Rishi Sunak wins smoking ban vote but senior ministers side with Tory rebels in blow to PM

Rishi Sunak succeeded in seeing through his flagship smoking ban policy this evening, after pledging to end the practice during last year’s Conservative Party Conference.

383 MPs backed the policy, however around 60 Tory rebels meant Mr Sunak was forced to rely on the votes of Labour and other opposition MPs to pass his legacy project.

The large Tory rebellion was bolstered with the help of top Tory ministers and MPs, including Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch, FCDO minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan, Liz Truss, Suella Braverman and Robert Jenrick.

Opening the lengthy debate yesterday afternoon, Health Secretary Victoria Atkins said the plan will create a “smoke-free generation”, warning her more libertarian colleagues that “there is no liberty in addiction”.

“The vast majority of smokers start when they are young, and three-quarters say that if they could turn back the clock they would not have started.”

Liz Truss led the charge in the House of Commons against the proposals, with many of those MPs who served in her Cabinet backing her up.

Ms Truss warned that MPs should not “protect adults from themselves”, and said the ban is “emblematic of a technocratic establishment in this country”.

The former Prime Minister slammed those in politics and the civil service who believe that the Government is “better at making decisions for people than people themselves”.

“I think the whole idea that we can protect adults from themselves is hugely problematic and it effectively infantilises people, and that is what has been going on.

“And what we’re seeing, is we’re seeing not just on tobacco but also on sugar, also on alcohol, also on meat, a group of people who want to push an agenda which is about limiting people’s personal freedom, and I think that is fundamentally wrong.”

Confirming her rebellion ahead of the crunch vote, Kemi Badenoch said that while the legislation marked the PM out as a leader who “doesn’t duck the thorny issues” she had “significant concerns”.

She warned against the unequal rights for adults that the Bill will create, with some over the age of 18 having different freedoms to others.

The top Cabinet Minister thanked Mr Sunak for making the Commons showdown a ‘Free Vote’, allowing his MPs to vote inline with their consciences without fear of being sacked or losing the whip.

It is a tactic traditionally used with issues of morality or conscience, such as abortion.

Former Levelling Up Secretary Sir Simon Clarke said he simply cannot understand “how it is that a “Conservative Prime Minister has thought it was appropriate to bring forward legislation which seems to me as the opposite of the reason why we in this house are sent here, which is to defend ever hold the principle of individual choice and individual freedom”.

Former Tory Party chairman Jake Berry said he will join the rebellion, as: “freedom to do just what the Government wants you to do is not freedom at all”.

Tory MP Brendan Clarke-Smith warned that alcohol and takeaways could be next in the firing line for health lobbyists.

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