Speaker, and give us the benefit of it. At that time, there was a great interest in getting a tan, with 51 per cent. of respondents saying that they had either used a sunbed or intended to do so. Only 7 per cent. of respondents had used one during the previous 12 months, however. The hon. Member for Cardiff, North made the valid point that this is not an issue only for women. They are the majority users of sunbeds, but by no means the only ones. The research found that 9 per cent. of women and 5 per cent. of men—giving an average of 7 per cent. of the population as a whole—had used a sunbed in the previous 12 months.
It was interesting to discover why people felt that using a sunbed would be of benefit to them. The irony is that the word “healthier” appeared in many people’s responses to that question. The research found that 58 per cent. were using a sunbed because they wanted to look healthier, and that 34 per cent. were doing so because they wanted to feel healthier. They felt that using a sunbed would help them to achieve those things. There is a slight irony in that.
Some important facts about the extent of the problem need to be borne in mind, and we need to ask how far the Bill will go towards solving it. The vast majority—89 per cent.—of local authority or private sector sunbed users had fewer than 20 sessions a year, and about half had only 10 sessions or fewer per year. I would venture to suggest, therefore, that the extent of sunbed use is not so great that we should impose an outright ban for under-18s.
Crucially, the research found that, while 89 per cent. of local authority and private sector users took fewer than 20 sessions a year, only 71 per cent. of people with a sunbed at home took fewer than 20 sessions a year. That brings me to a potential flaw in the Bill, because it makes no provision for sunbed use in people’s own homes. I wonder whether it might create a perverse incentive, in that people who were no longer permitted to use a tanning shop or even be on the premises might persuade their parents to get a sunbed at home instead. The research shows that sunbed use is much more dangerous for those with a sunbed at home, because it is there and it has already been paid for so they can use it whenever they want to, rather than having to make an effort to go out and pay to use one each time. Has any assessment been made of the likely effect of a ban on the use of sunbeds at home? We might, despite having the best of intentions, be letting the genie out of the bottle and making the problem worse.
The research also found that 85 per cent. of all users took sessions of 30 minutes or less, and that 95 per cent. did not exceed the European standard that pertained at the time, so it would be dangerous to run away with the idea that many people are using sunbeds for hugely excessive time periods. By definition, some people will be doing so, but I wonder about the extent of such use. Thus, I wonder, again, whether the Bill is proportionate in dealing with the particular problem.
Crucial to this research was the issue of where people use sunbeds. I accept that the figures I am using are out of date, but I am not sure whether more up-to-date figures from independent research exist.
The right hon. Gentleman is a long-standing and distinguished parliamentarian, so I hope he does not think that just because he believes something is good or bad the whole House’s proceedings should collapse and we should not debate an issue. I hope he does not think that we should suspend our critical faculties just on the basis of his particular view. If that is his view, it is an interesting view of parliamentary democracy. I would have thought he believed that the whole point of a parliamentary democracy was that issues are debated. In the absence of many—
Thank you very much, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am delighted by your intervention to prevent my being sidetracked by unhelpful sedentary interventions from the right hon. Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George).
The crucial issue is where people use sunbeds. That comes back to a point I made earlier, because obviously the Bill will affect only the people who use sunbeds in the private or local authority sector. This particular research showed that 60 per cent. of users were using sunbeds either at their own home or somebody else’s. The figure may not be as high now, and I appreciate that since this research was carried out the cost of sunbed sessions in the private sector has, as the right hon. Member for Don Valley said, become considerably cheaper and that that will encourage more people to use those facilities. However, if an awful lot of people are using sunbeds at home and they are doing so for far longer periods and far more often than the people who use them elsewhere, perhaps the people the hon. Member for Cardiff, North is trying to protect will not be protected by her Bill. All that she may well be doing is inconveniencing lots of people who use sunbeds so infrequently that it is not causing them a big problem, while the sunbed users who have a big problem fall outside the scope of her Bill. The research found that 43 per cent. of users owned their own sunbed and 16 per cent. of users hired one. We need to consider these issues. However popular the Bill might be, we need to consider whether it is proportionate and whether it will be effective in bringing about the result that the hon. Lady wishes.
I do not intend to delay the House for much longer, but I should say that we must accept that sunbeds can have health benefits for some people and that an important issue of choice is involved here. Indeed, only last year, Lord Darzi said that
“perceived health benefits…relative to health risks, is a matter about which individuals make their own choices.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 1 June 2009; Vol. 711, c. WA58.]
I hope that we all agree with that sentiment. The issue is who is in the best position to decide what is in the best interests of under-18s and to decide who should take responsibility for their actions. The hon. Lady and her party seem often to take the view that the best person to determine what is best for children is the state. I argue that, for the good of society as a whole, it is best, wherever possible, to give parents responsibility for their own children because, as I have said, the dangers of not doing so are there for all to see.
Although I expect the Bill to get a Second Reading, I hope that the hon. Member for Cardiff, North will reflect on two points. First, is it proportionate to go straight to a ban or should we try some other measures instead, such as requiring parental permission to be given through written consent or making health warning notices available? I certainly agree with her about ensuring that premises are staffed so that under-18s can be prevented from using sunbeds. That seems to be a sensible situation. So will she consider whether there are other things that we can do? Secondly, will she consider whether some of the measures in the Bill are slightly over the top, particularly those that ban under-18s from being in the same room as a sunbed? I hope she will give serious consideration to that because, despite her best intentions, if some of those issues are not ironed out they will make her good intentions less valuable, as they make the Bill somewhat flawed.
