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Scotch Whisky

Volume 175: debated on Thursday 28 June 1990

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To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he plans to meet the representatives of the Scotch whisky industry; and what subjects he expects to be raised.

I shall discuss anything that the industry wants, provided that it is within my competence.

Will the Minister discuss the concern of the Scottish Consumer Council about the introduction of the 25 ml measure to replace the existing choice of measures, normally a quarter or a fifth of a gill in Scotland and a sixth of a gill in England? As that would mean a slight increase in the normal measure served in English pubs, but a decrease of about 12 per cent. in the average measure in a Scottish pub, will the Government intervene to ensure the retention of a choice of measures, or at the very least, to ensure that the Scottish punter gets the benefit of at least a 12 per cent. cut in price for the metric short measure?

This appears to be yet another example of the Scots getting more per capita than the English. I shall certainly mention it to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland. Of course, we want to ensure that consumers throughout the United Kingdom have the benefit of the excellent product that is made in Scotland.

When my hon. Friend discusses with the Scotch whisky industry its future, will he draw attention to its splendid record in the export market and to the fact that the quality of its products—worth £1,000 million of exports every year—has been protected by the Scotch Whisky Act 1988? Can my hon. Friend say what stage we have reached with the implementation of that Act and the subsequent orders?

As my hon. Friend will know, because he has taken a strong interest in the matter—indeed, he promoted the Scotch Whisky Bill—the Scotch Whisky Order 1990, which protects minimum strength and defines Scotch, was passed by the House last month, and the spirits Drinks Order, which adds the final touch to the process, is to complete its passage today. That gives the Government an excellent record in protecting and promoting Scotch whisky.

When the Minister meets representatives of the industry, will he discuss with them the difficulties of small independent brewers who, following the Monopolies and Mergers Commission report, expected—

The small independent brewers expected to introduce guest beers into some of the larger breweries' pubs. Will the Minister meet—

Order. The hon. Gentleman is rather wide of the question, which is about whisky, not beer. I hope that he will finish his remarks quickly.

The small independent brewers also wish to retail Scotch. Will the Minister meet his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and ensure that those small independent brewers can sell Scotch whisky and their own beers over the counter in pubs throughout the land?

The hon. Gentleman is clearly used to drinking his Scotch with a beer chaser, even if he had some difficulty in accommodating whisky in his question. I also represent a constituency that has an outstandingly small brewery, which brews the beer "Old Peculier" in particular, and I shall of course ensure that I do my best to protect the interests of the small artisanal beer producer.