Letter from Michael Saunders

Let’s work together

WSTA chairman says it’s essential for the wine trade to speak with one voice as merchants of all sizes face a torrent of legislation and complication in the coming months

I have a real concern that many in our wonderful industry are not fully aware of, or focused on, the multiple issues we are facing.

The very difficult recent times during the coronavirus epidemic have, quite reasonably, dominated thoughts and business activity. This has not, however, stopped the clock ticking on so many other potential pitfalls.

My ambition as chair is to try and have the WSTA truly represent our industry, allowing us to speak with one voice. This is the only way we will be heard within the corridors of power.

Michael Saunders

Although currently the WSTA has a broad membership, we largely lack the support of the independent retail sector. It may be that membership may be seen to be the preserve of the larger members (who pay the lion’s share of its subscriptions); or membership of the WSTA could be considered an unwarranted cost.

My appeal is for businesses to re-consider their positions. The cost of WSTA subscriptions for smaller businesses are really not much; and the activities of both the team and the Board of the WSTA are carefully considered to support all our members. Over the past few months, we have conducted specific sessions for businesses selling fine wine – and I am pleased to say that a good number have now joined the WSTA, now having true insight into the work we are doing.

Without wanting to pen a long list of immediate concerns, current WSTA activity includes:

  • Ensuring the All-party Parliamentary Wine & Spirit Group inquiry into the pernicious planned VI-1 forms took place last week – and I am very grateful for the support given by Hal Wilson (Cambridge Wine) and James Miles (Liv-ex). Lord Holmes of Richmond has also weighed in with an amendment to the Agriculture Bill. We are fighting hard to see the back of the absurd plans for these forms.
  • Working on all potential pitfalls that Brexit (only five months away now) could bring, in both scenarios of a deal and no deal – and making the Government aware of industry requirements.
  • Advising members on the myriad label changes potentially needed from January 1; and working to ensure understanding by Government of the consequences of the looming complications.
  • Working on an Autumn Budget submission – to follow on from our success in achieving a freeze on wine duty, as well as all spirits duty again, at the last Budget.
  • Preparing for the forthcoming review of alcohol duty, which was in the Conservative Party manifesto and could have unpleasant results for us all.
  • Hosting many webinars on a wide range of industry critical issues (eg Covid, data, import certification, deposit return schemes). These have been very popular with members.
  • Pushing for any future DRS scheme in the UK to exempt glass and to be coordinated (to prevent specific labels for each devolved authority).

All these areas will add yet more cost to our businesses at the worst possible time.

I urge you to join our Association. We need your support. And we need to speak with one loud and clear voice.

Please contact the WSTA on 020 7089 3877 or by email: (Samantha@wsta.co.uk).

July 2020