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.

Key events

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%

— 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.

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

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

In the House of Lords the first vote on the Rwanda bill is taking place. It is on motion A1 – a Labour motion saying the bill must be enacted in a way consistent with international law.

The government argues that there is on need for this to be stated explicitly in these terms.

Back in the Commons Adam Afriyie (Con) says bans to not work. He says the number of children who smoke has been falling dramatically, and he says that shows why existing policies are working.

He says he does not object to the rest of the bill. But because of the generational smoking ban, he cannot support the bill.

It treats adults differently, depending on their age. That is not equality under the law, he says.

Sunak has still not had call with Netanyahu he told MPs was due ‘shortly’, No 10 says

Rishi Sunak has still not spoken with his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu around 24 hours after saying he would do so “shortly”, No 10 said this afternoon.

As PA Media reports, at the afternoon lobby briefing a Number 10 spokesperson said: “We are still discussing scheduling, working out with diaries.”

She rejected the suggestion that the delay was “embarrassing” and made Britain “look weak on the world stage”. She said:

I don’t think so. I think we saw the UK participate in a coalition over the weekend.

The prime minister has regularly spoken with Netanyahu. It does take time to schedule these with diaries but there was a suggestion earlier this morning that that meant that the UK’s view was not being relayed or we hadn’t had an opportunity to do that.

That is obviously incorrect. Our position is very clear, it’s the same as the US and we obviously have contact with the Israeli government through many different channels.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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