Nick Clegg: 'I'm against ban on smoking in cars carrying kids'
Smoking in a car full of kids is 'stupid' says deputy PM, but a new law isn't the answer
DEPUTY Prime Minister Nick Clegg has said he is against a ban on smoking in cars carrying children. The comments of the Liberal Democrat leader come a day after the House of Lords backed a Labour amendment to the Children and Families Bill, which could do just that in the name of "protecting children".
The BBC reports that the government has now told its MPs they can have a free vote on the issue, in effect increasing the chances that the amendment will be passed because there will no official coalition opposition.
But Clegg used his weekly LBC radio phone-in show to say he wasn't a supporter of the proposal: "Of course it's a stupid thing to do to smoke when a child is in the back of a car, but you don't always have to have a law to fix things you don't like," he said. Clegg added that he didn't wish to "sub-contract" parenthood.
The comments will please opponents of the bill, among them Conservative peer Lord Cormack who believes that any law which "brings the state into the private space of individuals is to be deplored".
But one of the three members of the House of the Lords to table the amendment to the Children and Families Bill says its aim is to protect children from the harmful effects of nicotine.
"Some Lords will argue a car is a private space and that we should not legislate for what happens within such a space," Lord Hunt said. "But there are more important principles than that. For me, one is the need for child protection. Unlike most adults, children lack the freedom to decide when and how to travel, they lack the authority most adults have to ask people not to smoke in their company. And in those circumstances I think it is right for Parliament to step in to protect children."
Lord Hunt claimed that research by the British Lung Foundation has shown that a single cigarette smoked in a moving car with a window half open "exposes a child in the centre of a backseat to around two-thirds as much second hand smoke as in an average smoke-filled pub of days gone by". This level increased to 11 times when the car was not moving and the windows are closed.
According to the BBC the vote is expected within weeks but they state that even if the amendment isn't passed, Labour will include it in its manifesto at next year's General Election.