Ministers say tax would be ‘deaf’ after scrapping food czar’s plan

Ministers Say Tax Would Be ‘Deaf’ After Scrapping Food Czar’s Plan

Ministers rejected demands to introduce a new sugar and salt tax on food amid fears it would have been “deaf” to hit consumers with increased taxes amid a cost-of-living crisis.

Environment Secretary George Eustice also insisted the government would not “lecture” people about what they should eat, as it rejected calls to cut meat consumption by a third.

The government has come under constant criticism over its Food Strategy, published on Monday, after it refused to follow a series of recommendations laid out by Henry Dimbleby, co-founder of the Leon restaurant chain.

Dimbleby, the government’s “food czar,” said that while ministers followed more than half of his recommendations, “it was not done with a system-wide view” and the government’s proposals lack too much detail to consider. a policy.

The original strategy was published in July 2020, with a firmer set of proposals published a year later. However, since then, rising food costs, the war in Ukraine and Boris Johnson’s desire to appease rebel MPs with a return to more traditional conservatism have led to the strategy being heavily watered down.

A Cabinet source said I: “We accepted most of the recommendations, but there were some, like the salt and sugar tax, that we knew we wouldn’t accept. There are even more cases as we are now in a cost of living crisis and would be deaf to hit people with new food taxes. ”

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The comments were echoed by the Prime Minister during a visit to a farm in Cornwall, when he said: “What we don’t want to do now is start hitting new taxes on [people] this will only increase the cost of food.

“Of course you have to advocate healthy eating, you have to help people lose weight, there are many ways to do that. The best way to lose weight, believe me, is to eat less.”

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Insiders added that there was a “reshaping” of the strategy in light of the war in Ukraine, which meant that food security was “front and center” in the report.

As such, the document explains how the UK will increase its food resilience in key areas of agriculture by increasing the use of industrial-scale greenhouses to enable the country to grow more products such as tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers.

The pledge to invest £270m to utilize more innovation in agriculture and increase more sustainable farming practices was welcomed by the National Farmers Union, which described the document as a “landmark”.

Plans to increase the number of seasonal workers’ visas by 10,000, mainly focused on the poultry sector, were also welcomed, but lawmakers warned that there were not enough people in the UK under the scheme to harvest fruit and vegetables.

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The decision to reject calls for a tax on salt and sugar was criticized by some Conservative lawmakers in the House of Commons yesterday. They warned that a failure to address the impending health crisis caused by junk food would end up costing the country more.

Former health minister Steve Brine said he was “a little disappointed” by the government’s decision, insisting the soda levy “did not increase costs.” [for] the consumer because the industry has reformulated its products.

“We can kick that into the tall grass, and many will be pleased with what we did, but we are piling obesity, type 2 diabetes and stroke – we are seeing more and more of that in younger people – for the future.

“So certainly, as a publicly funded healthcare system, we have the right, and I would argue the responsibility, not to kick that into the tall grass,” he said.

Tory backbencher Jo Gideon said the strategy “wasn’t bold enough” on the junk food issue.

There are also concerns among MPs about the decision not to accept the recommendation to extend free school lunch eligibility to a greater number of children, given the rising cost of food.

Eustice said yesterday that adding free school meals to the universal credit benefit could create a “threshold” situation for families due to the “gradual and gradual withdrawal” of the benefit over time.

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Sources added that the policy would be “kept under review”, however.

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