Tobacco: Smuggling

Treasury written question – answered on 12th February 2019.

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Photo of Lord Porter of Spalding Lord Porter of Spalding Conservative

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to tackle the sale of illegal cigarettes and to address the estimated cost to the UK economy of more than £2 billion a year in unpaid tobacco duty.

Photo of Lord Bates Lord Bates The Minister of State, Department for International Development

The joint HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC)/Border Force anti-illicit tobacco strategy (‘Tackling Illicit Tobacco: From leaf to light’, published on 24 March 2015) reinforced the government’s commitment to tackling illicit tobacco throughout the supply chain to prevent its sale in the UK. At Summer Budget 2015 and Budget 2016, the government announced increased investment to fight this fraud.

This commitment was further demonstrated at Budget 2018 when the government announced its support for creation of a UK-wide Anti-Illicit Trade Group as recommended in an All Party Parliamentary Group report.

Effective action requires collaboration across government and HMRC and Border Force work closely with other enforcement agencies, including Trading Standards and the police, to target those involved and maximise the use of sanctions available. In the last two years alone, over 2.8 billion illicit cigarettes and nearly 640 tonnes of hand-rolling tobacco have been seized resulting in over 700 prosecutions.

HMRC continues to introduce policies to address new threats. In 2017 it introduced the Raw Tobacco Approval Scheme and, in 2018, the Tobacco Products Manufacturing Machinery Licensing Scheme to help tackle illegal manufacturing of tobacco products in the UK. This year, HMRC will implement a new tobacco track and trace system, making it easier to identify where genuine product has been diverted into the illicit market and harder for illicit goods to enter the legitimate market.

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