Progressive Meats Limited v. Ministry of Health
Progressive Meats was charged with an offence for infringing s5(1) of the Smoke-free Environments Act 1990 which requires employers to take all reasonably practicable steps to ensure there is no smoking in the workplace. The District Court found that Progressive Meats had infringed s5(1) by establishing a designated smoking room for its employees who were smokers. Prior to entering a conviction it asked the High Court to rule on the question of whether the smoking room came within the definition of "workplace" in the Act. The High Court answered that question "yes" (see: Progressive Meats Limited v Ministry of Health (20 September 2006). This case was an appeal against that decision.
Progressive Meats had established the designated smoking room because, following a change in the law relating to hygiene requirements, employees could no longer go outside during their breaks to smoke and were therefore unable to smoke during their shifts.
As it had in the Courts below, Progressive Meats argued for a narrow construction of the term "workplace", because, it said, the purpose of the law was to ensure that non-smokers were not affected by second-hand smoke and the smoking room it had constructed met that objective. However, the Court of Appeal agreed with the District Court and the High Court that the smoking room fell within the definition of "workplace". The language was plain. The Court also had regard to Parliament's intention as set out in the report of the Select Committee who had considered the preliminary draft of the Bill; in particular, the Select Committee had expressly considered and rejected an exception for designated smoking places.