Fears grow over blanket smoking ban

Related tags Blanket smoking ban London London borough City of london

There are growing fears that interference from local authorities could yet result in a blanket smoking ban being introduced in many parts of the...

There are growing fears that interference from local authorities could yet result in a blanket smoking ban being introduced in many parts of the country.

Time is running out for the trade to oppose moves by councils in London and Liverpool to press for the right to prohibit smoking in all enclosed workplaces - including pubs.

Private Bills brought by the councils will be read in the House of Lords for the first time on January 24, and the trade has until February 7 to lodge petitions against them.

If the councils are successful, trade leaders fear that the bills could result in a national smoking ban through the back door, with local authorities across England allowed to set their own smoking policies.

However, under the arcane process Private Bills follow through Westminster, they can only be opposed by parties "directly and specially affected".

Petitions against the bills must follow a set format - and each petition must be accompanied by £20.

Petitioners could also be required to give evidence personally at hearings in April.

The moves by Liverpool City Council and Westminster City Council, acting on behalf of the other 31 London boroughs and the Corporation of London, are believed to have upset the Department of Health, which could yet see its own smoking policy derailed. The government set out plans to ban smoking in pubs that serve food in England and Wales by the end of 2008 last November. Scotland is planning its own blanket ban in 2006.

Hospitality groups, including the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR), the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), the British Hospitality Association (BHA) and the Atmosphere Improves Results (AIR) campaign are discussing the best response from the industry.

Oliver Griffiths, director of AIR, said it was "highly possible" that local authorities could be able to bring in their own smoking policies by the end of 2006.

"If Liverpool and London are given the powers to do this, other councils will want to follow suit," he said.

"This autumn the government could see the writing on the wall and step back from its own legislation. We might see if it really has the courage of its own convictions."

Nick Bish, chief executive of the ALMR, said: "We are talking constantly to the other associations, and within the next few days we will have decided what the response will be.

"Whatever the deficiencies of the White Paper we are coming to terms with it, and we can probably manage it by 2008.

"What we don't need is the return of the problem of local authority inconsistencies. The danger is that the government will say this thing is gathering pace, let's bring forward our own smoking ban."

Martin Couchman, deputy chief executive of the BHA, is hopeful that the bills will be blocked. "Instinct suggests they could get overtaken by other events," he said. "But we can't take that risk, we have to oppose things we don't like. The whole problem with local powers is that you could end up with polices varying from one local authority to the next."

The BBPA said it was "considering its options" over the bills and would be responding in due course.

Unlike most bills, Private Bills can be carried over to the next Parliament following a General Election.

If you trade in London or Liverpool and you feel this move could affect you, contact The Publican news team on 020 8565 4458 or at arjf@gurchoyvpna.pbz​.

The Publican campaign

The Publican is launching a new campaign aimed at preventing local authorities from interfering in the government's smoking policy.

There are fears that the moves by Liverpool and Westminster City Councils are just the tip of the iceberg, and that other local authorities may follow suit.

Some local authorities have been adding smoking restrictions to their licensing policies.

There will be more details of the campaign on thePublican.com next week.

Related topics Legislation

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