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

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.

UPDATE: Truss said:

The reason I am speaking today is I am very concerned that this policy 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.”

The problem is the instinct of this establishment, which is reflected by a cross-party consensus today in today’s chamber, is to believe that they, that the government are better at making decisions for people than people themselves and I absolutely agree that that is true for the under 18s.

It is very important that until people have decision-making capability while they are growing up that we protect them. But I think the whole idea that we can protect adults from themselves is hugely problematic and it effectively infantilises people, and that is what has been going on.

And what we’re seeing, is we’re seeing not just on tobacco but also on sugar, also on alcohol, also on meat, a group of people who want to push an agenda which is about limiting people’s personal freedom, and I think that is fundamentally wrong.


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Key events

Kemi Badenoch becomes first cabinet minister to say they will vote against smoking ban bill

Andrew Sparrow

Andrew Sparrow

Kemi Badenoch, the business secretary and minister for women and equalities, has said she will vote against the smoking bill tonight. She is the first cabinet minister to confirm they are voting against Rishi Sunak on that. He has granted MPs a free vote, but he would still prefer his cabinet minister to support him.

Badenoch has explained her thinking in posts on X. Interestingly, while it was assumed that many Tories would oppose the bill on liberty grounds, Badenoch is opposing it primarily on equality grounds (like some other Tories speaking in the debate – see 4.38pm and 5.31pm.)

I’m not a smoker and think it is an unpleasant habit, costly for both the individual and society.
The PM’s intentions with this Bill are honest and mark him out as a leader who doesn’t duck the thorny issues.

I agree with his policy intentions BUT….(1/4)

— Kemi Badenoch (@KemiBadenoch) April 16, 2024

I’m not a smoker and think it is an unpleasant habit, costly for both the individual and society.
The PM’s intentions with this Bill are honest and mark him out as a leader who doesn’t duck the thorny issues.
I agree with his policy intentions BUT….(1/4)

I have significant concerns and appreciate the PM making this a free vote. It gives me the opportunity to express my personal view, outside collective responsibility.

The principle of equality under the law is a fundamental one. It underpins many of my personal beliefs..(2/4)

We should not treat legally competent adults differently in this way, where people born a day apart will have permanently different rights.

Among other reasons it will create difficulties with enforcement. This burden will fall not on the state but on private businesses… (3/4)

Smoking rates are already declining significantly in the UK and I think there is more we can do to stop children taking up the habit.

However, I do not support the approach this bill is taking and so will be voting against it. (4/4)

That is all from me for tonight. My colleague Nadeem Badshah is taking over now.

In the House of Lords peers are now voting for the second time on the Rwanda bill. They are voting on motion B1, tabled by Lord Hope of Craighead, a former deputy chair of the supreme court. This says Rwanda would only be considered a safe country if an independent monitoring committee confirms that.

In the smoking debate the Conservative MP Alexander Stafford (Rother Valley) compared supporters of the government’s bill to Roundheads. He explained:

There were so many Roundheads fighting the king many years ago in the civil war, but I would say there’s too many Roundheads at the moment in this parliament. Too many naysayers, too many people banning things.

What we need is a few more Cavaliers, a few people trying to enjoy bits of life and making those informed choices.

For that reason, I oppose this bill – although it has got some good bits about vaping – what we should be doing is fighting the next battle against vapes … rather than wasting our time fighting yesterday’s battles.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Commons speaker, announced today that all MPs will now be able to correct Hansard (the written record of parliament) if they make an error when they are speaking in the chamber. Previously only ministers could do that.

Chris Morris, chief executive of Full Fact, a factchecking organisation, has been campaigning for this, and he said:

The improvements to the Parliamentary correction system present a new opportunity for members of parliament to rebuild the public’s trust in politics. Full Fact is calling on all MPs to use the new system whenever they find out they’ve made a false or misleading factual claim.

Savanta has published some new polling confirming that there is widespread public support for a phased smoking ban.

With the House of Commons debating and voting on the government’s plan to introduce a phased ban of smoking, our polling for the @Telegraph finds a broad consensus for supporting the measure.

Support 59%
Oppose 20%

Support 43%
Oppose 28%

Support 70%
Oppose 15% pic.twitter.com/ZbiOSeeeK7

— Savanta UK (@Savanta_UK) April 16, 2024

Gareth Johnson (Con) is up now in the Commons, and he says the government is adopting a “completely wrong approach” to getting people to stop smoking. He says adults should have equal rights under the law. But this bill would prevent that, he says, because some adults would be allowed to buy cigarettes and some wouldn’t.

And he says no other country in the world has implemented it. Countries like New Zealand, Malaysia and Australia have considered this, but they have not gone ahead with it. He suggests it is unlikely that all other countries are wrong, and the UK government is right.

