Clause 22 - Rates of tobacco products duty

Finance Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:00 am on 16 January 2024.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Gareth Davies Gareth Davies The Exchequer Secretary

The clause implements changes announced in the 2023 autumn statement concerning tobacco duty rates. The duty charged on all tobacco products will rise in line with the tobacco duty escalator, with an additional increase for hand-rolling tobacco to reduce the gap with cigarettes.

Smoking rates in the UK are falling, but they are still too high: around 13% of adults are now smokers. Smoking remains the biggest cause of preventable illness and premature deaths in the United Kingdom, killing around 100,000 people a year and up to two thirds of all long-term users.

We are investing in a range of measures to support smokers to quit, including an additional £70 million per year to support local stop smoking services, £15 million per year to fund new national anti-smoking campaigns, and £10 million over two years to provide financial incentives to support all pregnant smokers to quit. In a world first, we are also providing £45 million over two years to roll out the new national “swap to stop” scheme, supporting 1 million smokers to swap cigarettes for vapes. Our policy of maintaining high duty rates for tobacco products will support the Government’s plans to reduce smoking to improve public health.

In the autumn statement, 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 retail prices index inflation. In addition, duty on hand-rolling tobacco will increase by 12% above RPI inflation. These new tobacco duty rates will be treated as having taken effect from 6 pm on the day they were announced, which was 22 November 2023.

Recognising the potential interactions between tobacco duty rates and the illicit market, the Government introduced tougher sanctions in July 2023, including penalties of up to £10,000 for any businesses or individuals who are caught selling illicit tobacco products. HMRC and Border Force will shortly be publishing an updated strategy to tackle illicit tobacco, with the aim of making further progress in reducing the size of the illicit market, tackling organised crime and reducing demand for illicit tobacco products.

The clause will continue our tried and tested policy of using high duty rates on tobacco products to make tobacco less affordable. It will help continue the reduction in smoking prevalence, supporting our Smokefree 2030 ambition, and reduce the burden placed by smoking on our public services.

Photo of James Murray James Murray Shadow Financial Secretary (Treasury)

The clause provides for changes to the rates of excise duty on tobacco products, covering cigarettes, cigars, hand-rolling tobacco and other forms of tobacco, in addition to increasing the minimum excise duty on cigarettes. We understand that it also provides for changes to the simplified calculation in the Travellers’ Allowances Order 1994. These changes, as the Minister said, took effect from 6 pm on 22 November. We have no questions about the clause.

Photo of Debbie Abrahams Debbie Abrahams Labour, Oldham East and Saddleworth

Can I just ask how the clause compares with the policy of our international colleagues —New Zealand, for example?

Photo of Gareth Davies Gareth Davies The Exchequer Secretary

I am grateful to the Opposition for their position on the clause. It is a mutual endeavour to ensure that we reduce smoking rates. We should take pride in this country that, over the last couple of decades, both parties, when in government, have overseen a reduction in smoking prevalence to some 13%.

On the specific question about international comparisons, I do not have the information available, but I am very happy to write to the hon. Member for Oldham East and Saddleworth.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 22 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.