Pubs and restaurants in the UK could be told to ban smoking outdoors under a new law.

The ban would come in exchange for being allowed to expand on to the pavement to make it easier to socially distance.

A cross-party group in the House of Lords are set to table an emergency amendment with the aim of cracking down on smoking outside, according to reports in The I.

The amendment to the emergency legislation, which temporarily relaxes licensing laws to encourage al fresco eating and drinking, would see pavement licences are only granted subject to the condition that smoking is banned.

The change is being introduced in a bid to jumpstart Britain's ailing hospitality sector, which is one of the hardest hit by the coronavirus outbreak.

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Democrat Baroness Northover told the newspaper she held concerns over the potential for the move to encourage public smoking.

"Reducing smoking in public places has been hugely important for improving public health in the UK. However, with pavement licences being introduced to help support our hospitality industry, the Government should not allow this to become an excuse for increasing smoking in public places," she said.

"More and more people are spending time with friends, family and loved ones outside. We must ensure that these new pavement areas can be enjoyed by all."

Anti-smoking campaigners have backed the amendment, with particular concerns held over the potential for pavement licences to put people at greater risk of ingesting second-hand smoke.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government told the paper: "We are helping our pubs, cafes and restaurants return to work safely by making it quicker, easier and cheaper for them to set up outdoor seating and street stalls to serve food and drink.

"Councils will be able to set local conditions for licences. As set out in supporting guidance, councils should consider public health when setting these conditions."