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Fifty Conservative MPs demand a free vote on shop tobacco display ban

by Paul Goodman

Screen shot 2010-12-17 at 21.09.51 Jonathan has noted that the biggest Conservative backbench rebellion of this Parliament was over smoking.  77 Tory MPs backed David Nuttall's ten minute rule bill to relax the present ban.  The MP for Bury North argued that it's forced pub closures, and flies in the face of localism and freedom.

The EU (in the news this morning), crime, tax - all these are well known causes of Conservative backbench rebellion.  But the backing that Tory MPs gave to Nuttall's bill is a reminder that though smoking is a less well recognised issue, it can provoke no less primal a response.

Andrew Lansley and Vince Cable should therefore eye carefully a letter about Labour's tobacco display ban that's about to land on their desks.  It reminds them of "the pre-election pledges of both the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrat Party to reconsider the tobacco display ban", adding that "there is a very high level of expectation" that the Coalition will honour these commitments.

The letter has been signed to date by 53 Coalition MPs, all but five of them Conservative, but "more signatures are being added to all the time, meaning that over 50 Tories have signed".  Signatures known to date are as follows -

  1. Nigel Adams
  2. David Amess
  3. Guto Bebb
  4. Alan Beith
  5. Brian Binley
  6. Nick Boles
  7. Karen Bradley
  8. Graham Brady
  9. Therese Coffey
  10. Tracey Crouch
  11. Philip Davies
  12. David Davis
  13. Jackie Doyle-Price
  14. Charlie Elphicke
  15. Michael Ellis
  16. Don Foster
  17. Zac Goldsmith
  18. Andrew Griffiths
  19. Robert Halfon
  20. Richard Harrington
  21. Chris Heaton-Harris
  22. John Hemming
  23. Gordon Henderson
  24. Simon Hughes
  25. Gareth Johnson
  26. Marcus Jones
  27. Simon Kirby
  28. Brandon Lewis
  29. Karl McCartney
  30. Paul Maynard
  31. Stephen Metcalfe
  32. Nigel Mills
  33. Penny Mordaunt
  34. Nicky Morgan
  35. Stephen Mosley
  36. Caroline Nokes
  37. David Nuttall
  38. Richard Ottaway
  39. Priti Patel
  40. Andrew Percy
  41. Chris Pincher
  42. Mark Pritchard
  43. Mark Reckless
  44. Adrian Sanders
  45. Henry Smith
  46. Gary Streeter
  47. Graham Stuart
  48. Justin Tomlinson
  49. Elizabeth Truss
  50. Robin Walker
  51. Mike Weatherley
  52. Craig Whittaker
  53. John Whittingdale.

The letter argues that the ban -

  • Will disadvantage small shops.
  • Won't reduce smoking, on the evidence available.
  • And has no public support.

On the second point, it quotes Mike Penning, now a Transport Minister and formerly a Shadow Health Minister.  He told the Commons last year -

“I have looked long and hard for evidence from around the world that the Government’s proposals (to ban displays at the point of sale) are sufficiently evidence-based, but I do not think that they are".

Mike Weatherley has written previously on the matter for ConservativeHome here.  Lansley is apparently due to make an announcment shortly.  53 MPs is a significant number, and the Health Secretary should be mindful of the Conservative pre-election pledge to hold a free vote on the matter.


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