The UK Government work closely with the Scotch whisky industry and particularly with the Scotch Whisky Association to assess the industry’s market access needs. As we leave the EU and build our future trade policy, we are also working to ensure that geographical indications are protected and potentially extended around the world.
I am grateful to the Secretary of State for his response, but given the potential trade war with the US, the Government’s strategy to throw in the bin 63 bilateral trade deals when we leave the EU, and reports on both sides of the Atlantic that the three-year designation for Scotch whisky could be removed in any trade deal with the US, what is he specifically doing to protect that vital industry for Scotland and the UK in the Brexit negotiations?
First, the hon. Gentleman will recognise that the industry itself has been very clear that exciting opportunities can flow from trade deals post Brexit. That is what the Scotch Whisky Association has said, but the points he makes are very serious ones. I make sure that they are absolutely at the heart of the Brexit negotiations.
Scotch whisky is hugely important to my Moray constituency. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the most immediate threat to the industry is the possibility that the EU could include bourbon as a counter-measure against US trade tariffs? Therefore, does he agree that we should urge the EU not to include bourbon for fear of the retaliation action that the US could take?
My hon. Friend is a great champion of the whisky industry and raises an extremely serious and important point. I reassure him that I am in direct contact with the Scotch Whisky Association on that issue and will ensure that the points he has made are fully understood within the UK Government and the EU.
The Scotch whisky industry is very important, but does the Secretary of State agree that the construction industry in Scotland is, too. Crummock, a construction firm in my constituency, went bust last week, with almost 300 redundancies. What is he doing to protect construction in Scotland?
I recognise the issues that the hon. Lady raises, because unfortunately a construction company in my own constituency, Graham’s in Langholm, also went into administration last week. There are significant challenges facing the industry and I would be happy to meet her to discuss the specific issue in her constituency.
These dilations are of considerable interest, I am sure, but they are not altogether related to the matter of whisky. I fear that the Secretary of State was drawn away from the path of virtue, to which I know he will now speedily return, aided and abetted by the right hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Theresa Villiers).
I will indeed, and the Secretary of State for Wales would be unhappy if I did not also reference Penderyn, the whisky made in Wales. I can assure my right hon. Friend that I will take exactly that action in relation to all the United Kingdom’s whisky products.
I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. That is why the Scotch Whisky Association and various companies in the industry recognise that there are exciting prospects out there for future trade arrangements, and I see that they have the confidence and the determination to achieve them.