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The Wine and Spirit Trade Association targets a fresh start with Labour to boost the sector

General Election | 05 July, 2024

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) has called on Labour to work with industry to promote growth, cut red tape and deliver an environmentally sustainable agenda.  

With a new Government in place the WSTA is determined the UK should remain at the centre of the world’s wine and spirit trade.  

In 2022 the UK wine and spirit industry supported 413,000 jobs -, generated £22.6 billion in Gross Value Added and contributed £76.3 billion in economic activity*. 

However, the trade association warns that if urgent action isn’t taken to halt unnecessary changes to taxing wine and to clear up confusion over waste packaging regulations – businesses will be suffocated by complex and costly administration.  

The incoming changes to wine duty could be fatal for some businesses, especially SMEs, and will result in further prices rises for consumers.  

Miles Beale, Chief Executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, said: 

“We are looking forward to working with a new administration that has rightly called for closer partnership between business and government to deliver economic growth.  It feels like a fresh chapter and a chance to move away from the increasingly disconnected and heavy-handed approach of the previous Government towards a closer and more collaborative working partnership with Labour.  

Labour has pledged to support business with a stable policy environment and an approach to business taxation that allows long-term planning. We agree and are calling on new Ministers to stick to these principles for then lifetime of the new Parliament – starting with making permanent the temporary easement for wine duty and delaying the ‘Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)’ scheme to ensure it is fit for purpose. The new Government needs to demonstrate quickly its commitment to deliver the stability that they have promised for business by answering calls from our industry for support, partnership and clarity. 

As a trade body, we are here to help facilitate achievable policy change, working hand-in-hand with a Labour Government. We want to work in close partnership with Ministers and government officials to deliver economic growth, improved environmental outcomes and greater social responsibility.” 

From 1 February 2025 a single amount of duty paid on wines between 11.5 -14.5% abv – currently £2.67 – will be replaced buy up to 30 different payable amounts from £2.45 – £3.10 per bottle.  

The new measures – devised and brought in by Rishi Sunak when he was Chancellor – have been described as “un-administrable” and “sheer lunacy” by WSTA members 

They would come on top of the largest alcohol duty hikes in almost 50 years, introduced by the Conservative Government in August last year, and which added an inflation-busting 20% to excise duty on almost all wines on the UK market, and more than 10% to duty paid on spirits.  

Following those duty increases, sales volumes have declined, alcohol inflation is running at nearly three times the headline rate – while revenue from duty receipts has declined in the last seven months.  

Miles Beale added: “Retaining the easement would do exactly what Labour has promised for a new business tax regime: it puts a stop to chaos and delivers a strategic approach.” 

Another key issue for WSTA members over recent years has been on reducing that impact of packaging waste.  

The industry accepts the principle that ‘the polluter pays’ i.e. those placing packaging waste on the market must pay for the collection and recycling. 

An ambitious package of measures has been set out under its umbrella policy of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and the WSTA wants to work with the new Government to ensure the regime is fit for purpose, with realistic timeframes for implementation. 

Businesses in the UK are already under obligations under EPR, yet much of the detail needed to help businesses plan and budget for the new rules, set by the previous Government, has not yet been issued.  

The publication of business-critical information on indicative modulated fees was delayed by the General Election, while the timetable for introducing the new regime remains October 2025. There is simply not enough time for businesses to prepare nor for the necessary infrastructure and systems to be introduced.  

The WSTA is calling for the scheme to be delayed, and no firm date proposed for its introduction until a clear implementation pathway is agreed between Government and business.  

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