MPs representing several vineyards within their constituencies emphasised the contribution that the UK wine industry makes to the rural economy through tourism, employment, tax and wine sales, all of which are set to increase revenue to the Exchequer as the industry continues to grow.
The debate was led by Neil Parish MP, the UK wine industry’s ‘champion’ and chaired by Edward Leigh MP. George Eustice MP, minister for farming, responded and shadow minister for farming and rural affairs Mary Glindon MP also stressed the need to actively support the industry to achieve even greater success.
Sussex MP Tim Loughton, who is chair of the All Party Parliamentary Wine & Spirit Committee, urged MPs to buy more English wine. He said: “We need to lead by example. Every embassy around the world should be serving, as the normal staple, English wine and sparkling wine. The Foreign Office should make the supply chain for that much easier. It is crazy that the House of Commons bar does not regularly serve an English wine.”
With exports increasing and becoming a strong part of the industry’s volume growth, more support was urged to include tariff-free access to markets, seeking trade with other nations and protecting the name of English wine and English sparkling wine.
Several MPs highlighted the potentially punitive tax system on English wines and how producers should be offered more help to grow their businesses by giving them tax concessions and help on planning. It was suggested that English producers, as relatively small operations, should be entitled to a staggered system on duty payments along the lines of the cider industry or smaller breweries. Additionally, the reduction of duty on wine was requested - in the last budget wine saw a duty rise, in complete contrast to that on all other alcoholic drinks categories where duty was lowered.
Other support called for more investment in training and skills to help realise growth and help to promote English wines in the domestic market. Further calls asked to examine how to continue to protect the geographical status of English wine, particularly as the UK looks at its future post Brexit.
Commenting on the debate, CEO of the United Kingdom Vineyards Association, Barry Lewis said: “It was a very positive debate and much was raised. It was very encouraging to see the level of knowledge those MPs who represent wine businesses in their constituencies have, and to have the minister outline how the government is already working with our industry. We need to ensure we continually raise awareness about our industry and its growing contribution to the economy and jobs.”
English Wine Producers chairman Simon Robinson added: “Much of what was raised can be achieved very easily such as encouraging MPs themselves to support our industry, getting more wines in to the Houses of Parliament and served at more Commons receptions, and urging all embassies to serve English wines.”