MPs recommend 20% tax on sugary drinks to tackle child obesity

MPs have called for a 20% tax on sugary drinks, more regulation of the food and drink industry and more power for councils to tackle child obesity. 

With its publication of a major new report into child obesity, the influential Health Select Committee has called for “bold action” from the government. 

Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, chair of the Committee, said a third of children leaving primary school are overweight or obese, and the most deprived children are twice as likely to be obese than the least deprived. 

“This has serious consequences for both their current and future health and wellbeing and we cannot continue to fail these children,” she said. “We therefore urge the prime minister to make a positive and lasting difference to children’s health and life chances through bold and wide ranging measures within his childhood obesity strategy.” 

The Health Select Committee’s recommendations include strong controls on price promotions of junk food and drink, taking tougher control on the marketing of these products and introducing a “sugary drinks tax”. 

The influential group of MPs said they support Public Health England’s (PHE’s) call for a tax on full sugar soft drinks, and recommend that it be introduced at a rate of 20% to maximise its impact on purchasing and help to change behaviour. 

“A full package of bold measures is required and should be implemented as soon as possible. We believe that a sugary drinks tax should be included in these measures with all proceeds clearly directed to improving our children’s health,” said Dr Wollaston. 

Dr Alison Tedstone, PHE’s chief nutritionist, said that the evidence is clear that there needs to be a range of measures, including controls on marketing, advertising and price discounts of sugary products and reducing the added sugar in foods and drinks, to help tackle the obesity epidemic. 

The Royal Society for Public Health added that only by tackling childhood obesity “head on” with wide-ranging and effective measures can children be offered the best start in life giving them “every opportunity to live long and healthy lives, regardless of which postcode they are born in”. 

A further recommendation of the Committee is to extend the powers of local authorities to tackle the environment leading to obesity. 

The MPs said that a that a simple way to boost local authorities’ effectiveness in this area would be to change planning legislation to simplify the processes for limiting the proliferation of unhealthy food outlets in local areas, which they heard can be “time-consuming and difficult”. They have recommended that this change should be made. In particular, health should be included as a material planning consideration. 

Impact of cuts 

But council leaders have warned that cuts to public health budgets will have a “major impact” on the many prevention and early intervention services trying to combat child obesity. 

The Local Government Association’s spokesperson, Cllr Izzi Seccombe, said that the key to tackling the obesity crisis, which is costing the NHS over £5bn every year, is investing in prevention. 

“This saves money for other parts of the public sector by reducing demand for hospital, health and social care services, and improves the public's health,” said Cllr Seccombe. 

She added that councils are running fantastic schemes, which are helping to keep children stay healthy, but they “could do so much more with the right resources”. 

Cllr Seccombe highlighted that the difficult cuts announced by the government in last week’s Spending Review – an annual real-term cut of 3.9% in councils' public health budgets over the next five years – on top of a £200m in-year cut already announced this year, will “have a major impact on the many prevention and early intervention services carried out by councils to combat child obesity”. 

But Ian Wright, director general of Britain's Food and Drink Federation, has criticised the report's findings, saying that MPs had “swallowed” the agenda of lobbyists. 

“It's disappointing that the committee has missed its chance to add a robustly independent voice to the obesity debate,” he said. 

The Obesity Stakeholder Group, which includes Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, British Medical Association, Cancer Research UK and the Royal College of Physicians London, backed the calls to combat the epidemic of obesity and its costly consequences for the NHS. 

The Group added that the government is expected to publish its childhood obesity strategy in January, which “we hope will include our key recommendations set out in our joint position”. 


Rob   30/11/2015 at 14:47

I'm sick of this, why should I pay just because fat people don't no when to stop eating. Western society are just like pigs gourging themselves as if there was no tomorrow. We waste as much as 50% of all our food. Your disgusting and you need to use your grey matter.

Michael   30/11/2015 at 16:32

Mary Shelley did write about the medical profession and government with some accuracy when she wrote Frankenstein.

Sean   30/11/2015 at 16:46

@Rob it is not about getting fat. Take for example diabetics and other diseases.

Jackie   30/11/2015 at 16:51

What about asking the drink makers to cut half the sugar chemicals n salts. They put in drinks and what about all the candy on display every where some drinks shouldn't even be passed for human consumption

Martisoundsgood   30/11/2015 at 16:51

This is simply a cynical attempt at soundbite vote catching with the main point of making money that has been lost by people actually quitting smoking and therefore not paying the cigarette duty tax. The right wing talking head opinion in the comments before me is either as gullible as this committee hopes we are ..or paid. This is another way to strip money we don't have from the poor. its good for us to be charged taxes on cigarettes and alcohol and sugary things ..really ..its good for who? for a disgraceful government to raise more money from the ones who just keep losing as the tories strip mine this country down to bedrock.

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