New Clause 3 - Notification fees

Tobacco and Vapes Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:30 pm on 14 May 2024.

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“The Secretary of State may by regulations vary notification fees for novel tobacco, vaping and other nicotine products in order to include costs of enforcement and testing.”—

This new clause would enable the Secretary of State to vary the level of notification fees collected by the competent authorities in order that fees may be used to cover the costs of enforcement including product testing.

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Conservative, Harrow East

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

It is my show this afternoon! New clause 3 looks at the notification fees collected by the authorities, so that fees can be used to cover the costs of enforcement, including product testing. It would enable the Secretary of State to change those fees by regulation, and to look at what big tobacco and the vaping industry are doing to introduce novel products.

We have talked throughout the Committee about the ability of tobacco and vaping companies to vary their products considerably. We are of course trying to ensure that we capture everything we can so that we future-proof the legislation. New clause 3 would future-proof elements of the notification fees, raise some money and act as a barrier, frankly, to companies trying to flex their products to avoid the whole point of the legislation, which is to create a smoke-free generation and prevent young people from starting to vape. The Committee has already heard about the attitude and approaches being taken, particularly now by vaping companies, to market their products. The new clause would give power to the Secretary of State to do something about it by preventing those companies from bringing products in that no one wants to see on the market.

Photo of Preet Kaur Gill Preet Kaur Gill Shadow Minister (Primary Care and Public Health)

The new clause relates to the testing of nicotine products and seeks to allow notification fees to be used for more than just the administration of that scheme but a wider, more comprehensive regulatory process, which we have supported. We have discussed clauses 71 to 74 on modifying the notification scheme to include non-nicotine vapes and extend to other nicotine products. Will those clauses allow for the notification fees regulations, which set fees at £150, to be amended accordingly?

I commend the hon. Member for Harrow East, as ever, for his work. I must remark that I rather regret that we have scheduled a debate on funding a notification scheme to test products before agreeing on the merits of such a reformed scheme itself. I look forward to coming to that in detail with two of my new clauses shortly, but I note that I do not necessarily agree with the Member that it should be a Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency competence to conduct enforcement. My issue with this process has been how products are getting on to the market in the first place. I would not want to disrupt or diffuse responsibilities for cracking down on the very real issue of the widespread market in illicit vapes. I think that that should still primarily be a matter for trading standards on the ground. None the less, I commend the Member for tabling the new clause, and I hope that he will support our proposals on testing.

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East for bringing this discussion before the Committee. He has given the Bill a great deal of thought, and I am so grateful to him for that. His new clause seeks to change the level of fees for novel tobacco, vaping and other nicotine products, so that they can be used to pay for enforcement and testing costs as well. I support the ambition of the new clause but, as he will know, we already have the ability to test products and to take decisive enforcement action where and when illegality occurs. The notification system, as he will know, is not an enforcement tool and cannot currently be used as such. It is the responsibility of trading standards to ensure compliance of vaping products and to remove non-compliant—that is, illicit—vapes from the market.

To help to tackle illicit vapes, we announced new funding last year to set up an illicit vaping enforcement unit to gather intelligence and conduct market surveillance. This programme of work, led by National Trading Standards, is helping to stamp out criminal activity and disrupt illicit supply, and we have been testing products as part of it. As colleagues are aware, we also recently announced £30 million of new funding per year for enforcement agencies. This will crack down on illicit tobacco and under-age tobacco and vape sales to support the regulations put forward in the Bill. For those reasons, I hope that my hon. Friend will not push the new clause to a vote.

Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Conservative, Harrow East

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.