Sugar Tax

An amendment was placed against the Healthy Weight Strategy by Deputy Hadley to introduce a sugar tax from the beginning of 2017. The Strategy sets out that this will be researched before bringing it in. My speech against the amendment is set out below.

 

Sir, I do urge members not to support this amendment. The policy letter makes it clear that HSSD, Home and Treasury & Resources will investigate the potential  for administration and implementation of a tax on sugar sweetened beverages.

Why do we say that and not go the full hog and do what Deputy Hadley wants?

Well, for a start, the evidence of the effectiveness is contradictory. Yes Deputy Hadley refers to the Cancer UK and UK Health Forum reports which assert the potential to introduce a sugar tax.

A report published by Christopher Snowden of the Institute of Economic Affairs last month raises considerable doubt on the effectiveness of sugar taxes. From research done ono the impact of said taxes in other jurisdictions, the report concludes that;

  1. demand for sugary drinks, snacks and fatty foods is inelastic.
  2. Consumers respond by switching to cheaper brands of the product or shopping in cheaper shops. This leads to the consumption of inferior goods rather than the consumption of fewer calories.
  3. Taxes on sugary drinks leads consumers to switch to other high claorie drinks such as fruit juice, milk or alcohol.
  4. Taxes on energy dense food and soft drinks take a greater share of income from the poor than the rich, exacerbated by low income consumers being less responsive to price changes than the rich.

and finally and perhaps most pertinent here, no impact on obesity or health outcomes has ever been found.

So, faced with that research are Mebers happy to support the introduction of a sugar tax today?

Sir, as I have made clear more than once in this Assembly, I believe in making evidence based decisions. I know that I’m not the only here either. I can’t agree to bring in an indirect tax when its effectiveness is open to question and cant do it on the basis of purely money raising. And on the latter front, we have no idea what could be raised and how much it will cost to administer.

That is why proposition 4 says what it does, that is why we should focu on education and awareness and consider the healthy carrot rather than the stout stick of yet more taxes.

With the creation of an independent body, with the sole purpose of implementing the healthy wieght strategy, it can work.

The strategy to date has hardly been an overwhelming success. More of the same would not represent value for money. We need to engage and partner with others, and that includes in terms of funding. It would be easy saying yes to an extra £250k but we can’t keep on clobbering the taxpayer. We have to think directly.

So, for all these reasons, I urge members to reject this amendment.



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Email: heidi@heidisoulsby.com