Overall I was really pleased with the debate in Westminster Hall, there was a lot said and a lot to digest and, of course, lots to work on.
There were a few things that struck me that we can focus on with immediacy and these were that firstly, we have a proclamation that the Minister and DEFRA are working with us on data collection and pesticides etc., which is very positive. Certainly we have recently met with CRD in York and had some very encouraging discussions, which will be ongoing and, we hope, be extremely useful in the ongoing issues we have where plant protection products are concerned. Further, I shall be meeting with DEFRA soon to discuss how we can take on the role of collecting data on behalf of government and how we might be resourced to do it.
Secondly, we can target a commitment from the Minster on OIV membership in 2020, when we leave the EU. This matter is a critical one in a post-Brexit world and we need to ensure the Minister is clear on that commitment.
Thirdly, we can campaign with our UK Wine Champions in a targeted way to ensure English and Welsh wines are in embassies, the Houses of Parliament shops and cafes. We need them serving at Commons receptions, of which there are lots, every week. No. 10 has been at the forefront of this but ensuring that all parts of Government do their bit is imperative. Several MPs expressed a desire to have a diversity of UK wines hosted at embassy events and functions. We shall ensure we work on a strategy to make that happen.
There is clearly a political groundswell on the issue of misnamed ‘British’ wine and its quality – we can work with that. The MPs were clear on their disdain for ‘British wine’ as a product and its ‘mislabeling’. We will work with Government, through all the channels that we can to address this issue.
As we approach the 50th anniversary of the UKVA early next year I am keen to focus on the industry for the next 50 years. By way of building on this debate and the forthcoming 50th anniversary and doing a piece of work with all involved, from growers to producers, the WSTA, DEFRA and other stakeholders, to produce a forward facing vision for the industry. This vision must have a sense of buy in from Government and parliament to help us as an industry to achieve it, which last week’s debate underlined we would receive anyway.
This statement will take the form of a booklet that will articulate the industries vision for the next 50 years and will be launched at an event in late spring or early summer at the Commons, with ministers. Our Champion in Westminster, Neil Parish MP has kindly agreed to sponsor the event.
In this vision statement we need to articulate our ambitions for the scale of the industry, looking well beyond the 2020 vision (no pun intended) of 10million bottles and 3000 hectares. We need to describe our greater ambitions for the industry and our clear ambitions for quality too – regardless of scale.
As well as providing the industry with something of a roadmap it will illustrate that we are a serious industry with serious potential for growth and contributing to the UK economy.
‘British’ and Duty
Not in any military sense are these two words together but rather they are two key issues that have been widely discussed on the forum since the debate, the question of British vs English the other excise duty. On British vs English we have been clear on this, this name should belong to English and Welsh wines and that made-wines needs a new approach to distinguish its product. As one commentator put it, the world has moved on and we now have our own industry that didn’t really exist when that name was bestowed on made wines from imported juice or must. Commonsense should prevail.
The complexities of the duty issue clearly need to be revisited and I propose to create a sub-group to look at the issue in more detail before developing an industry stance and campaign. Critical to that will be some form of membership survey to look at and develop the thinking in a way that gives an opportunity to consider all the issues. Themes that are clear are a small producer exemption, duty trade-off for reinvestment back into the industry or some form of tapering. It is not a clear-cut issue for all sorts of reasons and will take a time to develop. In the meantime I shall write to the Chancellor and our Champions to press the case for fair treatment for wines.
For this Sub-Group I am seeking experienced volunteers that would be willing to help the Management Committee. Please get in touch if you would like to contribute to this. I will of course be approaching members that are known to have particular skills in this area.
Additionally we are creating a database of those MPs whose constituencies have vineyards to specifically target from time-to-time with info and bulletins. We will also use it and our influential membership to get them to ask questions on other relevant debates that take place, such as on pesticides, climate change, or agricultural diversification and so on. We need to keep applying the pressure on Government and make our presence felt.
Many thanks to you all for all your help, encouragement and contributions.