Schoolgirl takes on Andrew Neil in debate about sugar tax

In the unveiling of the UK’s budget earlier this week, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne announced a sugar tax on soft drinks that would be imposed in two years’ time in order to combat rising obesity.

In a discussion about the tax before it was announced on the CBBC programme All Over the Workplace, 10-year-old schoolgirl Charlotte took a jab at the Scottish presenter and long-time journalist, Andrew Neil, suggesting that maybe he was not “educated properly enough about health and wellbeing.”

Neil had described the sugar tax as simply another example of the workings of a nanny state, with the “government trying to tell you what to do.” While acknowledging this as the truth, young Charlotte then brought up the undeniable success of the law where wearing seat beats was made compulsory. She questions Neil if he remembers this move on 31 January 1983.

“It wasn’t a popular idea. People didn’t like it. But do you know how many lives it saved a year? Three hundred lives per year because the government did something,” she says.

Neil’s other guest on the show, Henrietta, also 10-years-old, agreed with Charlotte’s view that the tax was justified, saying, “If it’s saving lives and it’s helping the National Health Services, I think we should be told what to do.”

Neil responded by saying that when he was the girls’ age, being told by someone not to do something usually meant that he would try to do it. Charlotte then delivered her jab at Neil, suggesting, “Maybe you weren’t educated properly enough about health and wellbeing.”

With Osborne’s sugar tax, soft drink manufacturers are slated to be taxed based on the volume of the sugar-sweetened drinks they produce or import. This has been estimated to raise about £500m a year, which will go into funding for sports activities in primary and secondary schools.

This move has been met with praise from groups such as Action on Sugar and the Children’s Food Campaign, but has also received significant criticism, with many echoing the sentiments of Neil that the nanny state was taking it too far.