How long will it be before we ban fast food?

You can't have that. You're far too fat.

Soon, it seems, we will no longer be able to do anything that's bad for us. A hospital chief in Cambridgeshire has said that he would like to ban fast food from the hospital site, but is currently "contractually shackled" to provide it. Once free of the contract however (not until 2024), the hospitals will remove anything deemed too "unhealthy" despite a high level of customer demand.

At the moment the hospital offers a number of healthy food options to staff, visitors and patients using the food court and currently people are able to choose from a wide range of food options, from various reports it seems that the hospital’s Burger King outlet is the most popular of food choices available.

The hospital boss Dr McNeil has said that he wants to send a clear message on healthy lifestyle and healthy eating, and has said the hospital is in discussions to remove the Burger King from the food court.

While we have gotten used to the idea of being told whether or not we can smoke in public it seems we need to get used to being told what we can and cannot be allow to eat in certain public places as well. Could this be the first step in "unhealthy" foods (arguably any food eaten in excess) being banned from general accessibility for the public?

While this may prove healthier for patients it reinforces the already well-established fear that we are becoming a society that finds it easier to ban things than educate people of their detrimental effects, ultimately removing their right to a freedom of choice in what they eat.

We need to look past the short term effects if the ban to how it will affect our society. No one wants to live in a country in which people have decisions made for them and are not given the trust and freedom to make the choice themselves.

The key point here is that forcing people to be healthy won’t make them healthy. Removing just one option which is perceived to be worse than others will only encourage the take up of faux-healthy options which the hospital will never be able to remove entirely, while still leaving people ignorant of the health risks associated with certain foods and lifestyles.

As is always the way, prohibition is never the answer and will only leave people ignorant of the facts and how to look after themselves, ever more dependant on the state making decisions for them. Health through education and improved long term results should be the looked to over impulse banning and the instant gratification that accompanies it. 

Photograph: Getty Images

Billy Bambrough writes for Retail Banker International at VRL financial news.
 

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Debunking Boris Johnson's claim that energy bills will be lower if we leave the EU

Why the Brexiteers' energy policy is less power to the people and more electric shock.

Boris Johnson and Michael Gove have promised that they will end VAT on domestic energy bills if the country votes to leave in the EU referendum. This would save Britain £2bn, or "over £60" per household, they claimed in The Sun this morning.

They are right that this is not something that could be done without leaving the Union. But is such a promise responsible? Might Brexit in fact cost us much more in increased energy bills than an end to VAT could ever hope to save? Quite probably.

Let’s do the maths...

In 2014, the latest year for which figures are available, the UK imported 46 per cent of our total energy supply. Over 20 other countries helped us keep our lights on, from Russian coal to Norwegian gas. And according to Energy Secretary Amber Rudd, this trend is only set to continue (regardless of the potential for domestic fracking), thanks to our declining reserves of North Sea gas and oil.


Click to enlarge.

The reliance on imports makes the UK highly vulnerable to fluctuations in the value of the pound: the lower its value, the more we have to pay for anything we import. This is a situation that could spell disaster in the case of a Brexit, with the Treasury estimating that a vote to leave could cause the pound to fall by 12 per cent.

So what does this mean for our energy bills? According to December’s figures from the Office of National Statistics, the average UK household spends £25.80 a week on gas, electricity and other fuels, which adds up to £35.7bn a year across the UK. And if roughly 45 per cent (£16.4bn) of that amount is based on imports, then a devaluation of the pound could cause their cost to rise 12 per cent – to £18.4bn.

This would represent a 5.6 per cent increase in our total spending on domestic energy, bringing the annual cost up to £37.7bn, and resulting in a £75 a year rise per average household. That’s £11 more than the Brexiteers have promised removing VAT would reduce bills by. 

This is a rough estimate – and adjustments would have to be made to account for the varying exchange rates of the countries we trade with, as well as the proportion of the energy imports that are allocated to domestic use – but it makes a start at holding Johnson and Gove’s latest figures to account.

Here are five other ways in which leaving the EU could risk soaring energy prices:

We would have less control over EU energy policy

A new report from Chatham House argues that the deeply integrated nature of the UK’s energy system means that we couldn’t simply switch-off the  relationship with the EU. “It would be neither possible nor desirable to ‘unplug’ the UK from Europe’s energy networks,” they argue. “A degree of continued adherence to EU market, environmental and governance rules would be inevitable.”

Exclusion from Europe’s Internal Energy Market could have a long-term negative impact

Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Amber Rudd said that a Brexit was likely to produce an “electric shock” for UK energy customers – with costs spiralling upwards “by at least half a billion pounds a year”. This claim was based on Vivid Economic’s report for the National Grid, which warned that if Britain was excluded from the IEM, the potential impact “could be up to £500m per year by the early 2020s”.

Brexit could make our energy supply less secure

Rudd has also stressed  the risks to energy security that a vote to Leave could entail. In a speech made last Thursday, she pointed her finger particularly in the direction of Vladamir Putin and his ability to bloc gas supplies to the UK: “As a bloc of 500 million people we have the power to force Putin’s hand. We can coordinate our response to a crisis.”

It could also choke investment into British energy infrastructure

£45bn was invested in Britain’s energy system from elsewhere in the EU in 2014. But the German industrial conglomerate Siemens, who makes hundreds of the turbines used the UK’s offshore windfarms, has warned that Brexit “could make the UK a less attractive place to do business”.

Petrol costs would also rise

The AA has warned that leaving the EU could cause petrol prices to rise by as much 19p a litre. That’s an extra £10 every time you fill up the family car. More cautious estimates, such as that from the RAC, still see pump prices rising by £2 per tank.

The EU is an invaluable ally in the fight against Climate Change

At a speech at a solar farm in Lincolnshire last Friday, Jeremy Corbyn argued that the need for co-orinated energy policy is now greater than ever “Climate change is one of the greatest fights of our generation and, at a time when the Government has scrapped funding for green projects, it is vital that we remain in the EU so we can keep accessing valuable funding streams to protect our environment.”

Corbyn’s statement builds upon those made by Green Party MEP, Keith Taylor, whose consultations with research groups have stressed the importance of maintaining the EU’s energy efficiency directive: “Outside the EU, the government’s zeal for deregulation will put a kibosh on the progress made on energy efficiency in Britain.”

India Bourke is the New Statesman's editorial assistant.