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Last Updated: Friday, 1 December 2006, 09:07 GMT
Q&A: Ban on smoking in public
Smoking has been banned in all enclosed public places in England, after MPs voted in favour of it in February 2006. What were the issues involved?

Where will smoking be banned?

Smoking in all public places like pubs, cinemas, offices, factories, public transport and so on will be banned.

When will the ban come into force?

Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt announced the ban would be enforced from 1 July 2007.

Where will you be able to smoke?

People will still be able to smoke outdoors, and in private homes, plus places that Ms Hewitt says are "like homes", such as care institutions, army barracks, and prisons.

What about private clubs?

The ban will apply there too. Calls for the private clubs and pubs serving food to be exempt from a ban were rejected.

What health benefits do the government expect?

Ms Hewitt said the ban would protect everyone from second-hand smoke, while making it easier for smokers to quit. The government predicts about 600,000 people will give up smoking as a result of the law change.

Why didn't the government stick to its manifesto pledge to restrict the ban to pubs serving food?

The post-election consultation on the plans for a partial ban raised enough questions - such as how you define pub food or enforce a one metre exclusion zone from a bar - that the new health secretary felt it was impractical. There was then a well-publicised row in Cabinet with Ms Hewitt pushing for a wider ban and former health secretary, John Reid, demanding ministers stuck to the original policy of a partial ban, which he won. The prime minister was clearly facing the prospect of a continuing row and decided it was such a controversial issue it warranted a free vote in the Commons and we have ended up with the health secretary essentially opposing her own policy.

What were the winning arguments for a full ban?

Those demanding a total ban argued it was a matter of public health, particularly protecting people working in pubs and private clubs from the effects of passive smoking. They said that having a partial ban would give private clubs an unfair economic advantage against nearby pubs. They also said that allowing smoking in pubs which do not serve food would widen health inequalities, on the basis that many pubs in less well off areas would choose not to serve food, so their clientele and staff would suffer the effects of passive smoking.

What about those who opposed a ban?

Those wanting a partial ban claimed a full ban could hit clubs and pubs hard and was unnecessary. They said the government was infringing civil liberties, and could lead to places such as, for example, regulars at the Royal British Legion being unable to smoke. Many said that it should be up to the pubs and clubs themselves to decide whether to allow smoking.

MPs got a free vote - what's that?

A free vote is where MPs are not under orders from their party leader to vote a particular way. It is normally only on issues of conscience such as abortion or the age of consent. Tony Blair argued that smoking was now in that same category.

What was the choice facing MPs?

Option 1: Essentially this was Labour's manifesto pledge to introduce a ban on smoking in all enclosed public places in England, except pubs which do not serve food, and private members' clubs. It was the option agreed last autumn by Cabinet after protracted debate. Championed by ex-health secretary John Reid.

Option 2: A complete ban on smoking in all enclosed public places, including all pubs and private clubs. This was the option the current Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt voted in favour of, after a consultation suggested Option 1 might be unworkable and make health inequalities worse. Championed by health minister Caroline Flint.

Option 3: A complete ban on smoking in all enclosed public places, except for private clubs. This offered another option to MPs facing anger from private clubs, such as Labour/Conservative clubs, working men's and golf clubs at having a ban imposed on them.

How did key figures vote?

Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt all voted against the party's manifesto pledge and supported a total ban. The health minister responsible for smoking, Caroline Flint, also supported a total ban. For the Tories, Sir George Young, John Bercow, Peter Bottomley and Robert Key were among those who voted for a total ban while party leader David Cameron missed the vote because of the birth of his child but he was expected to oppose any ban on the grounds it should be a matter of personal choice. For the Liberal Democrats, Charles Kennedy, Sir Menzies Campbell and Chris Huhne voted for an outright ban, while Mark Oaten and Lembit Opik voted to oppose a ban.

What will the political fallout be for the government?

By making it a free vote, the prime minister avoided the possibility of a government defeat but he may still face charges of presiding over a shambles and going back on manifesto pledges. Any long-term or significant political damage is unlikely.

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