I do not want to block the passage of the Bill at this stage, but I hope that hon. Members will remember that there are always two sides to an argument.
I speak today as a long-term campaigner on the dangers of sunbeds. My attention was initially drawn to the issue by the number of young people who frequented a shop a few doors away from my then constituency office. I was fascinated that so many young people appeared to be going in and out of the store and when I asked parents in and around the area what was going on, I was shocked to discover that it was an unstaffed, unsupervised coin-operated salon. That was a new initiative—it was not something that I had come across—and I asked myself two questions. First, if it was unsupervised, who was there to give young people appropriate advice about using the machines about what was appropriate for their skin colour and the length of time for which they should be on the sunbed? Secondly—this was the most important question—was it dangerous?
My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Julie Morgan) introduced the Bill. I wholeheartedly support her and am very grateful to her for taking it on. I remind the House that the Bill enjoys support from the Government and is sponsored by a cross-party group of MPs, including a former Health Secretary, the Chair of the Select Committee on Health, the chair of the all-party group on cancer and the Liberal Democrat shadow Health Minister. More than 160 MPs from all parties have signed the most recent early-day motion. This issue is one of those that has generated the most debate when I have talked to colleagues and to people in my constituency, who are wholeheartedly behind me.
Has my hon. Friend shared my experience in discovering that people who have no idea that there is no supervision are utterly shocked by that fact? Everybody I have talked to has been horrified, as they assumed that all these places were supervised. It has been a real revelation.
Two hon. Members mentioned the Sunbed Association, with which I have been working very closely from day one. It does not want the unregulated end of the market. It does not want young people to put themselves at risk and it has been very supportive. Concerns have been raised about the regulation of business and allowing an industry to operate in the correct manner. This is not about getting at an industry, but about doing what is right and providing members of the public with an appropriate service. I do not think that it is appropriate to allow young people, or any member of the public, merely to go in and read a few posters, which, in many cases, can be misleading—on some occasions, they can be downright misleading, stating that it is healthy to use sunbeds—rather than having someone there to give that advice. It is shocking and it is not good enough.
The academic evidence is overwhelming. The COMARE report on the carcinogenic levels related to sunbed use is horrific. It frightened me as a parent and a grandparent. When I consider the number of soap stars, pop stars and sports stars who use sunbeds without thought, and their influence on young people, I realise that we need to get the message across.
I take on board what has been said about a campaign. There has been a campaign. The Health and Safety Executive guidelines have been updated. The use of sunbeds has been included in the SunSmart campaign. In many cases, young people do not make the link between going out in the sun and using a sunbed. They think that a sunbed is safer and healthier.
There have been questions about health benefits. People say they feel better and look better with a tan. That is a complete fallacy. When one has been in the sun, there is a short-term benefit—a plumping of the skin and a rosy glow. But the effect is short-lived. People are not healthier, they just feel a bit better because they have seen some sun. It is a very short-term health benefit.
The Bill allows for cases when the use of sunbeds or sun lamps is appropriate. In my office, I have a photograph of the youngest tanorexic in my constituency: a three-day-old premature baby wearing a tiny pair of goggles who has to go under a sun lamp. That is entirely appropriate.
Cancer Research has worked closely with me and my colleagues and has provided much information. As we worked our way through it and considered how we could work with the industry to encourage it to take up safer guidelines and regulate itself, it was clear that nothing would happen voluntarily.
The industry has good operators; there are several in my constituency. They turn away young people. They ask the right questions, give proper advice and are very cross when they see young people immediately walk out of their salons and go to the nearest unstaffed, unsupervised salon where young people can feed the machine for as little as 25p a minute. Such salons are totally unregulated.
When we launched the Bill earlier this month, I was delighted to hear my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health offer his support for it and suggest that he would introduce regulation to tackle the unstaffed salon end of the market as soon as possible after it was passed. I warmly welcome his ministerial commitment, not only to introduce regulation once the Bill has completed its journey but to work with the industry to protect young people. I know that the Sunbed Association and the responsible end of the sun salon industry want to work with us.
Many operators in the unstaffed salon end of the market are not responsible. There is a job-creation opportunity for members of the public visiting those facilities. I have been told by cleaners who work in those salons that they would like to be on the premises longer. They would like to be trained and instructed in helping the public. There are opportunities for the industry to expand.
Several cities have tried local licensing arrangements to ensure minimum standards in salons and they have been adhered to, but it is clear that national legislation is preferable to inconsistent local action. The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health and COMARE clearly recommend national legislation. There is now legislation in Scotland, and I understand that the Irish Government have been convinced of the argument and will, I hope, be undertaking legislation too.
I commend my hon. Friend for her dogged determination to support the introduction of legislation. It has been said in the debate that, in terms of the total use of sunbeds, we are talking about a small part of the market and a small number of users, but is it not the case that unmanned coin-operated salons target the poorest and most vulnerable—possibly young people whose parents cannot afford a holiday in the sun once or twice a year? This is their way of getting what they consider a good tan to make themselves look good. The targeting of the poorest and most vulnerable by such outlets is cynical.
