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Scotch Whisky Exports

Volume 931: debated on Monday 9 May 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade what is the current level of exports of Scotch whisky; and how this compares with the level 10 years ago.

In the 12 months ending March 1977, 93 million proof gallons of Scotch and Northern Irish whisky was exported compared with 42 million gallons in the same period ending March 1967.

Will the Under-Secretary bear in mind the unique qualities of this particular asset as a major dollar earner and source of employment in Scotland? Does he agree that it is time that these unique qualities were protected by the Government? Will he look in particular at the question of single malt whiskies and do everything possible to prevent the export of bulk shipments of this particular brand of whisky, as importers in many countries are now watering it down with inferior local rye whiskies, to the detriment of the good name of Scotch whisky?

I shall certainly look into the matter raised by the hon. Lady. I should point out that in the last five years there has been only a very slight increase in the share of total Scotch whisky exports taken by bulk exports—about ½ per cent. up to 29½ per cent. There is no guarantee that restrictions would promote equal exports of bottled Scotch. In fact, restrictions on bulk ex, ports would probably invite retaliation against bulk imports of other drinks, such as rum and table and fortified wines for bottling here.

Is my hon. Friend aware that for once I agree with everything said by the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mrs. Bain)? Is he further aware that there is great concern among trade unionists in the Scotch whisky trade about the increasing trend towards bulk rather than bottled exports? Will he tell the distillers that that is harming not only employment prospects for workers in the bottling industry in Scotland and elsewhere but the international reputation of Scotch whisky, because many unscrupulous importers are bringing in good-quality Scotch whisky in bulk, mixing it with foreign rubbish, then bottling it and selling it under a Scotch label?

I shall certainly look at the balance of interest here in preserving both the unique reputation of Scotch whisky and employment in bottling it without losing the employment which we get from bottling imported wine and rum.