Q&A with David Richardson (DR), Regulatory & Commercial Affairs Director WSTA

By Chris Porter

David Richardson (DR), Regulatory & Commercial Affairs Director at the Wine & Spirit Trade Association (WSTA)
David Richardson

David, thank you for talking with Kukla News.

As ever, much to talk about with you, but especially the proposed changes to the system of duty charging has taken much of WSTA’s energy in these last few months. You have lead the way in spearheading the call for the government to rethink their plans for the intended revision of the duty bandings. Have you been listened to and is the call for a u-turn hitting home?

DR – we’ve continued to argue that these proposed changes, leave aside from the impact of additional duty amounts for higher alc% wines, will be riddled with complexity. Is it fair that different products within a fraction of a percent difference carries a different duty banding to other wines? Is it sensible that HMRC systems required to run this will be more complicated and costly as new software will have to be introduced to administer? In our view, such changes are unnecessary and can only lead to more uncertainty and instability in the collection of HMRC data. This in turn can only lead to further delays and additional costs for importers, our members and ultimately be bad news for their customers, the consumers.

This has been a major headline campaign for a while, with senior industry leaders standing alongside WSTA and using their own influence with contacts and MP’s in government to deliver your message and change minds.

There’s also the issue of the Online Sales Tax – tell us more about that

DR – the thinking behind this is essentially a rebalancing of business rates, our objection here being that it is based on government assumption that on line retailers are making more from their sales. It therefore proposes to further tax online purchases of alcoholic drinks. This could even effect contracts made between two companies for the movement of alcoholic beverage, so it is conceivable that freight forwarders could be targeted with this additional tax, if introduced to apply on-line sales platforms. The online sales tax is only at consultation stage at present but we are monitoring it closely.

You spoken about the Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) which on the surface is a great incentive for the recycling of cans and plastic and glass bottles – how is this progressing?

DR – it’s progressing but there are frustrations which will either impede progress or have an effect on the way the scheme was originally intended, ie £0.20 paid back to the consumer from “reverse vending machines” at sites across the country, where consumers will take their empty bottles to get their refunds.

The scheme will most likely be first to be implemented in Scotland. This now has an added complication with each separate sku now liable for £0.20 on import, to account for the repayment at the end of the bottle/can’s “life”. In addition, we have also now learned that glass will be excluded from DRS schemes in England and Northern Ireland, where the scheme are due to start in 2024.

We will be monitoring this carefully and no doubt further consultations with government, on behalf of our members will be taking place.

Any other messages for our readers please David?

Yes – be alert to cyber-crime ! Conduct regular anti-cyber crime exercises with your staff and wider pool of connections that may work on the same systems. Ensure you and your staff are trained and alert if something they receive on line, messages, scammers, computer viruses.

Make training against cyber crime as regular in your business as a weekly fire drill. It’s the singular most dangerous threat to yours and all our businesses in the current time.

David, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us.

It is obviously as ever a very busy time – you, Miles and all the WSTA team do a fantastic job on behalf of our Trade and the campaigning that is being done to give voice to all UK importers. It seems to us that your role for the industry is more critical than ever. Thank you and we wish you continued success in your work.        

David Richardson (DR), Regulatory & Commercial Affairs Director at the Wine & Spirit Trade Association (WSTA)