Some 1,700 deaths a year are attributed to skin cancer, and it is calculated that 100 of those are directly attributable to sunbed use. In 2004, there were 65,000 new cases of skin cancer in Great Britain, so the problem is not small. Other countries have recognised the seriousness of the issue and legislated. They have done so willingly and collectively, and it is important that we follow suit.
Does my hon. Friend agree that, just as we are shocked when we look at old TV footage and see people smoking everywhere, the sunbed issue is of the same magnitude? Soon young people will be saying to us, “Why ever didn’t you do something about this before now? Why ever did you let us get into this mess and develop these terrible cancers, which are so devastating and take so many lives?”
That is true.
From those who have suffered with skin cancer, the message is clear and consistent: “Do something now. Don’t let young people go through what I went through.” It is a heartbreaking message. I was interviewed recently for a TV programme on the subject by a well-known celebrity, Nicola Roberts. She said that she had visited somebody who was dying of skin cancer and how difficult it is to explain to the person who is suffering why nothing is happening quickly.
Young people who are aware of the issues are saying to us, “Why don’t you lot at Westminster get on and change the law as quickly as possible?” Very few people say to me, “Don’t change the law. Don’t bring in regulation. Don’t ban use for under-18s.” Not one person has yet approached me with that message.
The Welsh Assembly has led the way in this matter for us in Wales. The Committee on Health, Wellbeing and Local Government conducted an inquiry into sunbeds and found a need for immediate action. I put it on record that its key recommendations included, first, prohibiting under-18s from using sunbeds; secondly, that facilities should be staffed with well-trained staff; and thirdly, that information setting out the potential health risks should be prominently displayed.
We in south Wales know very well what it is like to be a sunbed hot spot. My constituency has a sunbed parlour on practically every corner. They are in places as diverse as above beauty salons, in hairdressers, in local facilities and even in corner shops. Once one starts looking for salons, it is amazing where one finds them.
I quote the words of the mother of a 14-year-old, Kirsty McRae, who was very badly burned last year. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Julie Morgan) has already referred to her. In evidence to the Welsh Assembly’s Committee on Health, Wellbeing and Local Government, the mother said:
“As a family, we have always taken a responsible attitude to the sun and used the appropriate products, considered the time spent in the sun and the time of day we were in the sun. I am therefore quite happy that in educating her about natural sunlight and sun damage, I did as much as I could as a parent. I had expressly forbidden her to even consider using a sunbed, and, as has been reported previously, I acknowledge that she went against my wishes and she acknowledges her responsibility in that respect as well. The concern is that the operation of such a salon allowed her a facility to misuse the bed.”
Clear warnings are needed. We have updated them, but we need to carry on. Posters need to be prominently displayed and we have to match our work to the campaign. Cancer Research UK, the Welsh Assembly Government, the Teenage Cancer Trust and other cancer charities have raised skin cancer’s profile and prepared and distributed documentation.
There are no health benefits from using sunbeds. There are disbenefits, not benefits, and we need to get that message across clearly. Sunbed use is too cheap at 25p a minute. There are no parents around and it does not matter whether one has a sunbed at home or not; everybody uses sunbeds in communities such as mine. Having a tan is their little bit of glamour. It is so easy to achieve and people can access irresponsible and unstaffed salons. The question is, why are young people starting to tan at such a young age? Children aged 11 to 14 are saying that they want to go to salons and get a tan. We have to address that issue.
The hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) asked about restricted zones, and I understand that, in case of prosecution, the zone—the cubicle or the salon—is defined as a private area. The issue is simple, because one cannot see what goes on in such places, so the zone has to be defined to ensure that, if the young person enters it, there is a clear demarcation demonstrating that they went into an area where they were not allowed. I accept the point about inadvertently wandering into such a zone in a sports facility, but that is why the zone should be clearly defined. We need to know where it is, who is there and who has used it.
Do I think that sunbeds are dangerous? Yes, I do. Do we know that young people are using them? Yes, we do. It is now time to take action. I hope that my colleagues will join me in arguing for the greater protection of children and young people throughout England and Wales, and support the Bill.
I am truly delighted by the introduction of this Bill. However, I am a little sad, because as I said I have tried for 36 years to get a private Member’s Bill just on to the bottom of the list on the notice board, and I have failed. Eventually, the Bill that I wanted on private security went through the House, but I would have introduced the Bill before us. My version of this Bill might have been differently worded, but I suspect not. I have three main reasons for wanting to introduce such legislation, and they include my knowledge of the statistics. Anyone who is forced to use 1995 statistics, as the hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) did, and, seemingly, nothing beyond that is either filibustering or has a desire to spend his time here today doing something useful.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Julie Morgan) has been fortunate with her friends but even more fortunate with her opponents, because I have not heard a greater profusion of erroneous facts in my life. I have attended and spoken in Parliament and at public meetings, but I have not used the arguments that I have heard today. I remember speaking for some time, during one of my rare appearances here on a Friday, about why in my constituency—[Interruption.] I argued that John Stuart Mill would have voted for the legislation on seatbelts. I have used some nonsense arguments—[Interruption.]
Thank you for your protection, Mr. Deputy Speaker; I manage without it outside.
