Clause 71 - Extension of notification requirements etc

Tobacco and Vapes Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 11:00 am ar 14 Mai 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Gary Streeter Gary Streeter Ceidwadwyr, South West Devon

With this it will be convenient to discuss clauses 72 to 74 stand part.

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

Before being able to sell nicotine vapes on the UK consumer market, producers should ensure that their products meet the standards required under the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016 and notify the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency as to the contents and ingredients of their products and submit their contact details. Non-nicotine vapes and other nicotine products are currently only covered by the General Product Safety Regulations 2005, which means there are no requirements to notify for these products in the same way as nicotine vapes.

Clause 71 provides regulation-making powers to introduce notification requirements for non-nicotine vapes and other consumer nicotine products, and a power to introduce fees to cover the cost of administering the new requirement. Notification plays a vital role in the oversight and compliance of vapes to help ensure that products meet regulatory requirements and are safe for consumers. Given that the Bill gives powers to introduce new restrictions on vapes via future regulations, it is necessary to be able to amend the information required by the vape notification system.

New vape regulations will likely make several changes that would impact on the design and make-up of a vape, and it is essential that the notification system can be updated with new information requirements so that it remains effective in the future. That is why clause 72 provides a power to amend the information that must be submitted when a vape or other nicotine product is notified for sale on the UK market. Without that power, the notification system would likely not align with all future restrictions placed on vapes and would therefore become ineffective.

While the notification system is not an enforcement tool, enforcement agencies use the published information to distinguish between products that have been notified for sale on the UK market and those that have not. There is currently no means by which the MHRA can withdraw a notification from the published list—for example, if a required fee is not paid. As such, clause 73 provides a regulation-making power to create exceptions to the requirement to publish notifications—that is, to allow for a notification to be removed, for example, in the event where a required fee has not been paid. The regulations that may be made under powers in part 5 may relate to consumer protection, which is a transferred—that is, devolved—matter in Northern Ireland but remains a reserved matter for Great Britain.

I turn to clause 74, which provides that if regulations relating to the notification system contain provision that would be within the legislative competence of the Northern Ireland Assembly, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care must obtain the consent of the Executive Office in Northern Ireland. The consent provision maintains and upholds the devolution position in Northern Ireland concerning consumer protection matters with respect to regulations made under part 5. The effect of the clause is to enable the powers in part 5 to be exercised effectively, respecting the devolution settlement with Northern Ireland. I commend these clauses to the Committee.

Photo of Mary Glindon Mary Glindon Opposition Whip (Commons) 11:15, 14 Mai 2024

My amendments to clauses 71, 72 and 73 are self-explanatory and I do not wish to detain the Committee on them any longer. The key to them all is that they would require the Government to consult on the new powers they are taking with these regulations.

Photo of Preet Kaur Gill Preet Kaur Gill Shadow Minister (Primary Care and Public Health)

I will make some remarks about each of the clauses in turn. As we have discussed, this Bill finally addresses the issue of non-nicotine vapes, which have not been included in the same regulations and enforcement framework as nicotine vapes. In my view, that has left a left a significant loophole, undermining action to stop children getting hooked on vapes.

As I have remarked, I think most people would be shocked to learn that it is currently legal to sell vapes to children, even if they do not contain nicotine, given they could so obviously be designed as a gateway to addiction to the real thing. As I have also said, that is doubly concerning when we think about the explosion of illicit vapes ending up on British shelves. We know a considerable proportion of vapes labelled as 0% do in fact contain nicotine, giving me cause for concern that we could have allowed a spate of accidental addictions to these products.

Clause 71 is important because it allows non-nicotine vapes to be included in the notification scheme run by the regulator, the MHRA. The current two-tier system for nicotine and non-nicotine vapes is not currently robust, and that needed to change. Trading standards officers rely on the MHRA’s notification publication to identify illicit vaping products on the market. The blanket exclusion of non-nicotine vapes from that publication until now makes it much harder for them to identify products that are legitimate from those that are not—a gap that unscrupulous actors in this space are no doubt aware of and I expect have sought to exploit.

Including non-nicotine vapes in the notification process should allow for a complete database of products, while currently it is difficult to identify which products are legal or illegal, which really undermines enforcement action. I thoroughly welcome these new powers and I hope that the Minister will act quickly to remedy this issue.

What plans does the Minister have to quickly ensure that existing non-nicotine products on the UK market will be brought through the notification process? Has that work started, and if so, what is the timeline for its delivery? Does the MHRA have the resources it needs to manage this? Will those non-nicotine vape producers be required now to fund this work through their notification fees?

As we heard during evidence, the impact of vaping products on the developing bodies of children has the potential to be very harmful indeed. It is vital that we take every step to make sure that our systems of regulation and enforcement are as robust as possible, to stop a new generation of products hooking our children on nicotine and harming their health.

I also want to touch on the issue of other nicotine products. As other members of the Committee have touched on, those in the industry who are hellbent on addicting a new generation to their products—this has been a very profitable business model for them—will probably seek to pivot to other products. Nicotine pouches is one such area. Given the notification process in the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016 was designed for vapes, it would not be appropriate to apply that process word for word to these very different products. Can the Minister say what preparatory work has been done on that issue?

Photo of Gary Streeter Gary Streeter Ceidwadwyr, South West Devon

Do you want to write to the hon. Lady with answers to those questions?

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

I am very happy to write to the hon. Lady with further thoughts, but I think we have covered all the points that she raised.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 71 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 72 to 74 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Ordered, That further consideration be now adjourned.—(Aaron Bell.)

Adjourned till this day at Two o’clock.