Passive smoking at work: make or break for the new legal code

Monday 04 September 2000


Press release  4th September 2000 immediate


Make or break for new legal code on passive smoking at work… but deregulation panel pressing for ‘insane U-turn’ on clean air


ASH today warned the Government that any backsliding on the new legal code on passive smoking at work would be regarded as an U-turn on White Paper commitments to smoke-free air made in 1998. The legal code was enthusiastically backed by trade union, health,welfare and medical organisations all over Britain in consultations held by the Health and Safety Executive last year. A U-turn now would be insane and trigger an avalanche of condemnation.


As the Approved Code of Practice (ACoP) on passive smoking at work goes for approval by the Health and Safety Commission tomorrow (Tuesday 5th September) ASH claimed that the Cabinet Office Panel for Regulatory Accountability was trying to block the ACoP.  The Panel is chaired by Dr. Mo Mowlam and includes the veteran deregulator Lord Haskins, who has reportedly set himself against the Code and is backing the hospitality industry trade associations that are trying to block the measure.


Clive Bates, Director of ASH said,  “The code has been very carefully crafted and a huge consultation exercise run by the Health and Safety Executive has taken everyone’s views into account.  What they have come up with is a really sensible and workable route through all the conflicting interests and arguments.  We think it would make a big difference to health and well-being at work ”


Bates added: “we’re quite optimistic that the proposals will get a positive hearing at the Health and Safety Commission, but what really concerns us are the noises coming from the deregulation zealots within the government.”


“Some parts of the government have become so twitchy about anything that a trade association decides to call red tape, they have almost forgotten what they’re there for.” said Bates.  “This code is about cleaner air for the three million non-smoking workers that still work in smoky conditions”.


“The people suffering passive smoking will often be on low-pay, non-unionised and with no-one to speak up for them in the Cabinet Office, but this will give them rights to better conditions at work and better health.  Isn’t that what New Labour is meant to stand for?” said Bates.


ASH argues that the deregulators have fundamentally misunderstood the Code and what it is there to do.   Clive Bates of ASH said;“In fact this isn’t red tape at all, it will actually be very useful for business. It doesn’t add any new laws or regulations; it just clearly and sensibly spells out how an employer should comply with the existing law.  Without a code like this, any company is exposed to risks of legal action under the common law, employment tribunals, and health and safety legislation.  This is valuable legal protection not unwanted bureaucracy”.


ASH has prepared a two-page briefing to argue the case for ACoP to the members of the Panel for Regulatory Accountability and the other ministers involved.


Press Contact: Amanda Sandford 020 7739 5902 (w)