This is not about prejudice—the facts are there in vast numbers for people who take the trouble to read them. There is an enormous case for acting on this matter, and at last there is the prospect of legislation, although that is not a panacea—it will not eliminate the cancer that young people, and older people, are dying from as a result of exposure to the sun. I chair the all-party group on skin. I will willingly send a copy of our report to the hon. Member for Shipley, who would find in it a lot of the evidence, of which there is an enormous amount. He said that he was not opposed to the Bill, but every word that came out of his mouth led me to a very different conclusion. His arguments are even opposed by people he cited by way of support. He cited the words of the Sunbed Association in 1995. He should have read through his post and seen the letters that all Members of Parliament received saying that there had been some criticism of the Bill by the Sunbed Association, but only to say that it was not strong enough. He cited a source that is totally opposed to the arguments that he evoked.
The right hon. Gentleman is giving the most nauseating performance that I have heard in my time in the House. Perhaps it would help if, instead of trying to misrepresent the points that I made, he could try, if he is capable of it, to make a cogent argument as to what he believes.
I tried to make an argument, unlike the hon. Gentleman, who came out with a series of nonsensical words from his mind that he just invented this morning. I will carry on with my speech. He should listen to and read about the enormous number of very worthy people and organisations who have supported the Bill, together with the group that I represent. He may not think much of my views, but if he dares to come along to one of our meetings and put those arguments, he will hear a strong set of ripostes.
An enormous number of reputable organisations take a serious interest in the problems of skin and skin cancer. We are discussing one small aspect of the much broader issue of skin cancer, which the statistics clearly show is rising dangerously, with young people as the main victims. They enthusiastically go into these salons, not knowing what might lie ahead in 20 or 30 years. Not many young people think 20 or 30 days ahead, let alone 30 years. They should know that the figures for skin cancer are rising exponentially. That is without getting on to the big issue of global warming, which is likely to cause even more problems on top of those that are already being experienced.
In case the hon. Gentleman did not get hold of this document, the Sunbed Association says:
“The Sunbed Association would strongly urge you to use the opportunity at the Second Reading of the proposed Bill…to call for the Bill to be amended to include a requirement of compliance of all sunbeds in operation prior to 1 April 2009 to a maximum irradiance level of 0.3W/m2. Alternatively, as a minimum, seek a commitment to a timescale for compliance implementation.”
I have talked to the Sunbed Association and am delighted to say that it is supporting the proposals, because it recognises the enormous dangers. It probably knows the problems more than anybody, so to have the largest association of sunbed owners supporting the Bill is a great boost to the campaign.
No suntan is safe, and the consequences are there for all to see. We know how laxly young people treat the sun, despite the many consequences, and the use of sunbeds increases the risk of skin cancer. As I have said a great deal, the more and earlier an individual uses one, the more the risks rise.
Cancer Research UK found that of 4,000 sunbed users, 82 per cent. had first used them before they were 35, and some had cancer. A distinguished hospital in Dundee has produced a great deal of research that people ought to examine, as has the Health and Safety Executive. One can examine—not that I do, but it was brought to my attention—the amount of research being produced in other countries and by legislatures elsewhere that have seen the importance of tackling the problem far earlier than we have. That should spur us on.
My all-party group on skin supports the Bill, and our research has reached the conclusion that a number of sunbed institutions offer seemingly unlimited sessions, have tanning accelerators and high-powered machines, ask for no proof of age, make no comments on the risks for those who have fair skin and offer insufficient information on risks in general. That is the area of the market to which the Bill is targeted. Maybe it is an omission that it does not allow for chasing people into their houses and examining all their equipment, but that is beyond its scope and, I suspect, even beyond the hon. Gentleman if he were enthusiastic about the idea. The Bill is not intrusive, but if others do deem it intrusive, it is so for a purpose and most sane people would welcome it.
I am glad that the hon. Gentleman made no attempt to filibuster—I do not accuse him of that at all. He is entitled to spend 40 minutes talking about anything that he likes, subject to your will, Mr. Deputy Speaker. However, I hope that the Bill is not seen as party political and that Opposition Members will support it. I hope that time will be found for it, and I really hope that it gets through before the election, whenever that is, so that all parties and all MPs can take credit for the fact that a small piece of legislation might save at least 1,000 lives a year. If that happens, we can all feel satisfied.
It gives me enormous pleasure to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Julie Morgan) on coming so high in the ballot and on choosing this extremely important Bill to ban the use of tanning salons by young people under the age of 18. My hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Mrs. James) has championed that cause unstintingly for a long time.
I have been shocked to find out how many people simply do not know what is happening. When I have talked to constituents about what we would be doing today, they have asked, “Aren’t salons already staffed? Aren’t there any regulations? Aren’t young people already banned from going?” They have been horrified to find that it is quite easy for any youngster to walk off the street and into a salon.
The age of 11 is a key point at which young people get keen on their appearance. They look at all the magazines, and when they go up to secondary school they want to be big and join in with what the older young people are doing. They want to make themselves as grown-up as possible. They see tanning as one of the ways in which they can do that—they can get that glamorous tan. Of course, it is so easy when they can just walk in off the street, their friends are encouraging them, they feel a bit adventurous and they want to try new things. We all experienced such feelings when we were teenagers, but we are discussing a potentially lethal weapon, to which young people can subject themselves.
