“(4) The Chancellor of the Exchequer must review the revenue effects of the changes made to the Tobacco Products Duty Act 1979 by this section and lay a report of that review before the House of Commons within six months of the passing of this Act.”
This amendment would require the Chancellor of the Exchequer to review the revenue impact of the changes to the rates of excise duty on tobacco products.
If hon. Members consult the Treasury’s Red Book published with the Budget, they will see that tobacco duties account for £9.2 billion of revenue. That relates to amendments 100, 101 and 102. It would therefore be accurate to describe tobacco duties as one of the Treasury’s most important revenue streams, as few taxes have consistently contributed such a level of revenue to the Exchequer, but there will be a fall. The fall in the expected receipts from tobacco duties raises questions about their long-term viability as a stable source of revenue for the Exchequer.
What is often overlooked in this discussion is where the revenue raised from increasing tobacco duty actually comes from, particularly given that smoking is no longer as socially acceptable or widespread as it once was. In 2016, those with an annual income of less than £10,000 were almost twice as likely to smoke as those with an annual income of £40,000 or more.
To return to the Treasury forecasts for tobacco duties, it is clear that tax receipts will inevitably fall victim to the success of smoking cessation programmes and the shifting demographics of those who smoke. Smoking prevalence is highest among younger adults: almost 20% of 16 to 34-year-olds smoke, compared with less than 11% of those aged 60 and over. However, younger adults report lower levels of daily consumption. The House of Commons Library found that the prevalence of cigarette smoking tends to be higher in the north of England. For instance, almost 18% of those in Yorkshire and the Humber were smokers, compared with about 14% in the south-west. That regional variation is quite clear and apparent.
Data on NHS stop smoking services in England shows that between April and December 2016, more than 200,000 people set a date to quit smoking and 50% reported successfully quitting at a formal follow-up. Those statistics clearly show that an increasing number of people are quitting smoking, which will inevitably affect the revenue that the Exchequer receives from tobacco duties. It looks as if the changes in clause 55 will exacerbate that, as cost is one of the greatest influences on people to give up smoking, besides health. The Tobacco Manufacturers Association has long complained that the UK’s rates of tobacco taxation are higher than those of any other European country. It is therefore hard to see how much bandwidth the Government have for raising further taxes.
The Opposition welcome the fact that fewer people smoke today than even 20 years ago, but it is clear that the Treasury and Ministers need to begin to consider the long-term viability of tobacco duties, and an alternative source of revenue to replace the £9 billion a year they represent. We are concerned that without forward planning, the Treasury will not be equipped to handle the fall in tobacco receipts and will instead be forced to borrow money or, more likely, to pursue further austerity and cut public services that we rely on. We hope that the Minister will take our request seriously and support the Opposition’s proposal for a review, as well as considering the long-term stability of tobacco duties.
The Opposition amendments to clause 56 would introduce a new excise on tobacco for heating, more commonly known as tobacco for vaping.
Clause 55 implements changes announced in the Budget concerning tobacco duty rates. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor announced that the Government will increase tobacco duty in line with the escalator. The clause therefore specifies that the duty charged on all tobacco products will rise by 2% above RPI inflation. In addition, duty on hand-rolling tobacco will rise by an additional 1% to bring it to a total of 3% above RPI inflation this year.
The clause specifies with respect to the minimum excise tax—the minimum amount of duty to be paid on a pack of cigarettes—that the specific duty component will rise in line with cigarette duty. It also sets the rate for the new category of tobacco product, tobacco for heating, at the same rate applicable to hand-rolling tobacco. The new tobacco duty rates will be treated as taking effect from 6 pm on the day they were announced,
We recognise the potential interactions between duty rates and the illicit market. The Government have to be careful not to raise rates too far and fast, as that might exacerbate the illicit market. We included an important measure at the time of the Budget: the creation of a UK-wide anti-illicit trade group, bringing in law enforcement and representatives from the devolved Assemblies, and building on the good work done by the Scottish Government. We hope that that will mean we can take forward and intensify our efforts to tackle the illicit trade.
Amendment 100 would place a statutory requirement on the Chancellor to review the revenue effects of changes to tobacco duty, as we have just heard from the hon. Member for Bootle. The Chancellor assesses the impacts of all potential changes in the Budget considerations every year. The tax information and impact note published alongside the Budget announcement sets out the Government’s assessment of the expected impacts. Detail on the revenue impacts is set out in the policy costings document, which is also published alongside the Budget. Both include the expected revenue impact to 2023-24.
In addition, HMRC publishes a quarterly bulletin covering all excise duty receipts. The information that the amendment calls for will already be in the public domain for Members to scrutinise. It is not an area that requires further reviews and information, as there is no shortage of information in the public domain.
I take the hon. Gentleman’s point that, with the use of cigarettes declining, this is an area where we would expect revenues to fall in the years ahead. That is, of course, something that we take into account as we review duty rates for each fiscal event, with our two objectives, which I hope hon. Members will support: the primary objective is to protect public health, but the secondary one is to raise revenue to support vital public services.
I hope that I have reassured the Committee, and I ask that amendment 100 be withdrawn.