Frank Dobson, the former health secretary, warned that proposals to allow smoking in pubs that did not serve foot were "half- hearted and half-baked". He warned: "It will widen the health gap between the better off and worse off because it will permit or even encourage smoking by the poorest people in the poorest neighbourhoods."
Fifty Labour MPs have signed a Commons motion attacking the Government's proposals and calling for a full ban ahead of the first Commons debate on the plans today. Sixty have signed a separate motion calling for a free vote on the issue. MPs are unlikely to stage a rebellion against the second reading of the Health Bill this evening, but are likely to rebel when they debate the detail of the Bill in the coming weeks.
A coalition of doctors and campaigners demanded a full ban. Fiona Castle, the widow of the entertainer Roy Castle, who blamed his lung cancer on passive smoking in jazz clubs, attacked the Government's proposals as a "fudge".
Professor Alex Markham, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said: "The health implications of these proposed measures are an awful lot of dead English people." He said the Government was unlikely to hit its target of cutting the proportion of the public who smoke to 21 per cent by 2010.