In a few years, those young people could be very bitter because we, as responsible adults, did nothing to prevent the availability of that opportunity, and they ended up suffering from a devastating form of cancer. Skin cancer is extremely serious; some people think of it as simply cutting out a little mole, but we know how quickly it can spread and develop secondaries. Sadly, many of us know people who have passed away from melanomas and various skin cancers.
It is therefore extremely important for us to take a responsible attitude. I know that some young people will feel that we are fuddy-duddies—“This is the adults again, trying to dictate, telling us what we should and shouldn’t do.” However, I know that many young people are concerned about what their fellow young people are doing and are aware of the dangers that tanning salons can pose. They know how easy it is for somebody not only to build up a long-term problem, but to suffer immediate damage, as in the sad case we had in south Wales of very severe burning. Clearly, that young person did not intend to do that to herself. It is so easy for such incidents to happen.
We must not lose our nerve. Our local authorities need the Bill to regulate properly. We do not want any nonsense about over-regulation. My hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East clearly made the case for regulation. She has talked and listened carefully to all those involved in the business. She knows that the Bill is the only way forward, and that responsible providers of such services welcome what we are doing and want proper regulation so that we do not have a position whereby young people can simply walk in with no advice, no notices—nothing to warn them of the dangers—and expose their delicate skins to the horrible effects of tanning salons.
Of course, we want more than simply to ban under-18s from the salons. We want proper staffing and proper advice available to us all. I hope that the Bill will mark the beginning of getting on to a good footing and taking a sensible approach to tanning salons. We must ensure that we protect our young people and also conduct information campaigns to inform all adults of the potential dangers. We must also ensure that we back up legislation with good education programmes in our schools. We can then say to young people in schools, “This is illegal,” so that it is not simply a matter of exhortation, but of putting it plainly to them that they are not allowed to go to tanning salons. That added protection will contribute to the information campaigns. I hope that the Bill will have our full support today.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Julie Morgan) on her success in the ballot, on her excellent choice of topic and on the work that she must have put in behind the scenes to get the Bill in its current form. She gave a succinct and articulate introduction, which credibly set the scene for the ensuing debate.
The hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mrs. James) should also be congratulated on her diligence and dedication in continually raising the issue, not giving up and pressuring the Government and hon. Members of all political parties to take it seriously. She was right to make the point that there are responsible operators and that the House needs to support them over those who do not operate in a considered and structured way.
I shall take the opportunity briefly to defend my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) and his contribution to the debate. He was right, particularly on two matters. First, he is right that, in a democracy, the other perspective must be presented—that is what the House is for. Secondly, he was right to suggest that just because something is popular, it does not mean that the House should follow that view.
The only defence for legislating on health care and banning something is if a ban is supported by clinical evidence. I have drawn different conclusions from my hon. Friend. The European Scientific Committee on Consumer Products produced a detailed report on the use of ultra-violet radiation devices in 2006, and it concluded that people should not be advised to use tanning devices, specifically if
“there are skin phenotypes of type I and II and the presence of freckles…multiple and/or atypical moles and…a family history of melanoma.”
It also says that the risks are high for people of “a young age”. It concludes:
“Thus UVR tanning devices should not be used by individuals under the age of 18 years.”
That is exactly what the Bill would achieve.
We have heard many statistics about the increasing use of sunbeds, some of which are very significant: more than 11 per cent. of 15 to 17-year-olds have used a sunbed; 6 per cent. of young people—250,000 children—a year use sunbeds. There are pockets of the country where sunbed use is high, and we have heard about south Wales, Sunderland and Liverpool. We need to introduce legislation that goes some way towards addressing the potentially detrimental outcomes of sunbed use by individuals under 18.
Other clinical evidence supports the premise behind the Bill. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has raised the status of sunbeds from “probably carcinogenic to humans” to “carcinogenic to humans”. There is clear evidence to suggest that if people under 35 use sunbeds the risk of their getting cancer increases by up to 75 per cent. As has been said, more than 10,000 cases of malignant melanoma were diagnosed in the UK in 2006 alone, and there has been a significant increase in such cases over the past 30 years. Sunbeds are linked not only to skin cancer but to other health conditions, including eye damage, dermatological conditions, photosensitivity and premature skin ageing.
I am not a scientist, but one of the drawbacks of the prolonged use of sunbeds and exposure to the sun is that people can end up looking like a shrivelled prune or a leathery turtle. I do not think young people are aware that short-term beauty has a long-term cost for their skin, purely from an aesthetic point of view.
My hon. Friend makes a good point, but I would go further. Not only are people under 18 unaware but many people over 18 are unaware of the negative side effects, both of using sunbeds and tanning salons and of staying in the natural sun for far too long without sufficient protection. We need much more easily understandable and accessible information, so that people can make informed decisions about what they want to do with their lives.
Significantly, the Sunbed Association is in favour of the Bill, but there is uncertainty about the number of sunbed outlets. It is estimated that there are 8,000, only one fifth of which are registered with the association. The vast majority are therefore outwith the existing regulatory structure. It would be helpful if the Minister explained either today or perhaps at a later stage what estimate her Department has made of the number of sunbed premises in the country, and whether there is any research on prices and the cost of using sunbeds. The right hon. Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint) made the point that a session can cost as little as 15p; the cheapest session that I have come across costs 40p, which is peanuts.
