Tobacco Manufacturers’ Producer Responsibility

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 5:06 pm on 23rd March 2015.

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Photo of Philip Davies Philip Davies Conservative, Shipley 5:06 pm, 23rd March 2015

I shall speak only briefly. I should say at the start that I do not intend to divide the House, as I know that many people wish to speak in the forthcoming debate, but I could not allow this Bill to stand without any opposition whatsoever. It takes the typical Lib Dem populist approach, trying to attack the tobacco industry without any evidence whatsoever, probably just because Paul Burstow thinks that he might be able to extract four extra votes from it in his constituency at the general election.

The right hon. Gentleman made big play of wanting the tobacco industry to pay its fair share. I have never met anyone who would disagree with that sentiment, but he failed to mention one thing. I received a briefing note from Action on Smoking and Health—I see that the right hon. Gentleman is putting himself up as the spokesman for ASH, as it is its campaign that he is advocating—and it estimates that the cost of smoking to the NHS is about £2.7 billion a year. That figure comes from ASH, the deadliest opponent of the tobacco industry, yet tobacco excise and VAT already raise about £12 billion a year in revenue according to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. How on earth the right hon. Gentleman has come to the conclusion that the fair share is not being raised from the tobacco industry is beyond me. The industry is clearly paying well above the cost of smoking to the NHS and even if he wants to add on the cost of cleaning up cigarette butts, fires and all the other things that ASH tries to add on, it comes nowhere near £12 billion.

I particularly wanted to oppose the Bill because the right hon. Gentleman has done us all a great service. He has let the cat out of the bag. Of course, the Government have already accepted ASH’s campaigning on banning smoking in cars where there are children, which is completely unenforceable. They have also accepted the plain packaging of tobacco, which is completely idiotic. Of course, the Government accepted those policies because ASH told them that if they did so the amount of smoking in the country would plummet. We were told that if we introduced plain packaging it would be absolutely fantastic because all of a sudden cigarettes would not appeal to young people and children and that would close the gateway into tobacco use. The whole policy was based on that premise.

That policy has not even been implemented and already the right hon. Gentleman is saying, “Actually, that was all a load of tripe. It won’t make any difference whatsoever. What we need now is a levy on the tobacco industry so that we can do some research to find out why young people smoke and then try to stop them smoking.” Well, what on earth was the plain packaging campaign about, if not that? I am grateful to him for letting the cat out of the bag by telling us that the whole premise behind plain packaging was a complete load of old codswallop. Unfortunately, the Government idiotically accepted that codswallop in a mindless fashion without even thinking it through, because they, too, are in the pocket of ASH and, rather than making up their own policies based on evidence, just want gleefully to accept anything ASH tells them.

If we want to raise more money from the tobacco industry, there is one great way of doing so: by clamping down on the illicit trade in tobacco, which would raise far more than the right hon. Gentleman’s levy ever would. Yet the Government are pursuing policies, such as plain packaging, that will reduce the amount of revenue from the industry and increase the illicit trade. Why he says that he wants to raise more funds from the tobacco industry but supports measures that will do exactly the reverse is absolutely beyond me.

The point is that this is just the latest campaign from ASH. Every time it advocates the introduction of another measure, it tells us that that is what the Government need to do to tackle tobacco, but as soon as it is implemented we are told that actually it was a load of old cobblers and now we need something else. It is like those companies that tell us their washing powder is absolutely magnificent, only to bring out a new one a couple of years later and tell us that the previous one was actually terrible and that really we need to buy the new one. ASH cannot now hand over the keys to the company car; it has to keep going and justifying its role. It will keep coming up with new, innovative solutions to try to keep its jobs, which no doubt the Government will accept, because they do not have a mind of their own and just have to do what ASH tells them to do.

I just hope that we can start thinking these things through, rather than simply accepting all the nonsense that comes from ASH, the Liberal Democrats and other hon. Members on these subjects. The right hon. Gentleman wants the tobacco industry to pay its fair share. I want the tobacco industry to pay its fair share. It is already raising far more in taxes and duties than it ever cost the NHS, according to ASH’s own figures. If we want to get more money, let us stop the illicit trade, and the best way to do that is not by having a levy, but by getting rid of the ridiculous plain packaging policy.

Question put (Standing Order No. 23) and agreed to.


That Paul Burstow, Kevin Barron, Bob Blackman, Dr Julian Huppert, Alex Cunningham, Martin Horwood, Nick Smith, Sheila Gilmore, Sir Alan Beith, John Robertson and Dr Sarah Wollaston present the Bill.

Paul Burstow accordingly presented the Bill.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 27 March, and to be printed (Bill 192).