Published: 14/04/2005, Volume II5, No. 5951 Page 8

Labour has denied reports that the chief medical officer was unhappy at the government's refusal to ban all public smoking.

Speaking at a King's Fund hustings event, health minister John Hutton said Professor Sir Liam Donaldson had helped with the drafting of the public health white paper, which only proposed banning smoking in pubs which prepared food.

'There is no truth in the rumour that the chief medical officer is not happy with the proposals we have put forward, ' he said.

Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley said his party did not want to legislate to impose a ban on smoking in public places.

'If we make a serious effort to work with the industry to get a voluntary code we would arrive at the point where there was an 80 per cent smoke-free environment, no smoking at or behind the bar or in places where children might be. But he said if that failed, a Conservative government would resort to legislation.

Liberal Democrat Paul Burstow pressed for an outright ban: 'We should not tread the voluntary route any further, ' he said.

Dr Jenny Mindell of the London Health Observatory said Labour's proposals would not drive down inequalities. 'Those in the lowestpaid, non-unionised, lousy-hours jobs will be exposed to chemicals that cause cancer, ' she argued.