Truss claims ‘health police’ will push for other bans if smoking rules change – UK politics live | Politics


Truss claims ‘health police’ will impose futher bans if bill to gradually outlaw smoking is passed

Liz Truss, the former Tory PM, is speaking now.

She says she is not opposing the bill because she loves smoking. She goes on:

The reason I’m speaking today is I’m very concerned that this policy putting being put forward is emblematic of a technocratic establishment in this country that wants to limit people’s freedom. And I think that is a problem.

She says the idea that the government “protect adults from themselves is hugely problematic”.

She claims she spends a lot of time campaigning in her constituency, and has never come across anyone demanding a gradual smoking ban.

The idea is being pushed by officials, she says (repeating a line she has used in interviews).

She says, when Thérèse Coffey was health secretary (when Truss was PM), officials in the health department tried to get her to adopt this plan. Coffey refused, she says.

Truss goes on:

My real fear is that this is not the final stage that the health police want to push … They want to be able to make their own decisions about what they eat, what they drink, and how they enjoy themselves.

Share

Key events

Back in the Commons, Craig Whittaker (Con) says that the smoking bill will not do what it wants to do and that it is following the “failed model” used in New Zealand. If the government is serious about stopping people smoking, it should just set a date in the future when smoking will be banned, he says.

Share

Pakistan using Rwanda bill to justify deportation of migrants back to Afghanistan, peers told

In the Lords Vernon Coaker, a Labour Home Office spokesperson, is speaking. The first motion being debated is one that says the bill should include an opposition provision saying it must be enacted in a way compatible with domestic and international law.

Coaker says, in countries like Ukraine, the UK insists on international law being upheld. But if the government passes a law saying it is allowed to ignore international law, its integrity will be undermined, he says.

As an example of the harm this can do, he says the prime minister of Pakistan cited the Rwanda bill as a reason why he was entitled to send migrants back to Afghanistan.

And he says the Rwandan state airline will not fly asylum seekers from the UK to Rwanda because it is concerned about the potential damage to its reputation.

Share

In the Commons the Conservative Mark Eastwood told MPs he would reluctantly be voting against the smoking bill. In his speech he focused on vaping, and said he was concerned that the restrictions on vaping in the bill went too far. He explained his case in an article for ConservativeHome published earlier.

We must learn the lessons of vaping legislation in New Zealand and Australia and ensure that vaping policy, law and regulation in the UK is developed in a way which ultimately achieves the shared objective to reduce youth vaping, whilst not weakening the benefits of vaping in helping adults quit.

For example, the potential adoption of stricter options on flavours (potentially to just four flavours), risks undermining the government’s smokefree ambitions and ignores the evidence.

Share

Peers launch fresh bid to insert safeguards into Rwanda bill in latest ‘ping pong’ debate

In the House of Lords peers have just started the latest round of “ping pong” with the Commons over the safety of Rwanda (asylum and immigration) bill.

When the bill first went through the Lords, peers inserted 10 amendments that were subsequently removed by MPs. When it went back to the Lords, peers voted, in effect, to put seven of them back in. They were removed by the Commons yesterday.

Today peers are going to have another go at getting MP to “think again” (as they tend to describe their role). Here is the list of new amendments up for debate.

We are expecting up to seven votes, ending early evening. The amendments cover various issues and include a restriction saying the bill cannot not come into force until an independent monitoring committee has said Rwanda is a safe country, and another saying people who have worked for the British army in countries like Afghanistan should be exempt from deportation to Rwanda.

Share

Sir Jake Berry, the former Conservative chair, is speaking now. He says “anyone with a brain” would support the proposals in the bill to ban disposable vapes. But he wants to focus on the smoking provisions, he says.

As an ex-smoker, he does not want children to smoke, he says.

But he questions whether this would work. If bans work, children would not try cannabis. But they do. And he says he went to Aintree recently. People were openly snorting cocaine, even though that is illegal too, he says.

Share

Back in the Commons Sajid Javid, the Tory former cabinet minister, has just finished speaking

While Wes Streeting claimed earlier that he was the politician who started proposing a gradual, New Zealand-style ban on smoking (see 2.32pm), in fact Javid has a better claim to be the parent of this legislation. As health secretary, he commissioned a report from Dr Javed Khan called “Making smoking obsolete”. It proposed gradually raising the age at which people can legally buy tobacco. But the report was published in June 2022, in the dying days of Boris Johnson’s premiership, and with Liz Truss soon to take over, and at the time it was shelved.

Javid told MPs that the bill was for a “world-leading proposal backed by clinical evidence” and that it was strongly supported by the public.

Share

UK households face second year without improved living standards, says IMF

Britain’s households will endure a second year without an improvement in their living standards in 2024 as the effects of high inflation take time to abate, the International Monetary Fund has revealed. Larry Elliott has the story here.

Share

Steve Brine (Con), chair of the Commons health committee, is speaking now. He starts by saying he will be voting for the bill.

Share

Kirsten Oswald is speaking now on behalf of the SNP. She says she is in favour of the bill. She points out that Scotland was the first place in the UK to ban smoking in pubs and other public buildings. So Scotland has been “in the front of the curve on these issues”, she says.

Share

Truss says that a few weeks ago she tried to get MPs to vote for her private member’s bill to stop teenagers accessing puberty blockers.

