Government defeated over ban on smoking in cars with children

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The government has failed to persuade peers that education is the best way to stop parents smoking around their children.

Lords voted in favour of a Labour amendment paving the way for a ban on smoking in cars when children are present by 222 votes to 197, a majority of 25.

Labour presented the amendment on 29 January 2014, the fifth and final day of report-stage debate on the Children and Families Bill.

Opening for the opposition, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath said the move was necessary because "large numbers of children remain exposed to high concentrations of second-hand smoke when confined in family cars".

Responding to concerns about infringement of civil liberties, he felt: "There are more important principles than that and one for me is child protection."

He was backed by numerous Labour and crossbench peers, including crossbencher Baroness Finlay of Llandaff, who specified that "if they are in a home they can move to another room or another area", whereas in a car they are "imprisoned".

But Conservative and surgeon Lord Ribeiro was of the opinion that the focus should be on "education and behavioural change" rather than an outright ban, and his party colleague Lord Cormack counselled that any law which "brings the state into the private space of individuals is to be deplored".

Winding up for the government, Health Minister Earl Howe argued: "Encouraging positive and lasting behaviour change by making smokers aware of the significant health risks of second-hand smoke will be more effective than resorting to the use of legislation, which can only ever be a blunt instrument."

He went on to say the law should only be changed if education programmes were shown to be unsuccessful. The opposition was not convinced and pressed for a vote, which they won.

Earl Howe had earlier added regulations to the bill which would allow for the introduction of standardised packaging if the current review finds evidence to support it.

He also introduced measures to prohibit adults buying cigarettes on behalf of children and to stop under-18s from purchasing e-cigarettes. These reforms were broadly welcomed on all sides, though with some dissenting crossbench and Conservative voices.

Parts two and three of this debate can be found here and here.

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