Published: 01/12/2005 Volume 115 No. 5984 Page 7

A group of more than 80 MPs - including 50 Labour backbenchers - have tabled a motion for a 'total ban on smoking in pubs, restaurants and public buildings'.

As HSJ went to press, MPs were gearing up for a heated debate as the Health Bill returned to the Commons for its second parliamentary reading on Tuesday.

Liberal Democrat MP Paul Burstow said health secretary Patricia Hewitt would be quizzed on 'how barmy this bill is and how It is been introduced to cover the Cabinet's embarrassment'.

Mr Burstow said amendments to the bill calling for a complete ban would be tabled by Labour MPs later in the parliamentary process.

The motion says plans to allow tobacco in pubs and bars which do not serve food, and private members' clubs, are a 'recipe for confusion, ambiguity and argument'.

Earlier this week Ms Hewitt reiterated her belief that a complete ban was 'a matter of time'. She pointed out that other countries' bans were introduced in stages.