MPs have slammed the government’s consultation on tobacco retailer licensing (TRL), claiming that the system “would boost the illicit trade”.
Speaking to tobacco retailers in London, Nigel Evans criticised his colleagues for being out of touch with convenience retailers.
“How licensing is going to stem the tide of the illicit trade, I don’t know,” he said. “This will be another burdensome regulation. MPs should spend time working in convenience stores because they don’t understand the difficulties involved.”
Meanwhile, Simon Danczuk said he opposed the scheme because of the impact it would have on legitimate retailers.
“If licensing came in and had adverse effects on convenience stores, communities would suffer,” he explained. “I believe licensing would boost the illicit trade.”
Evans, whose father owned a convenience store throughout his childhood, called on the government to rethink its strategy.
“If retailers are keeping in the black they’re doing awfully well,” he said. “A lot of you are operating on thin margins. What the government ought to be doing is cracking down on the illicit trade in a more efficient manner.”
Nainesh Shah, owner of Mayhew Newsagents in Mayfair, London, told Retail Express that introducing tobacco licencing would pointlessly burden retailers.
“Seeing potentially another constraint being imposed shows that independents are steadily losing control,” he said. “We’re being guided and governed by someone else.”
Research by the Tobacco Retailers Alliance (TRA) found that 87% of independent retailers did not believe tobacco licensing would reduce illicit trading, with the same number citing the black market as a threat to their business.
Suleman Khonat, a retailer from Blackburn and spokesperson for the Tobacco Retailers Alliance, said that introducing licensing would be a futile move.
“We have enough legislation to deal with,” he said. “How on earth will the black market be stopped by having a licence in a shop?”