Alcohol Strategy is "aggressive" tactic, claims WSTA chief

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: European union, European commission

The Government has taken an “aggressive change of tactics” towards the drinks industry with its plans for Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP), the new chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) has claimed.

Miles Beale , who took on the new role in June, said fighting the implementation of MUP was a “key battle” for the industry.
Speaking at the WSTA annual conference yesterday he said: “It feels very much to me like the Responsibility Deal began in a place where the carrot was  dangled in front of the industry and the industry responded.
“However, an Alcohol Strategy including MUP as a proposal, without a consultation on the principle, looks like a pretty aggressive change of tactics.
“I think the right position to take is to pause and say to the Government we were perfectly happy to respond to the carrot but if you want to bring out the big stick then our co-operation is at least going to pause.”
He urged the industry not to rely on a legal defence in Europe against Scottish plans for MUP claiming it is an “intensely political issue”.  He also urged the industry to think about how it could mount a defence against the implementation.
There are now four official complaints with the European Commission against Scottish plans to implement MUP. These now include  Bulgaria, Italy, Portugal and Spain.
He added: “I am fairly certain the Home Office consultation will be launched in mid-October and then it will try and complete by the end of the year. “
He also raised concern about the knock on impact if a 40p MUP of alcohol were introduced. He said this would lead to MUP increases and predicted this could see the Government considering sugar and fat taxes.
He also warned that the industry is under threat from the Government in more than one way with increased taxation and duty stamps now being considered.

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