I rise to support the Bill, and I thank my hon. Friend Laura Trott for bringing this important issue to our attention. There have been so many fantastic and important contributions so far.
My support for the Bill is principally due to my concern that young adults perceive these treatments as beauty treatments as opposed to medical procedures that carry risks and side effects, and the fact that damage to their self-esteem has probably brought them to that point. The issue behind this is mental health. What brings someone to the point where they feel that they need an injection in their face to paralyse what is beautiful about them, which is their natural appearance?
I am a huge advocate of body positivity, and my hon. Friend’s Bill contributes to that. My hon. Friend Dr Evans probably does not know that if I had a private Member’s Bill that I wanted to introduce, it would be his. I have spoken about it on other occasions. All of this is so important to me, and it goes back to what I was saying: where does the situation start that a young adult feels the need to change their appearance?
Many young adults have body image problems and aspire to a face or a body that they cannot hope to live up to because it was faked on a computer or at the mercy of a needle. They see images of a role model whose face has been frozen in time by paralysing the muscles in their brow or around their eyes to make them look good—less tired, less old and less real. I would love to see a shift in society where there is not the same pressure on us all to be picture perfect.
Listening to hon. Members, I am truly grateful for the time and era in which I grew up. There was no social media or internet. At times there was not even any electricity, because it was the winter of discontent, but we will not go down that route. We did not have reality TV shows. We did not have “Love Island”. We in fact had black-and-white televisions—there are some in this room who will remember that time well.
All we aspired to was standing in front of a mirror mimicking ABBA—I do not know whether my hon. Friend Jane Stevenson did that. We did not have pressure on us to be anything but ourselves; it is as simple as that. We had Jackie magazine. The images were not doctored in those days. If they were, I would be saddened, but they were not Photoshopped. There was no botox; they were natural images. I hope that I come from a generation that reflects that. We do not feel so much pressure to be something that we are not.
Dr Luke Evans:
I am glad to have my hon. Friend’s support. I think it is important to realise that fashion, trends and the air of beauty have always been there. The difference is the intensification and the unrealistic aspect of it these days, as opposed to the days of hexamethonium, when women would take drugs that ended up killing them, or indeed of corsets, for example. That is a really important point. It is the intensification and the unreal achievability.
I thank my hon. Friend for his comments. That is an important point. People put pressure on us to make us feel that there is a way that we are supposed to look. I am afraid that gentleman often make us feel that way as well. We feel that we need to look a certain way to be attractive. We are attractive for who we actually are. We should just be ourselves. That is the most attractive quality in a person that I can think of.
I have seen written work where botox was debated around a “Should they or shouldn’t they?” argument. My simple question is: why would you? Why would you feel the need to do that?
I had not realised when researching this topic that non-surgical cosmetic treatments, such as botox and dermal fillers, generate over £2.75 billion in the UK and account for 75% of all cosmetic enhancements carried out each year. That is great news on the one hand because it is generating income—fantastic—but when we look at it another way, it is a lot of money focused on cosmetic enhancements. It is the word “enhancements” that starts to ring alarm bells, as does the fact that young adults partake of this practice. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks for taking time to raise awareness of the impact of botox and dermal filler procedures among all age groups, but particularly those under the age of 18.
When I dug a little deeper, I found that, unlike their surgical counterparts, such as breast enlargement and facelift operations, which have clear and defined laws as to who can undertake the procedures, non-surgical cosmetic injections can be administered by anyone. What struck me most was that it is a largely unregulated industry. I support the wish to see the regulation of this practice enforced by a local authority, which will help to keep children safe from these procedures. It will help to ensure that children grow up to be the person they actually are and, as I said before, to age gracefully.
I thank my hon. Friend for raising awareness of the potential health risks of the procedures, including blindness, infection, scarring and psychological impacts. I also want to say again that we do not know the mental health impact of this and what has brought somebody there in the first place. There must be some damage to one’s self-esteem to think that you need to change your appearance. For me, as I mentioned at the start, that is one of my greatest concerns on this and the growing mental health issue within young adults.
I thank my hon. Friend for her recollections of ABBA impersonation; mine was Bananarama, but I follow her lines. Does she agree that, as society has shifted and self-confidence is built on what you look like rather than you as a complete person, we are storing up this mental health crisis for future years? People who are now entering into these cosmetic procedures as they get older will be less able to cope with how they look and less happy with themselves. On the “Love Island” point raised a moment ago, we have seen suicides of those contestants, and it concerns me greatly that if one’s confidence is built purely on what one looks like, this is extremely concerning for one’s mental health.
My hon. Friend raises a really important point. It is the fact that people feel so self-conscious, but it is also about how, by embracing who you are, you take the consequences of your actions. We all fail at times—we cannot always look beautiful, and we sometimes make disastrous decisions about what we are wearing and how we look—but that is how we grow and learn, and that is how we become strong. We become strong individuals in our life by learning through our mistakes and so forth. It is about turning up with the wrong frock or the wrong jacket on, putting too much lipstick on, or just looking flipping awful some days. Am I allowed to say “flipping” in here? That is what it is about, and it makes you a strong character. Manufacturing who you are does not make you resilient for life, and I think that is a very important point.
The growth in non-surgical treatments increases the need for consumer protection, and I believe it is important to work with stakeholders to strengthen the regulation of cosmetic procedures, so that only regulated health professionals may administer botox or dermal fillers to under-18s, which may be required for medical reasons. It concerned me greatly when I heard about the impact on and damage to that person. The story was quite heartbreaking.
I know that botox is a treatment option for people who suffer from chronic migraines. It is used in the treatment of a range of medical conditions, including the management of bladder dysfunctions, face and eyelid twitching, painful involuntary neck muscle contractions and severe sweating, as my hon. Friend Claire Coutinho has already mentioned. I am pleased that it will be used in these cases, with under-18s being able to access that treatment.
I believe it is important that these procedures remain available where there is an assessed medical need. I think that is key—the assessed medical need. It is not needed for beauty; it is needed only for a medical reason and when provided by a registered health professional. At present, practitioners do not need to be medically qualified to perform those procedures, which is a great concern. I did not realise that that was the case until my hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks introduced her Bill. There are no mandatory competency or qualification frameworks related to the administration of those procedures, which is incredibly scary. The potential health risks, which she raised, include blindness, tissue necrosis, infection, scarring and psychological impact.
My hon. Friend has made a really powerful case for the need to prevent under-18s from accessing botox or dermal filler procedures for aesthetic reasons, making the administration of botox and cosmetic fillers by injection to under-18s an offence, and I thank her for doing so. She also wants to establish a regulatory framework for local authorities to ensure that businesses have appropriate safeguards in place to prevent under-18s from using their services. She has 100% support from me for her Bill, which will stop dangerous and unnecessary non-medical procedures that can ruin children’s lives. Let us not forget that. We do not yet know the consequences for a young adult of using botox. We still do not know the consequences for adults of using botox as a beauty treatment.
The Bill also ensures that any treatments that are required are performed by a medical practitioner, which I really appreciate. For me, the most important part of the Bill, in conjunction with the private Member’s Bill introduced by my hon. Friend Dr Evans, which tackles body dysmorphia and unrealistic images in social media, is the fact that it contributes significantly to promoting body positivity, which I have long championed, and I will continue to do so. That begins at home and at school, and we need to educate young adults and children from the age of one, two, three, four and upwards. They are beautiful as they are. We embrace who we are and what we look like, and that is what makes us stronger in life. Any measures that do that have my unquestionable and unwavering support.