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Jeremy Beadles comment on Budget 2009

Published:  07 May, 2009

No, the Budget wasn't good news for the wine and spirits trade. Another increase in excise duty after the successive and excessive increases last year was the last thing we need. Yet in a Budget notable for its lack of any good news at all it was hardly a shock either.

It gives me no pleasure to say that, particularly since our campaign this year, underlined by the first ever joint trade association submission to the Treasury, sent a consistently strong message about the damage caused by the past year's tax increases.

But like you I have been looking at the government's debt forecasts. I'll leave it to others to judge how accurate they are, but if the figure for UK borrowing this year of £175 billion is anything near the mark, can any of us really be shocked the Chancellor proceeded with a tax increase he believes will raise some cash?

Indeed the word from our sources in Westminster suggests in the circumstances we ought to recognise it could have been much worse - not a pleasant thought but they may well be right.

Our experience in the wake of last year's duty increases and impact analysis of these and the escalator points to more business failures, more job losses and a diminishing rate of return for the Treasury as alcohol sales fall further and unemployment costs increase.

Employment levels, sales figures and revenue from excise duty over the coming months will show whether the Treasury is meeting its own objectives or simply adding to the problems facing the British economy.

In the meantime there is much else to fight for. The coming weeks will see the start of consultation on a mandatory code of practice for the industry - more regulation we could do without but which will require our constant engagement if we are to help shape the outcome.

On a more positive note there's also the London International Wine Fair and Distil to look forward to - an opportunity to remind ourselves just how varied and interesting the wine and spirits trade is, even in these testing times.

Jeremy Beadles is chief executive of the Wine & Spirit Trade Association