My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport (Douglas Alexander) has made the following Ministerial Statement.
The Government announced last year that restrictions on smoking in enclosed workplaces, public places and vehicles would be introduced in England from 1 July 2007. These provisions are described in the Health Act 2006 which aims to act on medical and scientific advice. This will save thousands of lives over the next decade by reducing both exposure to hazardous second hand smoke and overall smoking rates.
The Health Act 2006 includes provisions designed to prohibit smoking in enclosed public places and vehicles, but does not cover vessels operating at sea or on inland waters. I now intend to introduce similar provisions to provide protection from second hand smoke for people on vessels operating in UK waters, both at sea and on inland waterways.
On 14 February, I launched a consultation paper asking for comments as to how smoke- free provisions should be implemented on sea-going and inland-waterways vessels. The provisions under the Merchant Shipping Act 1995 will apply to all vessels operating in UK inland waters or within the 12-mile territorial waters, regardless of which country they are flagged with, provided they carry passengers or employees. I am also keen to see these provisions extended to Wales and Northern Ireland and for a consistent set of restrictions to be established in Scotland.
In line with the Health Act 2006, I am proposing that owners and operators of vessels may provide for residents and guests on merchant ships to be allowed to continue smoking in an entirely private area of residential accommodation.
I am also proposing that the Maritime and Coastguard Agency holds the responsibility for enforcement of these provisions with a scale of penalties similar to those laid down in the Health Act.
Copies of the consultation paper have been sent to a wide range of representatives in the shipping industry and they will have 12 weeks to respond to the consultation. Further copies of the consultation paper are available on the DfT website at www.dft.gov.uk. Copies have also been placed in the Libraries of the House.