26/10/2005

Cabinet split on smoking delays health bill

The government’s health improvement bill has been delayed amid reports of a Cabinet row over the proposed anti-smoking legislation.

The row between Cabinet ministers erupted over proposed exemptions to a smoking ban in England.

Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt had proposed banning smoking in all clubs and pubs, but allowing some pubs that did not serve food to operate sealed “smoking rooms”, where bar staff did not work.

However, Defence Secretary John Reid, whom Ms Hewitt replaced as Health Secretary, wants the government to stick to the proposals he wrote in Labour’s election manifesto.

This smoking ban included exemptions for pubs that did not serve food and private members clubs.

Other Cabinet ministers, including Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell, are believed to have been in favour of a total smoking ban. However, there were reports on Wednesday that Ms Jowell had given support to Ms Hewitt’s plans.

A spokesperson from the Department of Health admitted that no deal had been reached on the smoking ban and said that discussions were continuing.

Liberal Democrats health spokesperson Steve Webb said: “The government’s proposals on smoking in public places are hopelessly confused. It looks like the government’s plans are being drawn up on the back of a fag packet.”

(KMcA/GB)








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