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WSTA gears up for aggressive campaign against duty hikes in 2015

Published:  11 June, 2014

The WSTA is considering calling for a 2% cut in duty on wine and spirits as part of its campaign in the lead up to next year's Budget.

In March 2014, the trade body's Call Time on Duty initiative successfully managed to stop the alcohol duty escalator, although duty for wine still went up by inflation of around 2.5%.

Miles BealeWill the government listen to the wine and spirits trade in 2015?WSTA chief executive Miles Beale believes pushing for a 2% cut in duty for wine and spirits in the 2015 Budget would be 'a fair ask'.

Speaking to at last week's London Wine Fair, chief executive Miles Beale said: "Next year I hope we have all the ingredients to push much harder on wine and spirits for a cut or a freeze.

"We're talking about whether we push for a cut - we've got to be realistic, but  a cut would not seem ridiculous. Beer has had a cut of 2% for the past two years. The BBPA has campaigned for four to five years - that's the sort of thing to try and emulate."

Beale said a 2% cut "may be a fair ask", giving "equal treatment" to both beer and wine. He said that this year's successful outcome had given the trade the "appetite" to continue campaigning. Given the support from many companies for the 2014 campaign, he hopes they will back the 2015 effort.

2015 will be a "combination of head and heart" arguments, Beale outlined, after saying that earlier this year it had avoided emotional reasoning. "We tried not to say, 'we're reaching a tipping point'," instead focusing on jobs provided and the improvement in public finances by curtailing duty increases.

The 'heart' argument would focus on how increasing duty is not helpful for the burgeoning English wine industry, nor the growing bottling trade. "They could be doing better if taxes for the wine industry were similar to other UK-supported industries." Beale said.

Beale is already talking to Defra, the government department for the environment, food and rural affairs, about what more can be done to support the wine industry.

Last time around, the timing was right politically, given the upcoming independence referendum, to work with the Scotch Whisky Association to push for a halt to the duty escalator. This time around Beale believes that "gin could be the next Scotch whisky", especially given its strong associations to England and London. He emphasised that the drinks trade "gets a lot more done together than we do separately" and hinted that a link-up with the National Association of Cider Makers could also be worthwhile.

Beale also believes that campaigning more strongly around pubs - it already has statistics to back its arguments - and how they are affected by their drinks offer in particular wine and spirits, should be a focus this time around.

Last week Beale took home the Special Achievement Award at Harpers Awards, for the leadership shown in driving the 2014 Call Time on Duty campaign.