The competitiveness of the UK spirits industry is in the hands of the government, according to Tony Mair, chairman of the Gin and Vodka Association.

Speaking at last night’s Association dinner for the distilling industry Mair said that taxation and regulation remain the industry’s major concern. "The industry has done much to help itself" said Mair. "But these functions of government cannot be overcome by new product lines, greater use of the Internet or state of the art bottling technology. Competitiveness of companies is, in part, in government hands. What we need is a level playing field and fair competition."

Mair told members that 70,000 jobs in the UK are dependent upon the production of spirits. The gin and vodka industry put £100m into the economy by way of wages and materials. Over £80m has been invested by our companies in modernisation he added "and we spent £12m on UK wheat and barley last year. Gin & vodka are now the largest sector by volume in the UK Market and thousands of acres of UK arable are dependent on our trade."

Tony Mair said that the tax burden on spirits is now at it’s highest for 12 years. For a bottle of cheap vodka, which is mostly bought by the poorest consumers, the tax is over 85%.

He welcomed that it is now accepted that spirits excise tax is close to what the Treasury call the Tax maximisation point. But these new figures point to the pressures being put on the industry especially on small companies producing Supermarket Own label and tertiary brands.