A group of MPs and Peers have formed a new All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) aimed at tackling the illicit tobacco trade.

The cross-party Group will look to undertake a number of inquiries each year in order to deliver workable recommendations designed to assist government, law enforcement, and the private sector in combating illicit trade.

Matthew Offord, MP for Hendon, who is setting up the Group, said: “Illicit trade impacts on everyone no matter what business they are in and no matter if they are a multinational corporation, a small high street shop, a consumer or a taxpayer.

“I’ve been out in my own constituency and seen at first hand the impact that counterfeit audio visual and smuggled tobacco is having. It takes away custom from legitimate businesses whilst putting at greater risk those people who buy it. We also know that organised crime gangs are behind such seemingly low level and innocuous activities.

“The group will act as an important vehicle in Parliament to shine a light on some of the more intractable issues including whether the current approaches employed by government and law enforcement are up to the job. Indeed, some of the losses to the public finances due to illicit trade are staggering – costing taxpayers’ hundreds of millions of pounds each year.”

He added that the group would aim to come up with new ideas on how the issues can be tackled, including what works in other countries and the use of new technology.

The inaugural meeting of the Illicit Trade APPG will be on 5 September when officers of the Group will be nominated and chosen. A later meeting in the autumn will be scheduled to agree the work programme and will be open to all parties with an interest in tackling the illicit trade to attend and contribute.