State will fight legal challenges to sugar tax, Varadkar says

Soft drinks firms believed to be considering court action against proposed levy to fight obesity

The Government will contest any legal challenge taken against the introduction of a sugar tax, Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar has said. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times.

The Government will contest any legal challenge taken against the introduction of a sugar tax, Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar has said. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times.

 

The Government will contest any legal challenge taken against the introduction of a sugar tax, Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar has said.

It is understood companies that produce soft drinks are considering a legal action against the public health initiative.

“I suppose when you introduce any change, any new tax, or any change to the law, there’s always the risk it could be challenged legally by those who don’t agree with it,” Mr Varadkar said.

“And the job of Government of course is to make sure that any legislation we bring in is robust and there’s a particular role for the Attorney General in doing that and making sure that any legislation that we do put before the Dáil and Seanad is scrutinised...and made foolproof.”

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan is considering the introduction of such a tax in October’s Budget.

A 10 cent levy could yield €100 million for the Exchequer but the industry is strongly contesting its introduction.

Mr Varadkar said he is in favour of a sugar tax personally but said much more was needed to tackle obesity.

“Yeah. I think a sugar tax is a good idea. I don’t think it’s the solution to obesity. A lot of different measures are going to be required to get on top of obesity,” he said.

“My colleague Marcella Corcoran Kennedy has developed a whole action plan around obesity which I think will contain a lot of really important measures that can make a difference and a sugar tax is just part of that.”