Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

PRIME MINISTER GIVES NON-SMOKING SIGNAL

  • Comment
By Matthew George, parliamentary correspondent ...
By Matthew George, parliamentary correspondent

Prime minister Tony Blair has given the strongest signal yet that he will give councils the power to ban smoking in public places.

The government is consulting on the issue as it prepares a white paper, Choosing health, to be published in the autumn.

Speaking during campaigns for the local elections, Mr Blair said: 'I think a lot of people who aren't smokers would prefer to be in an environment where there is not smoking.'

He said there was a difficult balance between protecting the public's health and being seen as a nanny state. He stressed: 'In the end, you have also got to have some local decision-making in this.'

Downing Street advisers see the issue as being similar to congestion charging, in that Mr Blair is prepared to give councils the power to introduce a controversial measure but wants them to take the blame if it proves unpopular.

Proposals to allow councils to outlaw smoking in workplaces, pubs and restaurants are thought likely to be included in Labour's manifesto for the general election, expected next June.

Shifting the burden on to councils is a compromise measure, given the strong opposition to regulation by members of the Cabinet, including culture secretary Tessa Jowell and health secretary John Reid.

Some councils have been lobbying for the new powers, but all will be relieved to avoid being compelled to implement and enforce a ban.

The Welsh Assembly has voted in favour of a ban, but has no powers to implement one. Some Scottish councils also want the powers, which would require a parallel bill at Holyrood.

Anti-smoking campaigners welcomed Mr Blair's comments. ASH director Deborah Arnott said a national ban was preferable but powers for councils were a 'step in the right direction'.

However there was strong opposition from the Tobacco Manufacturers' Association, and the smokers' lobby group the Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco.

  • Comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions.

Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.