Rishi Sunak ‘disappointed’ Bill to ban smoking shelved before election

Rishi Sunak has said he is “disappointed” that his flagship Bill banning young people from ever being able to smoke tobacco legally will not pass before Parliament shuts down on Friday ahead of the General Election.

The shelving of the Tobacco and Vapes Bill, as well as his admission that deportation flights to Rwanda would not take off before polling day, leave the Prime Minister’s legacy increasingly threadbare.

The smoking Bill is not included in the legislation that will be rushed through by MPs ahead of Parliament being prorogued on Friday, during a period known as “wash-up”.

Speaking in Belfast on Friday as part of his whirlwind campaign tour of the UK, Mr Sunak told reporters: “There’s always a normal process at the end of a Parliament to see which legislation you can pass in the time that’s available.”

On the smoking ban, he said he was “of course disappointed not to be able to get that through at the end of the session given the time available”.

“But what I’d say is that’s evidence of the bold action that I’m prepared to take. That’s the type of Prime Minister I am. That’s the type of leadership that I bring.

“I stepped up to do something that is bold, that will make an enormous difference in the future of our country.”

The Bill would make it illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone born after January 1 2009, with the aim of creating a “smoke-free” generation.

Labour’s shadow health secretary, Wes Streeting, said: “If Rishi Sunak’s idea of bold leadership is to crumble before his party and surrender his landmark smoking bill, it’s no wonder the country is in such a mess.

“Labour remains committed to the policy. We will make sure that young people today are even less likely to smoke than they are to vote Tory.”

Sunak
Rishi Sunak during his campaign visit to the maritime technology centre at Artemis Technology in Belfast, Northern Ireland (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

The Renters Reform Bill, which was expected to pave the way for an end to section 21 no-fault evictions, also looks set to be axed, with campaigners saying tenants have been badly let down in a “broken renting system”.

Shadow housing minister Matthew Pennycook said: “The Tories’ decision to cave in to vested interests and abandon their already weakened Renters Reform Bill leaves in tatters the promises they made to private tenants five years ago.”

The Prime Minister highlighted the passing of legislation to quash the convictions of hundreds of subpostmasters caught up in the Post Office Horizon scandal.

The Post Office (Horizon System) Offences Bill will receive royal assent on the final sitting day of Parliament before it halts its business ahead of the July 4 General Election.

The Government also promised to schedule a Bill enabling compensation to be paid to the victims of the contaminated blood scandal.

Mr Sunak said: “I’m pleased that yesterday we got the Horizon Bill through to make sure that we can deliver compensation and justice to the postmasters who were so badly impacted by what I described as one of the worst miscarriages of justice that we’ve ever known.

“Today we’ll be debating the Bills that will ensure that the compensation authority for those impacted by the infected blood scandal get the justice that they deserve. So we are making progress.”