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Published:  23 July, 2008

The Wine and Spirit Association (WSA) has branded Dr Kim Howells' handling of the Licensing Bill as shambolic', accusing the minister of ignoring the licensed trade's legitimate concerns over the flawed legislation. The Association raised its concerns several times, but Dr Howells did not even reply to its letters. Bizarrely, Dr Howells congratulated the WSA on raising the issue of licences for farmers' markets (I congratulate whoever organised the farmers' market lobby for doing a very good job. It swept enormous amounts of literature onto the desks of Honourable Members'), and then a few days later accused the WSA of deliberately trying to mislead his officials in a meeting which the WSA insists never occurred. According to WSA director Quentin Rappoport: The combination of a total failure to listen to the industry and a poorly-researched Bill (one which has been rushed through Parliament) will have a very damaging impact on the drinks industry. In particular, producers of English and Welsh wines will be badly affected at a time when the Government claims to be trying to regenerate the rural economy. Our industry is furious,' he said.