Health Select Committee tables all party comprehensive smoking ban amendment

Tuesday 10 January 2006

Media Release: For Immediate Use, Tuesday 10th January 2006 
Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) has warmly welcomed the news that MPs on the House of Commons Health Select Committee are to table an amendment to the Health Bill on smoking in pubs and clubs. The amendment would remove exemptions from the proposed smoking ban for pubs that do not serve prepared food and for membership clubs. The amendment was announced by Kevin Barron MP (Labour), Chair of the Select Committee. ASH has also welcomed news that the Government is considering a free vote for Labour MPs on the amendment. The Conservative Party has already announced a free vote on the issue for its MPs. Comprehensive smokefree legislation is also supported by the Liberal Democrats. The Commons Report Stage of the Health Bill is likely to take place in late January or early February.

The exemptions for non-food pubs and clubs were heavily criticised by the Health Select Committee in its report published in December 2005 [1]. They would leave a law that would be difficult to enforce, would fail to protect the health of vulnerable workers exposed to secondhand smoke and would increase health inequalities between different parts of England, because non-food pubs are concentrated in poorer communities.

Cancer Research UK and ASH released a major new poll on the issue in December [2]. For the first time, given a list of specific public places, 66% in England said that all pubs and bars should be smokefree by law.

Commenting, ASH Director Deborah Arnott said:

“We warmly welcome this amendment. Kevin Barron and the Health Select Committee produced a powerful report before Christmas showing why an end to smoking in all workplaces, including pubs and clubs, was now required. Now MPs on the Committee from all Parties have tabled an amendment to the Health Bill to make sure this happens.

Scotland already has a comprehensive smokefree law, and it will also soon arrive in Wales and Northern Ireland. Only England would have to live with the unworkable halfway house now in the Health Bill. The Government must now announce a genuine free vote on the Select Committee’s amendment. MPs have heard the arguments and examined the evidence. Let them have the freedom to make a clear decision on the issue.”

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[2] Major new poll shows public support across UK for comprehensive smokefree law – ASH press release, 30 December 2005