The existing voluntary regulatory structure has not worked, and there is a much bigger agenda to tackle. I am not going to be deflected into discussing it, but we must find ways of reducing the incidence of cancer and of improving five-year cancer survival rates in the UK which, the whole House will know, are extremely poor compared with survival rates in other EU countries. We could do so by increasing and ring-fencing the public health budget at the Department of Health, and by providing much greater access to information. There is a strong argument for that, as there is a causal link in pockets of socio-economic deprivation to growing health inequalities, which is why we have said that we need to increase the resources going into those areas and why we have introduced our patient premium.
We in this House should not introduce legislation lightly, but the Bill is moving in the right direction. We need to support informed choice. I am as disappointed as other hon. Members that voluntary regulation of the sunbed industry has proved ineffective, so the Bill is a necessary step.
The key to the success of any such measure is enforcement, evaluation and monitoring. There is already too much duplication in evaluation and monitoring in national health service structures, and I notice from the impact assessment that the Department of Health and the Health Protection Agency will both be responsible for collecting data and pulling the assessment together. It would be much better to have one or the other—I would opt for the HPA. Perhaps as the Bill progresses, we need to look at that detail.
There is a slightly quixotic reference in the impact assessment—on page 14, for the Minister’s officials—to pilot projects. I wonder what pilot projects there could be for an outright ban on the use of sunbeds by those aged under 18.
Another issue that needs to be thought about as the Bill progresses, which I hope it will, is whether 18 is the correct age. Are we saying that people who are 16 and 17 do not have the ability to make informed choices, or is there specific clinical evidence of a problem with their going on to get melanoma and other skin problems? I have looked for that research and not found it, but it would be helpful to know whether it exists.
I strongly agree with clause 5, which requires sunbed businesses to display information about the health risks of sunbed use. However, it would be interesting to know much more about that information: who will be responsible for it and will it emanate from the Department? Should that not be in the Bill rather than in subsequent regulations, despite the Secretary of State’s assurances that they would follow quickly? I would like GPs and pharmacists also to have a role in disseminating that key information, as well as it being on premises where there are sunbeds.
Clearly, the objectives of the Bill are to protect young people from harmful effects of sunbed use and to raise their awareness, but there is concern about the equipment that is currently used in many tanning salons in the UK. The Minister will be aware that in 2007 the Government signed up to an EU declaration on the erythemally weighted irradiance level of tubes in sunbeds. As a consequence, all new sunbeds must comply with that limit, but the Government have failed, first, to implement their commitment to ensure that all existing equipment complies with the regulation, and, secondly, to set a time scale for its implementation.
The directive has already been implemented elsewhere in the EU—Austria, for example, has done so completely, and Denmark and Germany almost completely. It would be helpful to the House if the Minister explained where that has got to. Clearly, it is potentially significantly more damaging for UV output levels to be higher than those of the midday Mediterranean sun, which is why the regulation was introduced. The hon. Member for Cardiff, North and the Minister need to consider amending the Bill to ensure that sunbeds comply with the EU directive, which was supposed to be in operation from 1 April 2009. Alternatively, there should as a minimum be a commitment in the Bill to a time scale for compliance. For the edification of hon. Members, I confirm that the directive is not aimed solely at new sunbeds. It is also retrospective, so all existing sunbeds have to comply.
The explanatory notes and impact assessment refer to the costs of the Bill, relating to the authorised officer and the enforcement capacity. That seems sensible, but the total cost—supposedly—of these additional responsibilities for every single local authority in England and Wales is assessed at only £100,000. I find that very hard to believe, and we need a much more accurate assessment of the additional responsibilities and costs for local authorities, especially given the deteriorating macro-economic situation and fiscal deficit. Whoever is in power after the next election, that situation will have to be rectified.
The hon. Members for Cardiff, North and for Swansea, East were right to raise the issue of coin-operated salons, and I share their concern. That is not an acceptable approach. I understand from those in the industry that the Department of Health has been reluctant to discuss the impact of the Bill with those in that sector of the sunbed market. It would be helpful to know whether any research has been done or calculation made about what proportion of a sunbed salon’s revenues is generated by under-18s and therefore what impact the Bill would have on the industry.
My hon. Friend the Member for Shipley mentioned the possible displacement impact, encouraging people to have sunbed treatments at home in unregulated conditions, rather than in salons, and that point needs to be considered. I am supportive of the medical purposes exception highlighted in the Bill, but I would like to know whether the Minister thinks that that will have to be achieved by prescription or just on a nod and a wink from a GP or other clinician.
There is legislation relating to sunbeds in other parts of the world—in the US, as we have heard, and in parts of Europe and Australasia—and we need to know what lessons can be learned from that. Has the legislation made a difference? What contact has the Department had with health departments in those countries to ensure that the Bill has the maximum impact?
We think that this legislation is going in the right direction. We will support the Bill, but some key issues remain to be addressed, which I hope will come out in Committee.
I shall be brief, as I do not wish to detain the House. I congratulate the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Julie Morgan) on securing second place in the ballot and using it for such a good cause. My colleagues and I support the Bill. Indeed, my hon. Friend the Member for North Norfolk (Norman Lamb) has spoken about this issue on many occasions, and the hon. Lady will know that he is very supportive of the Bill.
