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New Clause 5 — Smoke-free premises: exemptions

Part of Orders of the Day — Health Bill – in the House of Commons at 4:00 pm on 14th February 2006.

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Photo of Patricia Hewitt Patricia Hewitt Secretary of State, Department of Health 4:00 pm, 14th February 2006

As I have already said, I think that the arguments are extremely finely balanced. In the spirit of the free vote that we on the Government Benches will have, I intend to listen to the debate very carefully.

If both the amendments and the new clause are passed, the smoking ban will cover all public places and workplaces, including all licensed premises and private membership clubs. Only a few specific exemptions will be made, mainly for places that are essentially a person's home or personal space. If the amendments fall but the new clause is passed unamended, the smoking ban will cover all public places and workplaces, including licensed premises, but not genuine private members' clubs. If the new clause falls, the smoke-free provisions that are set out in the current draft of the Bill will remain—in other words, in that situation we will introduce regulations to exempt both membership clubs and licensed premises that do not prepare and serve food.

I stress that in order to fulfil the promises that we made to the public in our manifesto, the Government are not prepared to accept any smoke-free provisions that are less comprehensive than those set out in the Bill when it was first published. I wish that there was similar clarity on the Conservative Benches, where Mr. Lansley, who speaks on health, said 10 months ago that he favoured self-regulation and opposed a ban, but has I think now decided that he supports a ban—no doubt he will tell us—while the leader of the Conservative party continues to say that he opposes a ban, unless, of course, the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire is going to tell us that there has been a further flip-flop since this morning.

Whatever the outcome of the votes on these two specific issues, this Bill marks a huge step forward for public health. It will make smoke-free the norm. It will protect non-smokers from passive smoking, make it easier for smokers to give up and save thousands of people's lives. I look forward to a fruitful debate and to hon. Members making their views known on exactly how far the smoke-free legislation should extend. I commend new clause 5 to the House.