MPs have backed calls for a ban on smoking in cars in England and Wales when children are passengers.

They voted in favour of a Labour-supported amendment to the Children and Families Bill by a majority of 269.

This will give Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt the power to bring in a ban in England, while Welsh Government ministers will decide in Wales.

Last week, more than 700 experts wrote to MPs urging them to back change. But critics say legislation is not needed.

The amendment – passed by 376 votes to 107 – empowers, but does not compel, ministers to make it a criminal offence for drivers to fail to prevent smoking in their privately owned vehicles when children are present.

The UK government gave its MPs a free vote on the issue and Prime Minister David Cameron missed the vote because he is staying in the South West overnight to visit areas affected by flooding.

For Labour, shadow health minister Luciana Berger said: “This is a great victory for child health which will benefit hundreds of thousands of young people across our country. It is a matter of child protection, not adult choice.”

She added: “The will of Parliament has been clearly expressed today and this must be respected. Ministers now have a duty to bring forward regulations so that we can make this measure a reality and put protections for children in place as soon as possible.”

A Department of Health spokesman said: “Second-hand smoke is harmful to children and it is right that this has been debated in Parliament. We will now determine how this amendment should be taken forward.”

In the meantime, Public Health England would continue its campaign to “ensure parents fully understand the dangers of second-hand smoke and are encouraged to stop smoking in the home or car if there is a child present”, he added, saying: “Evaluation of those campaigns shows they are increasing awareness of the risks of second-hand smoke as well changing attitudes and behaviours.”

Penny Woods, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, said: “Having campaigned on this issue for many years, we’re absolutely delighted that MPs have backed the ban on smoking in cars carrying children. This could prove a great leap forward for the health of our nation’s children.”

The House of Lords passed the amendment to the Children and Families Bill last month. The bill returned to the Commons on Monday for debate.

Labour has said that if the measure does not become law before the next election, it will be included in its manifesto.

Opening the debate in the Commons, Health Minister Jane Ellison said the government would “listen to what Parliament has to say on the important principle that it should legislate” to ban smoking in cars containing children.

 

Source: BBC News