Charles Walker speaks against a ban on smoking in cars carrying children

Charles Walker speaks against a ban on smoking in cars carrying children, as it would lead to criminalising otherwise very loving parents.

Mr Charles Walker: My concern about the Lords amendment is that we are in danger of criminalising otherwise very loving parents. We should guard against that. It would be appalling if people who have been good parents in every other way found themselves being criminalised as a result of smoking in a car when their children were present.

I hear the argument about seat belts and it is perfectly and entirely reasonable for the Government to set the terms of their use on the road. If the Government decide that someone who wants to drive on a road has to wear a seat belt, that is highly reasonable. I suggest that, if the Government really are determined to press ahead with banning smoking in cars, that is exactly what they should do: they should ban the consumption of alcohol in cars by any person of any age and ban smoking in cars by any person of any age. That would be a much more honest approach, because, as I have said, if we go down this road we will be criminalising hundreds of thousands of parents. Will a repeat offender—someone who has been penalised three or four times—have their children taken into care because they are deemed to be an abusive parent?

There is an enormous degree of hypocrisy in this House. I am pleased to say that I am a teetotal non-smoker. There are many people in this place who want to ban smoking because they think it is not done by very nice people, but they are much more relaxed about alcohol because of their own habits. If Members are genuinely concerned about the welfare of children, they need to realise that alcohol is the problem, not tobacco. Hundreds of thousands of children have their lives blighted by alcoholic parents and the problems associated with alcohol, yet we never talk about that in this House, because some Members think, “We, as nice people, drink.” I am extremely concerned about the direction of travel.

My final point—I know that others want to speak—is that we will drive another wedge between the police and those they are policing if we implement this provision. It is nonsense. We will expect the police to intervene and that will further widen the gap between them and those they are policing. That should be avoided and we should be very careful about widening that gap.

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Earlier interventions in the same debate

Mr Charles Walker (Broxbourne) (Con): My hon. Friend will know that one of the main scourges for young people is alcohol. Why are the Government not proposing standardised packaging for alcohol?

Jane Ellison: My hon. Friend makes an interesting point, but that is probably a debate for another time.

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