In the Commons Chloe Smith (Con) is addressing the point raised by readers. (See 5.19pm.) She says she was surprised the impact assessment for the bill said nothing about the burden it would impose on smokers who would need to carry ID all the time to prove their right to purchase cigarettes. She says the government should address this.

She says she was the minister in charge of bringing in the voter ID law for elections, and she says she did consider the practical implications of that legislation.

Here are two related questions from readers.

Has any politician (Labour or Tory) ever actually addressed John Hayes’ point about how somebody who in their 30s will in fact be able to buy tobacco (eg, will a passport/ID have to be shown, progressively as the years pass)?

This has not been discussed much, but my understanding is that that is exactly how it would operate. As Hayes might have put it, a 34-year-old wanting cigarettes would have to find a 35-year-old with ID to get them instead.

Do MPs who are questioning how shops would police age related ID also support photographic ID (which all carries dates of birth too) to vote?

If you are referring to Conservatives like Hayes, almost certainly yes. There were hardly any Tories who expressed concerns about the photo ID voting rules.

Back in the Commons Brendan Clarke-Smith (Con), who told MPs that he was opposed to the gradual smoking ban (he quoted Margaret Thatcher’s maxim, “When people are free to choose, they choose freedom”) is being followed by Sir Simon Clarke, another Tory opponent of the bill.

Normally a government MP is followed by an opposition MP in a debate, and the fact that Clarke has been called implies there are no more opposition backbenchers who want to speak. The opposition benches are more or less empty.

UPDATE: Clarke-Smith said:

The point here being the direction of travel has been about giving adults, whatever their background, to live their lives within the law as they wish, so long as they are not impinging on the rights of others.

This is the right direction and the right thing to do. As Margaret Thatcher once said, when people are free to choose, the choose freedom.

But what next? A ban on alcohol? A ban on takeaways? I would declare an interest in both of those. Both of these are bad for us when they are not done responsibly. But we are adults these are our choices, these are not the state’s choice.

We need to get back to trusting adults to make their own decisions in life. I don’t like banning things as a rule, and yes there are always cases you can make, I don’t believe the case has been made here yet.

Empty opposition benches (on right) in debate on gradual smoking ban bill Photograph: Parliament TV

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David Cameron defends United Nations after Truss says she can’t see purpose for it

In an interview with the BBC promoting her new book, Liz Truss said she could not see the point of the United Nations. She declared:

I can’t see a purpose for the UN as it stands. At present it has been very ineffective at dealing with international situations, in fact positively damaging, for example, on Israel.

Asked if she wanted to abolish it, she replied:

I do recommend abolishing quite a lot of things in my book. I’m not a UN fan. I think the best use it has is actually a meeting point for governments.

But certainly the UN security council as it’s currently constituted, with both China and Russia on, is not keeping the world safe … I much more support alliances of like-minded countries like Nato.

Taking questions in the Lords, David Cameron, who is now foreign secretary and who as PM was responsible for giving Truss her first cabinet job, was asked if he agreed. He replied:

I take the view that the United Nations has many problems and issues and the frustrations of dealing with the Security Council at the moment, when you’ve got a Russian veto and a Chinese veto, these frustrations are very great.

But, nonetheless, it’s important we have an international body where issues can be discussed, where countries can come together.

Good work is done through the United Nations, in spite of the frustrations, so I can see a point of the United Nations.

When the Labour peer Lord Grocott asked if Cameron had a message for “those of us who can’t see a purpose of Liz Truss”, the foreign secretary declined to answer.

Government suffers defeat on Rwanda bill as peers vote to make clear legislation must comply with international law

The government has lost its first vote in the Rwanda bill debate in the Lords. Peers voted by 258 votes to 233 – a majority of 25 – in favour of Labour’s motion saying the bill should be enacted in a way consistent with international law. (See 4.40pm.)

In normal circumstances a majority of 25 is quite decent in the Lords. But the opposition had a majority of 102 when peers voted on this in early March and, in the first round of “ping pong” on 20 March, the majority was 43.

No 10 says decision by Belgian policy to shut down National Conservatism conference ‘extremely disturbing’

Downing Street has described the decision by Belgian police to shut down the National Conservatism conference as “extremely disturbing”. At the afternoon lobby briefing a No 10 spokesperson went on:

The prime minister is a strong supporter and advocator for free speech and he believes that should be fundamental to any democracy.

Speaking more broadly to the principle of such events, he is very clear that cancelling events or preventing attendance and no-platforming speakers is damaging to free speech and to democracy as a result.

He is very clear that free debate and the exchange of views is vital, even where you disagree.

The spokesperson added she was not aware of any plans to raise the issue with the Belgian government.

Belgian police blocking the entrance of the Claridge hotel in Brussels where the NatCon conference was being held. Photograph: Simon Wohlfahrt/AFP/Getty Images
Brussels police outside the NatCon conference. Photograph: Anadolu/Getty Images


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