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22/03/20 00:01

Flexibility on alcohol rules needed

Supporting drinks manufacturers to respond to Covid-19.

Finance Secretary Kate Forbes has written to Chancellor Rishi Sunak calling for greater flexibility on alcohol tax and regulations for alcoholic drink manufacturers that are now looking to produce hand sanitiser in response to Covid-19.

In the letter Ms Forbes has urged for priority and support to be given to companies who have offered to make hand sanitiser for the NHS and frontline staff.

The full text of the letter reads:

Dear Rishi

In this time of uncertainty and national crisis, I am heartened by the many generous offers of support from organisations and industries who believe they can help the NHS. There are, for example, offers from the producers of alcoholic drinks, to turn their focus and activities towards the provision of hand sanitiser, and this is my reason for writing to you.

Given the exceptional circumstances the country is facing and the need to protect our key workers at this time, we would like to see the greatest flexibility applied – where it is clear that alcohol is being provided for the purpose of hygiene, sanitisation and medical use it should not be subject to excise or tax as a default.

I want to see priority being given to supporting, processing and approving applications from companies who have offered to support the supply and manufacture of hand sanitiser to the NHS and other key frontline staff. For organisations who do not usually operate in the area of healthcare, there are many questions around overcoming regulatory barriers, as well as ensuring excise duty is not due on key ingredients, such as alcohol, when supplied for this purpose.

I understand there are a number of Excise Notices (473 and 47) which provide guidance, if this could be collated to one place, and additional support offered to companies navigating the system, this would be beneficial in speeding up processes and ensuring applications you receive are accurate and can be dealt with speedily.

I hope you agree the fewest barriers possible should be in place to support the Covid-19 response.

KATE FORBES