My hon. Friend the Member for Richmond Park (Susan Kramer), who is no longer in her place, asked me to tell the House about her husband, John, who died about three years ago of melanoma. He was told by his doctors that it was a result of sunburn suffered as a child. He had not used sunbeds, but his example highlights the fact that skin damage as a child can cause damage 30 or 40 years later. The hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) spoke about freedom of choice, but it is very difficult to make an informed decision on this issue, especially as a child. The information provided about the level of ultraviolet light is often incorrect, and the hon. Member for Boston and Skegness (Mark Simmonds) spoke about the variability of the amount of UV light provided by various sunbeds. It is difficult even for an adult to make an informed choice, so it is impossible for a child or a teenager to make one about the damage that they might do to themselves 10, 15, 20, 30 or 40 years later. As my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond Park said to me, she was told by John’s doctor that when a melanoma metastasizes, that person’s chances of survival are extremely low. Melanoma is a difficult cancer to treat if it has metastasized. It might be easier to treat if it is picked up early, but it is difficult to treat if it spreads.
I am sympathetic to the argument that it is difficult for a child to make such a decision. The age chosen in the Bill is 18, and the hon. Lady agrees that it is difficult for a child between 16 and 18 to decide whether they should go on a sunbed. Why then does her party support giving young people the vote at 16? Surely that decision is a little more complicated.
I am eager to speak briefly so that my hon. Friend the Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes) might have a chance for his Bill too to be read a Second time, particularly as I am wholly supportive of the Bill that the hon. Member for Cardiff, North has introduced.
Lastly, we think that the Bill is a proportionate response to the potential danger, particularly to young people, and also to unsupervised coin-operated slot machine salons. We support the Bill and hope that the Government will make parliamentary time available to ensure that it gets on to the statute book.
I warmly congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Julie Morgan) on bringing the Bill before the House in a well informed manner that also demonstrated enthusiasm and great sensitivity to the importance of the issue. I know that the House will want to pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Mrs. James), who has championed the cause and been well supported by many of her colleagues and rightly so. It is a mark of the energy and commitment that my hon. Friends the Members for Cardiff, North and for Swansea, East have shown that the measure has gathered such strong cross-party support.
I am extremely proud to add my voice to the chorus calling time on under-age sunbed use. Today that chorus has included well supported and informed contributions from my right hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George) and my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli (Nia Griffith). I am also grateful to the hon. Members for Boston and Skegness (Mark Simmonds) and for Brent, East (Sarah Teather) for giving their parties’ agreement to the Bill, which I hope will come to fruition.
Anybody who has spent time outdoors with children will know just how quickly young skin colours and how fast a suntan can become sunburn. Luckily we can see the warning signs and take action to stop children inadvertently harming themselves. That is the essence of what today’s Bill is all about. We cannot continue to allow children and young people to burn. The evidence is clear: sunbeds are a health risk, and the risk is greater for young people. I am convinced that legislation is required to protect the health of our young people.
On that point, perhaps I could give a gentle reassurance to the hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies), who unfortunately is no longer in his place. He legitimately asked questions about whether we needed the legislation. When bringing forward legislation, existing routes must of course have been tried first and must have failed, and alternatives must have been sought. I can say to the House that in five areas that has indeed happened. There has been no attempt whatever to jump to new legislation. First, as we have heard a number of times from hon. Members, voluntary self-regulation by the sunbed industry has simply not worked, and the industry acknowledges that.
Secondly, some local authorities have special licensing powers, but those powers have limited applicability and provisions vary, so they too have not done the job. The Health and Safety Executive has revised its guidance, but that is exactly what it is: simply guidance. That has not done the job either. SunSmart, the national skin cancer prevention campaign, has reported no changes in behaviour among young people in the 16-to-24 age group, in regard to their attitude to protecting themselves from the damage that the sun and sunbeds can cause. So despite attempting to improve young people’s awareness, we have not seen the change that we need.
Lastly, no legislation is in place to deal with this issue. I can assure the House that I have done a thorough job of finding out whether we could achieve the same effect without new legislation, as that would have hastened the outcome of our efforts, but it was just not possible. That is why we are here today. The Bill tackles the problem head on. This is the only way we can protect young people from harming themselves, and this is the earliest opportunity that we have had to bring these provisions into law. The Government fully support the Bill.
Last night, I was proud to welcome to Westminster Dyllys Firth and Pam Connock. They are cancer survivors from Lincoln and they have done sterling work to raise money for a cancer charity called Candles, and to support the work of Professor Eremin. Their fundraising efforts are legendary. They had the opportunity to meet my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North last night before I took them to No. 10 to meet the Prime Minister, in recognition of their efforts. They wished my hon. Friend more power to her elbow today, because they felt strongly that we could wait no longer to take action to protect young people from the risk of cancer, and that legislation, information and a change of attitude were now required. We have heard those points being raised today as well.
My hon. Friend—hand in hand with Cancer Research UK, which is also to be commended—has created a truly exciting and memorable campaign, which has challenged the idea that tanned equals beautiful. Members might have seen the media interest sparked by Nicola Roberts of Girls Aloud when she addressed the parliamentary reception to launch the Bill. Miss Roberts spoke with great passion, and made a health message real and relevant to a generation of young people, particularly girls, who feel under constant pressure to look a certain way and fit in with the crowd, regardless of the cost to their health. The Secretary of State and I were proud to attend the reception and to confirm our support for the Bill. The attention that the campaign has attracted, and the progress of the Bill, shows that with the right combination of legislation and education we can break the invisible chain linking success to suntans.
