Rishi Sunak’s smoking ban Bill in doubt after exclusion from Commons schedule

The future of Rishi Sunak’s flagship Bill banning young people from ever being able to smoke tobacco legally is in doubt after it was not mentioned among the final business in the House of Commons ahead of the General Election.

Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt did not include the Tobacco and Vapes Bill as she laid out legislation which could be rushed through by MPs ahead of Parliament being prorogued on Friday, during a period known as “wash-up”.

However, addressing MPs on Thursday, Ms Mordaunt said cross-party negotiations were ongoing over the future of Bills not included in the schedule.

Ms Mordaunt also failed to mention the Football Governance Bill, which would establish an independent regulator, or the Renters Reform Bill, which was expected to pave the way for an end to no-fault evictions.

Conservative Party Conference 2023
Penny Mordaunt has confirmed Bills which MPs will have an opportunity to rush through before this session of Parliament ends on Friday (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

But she did include the Bills enabling compensation to be paid to the victims of the contaminated blood scandal and for subpostmasters caught up in the Horizon IT scandal to be exonerated.

A further business statement delivered on Thursday evening by Conservative whip Rebecca Harris also made no mention of the Tobacco and Vapes Bill, which is considered a key element of Rishi Sunak’s political legacy and was supported by opposition parties.

The legislation received a second reading in the Commons last month but made no further progress, meaning it stands to fall once the House prorogues ahead of dissolution.

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.

Later the House leader gave assurances to victims of the infected scandal that “this Government stands by the commitments made earlier this week”.

She added: “There is a clear desire across the House to ensure that legislation to compensate those who have been infected and affected as a result of this scandal is passed and it will be done so on a cross-party basis.”

Ireland smoking age
The Tobacco and Vapes Bill was seen as key to Rishi Sunak’s legacy (Jonathan Brady)

Ms Mordaunt added MPs would consider Lords amendments to the relevant legislation, the Victims and Prisoners Bill, on Friday. This will include provision for the compensation scheme to be established within three months of the Bill receiving Royal Assent.

She added: “I want to give this Government’s commitment to those victims that subject to both houses, which I am sure we will receive, the legislation to quash the convictions of those sentenced will be secured before the House prorogues.

“If I can deviate from my script briefly, we will not leave this place until we have done our duty by those people.”

Addressing the issue of Government Bills which remain outstanding, she added: “Other Bills are going through discussions about remaining business which will be done on a cross-party basis and it is common practice during wash-up that negotiations will be ongoing and we will hope to update the House on further business.”

There are currently 14 Government Bills making their way through Parliament, with five carried over from the previous Parliamentary session and the remainder included for the first time in the King’s Speech last year.

Shadow Commons leader Lucy Powell expressed concerns over the future of proposed legislation to require venues and local authorities in the UK to have training requirements and preventative plans against terror attacks.

Requiem Mass for Tony Lloyd
Shadow leader of the House Lucy Powell (Peter Byrne/PA)

Ms Powell referenced the seventh anniversary of the Manchester Arena attack, adding in the Commons: “The Prime Minister yesterday promised Figen Murray – mother of Martyn Hett, killed in that attack – that Martyn’s Law would be introduced before the summer recess.

“Regrettably that now seems unlikely, but I hope whoever is returned after the election can bring in Martyn’s Law as soon as possible.”

Meanwhile, the Government has been accused of trying to “smuggle things through” during the wash-up period, with members of the House of Lords taking issue with the process.

Peers took particular issue with a controversial element of the Media Bill to repeal a law passed after the Leveson Inquiry, which the Government has said poses a threat to freedom of the press.

Labour peer Lord Lipsey said: “I have been working at one end or other of this House for more than 50 years. I’ve just calculated that I’ve done 11 wash-ups. They’re always a bloody mess and they always will be a bloody mess, unless the procedure is properly revised.

“I may be deceiving myself, but in this case I think that the Government is trying to smuggle things through under wash-up which should not be in the legislation.”

The Media Bill later cleared both Houses of Parliament.

Peers and MPs are expected to approve the Leasehold and Freehold Reform Bill, aimed at overhauling property law in England and Wales, on Friday.