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?WSTA to get consumers behind its 'Be Fair George' campaign

Published:  12 December, 2013

The Wine & Spirit Trade Association  is to next week launch a high level national media and consumer campaign to persuade the government to scrap the final year of the duty escalator on wines and spirits in the next Budget.

The move follows the decision by the Chancellor, George Osborne, in this year's Budget to freeze the duty escalator on beer in the face of fierce lobbying by the beer industry and a number of MP.

The WSTA is poised to build on the 'Be Fair George' tagline, revealed at its September annual conference, and make the business, consumer and economic case for extending that freeze to all alcohol products in the 2014 Budget.

Miles Beale, the WSTA's chief executive, told that it was in a "strong" position to drive through an effective consumer and national media campaign backed, by the widespread support of the wine and spirits trade and members of the WSTA.

"The beer lobby ran a great campaign last year. They put a crack in the duty escalator. We want to walk right through it," he told

It is next week launching a consumer website setting out its case where it hopes to galvanise the  support of average drinkers in taking the message to local MPs, the Treasury and the government.

It will centre its campaign on the damage the cumulative effects year-after-year of above inflation duty hikes is having on the profitability and viability of the UK drinks industry.

If the duty escalator is implemented in the next budget it will take the level of duty on an average bottle of spirits up to 80% and wine by 60% for the first time. An increase of 44% and 50% in taxation since the duty escalator was introduced in 2008.

This, the WSTA, will say is "penalising a great British success story...for the British economy".

The promotional material for the campaign, seen by, will say: "By increasing costs through taxation significantly every year, the government is putting jobs and growth at risk, whilst penalising the consumer."

This, in turn, it claims, will threaten a UK wine and spirits industry that is worth £20 billion annually to the British economy. Add beer and this rises to £38 billion. An industry, it will stress, that supports nearly 2 million people.

Beale said it will also challenge the decision to only freeze the duty escalator on beer as being discriminatory towards largely beer focused pubs, mainly populated by men, and does nothing for the more female, family orientated on-trade outlets where wines and spirits are more common.

Far from being the saviour of the great British pub it is actually putting many of them in danger, claimed the WSTA.

It estimates the pub sector was, in effect, £34 million worse off last year as a result of the duty escalator on wine and spirits despite the freeze on beer, because of its importance to the sector.

By continuing to hit wine and spirits with the duty escalator it is attacking a sector of the industry that together  accounts for 42% of the value of sales of all products in the on-trade. Set to rise to 45% within five years, said the WSTA.

It will also make the case that this is an unfair tax on an already stretched consumer faced with what Labour leader, Ed Miliband, described this week as "a cost of living crisis" in UK.

The British consumer, compared to the rest of Europe, argued the WSTA, is having to pay far more for its alcohol. Duty rates are the second highest on wine and fourth highest on spirits in the EU, stressed Beale.

"The cost of living in the UK is a big political battleground," he added.

The duty escalator, which was brought in by the former government, is due to be scrapped after the 2014 Budget.

The government has not made any announcement on whether the duty escalator will be replaced with alternative measures.