Andy Morton

UK cider a pressing concern for government

By: Andy Morton - 12 September 2013 15:35

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Judge the UK cider industry on the amount of people it attracted to its reception at the Houses of Parliament this week and you would say it is doing very well indeed.

Cider makers, MPs and journalists were crammed in to the Terrace Marquee alongside the River Thames, with conversation nearly drowned out by the cacophony of other voices. 

I did just manage to hear Thatchers' MD, Martin Thatcher, say it was by far the busiest of the bi-annual events he has been to in his decades of attendance, as did Westons Cider's head of marketing, Ian Lewis. 

People, especially politicians, are attracted to successful stories, they were saying, and UK cider has one of the most compelling narratives around - unparalleled growth in the domestic market, coupled with new and growing ventures in Australia and the US. No wonder it was five deep at the bar.

Of course, another reason for the crush may have been the vote in the Houses of Commons on an important piece of legislation that ended just as the cider function got into swing. Governance is thirsty work, after all. 

At the same time, it is interesting to note what the House of Commons vote, just up the stairs, was regarding. Yes, it was the catchily-titled 'Transparency of Lobbying Bill, non-Party Campaigning, and Trade Union Administration Bill', which is aiming to set new rules on political campaigning by non-political campaign groups. Then consider this - all-party parliamentary groups, such as the Parliamentary Cider Group that hosted the event, have been criticised as back doors for corporate interests to sway political opinion, and were partly a catalyst for the Lobbying Bill in the first place.

It is unclear at this point if the new Bill will affect all-party parliamentary groups, and end what has become a twice-a-year tradition for the cider industry. If not, it's safe to assume we'll all meet again next year, and, if cider continues its upwards trajectory, with even less standing room than before.

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