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Tobacco Packaging

Volume 588: debated on Tuesday 25 November 2014

7. Whether the Government have made a final decision on whether to introduce standardised packaging of tobacco products. (906225)

The Government have not yet made a final decision on whether to introduce standardised packaging. We are carefully considering a large number of responses from the summer consultation, together with detailed responses from EU member states.

I thank the Minister for her answer, albeit a disappointing one. Given the majority support for standardised packaging in this place and the fact that elected Members have backed it, perhaps she could explain why the Government have not come to a decision? Will she consider having a debate in the House on the subject, with a vote that people can take forward so that they believe that this Government actually care about people who are trying to stop smoking?

We are taking this forward. Not everyone in the House may be aware that we are obliged to go through a process with Europe, whereby we notify this policy to EU member states and there is a statutory three months during which member states can give a detailed response. If any member state does so, there is a six-month pause. Four states—Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Portugal and Romania—have given that detailed opinion, and the window has not yet closed. The House might be interested to know that Ireland received eight detailed responses on this subject. That is part of the process.

I welcome the Minister’s statement that she will wait for the evidence before moving forward rather than relying on emotion. She knows that the policy, if implemented, would threaten 1,000 jobs in my constituency. Furthermore, will she agree to await the outcome not only of the evidence from Australia but of the tobacco tax directive that is being pushed through Europe?

I am encouraged by the evidence from Australia. We have seen some really impressive statistics regarding the cessation of smoking. The Government have not yet made a final decision on the matter, but Health Ministers are on the record as saying that we are minded to move forward on this, and we want to make progress. I regret the loss of jobs in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency, but I know that he will be working hard to assist his constituents in looking for other employment.

If plain packaging were introduced, what assessment has there been on whether that will make life easier or more difficult for the counterfeiters?

That is one issue that we will weigh up before making a final decision. Obviously, we received a large amount of evidence from the consultation, and we are looking at it in detail. Some of it was around that matter, although it is also the case that Sir Cyril Chantler made some robust statements in his report, rebutting some of the claims, but that is all part of the final consideration that the Government will make.