English Wine Week

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:07 pm on 23rd June 2021.

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Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 6:07 pm, 23rd June 2021

I thank my hon. Friend Andrew Griffith for organising this refreshing debate. It has been a really enjoyable end to today’s proceedings, but it has also raised some important matters, which I will endeavour to go through.

English Wine Week gives us a really good opportunity to come together to celebrate all that is good about English wine, and it is true that the growth in the sector has been phenomenal, with growth of 150% in just 10 years. Other sectors can only dream of such growth.

We have more than 3,500 hectares under vines at the moment, located on 770 vineyards spread across the country. It is great to have representatives of some of them in the Chamber this evening, and not just of Digby and Nyetimber, with whose products many of us are now familiar, but also my hon. Friend Kevin Hollinrake, who talked about Yorkshire’s Lad and Yorkshire’s Lass, my hon. Friend Maria Caulfield, who represents so many great growers, my hon. Friend Mims Davies, who represents Bolney and Kingscote, and my hon. Friend Sir Peter Bottomley, who was here earlier.

It was great to hear from my hon. Friend Tim Loughton, who is also a very experienced wine drinker. It was good to hear his experiences of the great English wine run. I think it is fair to say that, in his lifetime and mine, the reputation of English wine has rightly changed enormously, and he made that point extremely powerfully.

The growth is impressive, but this is very much just the beginning. WineGB predicts that, by 2040, we will be producing 40 million bottles a year and as much as 70,000 hectares could be under vine. Large champagne houses, including Pommery and Taittinger, are working with vineyards and wine producers here, for the climatic reasons that have been rehearsed by my colleagues.

The industry anticipates that, by 2040, the wine sector will account for up to 30,000 new jobs. A significant part of this new economy is tourism, with 150 British vineyards now open to the public. There was a very useful article about that in the Telegraph yesterday, suggesting where people might visit on their summer holidays.

Our excellence in education is also significant. The quality of wine education at Plumpton, which was mentioned, is rightly recognised around the world. I was pleased to talk earlier to the Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Sussex. She told me about a very exciting scheme: the DWP is working with Plumpton on a sector-based work academy in viticulture to produce and train up the workers we need for the future of this sector.

I met WineGB recently to discuss what more the Government can do to support the sector. We continue to work on the application for a new geographical indication for Sussex wine; of course, that is where the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs is. That application is being processed within our new domestic GI scheme, and it is progressing well.

My hon. Friend mentioned the excellent report from the South Downs national park. The writers of that report are prepared to countenance a truly massive expansion of viticulture in the region. Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs officials are taking the report very seriously and will be meeting the report writers next month to discuss how we can take the practical issues forward together.

It is also important to discuss marketing. We are truly a wine-loving nation. The trade is very important to us. By volume, we trade more wine in this country than anywhere else in the world. A fifth of our food imports by value are wine. English consumers clearly love wine, but—I should bring us down to reality—99% of the wine we drink currently is not produced here. We need to come together to boost sales among local consumers, which very much fits with our mantra this year of “Buy British, buy local, buy sustainable”.

I will look at the regulations post Brexit to ensure that they work in the best possible way for this industry. The points about taxation will, I am sure, have been heard by Her Majesty’s Treasury, and it is right that we are looking at how future farming schemes can fit this sector in a way that the common agricultural policy just did not.

We also need to ensure that English and Welsh wine benefits from our work on exports. At the moment, 10% of what we produce is exported, and the food and drink element of the GREAT campaign has made real progress in China, the US and Japan. We will continue to showcase excellent English wine. My hon. Friend and his APPG are right to challenge us on Government hospitality, and I will continue to work with him on that.

I am pleased to say that, in December last year, the UK joined the Organisation of Vine and Wine, which should help us shape the rules around winemaking on an international platform. We are very grateful to both WineGB and the Wine and Spirit Trade Association for working so closely with us on both that and other issues.

I encourage Members across the House to raise a glass this evening to this flourishing sector. I look forward to the day when, as a treat, we no longer have a glass of champagne but we can together have a glass of Sussex.

Question put and agreed to.

House adjourned.