Stub out smoking in cars or lay off those who have been “persecuted too much” - what your MPs think
“Persecuted” smokers should be left in peace, a Norfolk MP has said as the region’s Westminster politicians prepare to vote on whether to ban people smoking in cars which are carrying children.
What the MPs say
AGAINST: South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon: “I imagine I will voting against any further restrictions on it, not because I am a fan of smoking, I think it is a disgusting habit and I would discourage anyone from doing it, but the first question I ask myself about banning people from smoking in cars is ‘do the police not have better things to do?’, including the fight against the human trafficking and the war against drugs.
“We should leave them (smokers) in peace. They have been persecuted too much.”
FOR: North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb: “The effects of smoke in cars are 11 times worse than in an open space. Half a million children are exposed to second-hand smoke in cars every week.
“Children are entitled to be protected from the effects of toxic smoke when they are travelling in cars, and when they cannot avoid the effects of smoke.”
AGAINST: North-West Norfolk Henry Bellingham: “It is a question of my head ruling my heart. My heart says it would be a good thing in some ways because you should not smoke in a confined space with babies or children.
“But it would be very difficult to enforce.”
FOR: Norwich South MP Simon Wright: “Second-hand smoke poses a great risk to children. This risk is multiplied when in a car, even with the window down or air conditioning on, because of the sheer intensity of exposure.
“Yes, there will be those who claim that such a ban would be illiberal. However, society has accepted the need for legislation over seat belts, speed limits, and baby seats – all of which restrict liberties in order to protect passengers.”
AGAINST: South-west Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss: “I will not be supporting the proposal to ban smoking in cars. It would be extremely difficult to enforce and I think that ensuring your child is not exposed to smoke is the responsibility of parents.”
UNDECIDED: Norwich North MP Chloe Smith said: “I can see arguments for and against. In context, we’ll be looking at other measures that try to discourage children from taking up smoking themselves, whilst smoking in cars is about harm done by others.
“I’m a Conservative because I believe in general that people make responsible decisions themselves better than when we set up complicated enforcement mechanisms that the taxpayer has to fund.”
UNDECIDED: Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis: “I am a Conservative. I do not believe in that big brother approach, but I am against people smoking when they are driving from a safety point of view as well. They should not just have one hand on the steering wheel.
“I can see the arguments both ways. I have no vested interests, but I think it is a matter of education and peer pressure.”
UNDECIDED: Mid-Norfolk MP George Freeman said: “While we need to be mindful that the difficulties of enforcement don’t make a mockery of the law, and this doesn’t become another pointless by-product of a nanny state, all of us know that smoking is incredibly harmful and that children passive smoking is deeply damaging for their health.”
AGAINST: Broadland MP Keith Simpson: “I will not vote in favour of banning smoking in cars with children. I think it is a step too far. It would be difficult for the police to really do a lot about it. Personally I do not smoke and I would not be happy about a child of mine going in a car where someone was smoking. But I think it is a step too far.”
FOR: Peter Aldous, Waveney MP: “Passive smoking in a confined space can cause a variety of respiratory illnesses and lung infections to which children are particularly vulnerable.
“Adults can exercise the right not to travel in cars where others are smoking, whilst children are invariably not in a position to do so. It is thus right that measures are introduced to protect them from the seriously harmful effect of passive smoking in cars.
FOR: Steve Barclay, North East Cambridgeshire MP: “I do not support smoking in a car with children present.”
South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon said police time would be better spent in the fight against the human trafficking and the war against drugs, adding “we have got to wean ourselves off the idiotic idea that every time we want to solve a problem we need to pass a law”.
It puts him at odds with health minister and Lib Dem MP Norman Lamb who will vote in favour of the ban today, claiming it is a “fundamental principle of liberalism” that the state can only intervene in people’s lives in order to protect individuals from harm.
He said: “It seems to me there is a very clear case here for protecting children from something which we know can do permanent, and serious, medical harm,” he added.
MPs will be given a free vote today on the smoking ban. The Children and Families Bill was amended in the House of Lords last month after Labour tabled an amendment which would give the health secretary the power to make it illegal to smoke in a car carrying children. Peers have now accepted a Government-backed version of the amendment.
The cabinet is also split on the issue, with deputy prime minister Nick Clegg opposing the ban along with Ken Clarke and communities secretary Eric Pickles warning that it could lead to children being put on the “at risk register”.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt is said to be backing the ban, with David Cameron saying he will “listen carefully” to the debate before deciding on how to vote.
On Friday around 700 medics and health experts called on the government to ban smoking in cars carrying children.
In a letter to the British Medical Journal (BMJ), respiratory experts said secondhand smoke was a “major cause of ill health in children”, damaging the developing lungs, causing sudden infant death and leading to thousands of hospital trips every year.
What do you think about smoking in cars. Should it be banned? Email EDPletters@archant.co.uk or write to the Letters Editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE giving your full name and address.