Tories want freeze on tobacco tax
Tuesday 04 May 1999
John Whittingdale, a Tory Treasury spokesman, will today signal a U- turn in the party's policy when he demands a halt to cigarette price rises. Mr Whittingdale will attack the 5 per cent hike in tobacco duty by Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, in the Budget and dump years of cross-party consensus on the issue by calling for a total freeze.
The Tories' shift in policy was immediately condemned by the Cancer Research Campaign (CRC) and other health groups, who accused them of pandering to the tobacco industry.
Labour also claimed that the move, with the Tories' recent pledge to freeze fuel duty rises, left a pounds 10bn-a-year "black hole" in the Tories' spending plans that would have to be plugged by income tax rises.
The Tories have long retained links to the big tobacco firms, with the former chancellor Kenneth Clarke on the board of the British American Tobacco (BAT) and Baroness Thatcher a consultant to Phillip Morris. Mr Whittingdale will claim today that of the tax rises in the Budget, the rise in tobacco duty was "among the most pointless and counter-productive". His speech, which surprised the Tory health team yesterday, will claim that the United Kingdom is losing billions in revenue to cigarette smugglers because prices are cheaper on the Continent.
Gordon McVee, director- general of the CRC, led the criticism of the new policy, claiming that the U-turn was "a complete folly. As far as the war against cancer is concerned, it is a stupid reversal of what was a sensible policy that the Conservatives held in government," he said.
"It is just unbelievable. I thought the Tories were trying to distance themselves from their Thatcherite belief in free markets. This shows that they are listening only to the industry."
A spokesman for Ash, the anti-smoking lobby group, said: "We think that the Government's approach is absolutely right... [it] makes sense to increase taxes on what you don't like rather than on jobs and investment. It's also a very good health policy because people give up smoking or don't start."
The Tories pioneered regular rises in tobacco duty 18 years ago and were committed in their manifesto at the last election to annual 3 per cent rises.
- 1 Scotland independence vote: Everything you ever wanted to know about life after the result
- 2 Lego breaks out of the toy box and heads for the gallery
- 3 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
- 4 Piers Morgan attempts to save the Union by promising to go back to the US if Scotland votes 'No' to independence
- 5 Tyler, The Creator says having the new U2 album automatically downloaded on his iPhone was 'like waking up with herpes'
David Haines remembered: Death of British hostage executed by Isis lamented from the Balkans to Sudan
Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton nude pictures exhibition cancelled after artist concedes photos were 'stolen property'
David Haines beheading: David Cameron says Britain will hunt down Isis 'monsters' shown in video murdering aid worker
Piers Morgan attempts to save the Union by promising to go back to the US if Scotland votes 'No' to independence
Jennifer Lawrence to make public appearance after nude photo hacking scandal as Met Gala Ball 2015 co-host
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained in Los Angeles after being mistaken for a prostitute
George Galloway on Scottish independence: The political class is doing what Hitler couldn’t – destroying Britain
Scottish independence: Nationalist leader Jim Sillars threatens pro-union companies with 'day of reckoning' after independence
Scottish independence: Yes campaign feels the heat as Alex Salmond's NHS claims come under furious attack
Scottish independence: Britain faces 'constitutional crisis' at next election
£23m Birmingham cycle scheme is attacked by Tory councillor for not catering to the elderly
£50 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We are looking for flexible and i...
£50 - £65 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: We are looking for flexible and...
£130 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS2 Supply Teacher r...
£130 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1 Teacher required,...