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Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, I congratulate the Minister on the work done by her department, especially as regards research on a vaccine against the AIDS virus.

Does the noble Baroness agree that AIDS is now on a scale comparable only with the great plague in the Middle Ages? It is wiping out up to one in four adults

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in many African countries, including South Africa and Zimbabwe. Will the Minister consider whether the matter is now so serious that it should be raised at the highest international levels, such as the G7 and the Commonwealth Ministers Meeting, so that a strategy can be devised in which pharmaceutical companies, governments and the Churches can all take part in an effective strategy?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, I totally agree with the noble Baroness. Conflict and AIDS are the two issues which have the biggest negative impact in sub-Saharan Africa. The Department for International Development has allocated £14 million towards the international AIDS vaccine. We cannot be specific about when there might be a breakthrough but we hope that there will be a breakthrough of some kind in the next five years or so. I agree with the noble Baroness that we need to ensure that there is a co-ordinated international response to this matter. It is important that it is raised and discussed and that some kind of implementation strategy is agreed at the highest levels.

Baroness Knight of Collingtree: My Lords, is the Minister aware that UNICEF has just announced that over 11 million children in Africa and 13 million world-wide are orphaned as a result of AIDS? Indeed, there will be many more. Can she tell the House whether there are any plans for us to help with that terrible situation?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Knight, that the number of children orphaned as a result of HIV/AIDS is growing, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. We have ensured that AIDS-related issues, including that of orphans, are integral to the work being done in our development programmes in sub-Saharan Africa. We are also looking at ways of working particularly with women and young people with a view to preventing infection in the first place.

Baroness Masham of Ilton: My Lords, does the Minister agree that some government Ministers and many taxi drivers in those African countries deny the presence of HIV and AIDS and that that is a dangerous situation for tourists? Can something be done through diplomatic lines with the Ministers and Prime Ministers of those countries?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, there is a great deal of denial across the world with regard to the whole area of HIV/AIDS. That is why it is important that we invest money in raising awareness of the subject among populations across the world. We are trying to deal with some of the, as they are termed, "cultural factors" which prevent AIDS programmes being put in place. In countries which have tackled HIV/AIDS successfully, such as Uganda, Senegal and Thailand,

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we have seen leadership coming from the very top of society. It is important that we encourage that leadership in sub-Saharan Africa and in South Asia.

Lord Hughes of Woodside: My Lords, can the Minister say whether the Government are represented at the international conference on AIDS which is taking place currently, or perhaps has just finished, in Durban in Kwazulu-Natal? If the Government are not represented, what support are they giving to those who are in attendance?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, the Government are represented. The senior health adviser at the Department for International Development is heading the UK delegation and there are also representatives from the Department of Health.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, if it is not already included in the advice which the Minister mentioned, will she include advice to people to take a small safety pack of syringes and medicament which they may require for treatment, because even the most basic items may be unavailable in Africa?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, the advice that we give is extremely comprehensive. Indeed, we ensure that those with HIV/AIDS who travel abroad know that they should take their own medicines with them.

Tobacco Smuggling

2.53 p.m.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they are taking to combat tobacco smuggling.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the Paymaster General announced on 22nd March the Tackling Tobacco Smuggling strategy and a £209 million investment to implement it. That strategy is designed to reverse the trend of tobacco smuggling within three years and reduce it to below current levels in the longer term.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply. However, is he aware that, if current smoking trends continue, tobacco will kill 1 billion people in the 21st century, which is 10 times more than in the whole of the 20th century? Of those, three-quarters will be in developing countries. Is he familiar with the report of the Health Select Committee in another place which describes how companies such as BAT, Gallaher and Philip Morris are targeting the Third World and also contains serious allegations that BAT has been involved in smuggling? Is he yet in a position to announce

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whether the Government accept the committee's recommendation that BAT should be subject to a Companies Act investigation?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, we are certainly well aware of the serious health implications throughout the world, and particularly in developing countries, of continuing and rising levels of tobacco smoking. So far as concerns the Health Select Committee, we are considering its recommendations and shall respond in full in due course. It would not be right for me to respond to a specific recommendation before the full response has been prepared and submitted to the committee. Customs and Excise has not received evidence that UK tobacco manufacturers have committed criminal acts relating to tobacco smuggling into the UK. However, if any evidence is produced, Customs and Excise will of course investigate fully.

Lord Clark of Kempston: My Lords, does the Minister agree that, in view of the fact that, so far as concerns the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the loss of revenue since 1997 has tripled, surely that must point to the fact that the draconian tax on tobacco smoking is detrimental to our revenue? Will he say whether the Taylor report will be published and whether it recommends that VAT or tobacco duty should be reduced? When will the Government stop saying that taxation under this Government has been reduced? If one takes into account direct and indirect taxation, it has increased enormously.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I shall certainly not underestimate the cost to this country of tobacco smuggling. We estimate that that cost now runs at approximately £2.5 billion, which is 25 per cent of tobacco revenue. As to the Taylor report, that was a private report to government and we do not intend to publish it. However, the Tackling Tobacco Smuggling White Paper, which we published in March and which I referred to in my first Answer, implements many of the recommendations which Mr Taylor made to us.

Lord Hardy of Wath: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that, so long as a wide and unharmonised gap exists between the price of tobacco products in this country and in our neighbouring EU states, there will be a temptation and incentive to smuggle and such crime will continue? Do the Government appreciate that that means that many young people will have access to less expensive tobacco or cigarettes outside the normal and lawful system which governs the retailing of those products, and that, in addition to the burdens and loss faced by the Treasury, the effect on the retail trade is serious?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, it is common ground that too many people smoke and too many people smoke smuggled cigarettes. That is damaging both to health and to taxation. However, there are two ways of approaching that as a problem.

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One is the solution proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Clark, to reduce excise duties. That might help in one sense but certainly would not help from the health point of view. The other is the course that we are taking: to crack down on smuggling itself. The strategy which we published involves disruption of the supply chain, improved intelligence at ports and inland distribution points, confiscation of assets, and more and better human and, indeed, technological resources to catch those who carry out the smuggling.

The Earl of Northesk: My Lords, perhaps I should say that I am definitely not a non-smoker. Can the Minister confirm that, after drug smuggling, tobacco smuggling is the second biggest criminal activity in the UK, far exceeding the level of benefit fraud identified in the report of the noble Lord, Lord Grabiner, on the informal economy? That being so, how does the Government's spending on the problem compare with the resources that they commit to deal with benefit fraud?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, we are prepared to spend what is necessary to tackle tobacco smuggling. I have outlined some of the things that we are going to do. Our proposals involve considerable extra expenditure, including nearly 1,000 additional staff for Customs and Excise. If we found it necessary or appropriate to spend more money, I am sure that we would do so. Given that we are losing £2.5 billion a year, the programme is not constrained by cash.

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