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Your petitions: Malcolm Clark's story

18 November 2016

Malcolm Clark is co-ordinator of the Children's Food Campaign. In September 2015 they teamed up with Jamie Oliver to start a petition that called for the introduction of a tax on sugary drinks. Malcolm discusses the campaign.

The Children's Food Campaign

The Children's Food Campaign wants to see healthier and more sustainable food as available, affordable and advertised as less healthy options currently are. When the Government announced it would be formulating a strategy to tackle childhood obesity, we sought to make the case for brave and bold action.

In September 2015 we teamed up with Jamie Oliver to launch a petition on the new parliamentary petitions website, calling for a sugary drinks tax. Receiving a Government response if we got 10,000 signatures, and the potential of a debate in Parliament if we reached over 100,000 encouraged us to go down this route. Less than 48 hours after the petition was launched, we had exceeded both milestones.

With the petitions process being so new, it felt like uncharted territory … an exciting position, but also a challenge and time-consuming to handle. It was initially frustrating that the Petitions Committee passed on our issue to the Health Select Committee, but actually that turned out to be a real positive.

Childhood obesity strategy

I was invited to give evidence to the Health Committee's inquiry into the childhood obesity strategy. It was my first time being officially 'grilled' by MPs, and I was nervous. But after the first round of questions, it dawned on me that I was the expert in the room, and settled in to enjoying responding to the MPs and making my points.

We continued asking for a Westminster Hall debate, and that was finally granted. In fact we had a double-bill of the launch of the Health Committee's report and the debate on the same day – great for media coverage and for amplifying our key campaign calls, which the Health Committee agreed with. The debate enabled MPs of all parties to speak out publicly for the first time in support of a sugary drinks tax. It also gave us a platform to build on both within and beyond Parliament … which ultimately led to George Osbourne announcing a soft drinks industry levy in the Budget in March 2016 – a commitment which has since been reaffirmed by Theresa May's Government, by putting the measure at the heart of their Childhood Obesity Plan.

Find out more

The Petitions Committee scheduled a debate on the sugary drinks tax petition in November 2015. They also wrote to the Health Committee to draw their attention to the petition. Both Jamie Oliver and Malcolm Clark gave evidence before the Health Committee as part of their inquiry on the Childhood Obesity Strategy. The Chancellor of the Exchequer announced the introduction of a levy on soft drinks in the 2016 Budget. 

Get involved

The Petitions Committee looks back at what your petitions have achieved in its first year as part of UK Parliament Week 2016. UK Parliament Week is a programme of events and activities that connects people with the UK Parliament.

Image: Parliamentary copyright