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Bibendum chief slams all in the trade yet to support Call Time On Duty campaign

Published:  03 February, 2014

Michael Saunders, Bibendum's managing director, has spoken out strongly against those in the trade that have yet to get behind the WSTA-led Call Time on Duty campaign.

He said it was vital everyone in the trade did their bit and write to their local MP to put pressure on the Chancellor to remove the duty escalator in this year's Budget.

The WSTA has teamed up with the Scotch Whisky Association and TaxPayers Alliance to urge both the trade and members of the public to lobby their local MP to put pressure on the Chancellor to freeze the duty escalator on wine and spirits in this spring's Budget following his decision to do so on beer last year. The move would, according to WSTA figures, raise £230m in extra revenue and create 6,000 new jobs.

"We have got a very good campaign going. It is going incredibly well. But everyone has to write to their MP as they are the ones that will make the difference. You have to do it and you have to do it now.

"Anybody who works in our industry who has not written to their MP are bonkers, frankly," argued Saunders.

Even if the trade's efforts founder at this year's Budget, added Saunders, it was vital everyone plays their part in making the argument to the Treasury now so that the duty escalator is not re-introduced again next year after it ends in the 2014 Budget.

"Let's be realistic in our expectations. This is the last year of the duty escalator and we must stop it coming in again in 2015."

He confirmed to that a large number of Bibendum staff have all written to their local MPs calling on their support.

It has also taken up Harpers challenge and sent out the letter that Harpers and the WSTA have drafted letter to all its wine producers around the world calling on them to write to the Chancellor stating they may be forced to "call time on the UK" if the duty strategy does not make it more profitable to sell their wines here.

But worryingly, he stressed, a large number of MPS have replied to Bibendum staff with a standard letter stressing the economic pressure there is on the country when it comes to alleviating the duty burden on the industry.

It has now drafted a letter, in conjunction with the WSTA, for staff to send back to their MP to complain that they had not read their initial letter properly and stress the fact a freeze in the duty escalator will actually raise £200m and save 6,000 jobs.

He also slammed those major wine companies in the trade that are still not members of the Wine & Spirit Trade Association, that is spearheading the campaign. He felt it was unfair that they could ultimately benefit from the actions of those companies prepared to invest and join up and give their support to the industry's lobbying efforts.

"Our industry has to support the WSTA and it is really frustrating to me that a number of companies that will benefit from our work are not a member. We have got a great chief executive in Miles Beale, and we have to support him."

"Some of my well known competitors are not supporting the WSTA and it is wrong."

He said he was pleased the wine sector was "holding hands" with other interested groups like the Scoth Whisky Association and the TaxPayers Alliance to talk "with one voice" as there was such a "strength in collective behaviour".

Saunders was speaking ahead of a major interview about himself and his strategy for Bibendum which will be published to all Harpers subscribers on Friday in both the new issue of Harpers and on