I will follow up with several similar questions about dates, so that people have a level of certainty about when they will be expected to comply and when transitional provision will run out. On the temporary provision for wine in clause 115, I understand what the Minister said about how the strength of wine fluctuates depending on the time of the season when the grapes were grown or picked. After the 18 months, what does he expect to happen with this fluctuation? Does he think that wine producers will somehow regularise the alcohol percentage of the wine that they produce? I am not sure how they could do that; they cannot do it by dilution. How exactly might they do that, or does he expect that they will pay different rates depending on the percentage of each bottle? I am not hugely fussed about which he thinks will happen, but it would be interesting to know what the Government expect those wine producers to do.
The case that the Minister has laid out around transitional provision for wine makes sense. I understand that the measure will be brought in fairly shortly and does not give wine producers the time to make seasonal adjustments at this point, but this will give them time to make such adjustments before the end of the 18-month period.
In relation to the temporary provision on cider, my understanding from clause 116 is that the current relief is being extended until the new approvals process comes into place, so those who currently qualify to benefit from relief will continue to do so. The date that has been chosen is the date on which the approvals process comes into force, rather than the date on which the new rates come in. I understand from what was said earlier that the approvals process will come into place later than the rest of the Bill, and I wonder whether there is clarity on how much later. Do we have a date on which the process will kick in? If not, do we have a date for when we will know? That would at least mean that people knew that from September, for example, they would have a level of certainty about when the transitional relief will end and the new approvals process will begin.
Two different sets of dates have been chosen. Clause 120 is about commencement, and there is a level of flexibility built in. Can the Minister confirm when the majority of this part of the Bill will commence, and whether only the approvals process will lag behind? Given the dramatic change from one regime to another and the fact that there might be a significant change in rates—as he has made clear, however, there will not be a significant change in exemptions; only the calculation of rates will be changed—does he expect the new rates to be charged from day one? Let us say he picks
To prevent any fiddling of the rate, is there clarity about when people will pay it? Is there a risk that they might, for example, stop putting caps on bottles for a period of time to ensure that they are subject to the new rate rather than the old one? If so, is HMRC aware of that, and will it ensure that people pay the appropriate rate and can prove they are eligible for that rate?
There is quite a cliff-edge change. The rates will go up dramatically for some people; they will go down dramatically for other people; and for some people they will stay the same. For an awful lot of people, there will be a change. When the new regime comes in, we need to ensure that it is fair and is applied fairly, so that those who go out of their way to try to swizz the system are not allowed to benefit at the expense of those who are being sensible and paying the correct rates when and where they should be.