At the outset, I thank both speakers for their support. I understand that Deputy Kelleher’s proposals are meant in the best possible way and I fully accept the bona fides of his support. Few people would be more enthusiastic than I to expedite the impact of the legislation but given the letter on the Chairman’s desk and the letters that are in circulation, everybody involved in the area is not one bit surprised about the tactics of the tobacco industry. I take the advice of the Attorney General on these matters. The amendment suggested by Deputy Kelleher proposes to shorten the transition period allowed for in the Bill. The transition provisions as outlined in the Bill allow retailers and manufacturers time to comply with the new measures.
Current packets may be manufactured until May 2016 and there will then be a one-year period in which to sell outstanding stocks. Non-compliant retail packaging may not be manufactured from May 2016 and may not be sold after May 2017.
The introduction of standardised packaging in Ireland is a proportionate public health measure. It is very important when introducing such measures that steps are taken to give the industry advance notice of the details of the measures. Any reduction in the transitional period may undermine the State's arguments regarding the proportionality of this Bill. The transitional times outlined in the Bill are in line with those set out in the EU 2014 tobacco products directive. Provisions in that directive are essential elements to the success of standardised packaging. The new tobacco directive provides for larger graphic warnings that are to be displayed on the front and back of packs. The European Commission has developed a new library of images which cannot be introduced prior to 20 May 2016. With this in mind, it is deemed reasonable to allow for all the changes required under the standardised packaging legislation and the new tobacco products directive to be introduced within the same timeframes.
As members know, the UK Government recently announced its decision to introduce regulations for standardised packaging. Similar to Ireland, these regulations will come into force at the same time as the tobacco products directive, in May 2016. The UK's regulations will also allow the same transitional time as the Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Bill, which is until 2017.
I understand the Deputy, like me, would like the legislation commenced sooner rather than later, as I have said. However, in the interests of introducing proportionate measures, there is an obligation on the State to allow reasonable time for the industry, first, to prepare for the new measure and, second, to allow for the sale of old stock. On this basis, I regret I am unable to accept these amendments.