LABELLING OF SPIRIT DRINKS (15902/05)
Letter from the Chairman to Lord Bach,
Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Sustainable Farming and Food,
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Your Explanatory Memorandum (EM) dated 20 January
was considered by Sub-Committee G on 2 March.
We note from your EM that this Proposal is still
at a very early stage and may well be changed during technical
discussions at Council Working Groups which were expected to start
some time this month, although no timescale for consideration
had apparently been agreed. We also note that the Department is
carrying out further consultations with interested parties in
the UK about the Proposal.
In the circumstances, we appreciate that the
Government is not yet able to take a definitive position on the
Proposal. For the same reason, we are retaining the document under
scrutiny until further notice.
Your EM states that the Government will be seeking
clarification from the Commission on several issues, but does
not say what they are. We trust that any serious problems for
UK interests which might have been identified in your initial
consultations would have been recorded in your EM. But you have
said nothing about the results of those consultations.
It is impossible for us to tell from the documentation
we have seen so far what effect the Proposal is likely to have
on UK commercial interests, especially important British products
such as Scotch whisky, Northern Irish whiskey and gin. Nor do
we understand how the table of geographical indications in Annex
III might affect UK vodka production. Since the Proposal is being
handled by your Department, rather than the DTI, we also wonder
whether it has any implications for UK agriculture.
Nor does your EM tell us what effect the Proposal
might have on consumers or to what extent consumers representatives
will be included in the Department's latest round of consultations.
We attach particular importance to this aspect.
More generally, it is not clear to us how the
Proposal will change the existing Regulations or what the technical
implications are. We therefore cannot judge whether it is likely
to be a worthwhile improvement on existing legislation.
Your views on whether the Comitology procedures
which the Committee propose to introduce are likely to be appropriate
and effective would also be appreciated.
We will expect to have a progress report at
a suitable stage in the negotiations and would be glad if you
would ensure that it covers all the points mentioned above.
2 March 2006
Letter from Lord Bach to the Chairman
Thank you for your letter of 2 March concerning
the above proposal which is still at a very early stage. As you
note in your letter, there will be changes during the technical
discussions at Council Working Groups, the first two of which
took place on 3 and 17 March, with the next one scheduled for
Since the Explanatory Memorandum was submitted
to you on 20 January, Defra has received a number of detailed
technical comments from the industry and some more general ones.
These mainly cover points of clarification, on the relationship
between the (horizontal) labelling Directive (2000/13/EC) and
the specific labelling requirements in the proposal and on the
status of the technical file that needs to be submitted to the
Commission for existing and new geographical indications, such
as Scotch Whisky and Plymouth Gin. However, there are no real
problems for the UK as the proposal in most instances retains
the status quo with the current rules, Where the rules
are different our industry do not see any major problems for them.
The proposal, as it currently stands, is likely
to have no adverse effects on UK commercial interests, since it
meets the needs of UK Industry, in relation to Scotch Whisky,
vodka, whisky in general and gin. However, the definition of London
Gin will need to be altered to bring it in line with the definition
recently agreed by the European Spirits Producers Organisation
(CEPS), which is not expected to cause any problems for other
Member States and is supported by our industry. The main impact
on UK commercial interests is that part of the proposal requiring
vodka producers to label their products with the raw materials
used. Initial soundings from the industry suggests that the overall
costs of this will be modest (around £0.6 million for a vodka
industry worth £l.7 billion).
The impact of the proposal on UK agriculture
is likely to be nil, since the definitions of the key spirits
produced in the UK remain unchanged over those currently set down
in EC law.
As far as the effect of the proposal on consumers
is concerned, this is expected to be minimal. The proposal aims
to improve clarity for consumers in terms of labelling, something
the Government welcomes. The only significant proposed change,
ie the requirement to label vodka with its raw materials, should
help consumers make a more informed choice about the type of vodka
they wish to buy, so should be welcomed.
As far as existing Regulations go, the proposal
is primarily designed to organise existing rules in a clearer
way, whilst at the same time update certain aspects to account
for technological developments. It also, importantly, updates
the existing Regulations regarding WTO compliance and Trade Related
Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) in relation to the registration
of geographical indications (GIs) and the requirement for all
GIs to be supported by a technical file. This will make it easier
for Member States to register new GIs and will provide a more
legally robust protection for Gls.
The UK takes the view that the proposed Comitology
changes are useful and worthwhile since they will enable Member
States to get technical and other changes into EC law more quickly
than at present. In a sector known for innovation, this will be
a valuable tool in recognising new products. This should be of
benefit to both consumers and producers.
I will ensure that you have a progress report
on this dossier at a suitable stage in the negotiations.
9 April 2006
Letter from the Chairman to Lord Rooker,
Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural
Lord Bach's letter to me dated 9 April was considered
by Sub-Committee G on 11 May.
We welcome the Government's assurance that this
essentially technical revision of the existing regulations presents
no significant problems for UK industry or consumers and should
bring some welcome improvements.
That being so, we are prepared to release this
document from scrutiny so long as it is clearly understood that
if further negotiations produce significant changes to the present
text they would have to be submitted for fresh Parliamentary scrutiny.
It would be appreciated if you could report to us for the record
when the new Regulation is finally adopted.
12 May 2006