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Independent merchants have key role to play in lobbying MPs for duty changes, says WSTA

Published:  18 September, 2014

Independent wine merchants have a key role to play in persuading local MPs to listen to the wine and spirits industry's calls for an effective cut in alcohol duty levels at the 2015 Budget.

That was the plea given by Miles Beale, chief executive of the Wine & Spirit Trade Association, at its annual conference in London yesterday.

A key part, he said, in the success it achieved this year in freezing the alcohol duty escalator was the support it was able to galvanise through individual businesses contacting and lobbying their local MP, providing them with the facts that proved a freeze was the right action to take.

Last year the WSTA, through its members, had been able to contact 90% of MPs at least six times. If it is to succeed in persuading the Chancellor to cut duty levels by 2% in the 2015 Budget it will need the support of all 750 MPs.

Which is why the role of independent wine merchants is so important, stressed Beale.  

"We will be targeting MPs in whose constituencies our great British industry operates. Because MPs respond well to local voices, local firms, local communities' needs - especially when their seats are at stake," he explained.

"Independent wine merchants are a uniquely local and entrepreneurial voice to which local MPs will be instinctively drawn," he added.

The WSTA will again be setting up a dedicated support website to make it as easy as possible for individuals and businesses to get involved. The site will include a templated letter that anyone can personalise with their own story and send direct to their  local MP "at the touch of a button".

The WSTA will also be calling on the support of English wine producers to make their case to their local MPs. "English wine producers are best placed to make the best argument we have against the unfairness of the current duty system," said Beale.

It will also be looking to work with individual on-trade groups, like the British Institute of Innkeeping, to encourage their members to get involved. "Established members, new members and non-members all have a part to play in the name of an industry-wide goal," said Beale.

"This year I want all MPs to hear about it and to receive at least six emails each. That means that I am relying on each of you to spread the word and do everything you can to mobilise your staff and through them their friends and families to do just one thing: email their MP."