Clause 24 - Fixed penalty notices

Part of Tobacco and Vapes Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 3:15 pm ar 9 Mai 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care 3:15, 9 Mai 2024

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston for bringing this discussion to the Committee, and I fully appreciate the sentiment behind the amendment. I completely understand why it is attractive to raise the fixed penalty notice and make it more material to the individual, but I urge hon. Members to take into account the fact that local trading standards take a proportionate approach to tobacco and vape enforcement. The Bill proposes fixed penalty notices of £100 to enable trading standards to take swifter action by issuing on-the-spot fines, rather than needing to go through lengthy court processes. Littering, parking or under-age alcohol sales attract on-the-spot fines. The proposal in the Bill is for £100, or £50 if it is paid within two weeks. That avoids people thinking, “I can’t pay this, so you’ll have to pursue me through the courts.” That creates an incentive for these issues never to come to court, and it can clog up court time and so on. I fully appreciate the hon. Lady’s point, but this is about practicality.

I find it slightly odd that the hon. Lady says £100 is affordable but £200 is not. I would be shocked to get a £100 on-the-spot fine, and I am sure she would, too. Most retail workers would find a £100 fine to be quite devastating vis-à-vis their daily cost of living. I fully understand the sentiment behind the amendment, but £100 is in line with the precedent set by penalties for comparable offences. The fixed penalty notice for under-age alcohol sales is £90. If the penalty were raised to £200, as the amendment suggests, trading standards could issue higher on-the-spot fines, but how many of us have that kind of money on us? It would push a person into severe difficulty. As we have discussed, there is a very swift escalation—it is a “two strikes and you are out” policy—and there is the ability to take the business to task, too, so I think the current penalty is actually quite stringent.