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Drinks industry takes its case to Westminster and urges MPs to Call Time on Duty

Published:  16 January, 2014

MPs from all parties came to talk to key figures of the wine and spirits industry last night at a special House of Commons event to publicise the Call Time On Duty campaign to try and get the Chancellor to freeze the alcohol duty escalator in the 2014 Budget.

Miles Beale, chief executive of the Wine & Spirit Trade Association, that is leading the campaign in partnership with the Scotch Whisky Association and TaxPayers Alliance, used the occasion to drum home the key arguments of the campaign. In particular he made clear to MPs that if the escalator was scrapped in this year's Budget it would create 6,000 new jobs and raise £230 extra revenue for the Treasury.

Conservative MP, Priti Patel, and chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Small Shops, not only hosted the event but spoke out against her own party's Chancellor and the "punishing regime" he has been responsible for implementing on what is a "great British industry" with successive above inflation duty increases.

She said the drinks industry was "being held back" by the duty escalator and urged the Chancellor to back up the "benefits" he had brought to the beer sector by scrapping the beer duty escalator in the 2013 Budget.

Beale seized on Patel's comments to stress home the fact duty levels had increased by 50% on wine and 44% on spirits since it was introduced in 2008. It had gone up 25% overall under the current government.

In his speech Beale set out the "massive" economic contribution the UK drinks industry provides to the UK which included:

  • over £40 billion of economic activity in the UK, and

    • 1.8 billion bottles of wine sold in the UK in 2012
    • Scotch whisky makes up 25% of UK food and drink exports and English gin makes up 20% of the world's exports.

  • the sector employs around 475,000 jobs andsupports nearly two million jobs.
  • the drinks industry paid £14.5 billion in tax in 2012.

He set out to MPs why the drinks industry thinks this is "a punitive tax bill" and that the duty escalator is effectively a "super tax on jobs, on growth, on the great British pub, on SMEs and on the hard-pressed consumer".

He added: "This means that a sector of the British economy of which we should all be proud is fighting to contribute with one hand tied behind its back. It is being unfairly punished. The alcohol duty escalator is bad for the economy, bad for business and bad for consumers."

Beale stressed to MPs that "we're not asking for a favour or for money" but that if escalator was removed it "would represent a net gain, not cost".  

"Our message to the Chancellor is clear: if you're serious about creating jobs, supporting growth and cutting taxes, then you need to be fair and call time on your inflation-busting super tax now. Scrap it, do something good for the consumer, for the economy, for business, especially SMEs, and be the toast of all three," said Beale.