What next after Luciana Berger’s victory from the opposition benches on smoking in cars with children? Yesterday MPs were making all sorts of dire warnings in the House of Commons about what might happen next and supporters of the ban are dismissing them as trying to find a slippery slope when this is just a sensible public health issue. But a precedent has been set here of the Prime Minister initially saying he’s ‘nervous’ about what passing laws on what people do in a private space, then being forced to fold when legislation is thrust upon him by a member of the opposition. He made last night’s vote a free vote, and it passed.
What if Berger or one of her colleagues decides to push for a ban on smoking in a house where children are present? Or indeed, when they aren’t? There is research that ‘third-hand smoke’ lingering in carpets and other furnishings could damage human cells, too. So why stop at cars?
At this morning’s lobby briefing, the Prime Minister’s Official spokesman said:
‘Well, when it comes to choices people make at home, it’s a matter for them… Well, because I think there is a particular issue there around vehicles being a particularly confined space, with associated public health concerns.’
Asked what the Prime Minister would do if Berger or another MP tried to force a vote on smoking while pregnant, or smoking in a room with children present, the spokesman said ‘if it’s OK, I’ll avoid straying into hypotheticals’. But chances are that the PM would follow the same pattern, which is why, as James said yesterday, it wouldn’t be surprising if we see a ban on smoking in a room with children present became illegal within a decade.