Newspaper headlines: Smoking ban and new Tory tax pledge

A man smoking a cigar Image copyright PA
Image caption Health experts want to stop smokers lighting up in London's parks and public spaces

David Cameron's reviving of a Conservative plan to cut inheritance tax features prominently in a number of Wednesday's papers.

The Daily Telegraph says the move is "part of a range of Tory policies designed to appeal to older voters".

At present, if an estate is worth more than £325,000 - or £650,000 for couples - it is subject to 40% inheritance tax on anything above that amount.

But in a speech at an Age UK conference, the prime minister reportedly said he wanted to "shoehorn" an increase in the threshold into the next budget.

This is music to the ears of the Daily Express, which describes the levy as "the hated death tax". It is unfair "for ordinary people to be forced to pay it as a result of rising property prices", the paper says.

The prospect of being able to pass on estates worth up to £1m tax-free prompts the press to look back to 2007, when the same idea was mooted by the then shadow chancellor George Osborne.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mr Osborne pledged to cut inheritance tax in his 2007 Tory conference speech

"The plan was credited with halting plans by Gordon Brown... to call an early election," the Telegraph recalls.

When the then Labour prime minister eventually called the election three years later, the Conservatives secured the most seats and went into coalition with the Lib Dems.

But that was then.

The Times points out that the change - which would be paid for with £3bn of tax rises or spending cuts - would "give Labour another chance to accuse the Tories of handing further tax cuts to the better off".

For it to happen before the election, Mr Cameron would need the support of his coalition partners. And, as the Telegraph notes, last time he was "unable to secure the agreement of the Liberal Democrats".

'Crackdown'

In the same year as the inheritance tax debate is said to have swung the electoral pendulum, smoking in England was banned in enclosed public spaces.

Now, seven years on, a number of papers report on the prospect of smokers being asked to stub it out in some public spaces as well.

Former health minister Lord Darzi says lighting up would be restricted in Trafalgar Square, Parliament Square and London's royal parks.

The Independent says councils are analysing how the proposals - in a report for London mayor Boris Johnson - could be applied, "paving the way for potentially the biggest crackdown on smoking" since 2007.

"It would be a powerful message for the iconic centre of our city and the political heart of our country to become smoke free," Lord Darzi is quoted as saying in the paper.


Smoking in other major cities

New York Smoking is banned in all parks, as well as on beaches, boardwalks and golf courses. Lighting up can land smokers a $50 (£30) fine.

Toronto Smoking inside or even near most public buildings is banned. It's also prohibited within 9m of outdoor activity areas.

Hong Kong Public beaches are smoke-free zones as are both indoor and outdoor areas of some buildings. Fines reach HK$1,500 (£120).

Source: Independent


But not everyone is happy.

In the Daily Mail, Stephanie Lis from the free-market Institute for Economic Affairs think tank, says the move is an "outrageous attack on personal freedom".

The Sun expresses similar sentiments, dismissing what it calls "an act of nanny state interference" Mr Johnson should "rule out".

One place visitors would have been seen lighting up before July 2007 was the Queen Vic, the fictional centre point of Eastenders.

And one person who might have been able to tell Dot Cottons from your Pauline Fowlers - if the Sun is to be believed - is Ed Miliband.

Image caption Dyer plays Eastenders pub landlord Mick Carter

The paper describes an unlikely meeting of minds when the Labour leader met Danny Dyer, who plays the pub's landlord.

According to a well-placed onlooker, Mr Miliband "made a big point of saying he knew a lot about the show" when the pair met at an awards ceremony for the magazine Attitude.

A Labour source confesses that, despite his revising, the leader of the opposition is not a regular viewer.

So was Dyer impressed? "It was all a bit too heavy for me," the actor told the tabloid.

Girl power

The forthcoming by-election contest caused by the defection of a Tory MP to UKIP is comprehensively covered by the papers.

The Mirror claims the Conservatives are "in tatters" after some of its MPs called for an electoral pact with their Eurosceptic rivals.

It quotes Windsor MP Adam Afriyie, who says: "Nigel Farage has great charisma... I'd like to see us work better together."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Does UKIP have a "women problem"?

But the focus for the Sun and Telegraph is on who the Conservatives will select to fight the Rochester and Strood seat vacated - for now at least - by Mark Reckless.

Commenting on the two women contenders for the Tory selection, the Sun says Mr Cameron is relying on "girl power" to defeat UKIP.

"UKIP have a women problem," a Conservative source tells the paper.

The party's two candidates fighting to take on Mr Reckless are Kelly Tolhurst and Anna Firth. The prime minister "hopes to halt the UKIP advance by fielding a woman" in the by-election, the Telegraph notes.

Stark warning

West Africa's Ebola epidemic continues to make the headlines, with the Guardian carrying a warning from the World Health Organization on its front page.

It quotes the WHO's Dr Bruce Aylward who reckons the number of new cases is "likely to be between 5,000 and 10,000 a week by early December".

That stark prediction comes as almost all the papers report on the beginning of what the government has called "enhanced screening" for the virus at UK airports.

Liberian documentary maker, Sorious Samura, is quoted again and again, typically in the Times describing the checks as he passed through Heathrow as a "complete joke".

And in the Sun, the 51-year-old is quoted saying: "I only got the questionnaire because I was responsible and decided to get tested."

Image copyright Save the children

The dramatic arrest last October of Erol Incedal, now standing trial accused of preparing for acts of terrorism, features prominently in today's pages.

The Times recounts how "three police cars sped along" and "blocked the path of a black Mercedes saloon" before armed officers shot at its tyres to prevent Mr Incedal escaping.

"Officers photographed the contents of his car and discovered a Versace glasses case containing a folded piece of paper bearing the address of a house owned by Tony and Cherie Blair," the paper's crime reporter writes.

Mr Incedal denies the charges.

Hunched gorilla

Image copyright AFP

The sketch writers have had fun with a rare Commons appearance from Gordon Brown.

He was speaking as MPs clashed over so-called "English votes for English laws". The papers are full of reports Labour has abandoned talks on devolution over the issue.

But it was Mr Brown's intervention that has attracted the most attention, with Patrick Kidd in the Times describing the former PM "hunched like a silverback gorilla" before he took to his feet.

"Suddenly you remembered what a parliamentary speech was," says Donald Macintyre in the Independent. "He could have been a figure in one of those 18th century paintings in the Commons at its most intense."

But Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail is less admiring: "He pointed a furious, chewed digit at the government benches and said, in the tone a sewage-farm superintendent might reserve for a particularly steamy vat of sludge, that 'this is a Con-sear-vu-tev proposal!'

"It was a wondrous sight - but probably rotten politics."