I know that this is a long shot, but I cannot help it.
I’ve been thinking about the numbers. In the Lords, the Zealots only just managed to get their amendment about smoking in cars with children present passed – 222 for and 197 against. In the Commons, however, the vote was overwhelming – 376 for and 107 against. Why the huge discrepancy?
The question that came into my mind was why so many conservative MPs voted for the motion. After all, it cannot have escaped their attention that it is an invasion of private space and is virtually unenforceable. So why do it?
It crossed my mind that there is another interpretation, long shot though it is.
We must not forget that the Families and Children Bill has also been amended to permit the Government to introduce plain packaging if it wishes to. So, the result of this vote has added the car ban to the ‘enablement’. The Government has been ‘enabled’ to introduce PP and the car ban.
But it doesn’t have to as a consequence of this Bill.
So what has actually happened? It is that Tobacco Control is now off the Government’s back. TC cannot bring the matter forward legislatively again. Parliament has decreed to leave both PP and a car ban up to the Government. If, when and in what form the Government decides to act, is up to the Government. No time-frame was included and it is interesting that Cameron has, apparently, said that he ‘intends’ to produce legislation/regulations before the next election in 2015 – but he doesn’t have to.
Think about it. On the one hand, he has placated the Health Zealots and removed the potential for ‘child murderer’ accusations; on the other hand, he has somewhat limited the UKIP threat. The beauty of Cameron’s position at this juncture is that PP and a car ban are in limbo.
Further, a car ban is not a Health Dept matter – it is a Home Office matter: a matter for the police. Plain packaging is similar. Think about it. The stated reason for smoking ban was health of workers. What direct health consequence does PP have? It doesn’t. The car ban is directly health related, but there are no publicans and there is no tobacco industry to bully. It would be one on one. Police (and only police) versus individual members of the public. The whole idea is preposterous. But, no doubt, TC is relying upon the seat belt law. “If you pass this law, everybody will obey because it is the law”. Well, possibly, but there are huge differences. First, it is comparatively easy to see whether or not a person is wearing a belt; secondly, people do actually see the reason for the law; thirdly, there is a difference between needing the solace of a cigarette and wearing a belt.
So we see that matters are not as clear cut as seems. But one wonders whether or not the Conservatives have some sort of ‘cascade’ system. I do not see why not. (After all, TC clearly does) A rings B,C,D. B rings E,F,G: C rings H,I,J: D rings K,L,M. The Message, to a selected group of ‘loyal’ conservative MPs is “Vote FOR this amendment”.
What a great idea! But I am as sceptical as I am hopeful. I’m not at all sure that the so-called ‘Conservative Party’, which is supposed to be ‘united’, is anything other than a collection of self-serving individuals who just happen to find it useful to associate themselves with a label. Associating themselves with a label suits TC Zealots very well. There are several TC Zealots who bear the label ‘conservative’ and several who bear the label ‘labour’ and several who bear the label ‘libdem’. If WE know who they are, so also do the party leaders. I speak of the members of the All Party committee on Smoking and Health and others.
But there is another curious thing happening which no one is talking about. A Private Members Bill succeeded in the ballot in June 2013. It seeks:
“…..to make provision to allow smoking in a separate ventilated room in a private members’ club if a majority of the members of the club so decide.”
This proposed Bill is to have its second reading and is to be debated on 28th February 2014. Not a cat in hell’s chance, of course, but amusing – adults who wish to smoke, in separate ventilated room, in a private club, as agreed by the club members. What can possibly be wrong with that? It is a proposed amendment to the smoking ban, so the fact that it is contrary to the smoking ban is not a reason to deny it. But it will be kicked into touch, of course. Such sensible ideas are just too happy to be allowed.