Reshuffle paves the way for a ban on pub smoking

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One of the first actions of the new Labour government will be to launch the framework for a smoking ban in England and Wales.Insiders believe that a...

One of the first actions of the new Labour government will be to launch the framework for a smoking ban in England and Wales.

Insiders believe that a public health bill is "95 per cent certain" to be included in next week's Queen's Speech, which will list the government's plans for the next 12 months.

A violent crime reduction bill is also mooted to be included in the speech, which will be made in the House of Lords on Tuesday (May 17).

The government said before the election that the bill would include provision for paid-for policing in the form of "alcohol disorder zones".

Plans for a ban on smoking in pubs serving food before the end of 2008 will be laid out in the public health bill later this year. But the details of the ban, proposed in a White Paper last November, may yet be in doubt following a shake-up at the Department of Health (DoH).

John Reid, who as health secretary was credited as being one of the key reasons why the government had not pursued an all-out ban, has now been moved to the Ministry of Defence.

Former trade secretary Patricia Hewitt, who has been involved in discussions with the pub trade on smoking in the past, has taken over at the DoH.

Nick Bish, chief executive of the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers, said: "John Reid was hugely pragmatic in his approach to smoking.

"Whether that discretion now follows into the bill - or even whether the food/smoking trade- off makes it into legislation - we will have to see."

Mr Bish said he would continue to chant the "old mantra" that the trade should be introducing its own smoke-free measures.

Speaking at this week's BII annual lunch, John McNamara pleaded with the government to follow the Continental approach where ventilation, smoke-free areas and common sense all had a role to play.

"I appeal to all members of the BII to start introducing no-smoking areas now before it all starts to catch up with you," he told an audience of over 1,000. The public health bill is also expected to include provisions for Wales to bring in its own ban (see story below).

A spokeswoman for the DoH said she was unable to confirm or deny anything about the issues that would be in the Queen's Speech.

Westminster watch

These are the key changes following the election:

  • James Purnell has replaced Richard Caborn as licensing minister
  • Patricia Hewitt has replaced John Reid as health secretary
  • Health minister Melanie Johnson lost her seat
  • John Miliband has been appointed minister for communities and local government with responsibility for inner city order
  • Alun Michael minister for industry in the regions takes over control of small businesses
  • Hazel Blears remains at the Home Office.

What will it mean to you?

  • Caroline Chambers, the Kings Head, Hythe, Kent:​ "Another five years of Labour is bad news for the pub trade with another five years of excessive red tape and EU directives. Being in Michael Howard's constituency, it would have been nice to see him win. We could be entering a recession and I don't trust Labour to handle one - look what happened in the 1970s."

John Pascoe, the Swan, Little Totham, Essex:​ "I'm staunch Conservative so obviously I'm not very happy that Labour got in again. But the Tories won in my constituency. I think the pub trade would be better off with a Conservative government - Labour has really messed things up. The new Licensing Act has been a complete farce. My view on it is, if it ain't broke, why fix it?"

Lou Hogg, the Old Crown, Hesket Newmarket, Cumbria:​ "I don't think Labour does enough for small businesses, so the fact it is back in power is not necessarily good for pubs. Red tape is a big issue and the new licensing laws have meant more cost. I like Charles Kennedy and I think the LibDems' policies are more sympathetic towards small businesses. They are definitely one for the future."

Brian Rees, the Lord Palmerston, New Cross, London:​ "The public has shown what it wanted, but I think Tony Blair should do the honourable thing and step down as leader. I don't think Labour's win will make that much difference. I'm pleased the Liberals didn't win because of their soft approach to drugs."

Alison Smith, Bar One Nine, Keynsham, Somerset:​ "It was inevitable that Labour would get back in. Even though I'm left wing at heart I think the Tories would be good for the pub trade because they support enterprise and the free market. But having a smaller majority will make things fairer in Parliament. Labour has done some good things, but I think the Licensing Act is ridiculous."

Related topics Legislation

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