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Banning Smoking in Public Places –Public Health White Paper

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Jane Hutt, Minister for Health and Social Services
I’m grateful for this opportunity to make a brief statement, following the publication in Westminster this afternoon of the Department of Health White Paper on Public Health.

We do, of course, have our own extensive public health policy in Wales and I will hope to report to the Assembly further on the wider connections between what has been published today and our own agenda.

This afternoon I intend to concentrate only on one specific issue, that of smoking in public places.

As members will be aware, it is almost two years since this Assembly made its support known for banning smoking in public places in Wales.

In June this year, we established a special, cross-party, ad hoc committee with a remit to make practical recommendations about how such a ban might best be made to operate in Wales.

What today’s White Paper provides is a crucial brick in the wall we have been constructing, because it contains an explicit commitment to providing legislative opportunities for us to take forward our proposals, at the same time as proposals for England are being made law.

The relevant sentence from John Reid’s Forward to the White Paper says:

‘We will work closely with colleagues in devolved administrations so that joint action can be taken where appropriate and legislative opportunities provided for the devolved administrations where new powers are created for England’

This means that the work of the ad hoc committee can now proceed, confident in the knowledge that we will have the tools to turn its recommendations into reality. It is, I know, already considering the experience of banning smoking in public places in Ireland. Scotland made its announcement last week, and that approach will need to be considered. The White Paper sets out in broad terms the way in which the issue is to be addressed in England, and the committee will want to add that model to those it will report upon.

At the end of the process our aim must be to have a cross-party consensus on this issue for Wales. Today the Welsh Consumer Council report research demonstrates that three-quarters of people in Wales support a ban on smoking in public places. They, and we, are a good step nearer making a reality of that ambition in Wales as a result of the commitment that we have been able to secure in the White Paper and I am sure that its publication will be widely welcomed.