Parting is such sweet sorrow according to the Bard of Avon. But at least I can exit the wholesaling stage on a happy note as I head for that state of dignified obsolescence generally known as retirement.

Two things happened around Budget Day that put a spring in my heel and confirmed my belief in the resilience and long-term future of the wholesaling industry. The first of these was a terrifically successful Annual Conference of the Federation of Wholesale Distributors that took place at the Forest of Arden Hotel in Warwickshire. Readers will find comprehensive coverage of the two-day event elsewhere in this issue of ProWholesaler (see pages 29-31).

It would be invidious to single out any individuals from within the impressive line-up of speakers, but their collective voice sent forth a powerful message that our industry is well and truly alive and kicking – even in these difficult financial times.

The other good news was buried deep in the Budget itself and announced Government moves to get rid of the persistent problem of duty fraud on alcohol.

This canker that leeches money away from the legitimate wholesale trade increased with a vengeance last summer after having abated for almost a year. The FWD quickly alerted HM Revenue Customs to the renewed criminality and engaged in a strenuous lobbying programme to get action to halt the fraud.

It is my opinion that the renewed HMRC strategy for tackling the problem that was published along with the Budget will actually work. The most immediate action sees the withdrawal of the warehousing for export element of the excise drawback system from June 1 this year. FWD has long singled out the abuse of the duty drawback facility as a prime mover of the fraud. Thus I am delighted with this development in particular. Other strong action that should limit diversion fraud has also been promised.

We are now taking part in a series of meetings with HMRC and the rest of the alcohol trade to nail down the details.

Without wishing to sound sanctimonious, it is worth remembering that the FWD’s efforts may not just have saved money for the wholesalers it represents. The Exchequer will also benefit, and so in turn will the general public good.

This then is my last column for Pro Wholesaler as the DG of the FWD, and all that remains is for me to wish my successor well and bid you, dear reader, a fond adieu.

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