Plaid Cymru, which had originally given its AMs a free vote on the Public Health (Wales) Bill, opted to vote against the partial ban
The National Assembly’s last full session before the election in May ended in acrimony with the defeat of the Labour government’s bid to introduce a partial ban on e-cigarettes in public places following a “jokey” comment made by a Minister.
This unexpected decision means there will be no legal ban on “vaping” in Wales.
Plaid Cymru, which had originally given its AMs a free vote on the Public Health (Wales) Bill, opted to vote against the partial ban after Public Services Minister Leighton Andrews called those of its AMs prepared to vote with the government “a cheap date”.
The vote on the Bill was tied at 26 votes each, but following convention Presiding Officer Dame Rosemary Butler used her casting vote against it.
Read more: The great vape debate: Should e-cigs be banned in indoor public places?
Emergency group meeting
Health Minister Mark Drakeford had originally wanted an all-encompassing ban on “vaping” in indoor public places, but scaled down his proposal when it became clear that it would not get through the Assembly.
Several Plaid Cymru AMs were persuaded to back a more modest measure banning e-cigs in places where children could be present.
Leighton Andrew wasn’t smiling today
But after Mr Andrews’ comment, Plaid AMs held an emergency group meeting and changed their position.
Using the discretion allowed to them by a free vote, Plaid health spokeswoman Elin Jones and senior colleague Llyr Gruffydd had intended to vote for the “vaping” partial ban, allowing it to pass.
Ms Jones, the AM for Ceredigion, had been involved with brokering the compromise deal with the government.
But after the group meeting, a Plaid spokeswoman said: “On the very last day of the Assembly, Leighton Andrews has shown a disrespect for parties and individual AMs seeking to create a consensus across political divides.
“He chose to belittle co-operation and put his own Government’s legislation in jeopardy.
“This afternoon, Plaid Cymru proposed to the Welsh Government that the Bill should be withdrawn before the vote and that the Assembly should be reconvened immediately after Easter to vote on a Bill with all sections on e-cigarettes removed.
“Plaid Cymru would have supported that legislation.”
Related: This beach is the first in Wales to ban smoking (but you won’t get fined if you do)
‘Important new health measures’
But a Labour source said: “The decision from Plaid today smacks of a party unfit for Government.
“The only thing that has changed since last week’s Stage 3 vote on the Public Health Bill is a single off-the-cuff remark in a jokey final plenary session.
“To vote down an important Bill on this basis alone simply brings the entire institution into disrepute.
“People in Wales have just lost a series of important new health measures, which had been worked upon for years.
“We could have broken the pairing agreement to get this through, but that is not the way we do business.
“Elin Jones has clearly been put in an impossible position by her group and that is deeply regrettable as she has done so much to shape the final proposals.”