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Here's Simon with the travel ...

Should have been in Edinburgh today.

The Scottish Licensed Trade Association has invited representatives from the European hospitality sector to advise them on how the smoking ban could be changed to accommodate smokers and protect jobs "without exposing staff or non-smoking customers to tobacco smoke".

The seminar, I am told, will comprise leading members of the SLTA and licensees from the Netherlands, Croatia and Hungary who have practical experience of systems that can control tobacco smoke without resorting to a comprehensive ban.

Sounds good, so I was going as an observer. Unfortunately all flights in and out of Scotland have been cancelled until two o'clock this afternoon because of the alleged threat of volcanic ash. (Thank you, Iceland!)

Trains, meanwhile, have been hit by yesterday's storms in Scotland and the north of England. I did think about driving, but a 14-hour round-trip for a two-hour meeting?

All is not lost, though, because a colleague has made it Edinburgh (from London). It wasn't easy, though. X reports that she caught the last BA flight out of Heathrow last night but it had to land at Glasgow.

Passengers were then driven by coach to Edinburgh and she arrived at her hotel at 2.30am.

Some people will do anything to discuss the smoking ban!

See: SLTA to hold talks on smoking ban (Evening Times)


Save Our Pubs & Clubs - join us in Westminster on June 29

The fight to amend the smoking ban is going to the heart of Westminster.

On Wednesday June 29, two days before the fourth anniversary of the smoking ban in England, we want supporters of the Save Our Pubs & Clubs campaign to join us at the Houses of Parliament.

Supporters are invited to attend a special reception hosted by The Rt Hon Greg Knight MP (Conservative), Roger Godsiff MP (Labour) and John Hemming MP (Liberal Democrat).

Location: Terrace Pavilion, House of Commons.
Time: 4.00-6.00pm

In advance of the event you will be asked to contact your local MP so you can arrange to meet them at the reception to discuss the smoking ban and related issues.

The aim of the event is to highlight the impact of the ban and demonstrate the strength of feeling that still exists in many quarters.

This is rare opportunity to lobby your MP in the presence of other like-minded people. We need as many people as possible to take part so please support this initiative and encourage others to do so too.

To attend the reception you MUST register in advance.

Telephone Nicky Shepherd on 01223 370156 or email your full name and address to and we will send you a formal invitation.

For further information visit the Save Our Pubs & Clubs website.

See also: Members of parliament unite to amend smoking ban (Forest)

PS: if you have a blog or website and want to promote the event, feel free to add the 'Lobby Your MP' logo (above) to the sidebar with a link to this page.


New York ban on smoking in parks and plazas starts tomorrow

New York extends smoking ban to parks, beaches and plazas.

Forest's response to the ban, to be introduced tomorrow, can be found on our website: Forest slams New York ban on beaches, parks and plazas.


Lunatics and libertarians

I must declare an interest.

Last year I helped libertarian bloggers Anna Raccoon and Old Holborn get smoker-friendly landlord Nick Hogan released from jail.

It was an exhilarating few days. Anna (aka Susanne Nundy) was friendly, professional and true to her word. Her description of Old Holborn, who led our raid on Salford Prison, is spot on:

I have a lot of respect for Old Holborn, he is a maverick, he is irrepressible, tiresomely energetic, and the original loose cannon. Hence I have a soft spot for him ...

Working with Anna and Old Holborn was as close as I've come to what some might call the "libertarian fringe". I enjoyed the experience but having dipped my toe in the water I wasn't tempted to jump in.

Today, via Dick Puddlecote, I discovered on Anna Raccoon's website this extraordinary, epic post.

The first half made me laugh out loud. Beautifully written, it's the funniest thing I have read in ages.

The second half was more disturbing and made me fear for several people's sanity.

Dick asks: "So what now, then? All over to UKIP?"

If I was Nigel Farage I'd be pulling up the drawbridge and dropping the portcullis.


Croeso cynnes iawn (but don't smoke)

Phew, that was close.

Yesterday was the closing date for submissions to the Welsh Assembly Government's consultation on the draft Tobacco Control Action Plan for Wales.

Forest's response was submitted at 23:59 precisely. We did our best to answer the questions, really we did, but I'm getting ever more cynical about these so-called 'consultations'.

Consequently, when the final question asked, 'Do you wish to make any other comments on the draft Tobacco Control Action Plan for Wales?', I wrote:

We note that Forest, which was founded in 1979 and is well-known in media and political circles as a group that campaigns on behalf of those who choose to consume tobacco, is not included in the List of Consultees.

Indeed, looking at the list, we cannot find a single organisation that represents those consumers who choose to consume tobacco, enjoy consuming tobacco and take great pleasure from consuming tobacco, despite the potential health risks (which they are well aware of).

We note too that in the Respondent’s Details it lists ‘Tobacco manufacturer’ and ‘Tobacco retailer’ but does not include ‘Tobacco consumer’.

