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Liz Truss says Sunak’s plan to gradually ban cigarette sales is ‘profoundly unconservative’ – UK politics live


Liz Truss says Sunak’s plan to gradually ban cigarette sales is ‘absurd’ and ‘profoundly unconservative’

Good morning. Two weeks ago Rishi Sunak saw off the Tory rebels wanting him to toughen up the Rwanda bill, last week former cabinet minister Simon Clarke was shouted down by colleagues when he called for a new leader, but the turmoil in the party never really goes away these days, and today Liz Truss, Sunak’s predecessor, is fomenting revolt on another issue.

Truss has delivered a withering attack on Sunak’s proposal to gradually ban the next generations from ever being able to buy cigarettes. She opposed the idea as soon as Sunak announced it at the Conservative party conference last year, but today she has gone further, describing the proposal as “absurd” and “profoundly unconservative”. In a statement she said:

While the state has a duty to protect children from harm, in a free society, adults must be able to make their own choices about their own lives.

Banning the sale of tobacco products to anyone born in 2009 or later will create an absurd situation where adults enjoy different rights based on their birthdate.

A Conservative government should not be seeking to extend the nanny state. This will only give succour to those who wish to ban further choices of which they don’t approve.

The newly-elected National government in New Zealand is already reversing the generational tobacco ban proposed by the previous administration.

The government urgently needs to follow suit and reverse this profoundly unconservative policy.

Truss was responding to an announcement from the Department of Health and Social Care saying that, following a consultation, the government intends to go ahead with plans to ban the sale of disposable vapes, to take other steps to halt already-illegal vape sales to children, and to ban cigarette sales permanently for anyone born on or after 1 January 2009.

The DHSC says legislation to do this (a tobacco and vapes bill was promised in the king’s speech) will be introduced “shortly”.

The DHSC announcement covers England and Wales, but the Scottish government has said that it will do the same, and legislation is also due to cover Northern Ireland too.

Victoria Atkins, the health secretary, has been giving interviews this morning and she has defended the plan to increase the legal age for buying cigarettes by one year every year, so that 14-year-olds never get the chance to buy a cigarette legally.

In response to Truss’s comments, she told BBC Breakfast:

I’m old enough to remember a time when you could walk into a pub and it was filled with smoke and everybody at the time when that was being debated said ‘oh this will never work’. Nowadays of course you would be astonished if somebody tried to spark up a cigarette in a pub or a public facility.

And she told LBC:

I think it’s rather like the debate that we had a decade ago about whether adults should be able to smoke in cars with their children. There was a lot of debate about that. But are we honestly saying now 10-12 years later that we would go back? Of course not.

Labour is supporting the legislation, and so there is no risk of the bill not being passed. But there may be dozens of Tory MPs who agree with Truss, and who might be willing to vote against the government on this. When Atkins was asked on the Today programme if she was confident Conservative MPs would back the bill, she sidestepped the question, saying:

We have the support of mums and dads and smokers across the country. Smokers keep coming up to me saying I wish I’d never taken up smoking.

We will be hearing from Sunak on this later.

Here is the agenda for the day.

Morning: Rishi Sunak is on a visit in the north-east of England.

10am: Michael Gove, the levelling up secretary and former Cabinet Office minister, gives evidence to the UK Covid inquiry in Edinburgh. (During Covid, he was the UK minister in charge of liaising with the devolved administrations.)

11.30am: Downing Street holds a lobby briefing.

Morning: Keir Starmer is visiting a branch of Iceland in the north-west of England. The Iceland boss, Richard Walker, a former Tory donor, has used an article for the Guardian to endorse Labour.

After 3pm: Peer begin debating the second reading of the safety of Rwanda (immigration and asylum bill). More than 70 peers are on the list to speak.

If you want to contact me, do try the “send us a message” feature. You’ll see it just below the byline – on the left of the screen, if you are reading on a laptop or a desktop. This is for people who want to message me directly. I find it very useful when people message to point out errors (even typos – no mistake is too small to correct). Often I find your questions very interesting, too. I can’t promise to reply to them all, but I will try to reply to as many as I can, either in the comments below the line; privately (if you leave an email address and that seems more appropriate); or in the main blog, if I think it is a topic of wide interest.

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Rwanda bill ‘undermines universality of human rights’, says Equality and Human Rights Commission

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has also expressed concerns about the legality of the Rwanda bill. The commission has repeatedly raised doubts about the lawfulness of the government’s Rwanda policy and, in a briefing paper for peers ahead of the second reading debate in the Lords this afternoon, it says:

The bill:

-risks breaching the UK’s legal obligations under the European convention on human rights (ECHR) and other international human rights treaties by subjecting individuals to the risk of refoulement and other breaches of their human rights;

-undermines the fundamental principle of the universality of human rights and damages our human rights legal framework; and

-has regressive implications for the rule of law and the separation of powers.

