The Government has today given ministers three options on how far to extend the smoking ban in public places across England.
Following months of debate over what types of businesses should be included in England's smoking ban, ministers will now be able to vote with their conscience at the forthcoming free vote at the Report Stage of the Heath Bill.
The choices are:
- To extend the ban to licensed premises but not genuine membership clubs.
- To extend the ban to both licensed premises and membership clubs.
- To exempt non-food serving pubs and membership clubs, as originally proposed.
The Department of Health could not say whether Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt would be voting for an outright ban.
Commenting on the proposals, Public Health Minister Caroline Flint said, "It is important that MPs have a clear choice to convey their views around this controversial issue."
However the move attracted criticism from Liberal Democrat Shadow Health Secretary, Steve Webb.
"The Government has got itself into a complete mess over the smoking ban," he said. "The whole thing is a complete farce. The health secretary should have had the courage of her convictions from the start and gone for a clear and total ban."
The vote is expected to take place later this month on the same day as the Third Reading in the Commons.
Total smoking ban is still on the cards >>
By Jen Crothers
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