Hewitt predicts total ban on pub smoking

Frank Dobson, the former health secretary, saidLabour MPs would rebel against a measure which would leave people in the poorest areas most exposed to cancer. "Working-class people are ill more often and die sooner than more affluent people, and pubs that don't sell food are nearly all in working-class areas," he said. Even if the measure was pushed through a divided Commons, it would have a high chance of being blocked by the Lords. Lord Faulkner, a Labour peer who is piloting a Bill to ban smoking in all public buildings in Liverpool, said that there was "substantial" support among fellow peers for a total ban.

Ms Hewitt had to face MPs yesterday to defend a decision with which she privately disagreed. She rejected a suggestion by a Tory MP, Mike Penning, that she had been "rolled over'' in Cabinet by her predecessor, John Reid, who opposed an outright ban. "We had a disagreement on the specific issue of pubs that don't serve food, so we did what any sensible organisation would have done, we discussed it," she claimed.

But she added: "It's only a matter of time before there is a complete ban."