Skip to main content

Language: English / Gàidhlig

Chamber and committees

Health and Sport Committee

Meeting date: Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Agenda: Subordinate Legislation, Health and Social Care Integration Budgets, Petition


Subordinate Legislation

Smoking Prohibition (Children in Motor Vehicles) (Scotland) Act 2016 (Fixed Penalty Notices) Regulations 2016 [Draft]

The Convener (Neil Findlay)

Good morning, everyone, and welcome back. Welcome to the eighth meeting in 2016 of the Health and Sport Committee in the Scottish Parliament’s fifth session. I ask everyone in the room to ensure that their mobile phones are switched to silent; they can of course be used for social media, but please do not take calls or photographs or film proceedings—assuming that anyone was ever inclined to do so.

The first item on today’s agenda is consideration of an affirmative instrument: the draft Smoking Prohibition (Children in Motor Vehicles) (Scotland) Act 2016 (Fixed Penalty Notices) Regulations 2016. That is a mouthful. As usual with an affirmative instrument, we will begin by having an evidence-taking session on the instrument with the relevant minister and her officials. Once we have had all our questions answered, we will hold a formal debate on the motion that the regulations be approved.

We welcome to the committee the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, Shona Robison, who is accompanied by Morris Fraser, team leader, health improvement, tobacco control policy, and Johanna Irvine, principal legal officer, Scottish Government.

I invite the cabinet secretary to make a brief opening statement.

The Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport (Shona Robison)

Thanks very much, convener.

Thank you for the invitation to give evidence to the committee on the draft regulations, the approval of which will allow for full implementation of the proposed measure in December. Following that, anyone who is caught smoking in a car that has in it someone under the age of 18 could face prosecution and a fine of up to £1,000. Alternatively, they could pay a fixed penalty of £100 to the local authority.

The Smoking Prohibition (Children in Motor Vehicles) (Scotland) Act 2016 was passed unanimously partly because it builds on and mirrors the successful 2006 ban on smoking in enclosed public places. As was the case in 2005, we require secondary legislation to set out two practical details: first, that a fixed-penalty notice must be issued within 21 days, to give the police and councils sufficient time to co-ordinate; and, secondly, that local authorities must keep accounts and use any revenue that is raised through penalties to improve local amenities. Those details have been agreed with the police and councils, which will enforce the law.

The evidence on the harmful effects of second-hand smoke is clear. Children are especially vulnerable. The Scottish Government’s commitment to protect children from the impact of smoke led us to announce in 2014 the target of reducing the proportion of young people who are exposed to smoke in the home from 11 to 6 per cent by 2020, which had the potential to protect 50,000 children. Last month’s Scottish health survey revealed that we had met that target five years early.

However, the prevalence of smoking remains higher in Scotland than elsewhere in the United Kingdom. The ban on smoking in public places, the display ban and our commitment to a tobacco-free generation all contribute to the cultural and behavioural change that is needed to improve public health, and the ban on smoking in cars with children in them will do likewise.

Thank you very much, cabinet secretary. I invite questions from members.

Richard Lyle (Uddingston and Bellshill) (SNP)

Good morning, cabinet secretary. When we brought in the ban on smoking in pubs and clubs, everyone thought that it would not work, but it has worked. In the previous session, I supported Jim Hume’s member’s bill to bring in a ban on smoking in cars with children in them, even though I am a smoker. A number of years ago, because of having grandchildren, I took the decision that I would no longer smoke in my car. My car now smells better and my grandkids enjoy being in it more.

Given that the people who would be against the measure have to know when it is coming in and what we are going to be doing, what steps are we taking to advertise the law? When similar English legislation came in, there was quite heavy advertising on the television. What steps will be taken to inform the public that they should no longer smoke in their cars?

Shona Robison

A public awareness campaign will run ahead of the legislation coming into force, which will involve various media, including TV, radio and social media, as well as website information.

You make an important point. The whole rationale is behavioural change. Given what we have seen with the measures on seat belts and mobile phones, the legislation has been designed to safeguard good behaviour and to change behaviour. The legislation on smoking is very much in the same vein.

It is important that people are informed. As I said, there will be a full public awareness campaign to make sure that everyone knows that the law is changing.

Thank you.

Alex Cole-Hamilton (Edinburgh Western) (LD)

Good morning, cabinet secretary. What is Police Scotland’s view? How does it intend to police the law, particularly in the introductory months? Will there be spot checks? Will cars be pulled over? Will cameras be used?

