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Number 52 with a bullet

Currently on a Eurostar train bound for Bruges.

I depart these shores with the 'news' that AWT's petition has attracted 1600 signatures to date and is now in the top 60.

Our target - the top 20 - is still some distance away but to put this in perspective there are already more than 5700 petitions on the Government website.

Furthermore, if you check out the Department of Health petitions, you will see that AWT's 'Review the Smoking Ban' is currently #6 (out of 266).

As you can see, this petition malarkey is quite addictive!


Urban pubs hammered by smoking ban

Echoing our recent report about the fate of urban pubs, today's Western Mail reports that:

With independent breweries popping up across Wales and more and more drinkers trying real ale for the first time, things are finally turning up for Wales’ rural pubs. But, for their urban counterparts, it could be a different story. Clare Hutchinson asks – is it last orders for our neighbourhood pubs?

Reporting from an auction at Celtic Manor in Newport, Hutchinson writes:

When Sidney Phillips and Co announced last month it was putting a total of 22 pubs across Wales up for sale – 12 of which sold before yesterday’s auction – Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) member Arfur Daley decided to do some research.

He said: “One thing I noticed about these pubs is that a lot of them are urban and they lack outdoor smoking areas.

“Some of them had been quite successful in the past but once the smoking ban came in that was the big problem. That was their downfall.”

TV chef Antony Worrall Thompson this week launched an e-petition calling on the Government to review the smoking ban.

The chef, who runs the Greyhound pub at Rotherfield Peppard near Henley-on-Thames and is a patron of smokers’ group Forest, said: “In Britain 10 million adult smokers contribute £10bn a year in tobacco taxation alone.

“It’s only right that they should be accommodated in some public places.

“If the Government doesn’t want adults to smoke at home in front of the children or litter the streets, they should be allowed to smoke in some licensed premises.”

Controversial it may be, but many people at yesterday’s auction agreed.

Rodney Cave, an independent licensed property valuer, said it was time for the Government to call a review of the smoking ban, adding pressure also needed to be put on banks to lend to those looking to invest in pubs and hotels.

“I attribute this disastrous decline in the licensed trade to the smoking ban, certainly,” he said.

“While you can make a case for saying smoking is harmful, it would be perfectly suitable to provide a separate room for smokers.

“Now the people who would have been down their local are at home with cans of lager from the supermarket.”

See: Smoking ban blamed as just one of nine pubs under the hammer sells


AWT petition update

Thanks to the following for uploading the web button (right) with a link to Antony Worrall Thompson's petition:

Dick Puddlecote
Nothing 2 Declare
Orphans of Liberty
Tea and Cigarettes
Underdogs Bite Upward

The following blogs have also linked to the petition:

Frank Davis
Fuel Injected Moose

See also:

E-petition launched to review the smoking ban (ConservativeHome)
New Petition to Amend the Smoking Ban launched (Progressive Vision)
The smoking ban must be reconsidered (Freedom Association)


Worrall Thompson calls on government to amend smoking ban (Retail Times) and Antony Worrall Thompson launches petition for smoking ban review (

At the time of writing there are 504 signatures on the petition.


Smoking ban: please sign this petition

It took a while but we got there in the end.

With help from the Office of the Leader of the House of Commons (and a certain amount of nagging from me), the Government's e-petition website now features the following petition, proposed by Antony Worrall Thompson:

We petition the Government to review the impact of the smoking ban on pubs and clubs and consider an amendment that would give licensees the option of separate well-ventilated smoking rooms.

No disrespect to other petitioners on this subject, but I always felt that having a 'name' behind it would generate more interest. The fact that AWT runs his own pub, The Greyhound in Rotherfield Peppard near Henley, is an added bonus.

If we hit 100,000 signatures – enough to possibly generate a debate in the House of Commons – I hereby promise that Forest will organise a party at The Greyhound to mark the achievement! For the moment our goal is rather more modest: I want to get AWT's petition into the top 20 and keep it there for next twelve months. In the short term that means a minimum of 5,000 signatures.

