The government has given counterfeiters a blueprint for how to copy tobacco packs by ordering the removal of security features, according to an influential backbench MP.

Retail Newsagent went to press on Monday night as the committee was sitting to discuss plain packaging, ahead of a free vote on Wednesday in which MPs gave the legislation the green light for May 2016.

However, Ian Paisley MP threw the plans into chaos after sending a letter to exchequer secretary to the treasury Priti Patel MP – seen by RN last week – highlighting a massive oversight in the current legislation.

Mr Paisley has accused the Department of Health (DoH) of rushing through plans that would not allow Codentify – a 12-digit code on tobacco packs that helps HMRC authenticate and trace products – in the regulation.

“Given new Track & Trace provisions under TPD2 are not due to come into force until May 2019, the government is faced with a three-year period during which the industry’s existing security and authentication tool cannot be featured on packs,” wrote Mr Paisley.

“The DoH has not taken the time to consider sufficiently the full implications of introducing plain packaging. Government has laid fundamentally flawed regulations in parliament that could actually prevent existing anti-illicit features to be used.”

The DoH has not taken the time to consider sufficiently the full implications of introducing plain packaging. Government has laid fundamentally flawed regulations in parliament that could actually prevent existing anti-illicit features to be used

This comes after RN highlighted that every retailer will face a £500,000 plain pack hit to their sales over the next 10 years.

“The health ministry is going to get plain packs through,” said Nick de Bois MP. “I don’t see the material advantage of rushing it through without dealing with issues regarding the supply chain and the impact to the exchequer.”

A DoH spokeswoman said it was working across government to ensure that all anti-counterfeit systems that are useful to HMRC and other enforcement agencies can continue to feature on standardised packs.

5 things we learned from Monday’s plain packaging debate.