British Parliament bans smoking in pubs, workplaces and clubs

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Friday, February 17, 2006

MPs at the British Parliament have voted by large majority of 200 to bring in legislation banning smoking in all pubs, clubs and workplaces in a landmark free vote. The ban is expected to come into force from summer 2007.

The originally proposed fine of £200 was raised to £2500 for failing to stop people smoking in banned areas in the late stages of the parliamentary process. Other fines include a fixed penalty notice of £50 for lighting up in banned areas and spot fines of £200 for failing to display no smoking signs in banned areas.

Smoking may also be banned in "substantially enclosed" venues such as railway stations and football stadiums; this may also include cars carrying passengers but no decision has been taken on this as yet. Ministers will finalise precise regulations after a three month consultation.

The vote was politically fraught, as the Labour Party in government had proposed a 'compromise' bill, in line with their election manifesto, which would allow pubs not serving food to be exempt from the ban. With many Labour MPs threatening to rebel against this compromise however, in favour of a full ban, Labour granted its members a free vote. MPs then voted for the full ban by a margin of 453 votes to 125,­ a majority of 328.

MPs then debated a last-minute amendment to exempt private members clubs, which was also rejected, by 384 votes to 184,­ a majority of 200. The Prime Minister, Tony Blair, voted for a complete ban along with his health secretary, Patricia Hewitt.

The ban will bring England in line with Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, which will all be introducing a full smoking ban for pubs and clubs. The bill also gives ministers powers to increase the age for purchasing cigarettes from 16 to 18 which ministers will begin the consultation process upon shortly.

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