MPs outlaw smoking in all pubs and clubs

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Smoking will be outlawed in 124,000 pubs and clubs across England from next summer, after MPs voted overwhelmingly to ban lighting up in all enclosed public places.

Tony Blair and 12 of his Cabinet colleagues were accused of a U-turn after abandoning Labour's manifesto commitment.

In a historic free vote, MPs threw out an "unworkable" compromise on which Tony Blair fought the general election, namely, the commitment to allow smoking to continue in pubs that do not serve food.

Slapping down that compromise, the MPs voted for all pubs to be included in the ban, by 453 votes to 125 ­ a majority of 328.

They then decisively threw out a last-minute proposal to exempt private members' clubs by 384 to 184 ­ a majority of 200 ­ voting again for a complete ban.

The vote, warmly welcomed by health groups, brings England into line with Northern Ireland and Scotland. Wales will have its own vote on the issue.

Patricia Hewitt, the Health Secretary, was accused of a U-turn after backing a total ban just hours after hinting that she would support the exemption of private clubs.

Gordon Brown, Charles Clarke, Peter Hain, Ian McCartney, Margaret Beckett and David Miliband were among the Cabinet ministers voting for a full ban, as did Tony Blair.

But six of their colleagues, including John Reid, John Prescott, John Hutton, Tessa Jowell and Ruth Kelly, backed a compromise aimed at allowing smoking to continue in not-for-profit clubs such as working mens' clubs and the Royal British Legion.

The vote means an end to the "pint and fag" culture of the local pub and the smoke-filled rooms of 18,000 private members' clubs.

Ministers also announced a sharp rise in fines for failing to enforce the ban. Landlords who allow smoking will face a £2,500 fine, up from £200 but individuals who flout the ban will still face a £50 spot fine.

Spot fines of £200 will also be introduced for failing to display no-smoking signs, with the possible penalty, if the issue goes to court, increasing to £1,000.

The smoking room of the House of Commons could be one of the few places to be unaffected by the ban, because the Royal Palace of Westminster is not directly covered by legislation. However, some MPs were already predicting the ban will be extended to their favourite retreat.

Fiona Castle, the widow of the entertainer Roy Castle, lobbied for a total smoking ban a few hours before the MPs took part in six separate votes on the options. She urged them to vote against excluding private members' clubs, telling MPs that her late husband, a non-smoker, had died from a rare form of lung cancer associated with passive smoking in clubs when he was an entertainer.

Her MP, Louise Ellman, the Labour member for Liverpool Riverside, said: "The vote will be a lasting memorial to Roy Castle. His death made Fiona determined to do something about this, and the Roy Castle Cancer Foundation was set up in my constituency as a result."

But in an impassioned debate, the Health Secretary was accused by Tories of presiding over a "shambles" on the ban. Andrew Lansley, the shadow Health Secretary, mocked the Government for a succession of U-turns over the legislation. He said: "We now have the humiliation of the Secretary of State voting against her own legislation. Never before has a government minister brought forward a measure and voted against it in this way."

The Health Bill, introduced by Ms Hewitt last year, has been dogged by Cabinet splits and insurrection in the Labour ranks.

Labour MPs were finally granted a free vote after a back-bench insurrection over the compromise plans.

Last night's vote was welcomed by unions, publicans and health campaigners.

Professor Alex Markham, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said: " We're delighted that the smoke-free law will give all workers, including those in pubs and private members' clubs, equal protection from the life-threatening effects of second-hand smoke."

Peter Hollins, director general of the British Heart Foundation, welcomed the vote as "a landmark victory for the public health of this country, which will save the lives of many people across the UK".

Mark Hastings, director of communications at the British Beer and Pub Association, said: "We are pleased that MPs have ensured a level playing field for all, with no exemption for private members' clubs."

Publicans had been worried that private clubs would have gained an advantage by allowing smoking while pubs would have had to enforce the ban.

Not everyone welcomed the development. Simon Clark, director of smoking support group Forest, said last night: "A total ban is disproportionate to the problems of second-hand smoking. Unfortunately, MPs have been seduced by an unprecedented campaign of propaganda about the effects of passive smoking for which the evidence is inconclusive."

How prohibition laws have spread across the British Isles

Scotland

The ban: Comes into force at 6am on 26 March.

Covers: Enclosed locations that are used by the public, such as work places, clubs or places of entertainment, health and care services.

Exemptions: Private residential homes or designated rooms in care homes, hospitals, prisons, hotels, offshore installations and private vehicles.

Compliance: Smokers and publicans are concerned that the ban will infringe their human right to smoke, cause the closure of businesses and possibly force people to smoke at home, increasing the danger to children. It is hoped the new law will prevent more than 13,000 deaths a year from smoking related diseases.

Wales

The ban: Likely to be a strict ban in public places under plans being prepared by the Welsh Assembly by 2007.

Covers: Similar to Scotland with no-smoking premises defined as enclosed locations that are used by the public. Last year the Welsh Assembly announced that all of its estates would be smoke-free.

Exemptions: To be decided.

Compliance: Still to be seen, but there appears to be a good degree of public support for an outright ban.

Northern Ireland

The ban: Comes into effect in April next year.

Covers: All enclosed places, including pubs, restaurants and hotels. Smoking is already banned in government offices. A decision on prisons and psychiatric institutions has yet to be taken.

Exceptions: To be decided.

Compliance: Yet to be seen, but a public consultation in March last year found that more than 91 per cent of respondents were in favour of comprehensive smoke-free legislation.

Ireland

The ban: Tough anti-smoking legislation was imposed in March 2004.

Covers: Smoking in pubs, restaurants and other enclosed workplaces including trucks and company vehicles.

Exemptions: Prisons, nursing homes and psychiatric hospitals are exempt from legislation. However, all employers (even those who are exempt) are still free to enforce the legislation if they wish to.

Compliance: Controversial at the start, but smoke-free pubs and workplaces have quickly come to be regarded as the norm and are seen as a major success.

Paul Kelbie

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