The Government is pressing ahead with legislation on plain packaging for tobacco before the general election in May.

The Conservatives announced last night that Britain could become the second country in the world to introduce plain packaging from 2016, after it was revealed that MPs would be asked to vote before the general election.

Public Heath Minister, Jane Ellison, said the current “comprehensive” approach was working well, but insisted it was important not to be complacent. “Having considered all the evidence, I believe that the policy is a proportionate and justified response to the considerable public health harm from smoking tobacco,” she said.

The Government has been considering plain packaging for more than two years, but David Cameron urged the Queen to drop the issue from her speech in 2013.

The tobacco industry has been lobbying against the decision, saying it needs more time to look at the effect standardised packaging has had on smoking and the illicit trade in Australia since it was introduced at the end of 2012.

The drastic move means that the outlines of the legislation will be rushed through both of the Houses, but dozens are expected to vote against the Act as right-wing Tories have branded the decision as a ‘nanny state’ measure.

Ellison also announced that a ban on smoking in private cars would come into force on October 1.

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