Wales politics

Smoking ban film set exemption to be discussed by AMs

Smoking
Image caption Smoking is banned on film sets in Wales - but not in England

The Welsh government will invite committees of AMs to hear the arguments about whether to exempt film and TV sets from the smoking ban.

Ministers want to change the law because they fear producers will not come to Wales if actors are not allowed to smoke when filming.

Some AMs are opposed to the move and want to scrutinise the exemption.

Regulations would need to be approved by a vote in the Senedd before the law is changed.

A vote due to take place next week has been withdrawn while ministers issue their invitation to the health and enterprise committees.

Economic case

An exemption was included in the law on smoking in enclosed public places when it was introduced in England.

But Wales' smoking ban - introduced in 2007 - does not allow smoking on set.

Filmmakers have lobbied the Welsh government to make the change. The BBC is also in favour of an exemption.

The cabinet reiterated its support for the principle for an exemption on economic grounds when it met on Tuesday.

A spokesman said: "At the same time however, the government recognises there is a level of concern about this issue amongst some assembly members.

'Economic case'

"In response to this concern, the government has decided to invite the chairs of both the enterprise and business committee and health and social care committee of the assembly to meet in joint session to take evidence from all interested parties on this matter, with a view to producing a final report on its conclusions.

"The importance of this exemption to the Welsh economy is in the government's view beyond dispute.

"It's important that the assembly hears the economic case in full."

Plaid Cymru welcomed the decision to refer the exemption for further discussion.

The party's health spokeswoman Elin Jones said: "The smoking ban is an important piece of legislation that has cross-party support, and any move to weaken it should be subject to the proper scrutiny process."

In a statement BBC Wales said: "We would only portray characters smoking where it would be untruthful not to and, across the BBC, we employ strict measures to carefully control any risk to staff from all potentially hazardous environments, including smoking.

"The law in Wales does not currently allow flexibility for productions, which means that any smoking scenes would either have to be filmed across the border or edited with CGI - solutions which despite being the first options we would look at, aren't always effective or practical.

"As a major drama producer, BBC Cymru Wales aims to film in a way that is both truthful and responsible and we agree that the proposed, very limited, exemptions would enable this properly."

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