Smoke clears on cigarette packaging plans

As a Welsh parliamentary correspondent, I'm often asked: "David, does this apply in Wales?"

The usual answer is along the lines of "it depends". I've spent half my day on an occasionally confusing telephone journey around Whitehall trying to discover if branded fag packets will be banned in Wales as well as in England.

The Wales Office referred me to the Department for Health, which initially suggested the announcement applied to England alone. The review announced today by England's Health Minister Jane Ellison is confined to England, but its consequences could be UK-wide.

The Department of Health told me later that it has written to the Welsh government to keep it in the loop on the review and will consult Cardiff again before taking a decision on whether or not to introduce uniform packaging after the review is completed next Spring - and the territorial extent of any changes.

The Welsh government has always believed in a four-country approach to the issue (UK solutions for UK problems?) and was disappointed when the UK government appeared to drop the plans earlier this year.

Ministers at Westminster will change the law by amending the Children and Families Bill that is currently going through the House of Lords. The government's amendment will give ministers the power to introduce a ban on branded packs later - and that ban could well go beyond Offa's Dyke or even Hadrian's Wall (the health department believes the Scottish government also favours standard packaging).

So that, I think, is the clear position, or as clear as it appears after a Whitehall journey so frustrating I'm tempted to take up smoking.