Shona Robison

Police Scotland has been fully involved in the discussions on implementation and time has been taken to get the enforcement measures in place. I will ask officials to say a little bit more but, as I understand it, the initial intention is to take a softly-softly approach, as we have done with other legislation, so that while the law is changing there will be a soft landing and people will be warned and so on and so forth.

Morris Fraser (Scottish Government)

We have had quite intensive negotiations with the police. We have looked at what has happened in England and Wales, where they have had the measure in place for a year, and Police Scotland will take the same approach. As the cabinet secretary said, the police will adopt a light touch at first—the approach will be about education rather than about criminalisation. After all, if no fines were issued, that would mean that people were adhering to the principle and we are looking for that culture change, not criminalisation. Initially, that will mean an education approach.

Clare Haughey (Rutherglen) (SNP)

I will pick up on Mr Fraser’s point about legislation already being in place in England. Have we had any feedback from our colleagues south of the border about how effective and efficient the legislation has been in reducing smoking in cars and how the public have taken to it?

Morris Fraser

We collect data through health surveys and, even since the ban came in in England, we have noticed that, here in Scotland, there has been a reduction in reports of children saying that they are being exposed to smoke in cars. Although there are no official stats from England on cars, the stats from the health survey suggest that the legislation is definitely having an effect in England and even here.

How many people would you expect to be caught by the offence in the first year?

Morris Fraser

When the bill was being progressed, we thought that as many as 100 people would be caught, but that was just a ballpark figure. In England and Wales, there have been only six or seven prosecutions in a year, but the reduction in incidents of people smoking in cars shows that the legislation has worked as a deterrent rather than as something that we would count prosecutions on. If there were no prosecutions, that would be really good. As I said, for the first six months or so, we do not think that the police will be doing anything too draconian unless there are particularly bad offenders.

We are talking about the police, but councils obviously have a role in enforcing the legislation, too. Will they be taking a similar softly-softly approach?

Morris Fraser

That will very much be their position. The police and council officials enforce the smoking ban, although the enforcement is almost completely the responsibility of council officers. With the new legislation, both will have the powers, but it will, almost wholly, be the police who enforce it. After all, the police have the power to stop a car while local authorities have only the power to enter a car that has already stopped. Perhaps councils can do roadside campaigns along with the police. They are of the same mind that the issue is about education, not criminalisation.

The Convener

We move on to agenda item 2, which is the formal debate on the affirmative instrument that we have just taken evidence on. I ask the cabinet secretary to move the motion.

Motion moved,

That the Health and Sport Committee recommends that the Smoking Prohibition (Children in Motor Vehicles) (Scotland) Act 2016 (Fixed Penalty Notice) Regulations 2016 [draft] be approved.—[Shona Robison]

Do members wish to contribute and raise any debating points?

The regulations are worth while and we should all support them, including smokers. They will lead to better health situations for children in cars.

Alison Johnstone (Lothian) (Green)

I add my support for the regulations. As the cabinet secretary mentioned in her opening remarks, the prevalence of smoking remains higher in Scotland. If children grow up in an environment where it is not normalised, that will enable us to proceed on a healthier footing in the future.

Alex Cole-Hamilton

The fact that the 2016 act achieved cross-party, unanimous support in the Parliament speaks volumes. It would be remiss of me not to pay tribute to my party colleague and the former Liberal Democrat health spokesperson who introduced the bill, Jim Hume.

The Convener

I think that we all agree with that and commend Mr Hume for his initiative. There is widespread support for the move across the Parliament.

Cabinet secretary, would you like to sum up and respond to any of the points that have been raised?

Shona Robison

I agree that, as Alison Johnstone said, ensuring that children are not exposed to smoke is part of de-normalising smoking and normalising not smoking. That is a critical point.

I, too, pay tribute to Jim Hume. This is a good example of cross-party working, where someone comes forward with a good idea and it is seen to be so. The experience of working with Jim Hume to get the legislation to its current point was good and worth while.

Motion agreed to,

That the Health and Sport Committee recommends that the Smoking Prohibition (Children in Motor Vehicles) (Scotland) Act 2016 (Fixed Penalty Notice) Regulations 2016 [draft] be approved.

The Convener

I thank the officials for attending. The cabinet secretary will stay with us for the next item of business. I will suspend the meeting briefly to allow the next set of officials to come in.

10:17 Meeting suspended.  

10:18 On resuming—