MPs rally for a ban as Government ignores smoking consultation

01 December 2005
MPs rally for a ban as Government ignores smoking consultation

A total smoking ban in public places moved a step closer this week as industry bosses and Labour MPs joined forces to slam the Government's current proposals for a partial ban.

A group of Labour backbenchers, hospitality trade bodies, cancer charities and local government representatives attacked the proposals at a meeting earlier this week and called for a total ban ahead of the second reading of the Health Bill this Tuesday
(29 November).

The meeting, held at the Houses of Parliament, garnered cross-party support, but it was the voice of former Labour Health Secretary Frank Dobson that would have upset the Government most.

Dobson said the current plans to allow smoking in pubs that did not serve food were "half-baked and half-hearted".

Caterer's campaign to Stub out Smoking in all workplaces was also given a boost last week when it was revealed that the Government had chosen to ignore its own consultation evidence.

The results of the Department of Health's summer consultation, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, showed that 90% of 41,833 people who responded opposed exemptions for non-food pubs.

Brigid Simmonds, chief executive officer of lobby group Business in Sport and Leisure, said: "You're left with the impression the Government has consulted but not listened."

ASH director Deborah Arnott said: "A level playing field with legislation acting evenly for all is the better option. No one favours the current solution, not even those opposed to a total ban."

Simon Ward, director of public affairs at pub company Mitchells & Butlers, which favours voluntary restrictions, said: "All sides of the debate concur a food-based ban is illogical and unworkable. I am disappointed that the Government has ignored its own consultation."

A spokesman for the British Hospitality Association said: "This revelation has certainly weakened the Government's case. The general view on smoking is that we will not end up where they say we will with this."

The call for a total ban is also being supported by a growing number of MPs, 87 of whom, including Labour backbenchers, are pushing for a free vote in Parliament on the issue of ending smoking in the workplace.

By Chris Druce

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