Many people are currently on holiday so I anticipate it will be a couple of weeks before everyone is back at work and reading e-newsletters and blogposts. Nevertheless I'd like to encourage you to sign the petition now so we can develop a little momentum.

To sign AWT's petition please click here or on the image above.


Cricket calls

No blogging today, unless rain stops play or I get bored.

That's right, I'm at The Oval to watch England v India from the comfort of a corporate box.

Morning coffee, drinks, lunch, afternoon tea ... It's a tough job etc.


E-petition update


Having rejected Antony Worrall Thompson's petition entitled Save Our Pubs and Clubs: Amend the Smoking Ban because "There is already an e-petition about this issue", the DH has just accepted a THIRD petition on the subject. Click here.

What I didn't tell you is that on Monday I emailed the Office of the Leader of the House of Commons to find out what had happened to Antony's petition because at that stage it had yet to be accepted or rejected.

Within two hours Antony's PA received an email that read:

Dear Antony Worrall Thompson,

Your e-petition "Save Our Pubs and Clubs: Amend the Smoking Ban" hasn't been accepted.

There is already an e-petition about this issue.

I immediately rang the Office of the Leader of the House of Commons, which is in charge of the e-petitions website, to find out more.

To be fair, the people I spoke to were courteous and helpful. (They all sound remarkably young, or perhaps I'm just very old.)

I was effectively told that following receipt of my email Antony's petition had been recommended for publication but the DH had ignored that advice.

Now, three days later, the DH has seen fit to publish a third petition about the smoking ban with a fourth allocated, somewhat bizarrely, to Defra. Yet still they won't accept Antony's.

Anyway, I have just spoken to someone else at the Office of the Leader of the House of Commons, following which I sent them another email urging the DH to reconsider Antony's petition.

They have promised to take it up with the DH but I'm beginning to lose the will to live.

PS. I have been exchanging emails with Joe Jackson on this subject and I hope he won't mind my repeating what he had to say:

"I think AWT's [petition] was rejected because it was the most eloquent and most likely to succeed."

I couldn't possibly comment.

Btw, the proposer of the latest petition is the enigmatic Chris F J Cyrnik who occasionally comments on this blog, but not always using his real name.


Tobacco control – the road ahead

There was a substantial feature about anti-smoking legislation in the Scotsman yesterday.

Includes several quotes from Sheila Duffy (ASH Scotland) and me. Click here.

My colleague Tom Miers will be on Call Kaye, the BBC Radio Scotland phone-in, discussing these issues tmorrow morning.


The Leader of the House of Commons and the smoking ban e-petition

The story so far.

On Thursday August 4 the Government launched its new e-petition website. As most readers know, I'm not a fan of petitions in general. Nevertheless I spoke to Forest patron Antony Worrall Thompson and he agreed to submit a petition entitled 'Save Our Pubs and Clubs – Amend The Smoking Ban'.

It was submitted that afternoon and received the following response: 'Thank you for submitting your e-petition. An email will be sent to you now to confirm your email address ... We can't check your e-petition until you've clicked on the link in this email'.

An email was duly received and the link clicked. Antony's PA tells me: "The petition definitely registered - there was confirmation."

A week passed and we heard nothing more. Not even a rejection.

On Friday I sent an email to the Cabinet Office (which I understood was responsible for the e-petition website) enquiring about the fate of Antony's petition. Within an hour I received the following response:

Dear Sir

The E-Petitions website is administered by the Office of the Leader of the House of Commons. I have therefore forwarded your email there.

Kind regards,

This morning, eleven days after AWT's petition was submitted and in the absence of any further response, I rang the Office of the Leader of the House of Commons. I had a brief conversation with a member of staff who told me that someone would get back to me.

That was at ten o'clock.

Meanwhile I checked to remind myself who is the Leader of the House of Commons. It is of course our old friend the Rt Hon Sir George Young MP. Remember him?

Sir George backs anti-smoking campaign
Sir George speaks out on smoking
Sir George backs No Smoking Day
Sir George addresses fringe meeting at party conference

PS. For the record, I am NOT a conspiracy theorist!!