The WSTA had its annual Pre-Budget meeting with the Treasury last week

The WSTA had its annual Pre-Budget meeting with the Treasury last week

The head of the Wine & Spirit Trade Association has admitted that the UK Government's duty escalator is likely to remain in place for the next two years, despite lobbying efforts by the industry.

Miles Beale, the WSTA's chief executive, met with Economic Secretary Sajid Javed last week to argue the case for stopping the controversial measure in next month's Budget. “We were specific that the duty escalator is the biggest barrier to growth and creating jobs for our industry,” Beale told just-drinks today (11 February).

“We would love it to go immediately, but recognise that it's likely to be around for another two years and we'll be coming back (to meet with the Treasury) twice more.”

Beale said Javed played the 30-minute meeting with a “poker face”.

He added: “His (Javed's) ears pricked up at a couple of stats, like that 18% of people employed in the European spirits industry are based in the UK.”

But, Beale added that the key focus for his group is making sure, when the escalator ends in 2014-15, that “it does not return”.

The UK's alcohol duty escalator was introduced in 2008 and sees tax on alcohol increased annually by at least 2% above inflation.

However, the trade chief said he would not be surprised if the Government does announce “something around alcohol” in the Budget. This could possibly be a cut in the VAT rate for drinks and food sold in pubs. “(Prime Minister) David Cameron has talked about wanting to do something for pubs,” said Beale.

Meanwhile, the WSTA boss also revealed he met with health minister Anna Soubury last week to discuss the government's responsibility deal and minimum pricing. Beale described the meeting as “constructive”.

Last month, the WSTA launched a campaign against plans to introduce minimum pricing.