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Spirits Duty

Volume 606: debated on Tuesday 1 March 2016

7. What assessment he has made of the effects on the economy of the reduction in duty on spirits announced in the 2015 Budget. (903821)

The 2% duty cut at the March Budget 2015 continues to support the 296,000 people across the sector, including such distilleries as Highland Park in the right hon. Gentleman’s Orkney and Shetland constituency.

The Minister will recall that, last year, the Red Book estimated that the cuts in alcohol duties would lead to a reduction of £185 million in revenue. In fact, from April 2015 through to January 2016, we have seen a £190 million increase in revenues. Will he therefore look very carefully at the request from the Scotch whisky industry for a further 2% cut in spirits duties this year?

I know how much the sector values the cut in the duty—it was the first since 1996—and it is great to see the industry in good health, with the number of distilleries and exports to other parts of the world growing strongly. I have received representations from the Scotch Whisky Association among others in relation to the upcoming Budget.

Any changes or reductions in spirit duty will impact on the market for other drinks, such as beer. I draw the House’s attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests, but this Government and this Chancellor scrapped Labour’s hated beer duty escalator and cut beer duty three times, which led to more beer sales and more revenue for the Treasury, and which saved hundreds of pubs. Will he continue that support in future?

My hon. Friend speaks in exactly the right spirit. He is the representative of Burton, the home of beer, and nobody has done more to advocate for that important British industry. The Budget is on 16 March. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor makes any and all changes to any duties at such fiscal events.

Scotch whisky is the biggest net contributor to UK trade in goods. Without it, the UK’s trade deficit would be 11% larger. Manufacturers across Scotland, including Spey in my constituency, that have experience of exporting know that domestic rates of tax have an impact on the attitude of international markets. What consideration has the Chancellor given to industry calls to reduce the excise in the upcoming Budget?

My right hon. Friend the Chancellor is always very alive to representations from the Scotch whisky industry. Of course, that product accounts for some 25% of UK food and drink exports. Japan has been a strong export market for the sector, but others have not worked out so well. We continue to listen to what that important sector has to say.