Application for emergency debate (Standing Order No. 24)
I seek leave to propose that the House should debate a specific and important matter for urgent consideration—namely, the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016.
As you are aware, Mr Speaker, this is a time-sensitive EU diktat that is allocated to the Government as a negative statutory instrument. Unless the Government provide any time to discuss it, it will just pass through. The Backbench Business Committee is not reconvened and has met only twice since these regulations were brought in. They were tabled in April, and since then, I have had cross-party support for my early-day motion.
The tobacco regulations will have a huge impact on the vaping and harm-reduction products industry if these regulations pass beyond their praying date of 15 June, yet the House will not have had an opportunity to debate this important matter. Only two months ago, the Royal College of Physicians warned:
“Promoting wider use of consumer nicotine products, such as e-cigarettes, could…substantially increase the number of smokers who quit”
“is therefore likely to generate significant health gains in the UK.”
Last year, Public Health England found that e-cigarettes were 95% less harmful than smoking.
Our own Prime Minister said to me in a letter:
“Our view, based on all the evidence available, is that e-cigarettes can help smokers quit and that they are considerably less harmful to the health than continuing to smoke tobacco products.”
Perversely, however, these particular regulations, which we have not yet discussed or debated, will seek to impose severe limits on advertising for vaping products, and bring e-cigarettes under the same regulatory framework as cigarettes. Lord Prior, the Health Minister in the House of Lords said in May that
“we wish people to quit altogether but if, as a way of quitting, they can give up smoking and take up vaping, that is something that we wish to encourage.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 10 May 2016; Vol. 771, c. 77.]
I sincerely hope that the House will be given the opportunity to consider this matter under Standing Order No. 24 as the deleterious impact of these regulations on smoking cessation and public health shows that we really should give these Brussels regulations some serious consideration before absorbing them.
The hon. Lady asks leave to propose a debate on a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016. I have listened carefully to the hon. Lady’s application, but I am not persuaded that this matter is proper to be discussed under Standing Order No. 24.
I add that if there is significant interest in this matter, either in the House or beyond it, it might be regarded as helpful if, through the usual channels, a debate on it were arranged. I express myself in those relatively careful and understated terms, for it is not within the remit of the Chair. That judgment has to be made elsewhere. The hon. Lady, who is an indefatigable parliamentarian, has made her case with force and eloquence. If I have learned anything about her over the last 11 years when we have served in the House together, I suspect that it is pretty unlikely that she will let go of the bone.