Sugar soft drinks

The sugar levy is being rushed through parliament before the cut-off date for the general election after Labour voiced its full support for the plans. 

Health campaigners had feared the proposals could be delayed or even killed off by the prime minister’s decision to call the snap election, which caused the government to shelve several tax proposals from the Budget today.

But Peter Dowd MP, shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, revealed today that Labour had agreed with ministers the sugar levy would form part of the “abbreviated” measures in the finance bill that passes through parliament this week.

Labour also suggested the levy should in future be widened to other categories in its negotiations with the Treasury, which will decide which elements of the Budget proposals should pass through Westminster before the campaign deadline.

Sources now expect the levy to go through the Commons today and Lords tomorrow, to receive Royal Assent by 2 May - the cut-off date for business to go through parliament before the election.

Dowd told the Commons the sugar levy had “huge support” from the public and he paid tribute to celebrity chef Jamie Oliver who led the campaign for the tax.

The shadow minister voiced hopes that the levy could in future cover other unhealthy foods alongside other measures to target areas such as supermarket multibuys of HFSS products.

Malcolm Clark, director of the Children’s Food Campaign, said: “There’s been a concerted effort by public health charities and campaigners to contact whips’ offices and advisors and ensure that the levy survives the wash-up process. I’m pleased that this looks like having the desired effect.”

Graham MacGregor, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Queen Mary University of London and Chairman of Action on Sugar, said: “We are delighted to hear today’s news that Parliament has approved the sugar tax levy, despite fears last week that it may be shelved until after the general election. We now have the guarantee that the levy will be in place before the next government is formed. This coincides with news that Coco Cola could face a £200m sugar tax from their Classic product alone if it doesn’t step up efforts to significantly reduce sugar content. This tax must act as a key deterrent to ensure all drink manufacturers reformulate with immediate effect.”