Today the House is faced with a simple decision, and we can save lives now. The evidence shows that skin cancer is on the rise. In 2004, there were more than 65,000 new cases of skin cancer. Melanomas, one of the less common but most deadly types of skin cancer, caused more than 1,700 deaths last year in England alone. One study estimated that melanomas from sunbed use cause about 100 deaths a year in the UK. Those deaths are preventable.
One of the most harmful aspects of skin cancer is the delay between the exposure and the effects. Cases of skin cancer being reported today could be the result of exposure 10 or 20 years ago. Estimates suggest that skin cancer rates will triple over the next 20 to 30 years. We have a generation of people storing up damage for the future, and we have a duty to do all we can to protect young people today so that we can save their lives tomorrow.
Should the Bill receive Royal Assent, the Government would begin consulting on further regulations—for example, to tackle unsupervised sunbed use—at the earliest possible opportunity, because the evidence is compelling. Over the past decade, the case against the use of sunbeds by under-18s has gradually been building. First, scientists explored the links between sunbed use and skin cancer. In 2003, the World Health Organisation recommended that nobody under the age of 18 should use a sunbed. In 2006, the Scientific Committee on Consumer Products, which advises the European Commission, also warned of the specific health risks attached to sunbed use. Studies then began to examine the links between sunbed use during childhood and the increased risk of skin cancer.
The hon. Member for Boston and Skegness asked about the use of the age of 18. As I have suggested, this limit has been recommended by the Scientific Committee on Consumer Products, the WHO and the Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment—COMARE—to whose report I shall refer in a moment. The limit is also understandable and consistent with other age restrictions, for example those relating to alcohol and tobacco.
Last year was a real turning point, because in June the independent body COMARE reported that exposure to ultraviolet light could cause skin cancer, and that young people were particularly vulnerable to skin damage. In July, the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s working group classified sunbeds as “carcinogenic to humans” for the first time.
I welcome this Bill and its use of the 18 age limit. If that limit proves to be too low and it is felt that, on reflection, it should have been 21, would it be possible to change it through secondary legislation or would we have to use primary legislation?
All these things are, of course, a matter for Parliament. The important thing to emphasise is that the 18 limit is based on scientific evidence, practicality and workability. I am sure the hon. Gentleman would agree that we only want legislation that can work and be enforced.
Last year, research also confirmed what my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East had been saying for some time: that sunbeds were routinely being used by young people across the country and that voluntary action by the industry was simply not going to be enough to protect their health. Health Ministers recently commissioned two surveys on sunbed use by children in England. They were carried out by Cancer Research UK and they found that 6 per cent. of 11 to 17-year-olds had used a sunbed, with many starting at the age of 14. The evidence showed that the use of sunbeds by under-18s is widespread, that voluntary regulation alone cannot protect public health and that the link between sunbeds and skin cancer is extremely clear and present.
I wish to deal with a few of the comments made by the hon. Member for Boston and Skegness. I can reassure him about the impact assessment’s reference to pilot projects, because this is a standard paragraph in the documentation and, in fact, the entry says “not applicable”, so there are no pilots to refer to. He also mentioned the technical standards and compliance issue. This is a matter for my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North and other Members, but technical standards are about product safety and this is a Bill about public health, so its focus should remain on public health and any other issues should be addressed elsewhere. Adherence to standards is not within the scope of the Bill, although I am happy to raise with the Business Secretary the issues that the hon. Gentleman has discussed. I can, however, assure him that a regime is in place to deal with this issue and it involves trading standards and the Health and Safety Executive.
Estimates of the number of sunbed outlets vary considerably and, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint) said, these businesses pop up all the time and disappear regularly. What is clear is that only a fraction of sunbed outlets are covered by the voluntary code.
We are moving ever closer to a health service that not only treats illness but tackles its causes—one that looks beyond life years and towards the quality of people’s years of life. Cutting the risk of skin cancer means acting on a number of fronts: we need to educate young people better so that the risks are known; we need to regulate better so that children are not exposed to damaging environments; and we need to challenge the culture that links tanning to beauty. I believe that the Bill is a significant step in the right direction. This is a Bill whose time has come and I am proud to support it on behalf of the Government.
With the leave of the House, I want to thank everybody for their contributions. In particular, I thank the Opposition spokespeople for their good, measured responses, for which I am very grateful. The hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) is not in his place at the moment, but I want to make a few quick points about what he said. I can reassure him that there is no intention of banning adults from using sunbeds. We want there to be information so that they know the risks. There is an exemption in the Bill that will allow under-18s to use sunbeds for medical treatment, which is something else he was concerned about. I am pleased that he recognised the need for supervised salons, which will come about as a result of the Bill.
I believe that parents do their best to try to stop their children accessing sunbeds. I do not think that parents are irresponsible and I think that they try very hard. However, what can they do if sunbed premises are not staffed? Parents recognise the dangers and will, I believe, be fully supportive of the Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Mrs. James) covered many of the other issues that have been raised, as did the Minister. I want, finally, to say that I think Opposition Members were right to say that we should not do things because they are popular. However, we should do things because they are right.
Question put and agreed to.
Bill accordingly read a Second time; to stand committed to a Public Bill Committee (Standing Order No. 63).