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Smoking debate underway

14 February 2006

Hospitality representatives and health campaigners are cautiously optimistic MPs will stub out smoking once and for all.

MPs have begun their final debate on the proposed smoking legislation for England, and are expected to take their final vote on the controversial issue at 6.30pm this evening.

News that Health Minister Caroline Flint plans to back a total ban boosted the pro-ban camp yesterday.

John Grogan, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Beer Group, who has campaigned for a total ban, said: "We are increasingly confident of obtaining sufficient support tomorrow to legislate for a comprehensive ban with no exemption for clubs."

A spokesman for the British Beer & Pub Association, which recently threw its support behind a complete ban, said: "Over the past few days the momentum of opinion among MPs has clearly been moving in favour of a total ban, including in members' clubs."

"MPs increasingly realise private clubs are not private places and it would be an anachronism to exempt them from legislation."

Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of pressure group Business in Sport and Leisure said it looked like question of whether clubs would escape the ban would go down to the wire.

"A total ban has strong Labour backbench support and quite a few Conservatives have been won over by the economic argument against any exemption. The Liberals, who want a total ban, are also with us," said Simmonds.

By Chris Druce

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