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Tuesday, 22 May 2007

No smoking at the crematorium?

Yesterday, Stuart Bell was answering questions in Parliament for the Church Commissioners on the matter of no-smoking signs in Churches.
18. Mr. Gordon Prentice (Pendle) (Lab): What the Commissioners’ policy is on smoking in properties for which they are responsible. [137945]

22. Mr. Desmond Swayne (New Forest, West) (Con): What preparations the Church Commissioners have made for the coming into force of the ban on smoking in enclosed public spaces with respect to cathedrals. [137949]

24. Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con): What advice the Commissioners are giving to cathedral deans in England with respect to the enforcement of no smoking laws from 1 July 2007; and if he will make a statement. [137951]


The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Sir Stuart Bell): Smoking in places of worship has never been acceptable. Policies for many other Church properties, from offices through to schools and church halls, vary, although many, including the national Church offices, are already smoke free. By way of a statement, guidance about the new provisions is being discussed with the Department of Health and will be promulgated as widely as possible, including to cathedral deans

Mr. Prentice: But we are only a few weeks away from the smoking ban coming in, so would it not be absolute lunacy to require cathedrals and churches to affix no smoking signs to their doors?

Sir Stuart Bell: I agree with my hon. Friend. His original question had to do with the Commission’s offices, and I can tell him that the national Church institutions have had a no smoking policy in place since 2000. They have updated the policy recently, to comply fully with the Health Act 2006.

Mr. Swayne: I speak with some feeling, as a man whose wedding photograph is marred by the fact that an exit sign on the ancient church door appears between my wife and myself. Will the hon. Gentleman resist the regulations vigorously? It would be ironic indeed if we were to give way on this matter as, when the members of the council of my parish church applied for permission to put up a plaque containing the 10 commandments, they were told to get lost.

Sir Stuart Bell: I certainly agree with the sentiments expressed by the hon. Gentleman. I am glad that his marriage is steadfast, notwithstanding the exit sign. I also agree with the Dean of Southwark that it would not be sensible to place no smoking signs on a beautiful Norman doorway that has been locked closed for 500 years. Discussions on the matters are taking place with the Department of Health, which I believe is taking a reasonable approach to signage.

Michael Fabricant: I was somewhat alarmed to hear the hon. Gentleman say that all smoking was banned, as I presume that incense is not covered. I support the smoking ban in general, and voted for it but, if he is right and we have to have signs, does he agree that they could be Gothic, with twirly whirly bits, or Norman? Signs like that would fit in more appropriately with beautiful cathedrals such as the one in Lichfield.

Sir Stuart Bell: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. The House will be pleased to know that the Government’s signage policy will be reviewed in the next three years. In the meantime, I anticipate that we will see Gothic signs, if nothing else.

Simon Hughes (North Southwark and Bermondsey) (LD): The hon. Gentleman has got the idea that there is general outrage among anybody who has an interest in cathedrals. I have the privilege to represent two and I used to sing in another. I hope that he will tell the relevant Ministers that, if it is required, all parties should be absolutely willing to agree a very quick change in the regulations so that things can be absolutely clear before D-day and so that we have no stupid notices on buildings that have not needed them for the last 1,000 years.

Sir Stuart Bell: I agree entirely with the hon. Gentleman. The point that he made about regulations is interesting and I will put it to the Department of Health, but we require local authorities to be sensible in their approach and, as of this moment in time, we have no reason to believe that they will be otherwise.

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire) (Con): Have the nincompoops who have insisted upon these signs also asked for them to be put up in crematoriums?

Sir Stuart Bell: If we are moving from churches to crematoriums, the hell fires are getting very close, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the lighted cigarette in our churches and cathedrals will not be the beginning of those hell fires.
Text from Hansard.
As a Croydon boy myself, I'm happy to give a Birettat Tip to The Croydonian

Since the Sistine Chapel is also an enclosed public space, perhaps the EU - the real nincompoops from which this daft legislation has originated - will need to insist on an alternative method of announcing a new Pope.
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