Get involved: send your pictures, video, news and views by texting TANEWS to 80360, or email
Tax hike on fizzy drinks 'unfair on poor' say Bradford MPs
9:00am Tuesday 19th February 2013 in News
Calls for a 20 per cent hike in the cost of sugary drinks to tackle Britain’s obesity crisis drew strong criticism from some Bradford MPs last night.
Both Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs said the proposal, put forward by doctors, was an unfair attack on individual choice and would hit the poor.
But Labour’s Gerry Sutcliffe backed the move, pointing out that it mirrored his party’s plan and was essential to cut the ballooning cost of obesity to the NHS.
The MPs spoke out after The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges demanded action from the Government, the NHS, local councils, food firms and parents.
It warned of the desperate need to break the cycle of “generation after generation falling victim to obesity-related illnesses and death”.
One in four adults in England is obese, with the figures predicted to rise to 60 per cent of men, 50 per cent of women and 25 per cent of children by 2050.
The central recommendation in a ten-point action plan was a 20 per cent tax on sugary soft drinks, with the £1bn raised spent on weight management programmes.
But Philip Davies, the Tory MP for Shipley, said: “I don’t agree with finding more and more imaginative ways to increase taxes on people who are struggling with the extortionate cost of living.
“You start off with fizzy drinks, then it will be fish and chips, then curries, then pizza and, before you know it, virtually everything will be taxed.
“I think we should give people the information so they can make their own minds up about what to eat and drink. It’s their lives and that’s a decision for them to take.”
That criticism was echoed by David Ward, Liberal Democrat MP for Bradford East, who said: “I don’t agree with this. It smacks of the nanny state.
“Once you go down this road, you end up in a difficult place where the next thing might be charging people who end up at A&E with alcohol in their bloodstream.
“Or perhaps people who are overweight won’t receive equal treatment in the NHS? Or people who won’t quit smoking?
“I think the answer to this problem – and it is a big problem – is good parenting and better education, rather than increasing tax, which will hit poor people rather than the better-off.”
But Mr Sutcliffe, the Bradford South MP, said: “Labour raised this issue a month ago, because we all have to be concerned about the obesity problem.
“It is matter of choice and we would need to look at the detail of the proposal, but I think people will respond to attempts to push them towards healthier eating.”
Mr Sutcliffe accepted there was a danger of a sugar tax hitting the poor harder, but he added: “We would need to work with the industry to see what could be done about that.”
The report also called for limits on fast food outlets near schools, more bariatric surgery, better food in hospitals and a ban on TV advertisements for fatty foods before the 9pm watershed.