We consider it negligent that such a consultation can be carried out with no apparent attempt to consult those who enjoy consuming tobacco and have no wish to give up. This suggests a myopic attitude to the subject that ill becomes government and brings into question the impartiality of the entire consultation process.

Anyway, I know our submission has been accepted because this morning I received the following email:

Annwyl Simon Clark,

Diolch am ymateb i'r ymgynghoriad uchod. Bydd pob ymateb a ddaw i law yn cael eu hystyried cyn cwblhau'r Cynllun Gweithredu maes o law.

Yn gywir

PS. The headline means "A very warm welcome" (I think).


Can't win the Ashes but they are the world's number one nanny state

New article by Chris Snowdon on The Free Society:

The Australians were recently in the news after making the decision to wrap cigarettes in olive coloured plain packages. With tangible patriotic pride, campaigners claimed this as a world first, and so it is, but it only scratches the surface of the plans Australia’s public health lobby have in store.

See: Australia – the world’s number one nanny state


The Queen in Ireland

I've been following the Queen's visit to Ireland with great interest.

I first visited Ireland – the Republic – for a conference more than 20 years ago. I travelled by train from London to Holyhead and caught the overnight ferry to Dun Laoghaire. It was a long, uncomfortable journey but when I arrived I felt completely at home. Even the post boxes – albeit repainted green – featured the monarch's monogram (the letters 'VR' or 'ER' and a crown).

Around the same time I also visited a friend who was serving in the army in Northern Ireland. Now that was weird. In the evening I ate in the officers' mess – a comfortable country house – and during the day we did some sightseeing, which was strictly limited due to the fact that two-thirds of the province was out of bounds for my friend for security reasons.

Since 2003 I have been visiting Ireland – the south, in particular – with increasing regularity, usually on business but also for the occasional break and even a holiday or two.

I am embarrassed to say that I remain largely ignorant of Irish history although visits to Croke Park, home of the GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) where 14 people were killed by Crown forces on 21 November 21, 1920 (Bloody Sunday), have offered a poignant insight into the past.

Thankfully, in her speech at Dublin Castle last night, the Queen didn't apologise for Britain's part in Ireland's history. Truth is, it's far too complicated for something as simplistic as that.

Take Bloody Sunday, for example. The shootings at Croke Park didn't happen in isolation. They followed the deaths of 14 undercover British agents who were killed the previous night by the IRA. I believe too that there were many Irishmen in the "British forces" in Ireland, just as there were many Scots in the "English" armies that fought on Scottish soil. To portray Irish or Scottish history as a long-term battle with the English is wrong.

Likewise, the relationship between many Irish nationalists and Britain is hugely complicated. On my last trip to Dublin in March I stayed in a hotel where every bedroom was dedicated to a famous Irish republican. My room was named after the 18th century rebel Theobald Wolfe Tone "who sought to overthrow English rule in Ireland and who led a French military force to Ireland during the insurrection of 1798".

Another room was dedicated to Sir Roger Casement who was hanged "for his part in working with Germany and Irish nationalists in planning the Dublin Easter Rising of 1916". Casement was born in Kingstown, Co Dublin. He had a "long and distinguished career" working for the British Foreign Service. During his career he became British Consul for Mozambique (1895-98), Angola (1898-1900), Congo (1901-04) and Brazil (1906-11). He was awarded a knighthood for highlighting the exploitation of labour in the Congo Free State. Four years later "He was tried and convicted in London for treason, sabotage and espionage against the Crown and hung hanged in Pentonville prison on August 3rd, 1916 after losing his appeal".

That, I think, sums up the complicated history of the British and Irish people, and I haven't even mentioned the Irish soldiers who fought with the British Army in two world wars or the many millions of people who have come from Ireland to live in Britain.

Anyway, in all my visits to Ireland I have received nothing but friendship and a warm welcome from everyone I have met, and reading the reports of the Queen's visit in the Irish Times yesterday was actually rather moving.

But what I really want to share with you is this email, received yesterday from John Mallon, our man in Cork:

There really only is one news item here, and that is the visit of the Queen. All other human activity has been suspended for her stay with us. While it may just be another Royal visit abroad for the UK, it has a deep and lasting significance here.

The sight of the British Monarch laying a wreath at the Garden of Remembrance yesterday, (The holy shrine of Irish Republicanism) was one of life's "Wow" moments. The Lady herself has been perfect, showing a natural dignity and we hope our hospitality is up to her standards.

The minor disturbance you may have seen on the news yesterday is easily explained. It took place on Dorset Street in the inner city and was the normal local reaction to the sight of Gardai!!!

The Queen is a credit to the UK.

How nice is that?!

See: When the Queen went out on the pitch it was an unreal moment (Scotsman)


Recommended reading

Apologies for the lack of posts this week. VERY busy.

If you're looking for something to read I recommend the following article posted on The Free Society today:

Jason Smith reads the government’s latest report on social mobility and concludes that it tells us more about modern politicians than the people they try to govern.

See: Social mobility and the isolated political class.

Normal service resumed tomorrow.