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PROPOSALS SET OUT TO ALLOW FREE VOTE ON SMOKE FREE PUBLIC PLACES

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Ministers have today put forward alternative options on how far to extend the smoking ban in public places. This fo...
Ministers have today put forward alternative options on how far to extend the smoking ban in public places. This follows the decision to give MPs a free vote at Report Stage of the Health Bill, taking place later this month.

MP's will now be able to vote on three options:

- To extend the ban to licensed premises but not genuine membership clubs

- To extend to both licensed premises and membership clubs

- To exempt non-food serving pubs and membership clubs, as originally proposed.

A new clause and amendment were tabled by the Government to allow this to happen.

Commenting on the proposals, Public Health Minister Caroline Flint

said:

'The Health Bill is a huge step forward for public health and will save thousands of lives by preventing smoking related diseases. It is important that MPs have a clear choice to convey their views around this controversial issue. By drafting the new clause and amendment in this way, we will be offering a genuine choice to MPs, at the same time as ensuring the legislation is workable, '

Following the announcement to consult on raising the age for buying tobacco products, another new clause has been tabled to the Health Bill. The new power will allow Ministers to take swift action to raise the age from 16 to 18 years of age, depending on the outcome of the consultation.

Notes

The Health Bill completed its passage through Committee Stage on 10 January. The free vote will take place at Report stage, on the same day as Third reading, in the House of Commons.

The Government New Clause provides an alternative to the current exemptions clause- Clause3- in the Health Bill. The New Clause includes a general power to make exemptions from the ban on smoking in public places, with prisons and care homes as examples of where the general power would be used and private members clubs as another examples. But, the New Clause then goes on to explicitly prohibit exemptions from being made for all other licensed premises i.e. pubs and bars

The Government Amendment to the above New Clause seeks to amend the New Clause so as to also exlude private members clubs (as well as other licensed premises) from the general power to make exemptions.

The Amendment to the New Clause will be voted on first. If passed, this would amend the New Clause so that members clubs could not not be exempted.

Then the New Clause (or the New Clause as amended depending on the outcome of the vote on the amendment) would be voted on to see whether it should be added to the Bill.

If the New Clause (or the New Clause as amended) is passed then it will replace the current exemptions clause. If it is rejected, the existing clause would be retained.

Although the New Clause has been tabled in Patricia Hewitt's name and the Amendment in Caroline Flint's name, this is simply in order to facilitate a free vote and does not necessarily indicate which way either will vote themselves.

The Children and Young Persons Act 1933 sets the legal age limit for tobaccosales at 16. The Children and Young Persons Act (Protection from Tobacco) 1991 legislates for signage which states the age limit, at point of sale.

The aim of this new clause is to provide Secretary of State with the power to increase the age limit for tobacco sales in the future, by amendment of the 1933 and 1991 Acts through secondary legislation.

Plans to consult on this were announced in December 2005.

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