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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 January, 2004, 14:06 GMT
Darling in whisky duty warning
Whisky bottles
The scheme was proposed by the chancellor
The Scottish secretary has warned that stamping of whisky bottles will go ahead unless an alternative way of combating duty fraud can be found.

Alistair Darling came under fire over the plan from opposition parties in the House of Commons at Scottish Questions.

Whisky producers claim the move, which was announced in the chancellor's pre-Budget report, could cost the Scottish industry 280m.

Mr Darling said it would be "grossly irresponsible" not to tackle fraud.

No government could put up with a situation where it is losing nearly 600m a year because of fraud
Alistair Darling
Scottish secretary
Chancellor Gordon Brown announced last year that he was prepared to press ahead with the "strip-stamping" plan in the absence of another viable option.

He said that duty was evaded on one in six bottles of Scotch.

Mr Darling said he was "acutely aware" that spirits market fraud had been growing and the plans would proceed if the industry was unable to put forward effective alternative proposals.

Shadow Scottish Secretary Peter Duncan challenged the UK Government to encourage "one of Scotland's most successful trade and revenue generating industries".

He asked why Mr Darling had not opposed the proposal.

Mr Darling said: "The industry is of crucial importance to Scotland and that is why we froze duty for six successive budgets.

'Got rid of it'

"But also, if there is fraud on this scale then we have to do something about it. To ignore it would be grossly irresponsible."

Liberal Democrat Alistair Carmichael said the Scotch Whisky Association estimated stamping would cost the industry about 280m.

He said: "In return for that they will get a system that is so effective that the United States and Greece used to use it and got rid of it, which was considered by Belgium, Germany and Norway and rejected."

Mr Darling said: "No government could put up with a situation where it is losing nearly 600m a year because of fraud.

"That money is extremely useful for investing in services so something has to be done about it."


SEE ALSO:
Brown vows whisky duty action
11 Dec 03  |  Scotland
Anger at whisky stamp plans
10 Dec 03  |  Scotland


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