A spokesperson for the commission said:

Human rights are universal and must be guaranteed for all.

The Human Rights Act (HRA) has significantly improved human rights protections for everyone in the UK, but the safety of Rwanda bill undermines the universality of human rights by disapplying core provisions of the HRA.

On the face of the bill, the home secretary was unable to confirm that it complies with the European convention on human rights. By disapplying sections of the HRA and seeking to prevent courts from considering the risk of refoulement, this bill could expose people to harm and breaches of their right to life, their rights to be free from torture and inhuman or degrading treatment and their right to effective remedy.

Rwanda bill will breach international law to combat human trafficking, says thinktank

With peers preparing to debate the government’s safety of Rwanda (asylum and immigration) bill this afternoon, new claims have been made that it breaches human rights law.

While other critiques have focused on whether the legislation is compliant with international law relating to refugees, the latest report focuses on its relationship to international law relation to human trafficking and modern slavery.

The 17-page analysis has been published by the Modern Slavery and Human Rights Policy and Evidence Centre (Modern Slavery PEC), a specialist thinktank linked to the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law.

In a summary of the report, Modern Slavery PEC said:

This analysis has found that the removal to Rwanda of people who either are confirmed victims of modern slavery or human trafficking or there are reasonable grounds to believe they may victims raises serious issues under both the European convention on human rights (ECHR) and the Council of Europe convention on action against trafficking in human beings (ECAT), irrespective of any claim they may have under international refugee law.

It concluded that, in its current form, neither the Rwanda treaty nor the safety of Rwanda bill comply with the UK’s international legal obligations.

The legal analysis has found that removing to Rwanda people who received a positive ‘reasonable grounds’ decision (the first stage of a process formally identifying people as victims of modern slavery), without completing the identification process – as envisaged by article 13 of the Rwanda treaty – will automatically and in all cases put the UK in breach of article 4 ECHR (prohibition of slavery and forced labour), as well as article 10 ECAT (obligation to identify and assist every victim of modern slavery and human trafficking).

In addition, removing identified victims of modern slavery and human trafficking without conducting an individualised assessment of the risk of re-trafficking would breach the operational duty under article 4 ECHR.

Lastly, removing potential or confirmed victims of modern slavery and human trafficking risks interfering with an obligation to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of modern slavery and human trafficking contained in article 4 ECHR and article 27 ECAT.

Marija Jovanovic, a law lecturer at Essex University and trafficking/modern slavery specialist who wrote the report, said:

Unlike international treaties designed to protect asylum-seekers and refugees, the anti-trafficking instruments expressly require states not to remove suspected victims of human trafficking before their status is determined.

Drafted over half a century after the 1951 refugee convention, these obligations are much more explicit, concrete, and demanding when it comes to protection requirements.

The Council of Europe convention on action against trafficking in human beings (ECAT) was only agreed in 2005.

A reader asks:

Is it true what Liz Truss says that the NZ govt are rolling back their plans for a smoking ban? Why?

She is right. And it’s because a Labour government was replaced by a rightwing coalition. There are more details here.

Adam Bienkov from Byline Times says one problem for Liz Truss, in trying to get Tory MPs to oppose the gradual ban on all cigarette sales, is that the move is popular with the public.

A good example of why the Sunak plotters are getting nowhere. The smoking ban is one of the only significant policies the Government has which is actually popular with the public and in particular, Conservative voters. pic.twitter.com/1fzL9VDBuf

— Adam Bienkov (@AdamBienkov) January 29, 2024

Shares in vaping firms plummet as government confirms disposable vapes to be banned

Shares in vaping firms tumbled this morning as disposable vapes are set to be banned in Britain, PA Media reports. PA says:

Chill Brands saw shares slide by as much as 35% in early trading as a result, while rival business Supreme saw shares drop around 12%.

Chill’s market value had fallen by over £3m, with over £10m knocked off Supreme’s valuation during the morning trading session.

The announcement forms part of the government’s response to its consultation on smoking and vaping, which was launched in October last year.

The ban is expected to come into force at the end of 2024 or the start of 2025.

On Monday, Chill Brands, which makes nicotine-free vapes as well as CBD products, stressed that it is “committed to strict compliance with all relevant laws”.

Callum Sommerton, chief executive officer of Chill, said it will continue to sell its products across UK and US retailers but they are prepared to adjust to rule changes.

