« Nick Cohen and Christmas | Main | Prescott and Council Tax. »

December 18, 2005

Kevin Barron

Kevin Barron has a piece in The Observer about the smoking ban in pubs. Half of it is the sort of turgid nonsense of motions and committee proceedings that make every sensible person despise politics and one piece stands out for his inability to see the wood for the trees:

When we return from the Christmas and New Year recess, Labour MPs will be asked by the whips to vote on two Bills related to public health and smoking in enclosed public places and workplaces. One of these will be to bring in a comprehensive ban in all pubs and membership clubs in Northern Ireland, as announced by Government on 17th October this year. This will be consistent with the legislation introduced in the Republic of Ireland eighteen months ago to protect people in the workplace, which has been a huge success.

The other Bill is the remaining stages of the Health Bill, currently in the committee stage, which ends on Tuesday 10th January 2006. The difference between these two proposed pieces of legislation is that this Bill's intention is to exempt 'non-food-serving pubs and membership clubs' in England from being smoke-free. The Bill will empower the Welsh Assembly to introduce a comprehensive ban in pubs and clubs, a policy they have voted for, in principle, on two previous occasions. It is also worth noting that the Scottish parliament, using its legislative powers, has passed legislation for a complete ban in all pubs and clubs in Scotland, starting in March 26th 2006. If the rest of the United Kingdom introduces a comprehensive ban, England alone will be prevented from protecting all bar workers: indeed, if these exemptions in England are made, we can assume that smokers may well flock to the smoking pubs, making matters far worse.

This is not only inequitable, it is grossly unfair.

Well, yes, it is grossly unfair. There’s nothing so urgent about the matter that Northern Ireland cannot wait until devolved government is in place again and then deal with the matter as they wish.

But note the thing about England, Wales and Scotland. For the latter two the legislation is to allow the devolved powers to be exercised if the body that holds them so wishes. I may think that the entire idea is a total nonsense, the banning of smoking, but I do agree that it should be the politicians of Wales who make such laws, if laws there are to be, and so with those of Scotland.

What I don’t think is right is that the politicians of Wales and Scotland, through their place in the Parliament of the United Kingdom, should decide this matter of exclusively English law.

If there is to be a vote on smoking in pubs in England (and as above, I think the idea is nonsense. Allow publicans, on their own private property, to act as they wish) then it should be by exclusively English politicians.

Simple to do, and while an English Parliament, with similar powers say to the Scottish one, might make sense, it would be easier simply to have an English Grand Committee, as I think we used to have similar for Scotland before devolution.

Won’t happen, of course, for the definition of inequitable and grossly unfair seesm to include the rights of Welsh and Scottish politicians to vote exclusively on matters to do with their countries but not that of English to do similar.

Remind me. Does NuLab have a majority of the English seats?

December 18, 2005 in Politics | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Kevin Barron:


The question was answered by the public, smokers and non-smokers and also agreed by the pub-chains. Ban smoking on all workplaces, and don't let smoking owners decide if they want to kill others or not. They simply have to stub out from others people lives.

So simply ban it on all workplaces, give the MPs a free vote, and everybody can decide by his own then. This is freedom of choice.

Posted by: Martin | Dec 18, 2005 10:58:44 AM

Even as Welshman (albeit one removed from British domestic politics), I couldn't agree more. Why the hell Welsh and Scottish MPs can vote on purely English matters is only as much a mystery as why the English put up with it.

Posted by: Tim Newman | Dec 18, 2005 1:16:56 PM

Does NL have a majority of english seats? Definitely, they have 286 out of 529 (I think this last figure is correct). They did come second in the popular vote, by a tiny amount.

Posted by: Matthew | Dec 18, 2005 7:54:11 PM