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Coca-Cola lobbies Irish health minister on sugar tax, FoIA reveals

A Freedom of Information investigation revealed Coca-Cola has been lobbying Ireland’s health minister James Reilly and  opposing a proposed sugar tax, The Sunday Times has reported.

The proposal aspires to combat obesity and generate revenue but representatives of the company that also owns Fanta, Sprite, Minute Maid and Powerade see it as a discrimination against one type of drink.

The newspaper mentioned France has already introduced a tax on sugary drinks, while Hungary and Denmark have brought in more wide ranging “fat taxes”.

David Cameron’s government is also considering introducing a similar levy in the UK, while the idea of its implementation in Ireland is being considered by an action group set up by the health minister last year.

A spokesman for the health department said: “The minister is very concerned about the high levels of obesity in all age groups of the Irish population.”

One in four Irish children are overweight or obese at three years of age, according to a recent survey by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.

SLC head attacked for tax avoidance

A letter disclosed after a Freedom of Information request to the HM Revenue and Customs by Exaro News and BBC’s Newsnight, exposed the Student Loans Company (SLC) chief’s tax avoidance. According to The Guardian, Ed Lester is being paid via a private service company, saving tens of thousands of pounds in tax by paying corporation tax of 21% on his earnings, instead of an income tax up to 50%.

Universities remain biased

Data released under the Freedom of Information act show that despite Government pressure on universities to become more diverse, state school students with straight A grades are less likely to get accepted to Oxford University than bright teenagers from private schools. The Telegraph also reported that minority ethnic groups had a far lower acceptance rate than white students.

MPs spend over a million on ‘vanity’ art

The Sunday Mirror reported that MPs have spent over £1,1m in the past five years for the maintenance and extension of the Parliamentary Art Collection. Data released under FoIA reveal the expenses include a painting of Tony Blair and a £10,346 portrait of ex-Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell.

Thousands of pounds squandered by the NHS

The Press Association reports that the NHS is spending £60,000 a day on translation and interpretation services. The disclosure follows FoIA requests by the think-tank 2020Health.

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