Spirits producers have called on their local MPs to support their businesses and reduce liquor tax.
At a virtual UK Spirits Alliance roundtable last week, distilleries and parliamentarians, such as Burnley MP Antony Higginbotham, celebrated the rise in domestic spirits production in areas like East Lancashire .
However, the producers highlighted the current challenges they face, such as the cost of living crisis and an unfair tax system, which currently sees bottles of spirits taxed at 70% via excise duty.
Despite these challenges, one of the big successes has been how distillers have excelled since the pandemic, with numbers in the UK more than quadrupling in the past six years.
Some of these distilleries are also now able to offer tours and tasting sessions again after the pandemic to attract more customers, and while this diversification is a great example of recent innovation in the sector, spirits producers have still need a fairer tax system from the Treasury.
Burnley’s Batch Distillery manager Phil Whitwell said: “It was fantastic speaking to parliamentarians today via the virtual roundtable, like our local MP Antony Higginbotham.
“We are really proud of the products we make and what we do here, so it was great to discuss issues such as taxation and the future to try to gain their support.
“We have now asked Antony to take the message to Westminster that the best way to support businesses like ours across the country is to ensure the government supports minds and producers like me.”
During the meeting, MP Antony Higginbotham pointed out that while the government is good at promoting whiskey, it is not as good as promoting small, world-class distilleries.
He also noted that the tax system must stop punishing small distillers.
Burnley Tory MP Antony Higginbotham said: ‘I really enjoyed the virtual roundtable which gave parliamentarians like us the opportunity to discuss various issues with distillers, who produce spirits that capture the essence from the United Kingdom.
“British Spirits is a British success story that is creating jobs, investment and economic growth across the UK, including my constituency of Burnley.
“I want to see the government supporting spirits producers like Phil in my constituency, as the Treasury seeks to reform the way alcohol is taxed.”
A spokesperson for the UK Spirits Alliance said: ‘It’s great to see MPs across the country acknowledging that spirits are a British success story.
“Hospitality is a huge part of the UK spirits industry, and distillers contribute billions to the Exchequer every year.”
“But we need the Chancellor to support the industry as we reform liquor duties, to build on the Prime Minister’s Queen’s Speech pledge to ‘support producers of Scotch whiskey and gin’ “.”
“This is a unique opportunity to make the alcohol levy system fairer and more representative of modern trends in alcohol consumption.”
The UK Spirits Alliance campaign aims to ensure the government implements a fair duty regime for UK spirits producers, following the closing of the Treasury consultation on the Alcohol Duty Review on January 20 2022.
Initially launched by the Chancellor in the fall 2021 budget, the review aims to simplify a complex tax system.
The Treasury is currently reviewing industry responses to the consultation. The parliamentarians on the call offered their support to local distilleries.