Northampton MP warns plain packaging on cigarettes could benefit smugglers and terror groups

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  • Conservative MP hits out at Government move to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes
  • Significant unanswered questions, says Brian Binley, about the legality of the move
  • MPs voted to go ahead with plain packaging in free vote

Plain packaging of tobacco risks creating a perfect storm for smugglers and terror groups, outgoing Northampton South MP Brian Binley has warned.

Mr Binley said there were “significant unanswered questions” about the move to remove branding from cigarette packets which was approved by MPs on Wednesday.

Many of my colleagues who oppose this policy will not even bother to vote, because the result is a foregone conclusion

Brian Binley, Northampton South MP

He highlighted the smuggling activities of the IRA, including a haul of 120 milion cigarettes that had been brought into Northern Ireland in 2009.

“But for every successful operation by the police, customs or trading standards many more slip through the net,” he said. “Indeed the Treasury estimates that the illicit trade costs the Exchequer some £3 billion in lost revenue, while smuggled alcohol costs upwards of £1 billion in lost duty.

“South of the border in the Republic of Ireland, Retailers Against Smuggling say the Provisional IRA, the Real IRA, Continuity IRA and INLA are raking in more that €3 million a week from the illegal tobacco trade,” he added.

These links, he said, were why many of his political colleagues had concerns over the move to “push through” its plans for standardised packaging.

“Many of my colleagues who oppose this policy did not even bother to vote, because the result was a foregone conclusion,” he said.

“The Government knows that failure to implement plain packs, gives Labour an easy hit, with Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham and his colleagues accusing the Prime Minister of being in the pockets of Big Tobacco. So with Lib Dem and Labour support ministers will push the measure through.

“But there are significant unanswered questions about the policy not least about the legality of such a move, the compensation costs and how removing the branding and anti-counterfeiting measures will not lead to an increase in the illicit trade,” he added.

Data from Australia, where the measure has already been introduced, suggested that illicit trade had jumped significantly.

“The nature of smuggling has changed. The romanticised image of an individual, who buys a few extra cigarettes to sell down the pub, is outdated and wrong. Organised crime and terror groups now dominate the supply and networks behind illicit tobacco,” he added.

“So plain packs appears to be playing into their hands by making it easier to counterfeit. Is it any wonder why more than a hundred of my colleagues oppose these plans?”