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Scotch Whisky

Volume 519: debated on Wednesday 1 December 2010

6. What recent discussions he has had with representatives of the Scotch whisky industry; and if he will make a statement. (26712)

The Prime Minister’s recent trade delegation to China succeeded in securing geographical indication of origin status for Scotch whisky. How much will that be worth to the UK trade balance?

The importance of the Scotch whisky industry, not just to Scotland but to the United Kingdom, is shown by the fact that it contributes roughly £4 billion to our economy, £3 billion of which is represented by exports. At the moment our exports to China are very small in comparison with those to the rest of the world. This important new concession—this agreement with the Chinese—which we very much welcome, will ensure that we can grow our exports in China as we have done in the rest of the world.

I declare an interest as secretary of the all-party group on Scotch whisky and spirits. What representations has the Secretary of State made to the Treasury in connection with the imbalance in the tax on whisky?

As the hon. Gentleman will know from his distinguished position, the industry is well represented in discussions with the Treasury at all times throughout the year, as it was under the previous Administration. I continue to have discussions with my Treasury colleagues on this very important issue, and will continue to do so in the months ahead.

The Secretary of State will know that only yesterday the Scotch Whisky Association said that the Treasury’s review on alcohol tax was a missed opportunity. Will he confirm to the House today that he will make specific representations to his Treasury colleagues for fair taxation of all alcoholic drinks based on their alcohol content only, and no other spurious issues?

The hon. Gentleman has a distinguished record of following these issues very carefully. He will have made representations, as has the industry. The review was concluded a few weeks ago and will report in due course. As I said in answer to the earlier question, I will continue to discuss these issues with the Treasury.