Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Today - The Smoking Ban

Seemed to have caused a bit of fuss today by tabling an amendment bringing in the Regulations to ban smoking in enclosed public spaces (jointly with Labour AMs, Ann Jones and Karen Sinclair). We think the ban should be brought in in July rather than April, on the same date as England. At least, we've ensured that this important decision has sparked a bit of a debate.

I have to admit that I can see some merit in this ban - even if my libertarian instincts make it difficult for me to vote in favour of banning anything - within reason that is. I have not the slightest doubt that the regulations will be approved today. When Karen and Ann asked me to sign up to the amendment, I was thinking more 'constitution' than 'healthcare'. In general where identical regulations are being introduced in England and Wales, I believe they should be introduced on the same day. When I was Chair of the Assembly's Legislation Committee, I often supported regs being rushed through on what was called the 'Executive Procedure' so that they could be introduced on a common date with England. In fact, I would have been content to see April being the common date.

And then there is the little matter of cost to the Assembly budget. The Assembly Government will be spending around £4 million on advertising the April date - much of which would not have been needed with a July starting date, because the Westminster Government would have been ploughing mega-millions into its campaign. And isn't it a convenient coincidence that this £4 million is being spent during an Assembly Election campaign. Just as the free prescriptions are coming in during the election campaign as well. I daresay our amendment will fall, but the more I think about it, the more convinced I become of its good sense

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