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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 October 2005, 17:19 GMT 18:19 UK
Cabinet agrees England smoke ban
Smoking in pub
Ministers have differed over the plan
Ministers have agreed plans for a ban on smoking in enclosed public places in England - with exemptions for clubs and pubs not serving food.

The U-turn comes after days of wrangling and means a return to the pledge set out in Labour's manifesto.

It is seen as a blow for Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt who wanted a wider ban.

The British Medical Association branded the move an "utter disappointment" and a "wasted opportunity".

The plans include a commitment to a review after three years.

Smoke-free

Ministers were under pressure from unions, anti-smoking campaigners and Labour backbenchers to introduce a blanket ban, in line with the ones planned for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

HAVE YOUR SAY
If smoking was banned from pubs I could enjoy myself and not smoke at all
Nicole, London, UK

Some Cabinet members, believed to include former health secretary John Reid, were in favour of sticking to Labour's election manifesto commitment.

This said pubs not serving food and members-only clubs could choose whether or not to ban smoking.

Ms Hewitt wanted a compromise, with smoking allowed in sealed smoking rooms, away from pub staff, but she has been forced to drop this idea after Cabinet opposition.

BBC political editor Nick Robinson said the health secretary had "set a third way and stood in the middle of the road and was, frankly, run over".

However, Ms Hewitt said the proposals, to be introduced to the Commons on Thursday, would be "widely welcomed".

"As promised in Labour's manifesto, the Health Bill will include a ban on smoking in enclosed workplaces and public places which will cover 99% of the workforce," she said in a statement.

The proposals mean all restaurants in England would be smoke-free, along with pubs and bars serving food, she added, and "non-food" pubs and bars will be free to choose whether to allow smoking, or be smoke-free.

'Welcomed'

Smoking in all bar areas would be banned, with further consultation on how to achieve this, "including on discrete smoking rooms or areas to protect staff".

Smoking: to ban or not to ban

"We will monitor these proposals and there will be a review after three years.

"I believe this bill will be very widely welcomed as a major step forward in protecting people from second-hand smoke, and improving the health of the nation," Ms Hewitt said.

But Professor Alex Markham, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said he was "utterly dismayed" that the government "had not listened to doctors, health charities and the public, all of whom have voiced overwhelming support for a smoke-free law without exemptions".

James Johnson, chairman of the British Medical Association, expressed his "utter disappointment" at the "wasted opportunity to protect the public's health".

Grilling

Brendan Barber, general secretary of the TUC, said: "This missed opportunity is very disappointing...if ministers cannot agree among themselves, then they should give MPs a free vote."

Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley said the Conservatives wanted "severe restrictions" on smoking in enclosed public places to protect workers and children but MPs should have the final say.

LABOUR' S MANIFESTO PLEDGE
We will legislate to ensure that all enclosed public places and work places other than licensed premises will be smoke-free.
The legislation will ensure that all restaurants are smoke-free; all pubs and bars preparing and serving food will be smoke-free, and other pubs and bars will be free to choose whether to allow smoking or to be smoke-free.
In membership clubs the members will be free to choose whether to allow smoking or be smoke-free. However, whatever the general status, smoking in the bar area will be prohibited everywhere.

"The government's current approach is a U-turn on previous policy and its application is riddled with flaws.

"For example, it does not address health inequalities, as pubs in the most deprived areas pubs do not usually serve food anyway."

Kevin Barron, Labour chairman of the Commons health select committee, has said only the "ego" of former health secretary John Reid, who drew up the manifesto proposals, was standing in the way of a blanket ban.

Ms Hewitt is due to be grilled by members of Mr Barron's committee on Thursday, ahead of the publication of the bill.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Reaction to the decision to only partially ban smoking



SEE ALSO:
Smoke ban exemption causes dismay
26 Oct 05 |  UK Politics


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