HC Deb 08 February 1972 vol 830 cc1118-9
5. Mr. George Cunningham

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will introduce legislation to require that the label on bottles of blended whisky should state the percentages of malt whisky and grain whisky, respectively, in the blend.

Mr. Anthony Stodart

No, Sir. Such percentages might be misconstrued. The quality of a blended whisky depends on the quality and character of the single whiskies in the blend and the skill of the blender.

Mr. Cunningham

What the hon. Gentleman said goes without saying, but will he not look further into this matter? Does he not realise that the long-term future of British whisky exports depends on an understanding of the value of the great malts? Would not a provision such as I am suggesting help to educate the people in this country and abroad to understand the unique contribution which Scottish malts can make as against Japanese grain whisky?

Mr. Stodart

What I said in my reply needed saying as a tribute to the skill of the blender. Malts differ in quality, character and compatability. A blend of 35 per cent. of some malts and 65 per cent. of grain, if skilfully blended, would make a better whisky than 50–50 of each.

Sir G. Nabarro

Would my hon. Friend bear in mind that the greatest service he can perform to aid and further expand Scottish whisky exports is to advise the Chancellor of the Exchequer to reduce the exhorbitant duty on the home market thereby enabling us to consume more?

Mr. Stodart

I have already paid tribute to my hon. Friend's obvious interest in beer. It cheers me to know that he is so interested in whisky, too.

Dr. Dickson Mabon

May I ask the Minister to make plain to my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South-West (Mr. George Cunningham) that there is no such thing as British whisky. There is only Scottish whisky in the sense in which the Question is asked. Would he also make it clear that, in resisting any attempt at such legislation, the decision made by the Royal Commission which was accepted by everybody in 1909, resulting from the legal action in 1905 of the Islington Borough Council, is sufficient for us all to rest content?

Mr. Stodart

I thought I heard the hon. Gentleman, in his ebullience, refer to Scottish whisky. I prefer merely to refer to it as Scotch.

Mr. Mackie

Am I right in saying that whisky cannot be labelled Scotch whisky unless it contains malt? If that is the case, should there not be a minimum?

Mr. Stodart

No, Sir, the hon. Gentleman is wrong. Scotch whisky is whisky distilled in Scotland.