Clause 319 - Rates of tobacco products duty

Part of Finance (No. 2) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:30 pm on 18 May 2023.

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Photo of Angela Eagle Angela Eagle Labour, Wallasey 12:30, 18 May 2023

We are obviously dealing with a product that kills and, as the Minister said, cost the public purse £21 billion a year. That is why there is cross-party support for the tobacco duty escalator, which the Minister just outlined, explaining how it applies to current costs. It will increase the average price of a packet of cigarettes by 95p and the average price of a 30-gram packet of hand-rolling tobacco by £1.75. I have to say that hand-rolling tobacco is the tobacco product that is smuggled most, so we have to be particularly aware of that. The Minister will know that, if he has been to see Border Force. A 10-gram packet of cigars will go up by 48p, a 30-gram packet of pipe tobacco—again, that is a tobacco product that is often smuggled—by 63p and a typical 6-gram pack of tobacco for heating by 24p.

The Office for Budget Responsibility estimates that these increases will raise the amount of revenue taken by tobacco from £10 billion last year to £10.4 billion next year, which will actually return it to where it was the year before. Clearly, that is just an OBR estimate, but I presume that it is based on the work of and information given by Border Force and HMRC. If we are trying to get to a tobacco-free place by 2030, surely we need more progress than this kind of stasis on receipts. I wonder whether the Minister might wish to comment on that.

Clearly, the innovation of vaping is helping many people to give up smoking, but there are unknown health risks to vaping. In particular, would he comment on the way that vapes are being marketed at the moment in our society, with sweer flavours like bubble gum and melon, in a way that is clearly aimed at children. I do not think we should tolerate that. Will he give us a view rather than just saying that vaping is better than smoking cigarettes, which is clearly true?

What that does not include is the alarming rise in vaping among children, which is addicting them to nicotine in a way that might have difficult implications for public expenditure, health and their wellbeing if we allow it to continue. Will the Minister give us at least an early indication of his Department’s thinking on this juxtaposition?

Some organisations that do not think we are going far enough fast enough to eliminate tobacco as a habit to get to a smoke-free 2030 are proposing capping net profit margins on UK tobacco sales to no more than 10%—currently it is 50%—in line with the average for UK manufacturing. That could directly raise £700 million, which could fund the Khan review proposals, which contained a more radical way of trying to get us to the smoke-free target. Is the Department considering something more radical on revenue raising from tobacco products, given that progress has stalled?

As the Minister mentioned, and it is no surprise that he did, as soon as the tax goes up on tobacco products, the financial incentives to smuggle get greater. He mentioned there would be another smuggling strategy, which presumably will try to prevent the complete loss of revenue and lack of any capacity to prove whether the products being smuggled are even vaguely acceptable, because they are adulterated by all sorts, including brick dust. Will the Minister give us more information about what effect that will have on smuggling, because it is a constant problem?