Sun, 19 May 2024

Newsletter sign-up

Subscribe now
The House Live All
Soaring dementia care costs reach £42 billion in UK – and families bear the brunt Partner content
By Lord Watson of Wyre Forest
An international call to G7 leaders for financial commitments to fight neglected tropical diseases Partner content
By Uniting to Combat Neglected Tropical Diseases
Press releases

Dozens Of Tory MPs Oppose Smoking Ban As It Clears First Commons Hurdle

3 min read

Rishi Sunak's plan to ban smoking has cleared its first House of Commons hurdle, but not without around half of Conservative MPs failing to vote for it.

On Tuesday night, 57 Tory MPs voted against the Tobacco and Vapes Bill, including business secretary Kemi Badenoch, while 106 including House of Commons leader Penny Mordaunt abstained. 178 Conservative MPs voted for the legislation. Conservative MPs were given a free vote meaning there will be no disciplinary action for those who did not support the government. 

Former Cabinet ministers Suella Braverman and Robert Jenrick, both regarded as potential candidates to lead the Conservative party in the future, voted against Sunak's plans.

Because Keir Starmer's Labour and other opposition parties voted for it, there was no realistic chance of the Prime Minister suffering a defeat, but the scale of Tory opposition to the bill will be seen as yet another blow to Sunak's authority.

PoliticsHome reported on Monday night that Tory MPs with objections to the legislation in its current form plan to push for changes later in the legislative process.

Under the bill, which Sunak announced at Tory party conference late last year, nobody currently aged 15 or younger will be able to legally buy cigarettes at any point in their lives. The government will do this by raising the legal age one year every year until it is phased out altogether across the population, subject to parliamentary approval. 

The plan to outlaw smoking is one that the Prime Minister feels strongly about, and on Monday his official spokesperson urged MPs to consider the "enormous benefits" of doing so in remarks defending the move.

"We would encourage MPs to recognise the enormous benefits to the health and wealth of the nation as a result of this bill," they said. 

"The PM has made it  clear that to build a better future for our children, we need to tackle the single biggest, entirely preventable cause of ill health, disability and death, which is smoking."

Supporters of the plan say that as well as improving the health of the population, it will save taxpayers money in the long run by reducing the number of people who require health care as a result of smoking.

Steve Brine, Conservative MP and chair of the health select committee, made this point during the House of Commons debate prior to the vote, arguing that banning smoking will in fact help bring about less state intervention.

"If you are a Conservative and a smaller state is your thing, although I never can pinpoint which part of the state many people don’t want their constituents to have, you should be right behind a healthier society, one that needs the state less, one that relies on the state less, one that costs the state less," he told MPs.

However, it is opposed by a number of Tory MPs, particularly those in the more libertarian wing of the parliamentary party, who argue that it is not for the state to dictate individual lifestyle choices like whether to smoke to this extent.

They include Liz Truss, the former prime minister, who speaking in the House of Commons this afternoon strongly accused ministers of seeking to "limit people's freedoms", and described those pushing the plan as "the health police".

Truss told MPs: "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."

While Truss and other Tories dislike the plan, a Savanta poll for The Telegraph published today found clear public support for it. Well over half of respondents (59 per cent) said they back the smoking ban, while 20 per cent said they opposed it.

PoliticsHome Newsletters

PoliticsHome provides the most comprehensive coverage of UK politics anywhere on the web, offering high quality original reporting and analysis: Subscribe

Read the most recent article written by Adam Payne - "Untested" Keir Starmer Is Ready For The "Presidential" Spotlight