This line jars a bit with the libertarian tone of her opening remarks in the speech, but it becomes clear where Truss is going when she accuses Labour of filibustering during that debate. She claims that that episode showed, while Labour claims today to be concerned about the health needs of children, it does not always act that way.

She says this is being pushed by Prof Sir Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England. The bill reflects the view “that government knows best”.

After asking how shopkeepers will be able to enforce the bill, when they have to ask adults what age they are, she ends by saying that the bill is unconservative and illberal and that she won’t be supporting it.

Share

Truss claims ‘health police’ will impose futher bans if bill to gradually outlaw smoking is passed

Liz Truss, the former Tory PM, is speaking now.

She says she is not opposing the bill because she loves smoking. She goes on:

The reason I’m speaking today is I’m very concerned that this policy putting being put forward is emblematic of a technocratic establishment in this country that wants to limit people’s freedom. And I think that is a problem.

She says the idea that the government “protect adults from themselves is hugely problematic”.

She claims she spends a lot of time campaigning in her constituency, and has never come across anyone demanding a gradual smoking ban.

The idea is being pushed by officials, she says (repeating a line she has used in interviews).

She says, when Thérèse Coffey was health secretary (when Truss was PM), officials in the health department tried to get her to adopt this plan. Coffey refused, she says.

Truss goes on:

My real fear is that this is not the final stage that the health police want to push … They want to be able to make their own decisions about what they eat, what they drink, and how they enjoy themselves.

Share

Streeting says Labour tried to ban vapes that appeal to children when parliament passed the Health and Care Act in 2021. If the government had accepted the Labour amendment, it would have stopped thousands of children becoming addicted to nicotine.

And he winds up:

Now the prime minister may be too weak to whip his MPs to vote for this important bill. But on these benches we will put country first and foremost. We will resist the temptation to play games on votes. Instead, we will go through the voting lobbies today to make sure that this legislation is passed so that young people today are even less likely to smoke than they are to vote for the Conservatives.

Share

Updated at 

Sir Simon Clarke (Con), an opponent of the bill (see 9.38am), says he is proud to call himself a libertarian. (Streeting has been tauning the Tory libertarians sitting alongside Liz Truss in the chamber.) Clarke says he is does believe in the value of freedom.

Streeting says in this context Clarke’s support for libertarianism means supporting the right of children to become addicted to tobacco for life.

Share

Streeting says Labour would back consultation on vaping law, but says ‘no excuse’ for flavours designed to addict children

Victoria Atkins, the health secretary, intervenes, and asks Wes Streeting if Labour is in favour of a consultation on how to implement the vaping restrictions in the bill. Earlier, in response to a previous intervention, Streeting was evasive on this point.

Streeting says it is absurd that he is being asked about consultation policy when he is not in government.

Atkins asks again. Streeting says she is just trying to curry favour with Tory MPs by attacking him. But he says the government is perfectly able to carry out a consultation, and he will support them in doing that.

Vicky Ford (Con) intervenes. She says this is a serious question. She says there are adults who want to switch from smoking to vaping, but who don’t like the taste of flavourless vapes. If the bill bans flavoured vapes (the ones most attractive to children), they might not switch.

Streeting says that is a sensible point. She says government needs to get the regulation right. But he says there is “absolutely no excuse whatsoever” for flavoured vapes “deliberately and willfully designed to addict young people”.

Share

Wes Streeting tells MPs gradual smoking ban is ‘a Labour bill’ and Truss right to call it ‘unconservative’

Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary, is speaking now. He starts by saying that in the early 2000s smoking was common in pubs. But Labour banned that, and it made a huge difference. He says:

The last Labour government banned smoking in public places. And it made an enormous impact on the health of our nation.

Just the following year, there were 1,200 fewer hospital admissions for heart attacks. According to the British Medical Journal, since 2007 the number of people who smoke has been cut by almost a third.

Our understanding of secondhand smoke grew and with it the culture changed around where it was acceptable to smoke. Even at home, people went outside to smoke instead of smoking in front of their children. A study in Scotland found that while hospital admissions for children with asthma were increasing 5% a year before the smoking ban, in the three years following Labour’s legislation, admissions were down by 18%.

He says Labour needed no persuasion to back this legislation.

And he claims this is the latest example of the government stealing a Labour idea. He proposed a gradual ban on smoking like this in a Times interview last January, he says.

I said that it was time for a New Zealand style smoking ban. I argued that a progressive ban would have a transformational impact on the health of individuals, the health of the nation as a whole and also on the public finances.

(In fact, although Streeting did float the idea more than a year ago, he did not firmly commit to it. He said he would consult on whether it was feasible.)

Streeting says he agrees with Liz Truss; this is an unconservative measure. (See 10.44am.)

He goes on:

This is absolutely an unconservative bill. It is a Labour bill and we’re delighted to see the government bring it forward.

Share

Updated at 

Atkins has now finished. Judging by the interventions, getting Conservative MPs to vote for this will be a hard sell. Most of the Tory MPs who asked a question were critical; they weren’t angry or outraged – just very, very sceptical about whether this might work.

Share

Atkins is again talking about her record as a prosecutor. She says her favourite offence is cheating the public revenue, which has a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

This was in response to an intervention about the risk of a ban increasing illegal tobacco sales.

Share



[colabot2]

Leave a Comment