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Smoking ban in Lords as peers worry about their constitution

THE DAYS of political deals being done in smoke-filled rooms are drawing to a close. A smoking ban is to be imposed in the House of Lords.

The Upper Chamber's Administration and Works Sub-Committee has approved proposals to forbid peers to smoke in most public areas. Smokers will be forced to skulk in a new "club room" tucked away in an obscure corner.

Baroness Jay, the Leader of the Lords, is backing further plans to extend the ban to corridors as well as in restaurants and telephone kiosks, following a severe asthma attack suffered by a Labour hereditary peer reacting to the smoke.

Smokers in the Lords accuse the Government and House authorities of "political correctness". Baroness Trumpington, the redoubtable Tory peer with a husky smoker's voice, last week told her colleagues to "buzz off to the Commons" if they did not want to be surrounded by smoke, during a debate on the proposed ban.

Smoking has been part of the culture of the Lords. Peers have until now been allowed to smoke in almost all public areas in their House, though in the Commons MPs are forbidden to puff in corridors and committee rooms.

Baroness Jay, a former health minister, and other peers, have become increasingly concerned about the impact of "passive smoking" on members. An all-party group, including deputy chief whips, was set up last year to examine the matter.

A survey of peers, commissioned by the group, found that only one in five smoked and 60 per cent had suffered "ill-effects" from smoke. It also showed that 52 per cent believed there should be less smoking in public rooms, and a majority favoured the establishment of a club room. In addition, 71 per cent of peers were in favour of banning smoking in telephone kiosks, 63 per cent supported a ban in the lavatories and 54 per cent thought smoking should be forbidden in committee rooms.

Although peers will still be allowed to smoke in their own offices, a ban is likely to be imposed in public places. The proposals will be discussed by another sub-committee, then debated by the whole House.