He said: “The vaping landscape is constantly evolving, creating opportunities for businesses that are able to navigate the regulatory environment. The Chill brand has gained rapid traction with the support of major retailers, and I am confident that it will continue to do so as we move forward with our plans to launch reusable pod system vapes.

“Chill Brands Group is an agile company, and we are prepared to adjust to any legislation that may be enacted.”

Rival Supreme, which has brands including 88Vape, also saw its shares knocked by the announcement.

The company, which has yet to comment on the latest announcement, said in October that it was “fully supportive of any further legislation in the sector”.

Liz Truss says Sunak’s plan to gradually ban cigarette sales is ‘absurd’ and ‘profoundly unconservative’

Good morning. Two weeks ago Rishi Sunak saw off the Tory rebels wanting him to toughen up the Rwanda bill, last week former cabinet minister Simon Clarke was shouted down by colleagues when he called for a new leader, but the turmoil in the party never really goes away these days, and today Liz Truss, Sunak’s predecessor, is fomenting revolt on another issue.

Truss has delivered a withering attack on Sunak’s proposal to gradually ban the next generations from ever being able to buy cigarettes. She opposed the idea as soon as Sunak announced it at the Conservative party conference last year, but today she has gone further, describing the proposal as “absurd” and “profoundly unconservative”. In a statement she said:

While the state has a duty to protect children from harm, in a free society, adults must be able to make their own choices about their own lives.

Banning the sale of tobacco products to anyone born in 2009 or later will create an absurd situation where adults enjoy different rights based on their birthdate.

A Conservative government should not be seeking to extend the nanny state. This will only give succour to those who wish to ban further choices of which they don’t approve.

The newly-elected National government in New Zealand is already reversing the generational tobacco ban proposed by the previous administration.

The government urgently needs to follow suit and reverse this profoundly unconservative policy.

Truss was responding to an announcement from the Department of Health and Social Care saying that, following a consultation, the government intends to go ahead with plans to ban the sale of disposable vapes, to take other steps to halt already-illegal vape sales to children, and to ban cigarette sales permanently for anyone born on or after 1 January 2009.

The DHSC says legislation to do this (a tobacco and vapes bill was promised in the king’s speech) will be introduced “shortly”.

The DHSC announcement covers England and Wales, but the Scottish government has said that it will do the same, and legislation is also due to cover Northern Ireland too.

Victoria Atkins, the health secretary, has been giving interviews this morning and she has defended the plan to increase the legal age for buying cigarettes by one year every year, so that 14-year-olds never get the chance to buy a cigarette legally.

In response to Truss’s comments, she told BBC Breakfast:

I’m old enough to remember a time when you could walk into a pub and it was filled with smoke and everybody at the time when that was being debated said ‘oh this will never work’. Nowadays of course you would be astonished if somebody tried to spark up a cigarette in a pub or a public facility.

And she told LBC:

I think it’s rather like the debate that we had a decade ago about whether adults should be able to smoke in cars with their children. There was a lot of debate about that. But are we honestly saying now 10-12 years later that we would go back? Of course not.

Labour is supporting the legislation, and so there is no risk of the bill not being passed. But there may be dozens of Tory MPs who agree with Truss, and who might be willing to vote against the government on this. When Atkins was asked on the Today programme if she was confident Conservative MPs would back the bill, she sidestepped the question, saying:

We have the support of mums and dads and smokers across the country. Smokers keep coming up to me saying I wish I’d never taken up smoking.

We will be hearing from Sunak on this later.

Here is the agenda for the day.

Morning: Rishi Sunak is on a visit in the north-east of England.

10am: Michael Gove, the levelling up secretary and former Cabinet Office minister, gives evidence to the UK Covid inquiry in Edinburgh. (During Covid, he was the UK minister in charge of liaising with the devolved administrations.)

11.30am: Downing Street holds a lobby briefing.

Morning: Keir Starmer is visiting a branch of Iceland in the north-west of England. The Iceland boss, Richard Walker, a former Tory donor, has used an article for the Guardian to endorse Labour.

After 3pm: Peer begin debating the second reading of the safety of Rwanda (immigration and asylum bill). More than 70 peers are on the list to speak.

If you want to contact me, do try the “send us a message” feature. You’ll see it just below the byline – on the left of the screen, if you are reading on a laptop or a desktop. This is for people who want to message me directly. I find it very useful when people message to point out errors (even typos – no mistake is too small to correct). Often I find your questions very interesting, too. I can’t promise to reply to them all, but I will try to reply to as many as I can, either in the comments below the line; privately (if you leave an email address and that seems more appropriate); or in the main blog, if I think it is a topic of wide interest.

Updated at 





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