Rishi Sunak 'disappointed' smoking ban has been shelved - but defends decision to take 'bold action'

24 May 2024, 09:44 | Updated: 24 May 2024, 12:31

Rishi Sunak has said he is "disappointed" his flagship plan to phase out smoking has been shelved because of the imminent general election

The prime minister said the proposal, which would have prohibited anyone who was born on or after 1 January 2009 from buying tobacco, was an example of the "bold action" he was willing to take as leader.

The ban, which was announced last year, would effectively raise the legal age for buying cigarettes in England by one year every year, until it applies to the whole population.

The policy to create a "smoke-free generation" was seen as a defining one of Mr Sunak's premiership and caused controversy within Tory ranks, particularly the more libertarian wing of the party.

The Tobacco and Vapes bill, which contains the measures to phase out smoking and would have also placed restrictions on vapes, is one of a number of bills that will not be rubber stamped before parliament is prorogued later today and formally dissolves on 30 May.

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Other bills that have been shelved include the Renters Reform Bill, the Criminal Justice Bill and the Football Governance Bill with the legislation unable to make it through the Commons in the remaining days of the wash-up period - the term used to describe the final days before parliament dissolves.

Put to him that "so much of what you wanted to achieve is going up in smoke", the prime minister said: "Well, 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.

"And the smoking ban - of course, disappointed to not be able to get that through at the end of the session given the time available," he told reporters in Belfast.

"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.

'I stepped up to do something bold'

"That's the type of leadership that I bring. I stepped up to do something that is bold, that will make an enormous difference to the future of our country."

Mr Sunak cited bills that had passed through parliament, including the Post Office Offences Bill that is set to quash the convictions of sub-postmasters who were victims of the Horizon IT scandal.

It is also likely that the Victims and Prisoners Bill, which contains measures to compensate victims of the infected blood scandal, will also get through.