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Major trade figures urge whole industry to act now and back the Drop the Duty campaign

Published:  26 February, 2015

Senior trade figures are rallying around the Drop the Duty campaign and urging everyone in the sector to play their part and lobby their MP to call on the Chancellor to cut alcohol duty rates by 2% in the March Budget.

As the days tick down to the Budget announcement on March 18 major wine and spirits companies are coming together to not only back the campaign, but look to galvanise everyone in the sector to do the same.

The Drop the Duty campaign is being coordinated by the Wine & Spirit Trade Association and the Scotch Whisky Association and has the support of the TaxPayers Alliance. This week it also received the full backing of the British Institute of Innkeeping and the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers.

To take part in the campaign members of the trade simply need to go to the website, enter their postcode, which will pull up who their local MP is, and then send a templated letter setting out the reasons why a 2% cut is necessary.

Bibendum PLB, Enotria and Hallgarten Druitt, three of the UK's major wine and spirit distributors, are fully behind the campaign and have been able to get their large members of staff to take part and lobby their local MP.

Bibendum PLB's Saunders speaks out

Michael SaundersMichael Saunders

Michael Saunders, chief executive of Bibendum PLB, said: "The WSTA's drop the duty campaign is seemingly having an impact, given the many considered responses from MPs. It's fantastic that the campaign is also now supported by the ALMR and the BII - two strong and important associations.

But he added: "However, we need more. It strikes me that the target number of communications of 10,000 emails to MPs should be easy, given that according to the WSTA our industry directly employs 500,000 people; and indirectly 2 million. So I would urge all those connected to our industry to take the 30 seconds needed to communicate to their MPs via the campaign website, if they have not already done so.

"Simply put: if 10% of us do this, we will have 50,000 emails. The Chancellor needs to hear from us as he plans the budget. Time is short!"

Hallgarten's Bewes: "Just do it!"

Andrew BewesAndrew BewesAndrew Bewes

Andrew Bewes, chief executive of Hallgarten Druiit, confirmed every member of its staff had lobbied their MP. He said: "Hallgarten Druitt fully endorses the WSTA campaign to Drop the Duty and would urge all members of the industry to participate by writing to their local MP. Miles Beale and the WSTA team proved last year that the combination of mass action on one side, and 'behind the scenes' negotiations with Whitehall can drive change and we all owe it to ourselves and to the industry in which we work to support this campaign to try to redress the damage that duty increases over the past years has done.

"Ten thousand emails to MPs is both a realistic and achievable target and would be exceeded if only everyone in the industry were to invest two minutes out of their day to send an email. Just do it!"

Enotria's Christensen: act now 

Troy ChristensenTroy Christensen

Troy Christensen, chief executive of Enotria, added his support and said: "America is recognised as a vibrant market for wine, increasing consumer interest, growing through premiumisation, increasing value in the channel and leading the agenda of robust social responsibility.

Andrew Bewes

"As an American, it is notable that the country has only seen two increases in the federal excise tax on wine in the past 70 years. It is frustrating that the UK, which has historically been a diverse showcase wine market, is shrinking and becoming less sustainable."

He added: "The knock-on effects are not insignificant; potential for loss of jobs and less overall investment, which can be attributed to stifling innovation. This has largely come about due to the enormous tax increases that the industry has been subjected to over the last six years and the general uncertainty of the annual government tax.

"We believe it is time to enable increased market investment that supports continuing economic growth and job recovery, and allowing the market to grow again through a drop in the duty."

Harpers is keen to hear from other members of the trade about what steps they have taken in their business. Please contact us if you would like to share your views by emailing Richard Siddle at

What you can do

Harpers has also been urging the trade to back the duty push and has made the Drop the Duty initiative a key part of the March for the Independents campaign. We have called on independent wine merchants to not only lobby their local MP but to also invite them to their business, so that they can explain the personal reasons why a duty cut is so important.

Harpers has produced two templated letters for not just independents to use, but anyone in the trade to use.

  • The first is a letter that members of the trade can personalise which invites their MP to their business to hear their story (see attached)
  • The second is a "Letter to the Editor" that members of the trade can send to their local paper and regional media to be published that calls on their readers support and explains the economic benefits a duty cut will bring. (see attached)

Producers take part in Drop the Duty Twitter petition

Harpers is also asking wine and spritis producers around the world who are concerned about the high levels of duty in the UK to also have their say.

Harpers is coordinating a Twitter petition where producers simply need to retweet a message from Harpers or tweet out their own call to the UK chancellor to cut duty levels. Simply use these words in a tweet and send it out, Harpers will collect them and then send to the Chancellor.

"I am a wine/spirits company frustrated by high UK duty rates and call on the Chancellor to #DroptheDuty and allow me to do business there"

Please send any comments about what you are doing to back the Drop the Duty campaign to