UK's anti-smoking laws could be lost in pre-election parliamentary rush

A man holds his cigarette as he smokes in London

LONDON (Reuters) -Britain's proposed law to ban smoking for younger generations could be shelved after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called a surprise election, putting one of his flagship policies in jeopardy as there is only limited time for bills to be made law.

Sunak on Wednesday called an election for July 4, giving the government just days to complete outstanding legislative business before parliament is dissolved on May 30.

His plan to introduce some of the world's strictest anti-smoking rules into Britain by banning anyone aged 15 and under from ever buying cigarettes was not specifically mentioned as being on the parliamentary agenda in the next few days.

In his speech calling for the election, Sunak had boasted that his government had ensured the next generation would be "smoke-free", but that promise now looks to have been made prematurely.

Penny Mordaunt, the House of Commons leader, did not list the smoking bill on Thursday in the business scheduled to be debated before parliament shuts down for the election. She said cross-party negotiations were ongoing over the future of bills not included in the schedule.

The bill had passed its first parliamentary hurdle in April despite dozens of lawmakers in Sunak's Conservative party voting against it.

"I will do everything I can to move these things forward, but it is dependent on the cooperation of other parties across parliament as well," Sunak said on Thursday.

Whichever party wins the next election the bill could be reintroduced as the opposition Labour Party, which is ahead in opinion polls, said it would push for a ban if forms the next government.

(Reporting by Sarah Young, additional reporting by Muvija M; editing by Michael Holden)