In a week dominated by tributes to Queen Elizabeth II and reflections on the life of the UK’s longest serving monarch, normal business – both politically and commercially – has been suspended ahead of the state funeral on Monday.
Among the events postponed were the WRAP-led Recycle Week and the launch of UKHospitality’s sustainability strategy. Sector operators, meanwhile, have been forced into making difficult, sensitive decisions about whether to open on the day of the funeral, which has been designated a bank holiday. Center Parcs performed a rapid U-turn after initially announcing that all its villages would close on Monday, requiring guests to vacate their holiday cottages. McDonald’s has said it will close all UK restaurants on Monday, while Hawksmoor set out in a Twitter threadwhy it would be keeping its restaurants open.
Regular parliamentary business has also been suspended at a time when companies are still awaiting details on the government’s energy support package. Following last week’s announcement that businesses will have an equivalent guarantee to the new household price cap followed by targeted support to vulnerable sectors like hospitality, the Federation of Small Businesses said there was not yet sufficient information for small businesses to plan and urged against a “cliff-edge” scenario.
With the chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng, not expected to set out the government’s spending plans until next week business leaders have been forced to restate the urgency of the situation. “We now need absolute clarity as fast as possible as to who will and won’t be helped, depending on the nature of their contracts,” said Dr Roger Barker, director of policy at the Institute of Directors.
One area in which government thinking does appear to be crystallising is over the future of health policies designed to tackle obesity. The Guardian reported on Wednesday that the government could scrap its entire anti-obesity strategy after ministers ordered an official review of measures designed to deter people from eating HFSS (high in fat, sugar and salt) foods. A ban on volume promotions and the prominent positioning of these foods could be reversed along with restrictions on advertising certain products on TV before the 9pm watershed. Even a law requiring calorie labelling on menus, which has been in effect since April, could be scrapped according to the report along with the soft drinks industry levy (SDIL) which has driven significant product reformulation by drinks producers.
Industry groups have been pushing hard for the regulatory burden on businesses to be eased; campaigners however were left aghast by the news. “Scrapping the government’s evidence-based obesity strategy would be disastrous to both public health and also to the many food businesses which have spent years and vast amounts of money preparing for this change in policy,” said Professor Graham MacGregor, chair of Action on Sugar and Action on Salt.
The Obesity Health Alliance said dropping the policies “will not help the cost of living crisis in the short term, and in the long term would lead to serious consequences for our health, our economy and our NHS”. It added that it would be “utterly ludicrous” to scrap the SDIL noting how it has reduced the amount of sugar in soft drinks by 30% without leading to a fall in sales.