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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 December, 2003, 10:15 GMT
Brown vows whisky duty action
Gordon Brown
Mr Brown said he wants to eliminate fraud
The chancellor has vowed to introduce new measures to plug the leaks in gathering duty on Scotch whisky.

Gordon Brown stressed that he would only press ahead with a stamping plan for bottles if no better method could be proposed.

Industry leaders and opposition parties have warned that introducing stamping would mean costly changes to production with no guarantee that it would work.

Under the "strip stamping" scheme all bottles of spirits would carry a stamp to prove that taxes and duties have been paid.

We will be working hard to convince the Treasury that tax stamps would be a backward step
Gavin Hewitt
SWA chief executive
Mr Brown said he would continue discussions with the industry on options for tackling fraud but too many bottles were still escaping duty.

He told BBC Radio Scotland: "I don't want to have to introduce stamping if I can avoid it, but if we have to do so, we will do it, so we can eliminate fraud that is unfair to other taxpayers and unfair to people who have to pay the duty.

"If we can find a better solution that eliminates much of this fraud, then we will take it.

"But if we can't, I wanted to signal that we will take what is a difficult and necessary step if we have to do so, to eliminate fraud that is taking too much revenue and is unfair to other taxpayers."

'Unnecessary move'

The Scotch Whisky Association said it was committed to stopping fraud but stamping had not worked in other countries.

Chief executive Gavin Hewitt said: "We will be working hard to convince the Treasury that tax stamps would be a backward step damaging productivity and competitiveness and that alternative, more risk-based measures would be more effective."

Nationalist MPs at Westminster and Tory MSPs at Holyrood both tabled parliamentary motions over the tax stamp move.

Cross-party opposition saw off this daft proposal before, and I hope that we can get a head of steam up against it again
Angus Robertson
SNP MP
The Scottish National Party (SNP) motion denounced the stamp plan as "fundamentally flawed" and claimed that tackling high levels of duty on Scotch would be a better policy.

Angus Robertson, SNP MP for Moray, said: "Cross-party opposition saw off this daft proposal before, and I hope that we can get a head of steam up against it again."

At Holyrood, Tories tabled a motion urging the executive "to make representations" to Westminster over what would be an "ineffective" plan.

Tory MSP Murdo Fraser said: "When we raised this in the Scottish Parliament last year, we found wide support across the parties.

"I hope this is the case again, so a clear message can be sent from Scotland to the chancellor that this move is unnecessary, unwanted, and unwarranted."


WATCH AND LISTEN
Chancellor Gordon Brown
"If we can find a better solution that eliminates much of this fraud, then we will take it"



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