Blair hints omitted Bills on tobacco and drink may go ahead

The Queen's Speech: Omissions
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Indy Politics

Tony Blair hinted last night that Bills banning tobacco advertising and reforming licensing laws would go ahead despite their absence from the Queen's Speech. The omissions alarmed anti-smoking groups, tourism chiefs and brewers.

But the Prime Minister told MPs: "It's always the case that there are many more Bills that are brought forward than are listed in the Queen's Speech.

"Indeed, I understand that in the 1997 Queen's Speech there were some 30 more Bills that were added eventually.

"So many of those that people have mentioned in respect of drinking laws or tobacco, for example, those are things that if we have the time ... that we can legislate for."

Labour committed itself in its manifesto to outlawing cigarette advertising and sponsorship. However, the courts overturned a Brussels move to implement an EU-wide ban.

John Chisholm, chairman of the British Medical Association's GPs committee, said he was "dismayed, even disgusted" by the lack of a Bill. "As a result we'll see more patients continuing to smoke, more people being recruited to smoking," he said.

The Government's failure to bring forward its promised overhaul of the archaic licensing laws ­ paving the way to 24-hour drinking in many bars ­ also provoked anger.

Labour even made a pitch for young voters in the weekend before the election by sending text messages to mobile phones telling them that if they wanted to drink later they should back the party.

The Brewers and Licensed Retailers' Association warned that thousands of potential jobs and millions of pounds of investment would be jeopardised by the sidelining of the Bill.

Mike O'Brien, a former Home Office minister, accused the Government of "breaking a promise to every pub-goer in the land".

Controversial plans to force property vendors to produce a "seller's pack", including survey and search details, before putting their home up for sale have been dropped.

Also absent were widely expected proposals to introduce American-style laws of corporate manslaughter, allowing companies responsible for tragedies to be prosecuted.

The Government left out any mention of Section 28, which forbids the promotion of homosexuality in schools. It was forced to abandon an attempt to scrap the clause during the last Parliament. The planned Culture and Recreation Bill was also omitted.

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