Restaurants, cafes and pubs will be forced to put calorie counts for the food they serve on menus under government plans revealed in the Queen’s Speech.
The new laws will make it compulsory for hospitality businesses with more than 250 employees to calorie label food in a bid to tackle obesity.
It risks a backlash from the sector which has been one of the hardest hit by forced closures during the coronavirus pandemic, although the government has ditched plans to include drink like pints of beer in pubs.
A briefing note accompanying the Queen’s Speech said: “The government will introduce secondary legislation to require large out-of-home sector businesses with 250 or more employees to calorie label the food they sell.”
UK Hospitality boss Kate Nicholls said the last thing the sector needs after Covid shutdowns is “unnecessary red tape”.
Boris Johnson’s wide-ranging legislative agenda for the new parliament promises to come forward with proposals for reforming social care this year.
But it does not commit to new laws to bring reforms into force, which is likely to provoke fresh criticism as the prime minister has failed so far to follow through on his 2019 pledge to “fix the crisis in social care once and for all with a clear plan we have prepared”.
Johnson’s “levelling up” agenda also remains vague, with plans for a new white paper later this year on improving livelihoods and opportunity across the UK, but no commitment to overarching legislation in this parliament.
Elsewhere, a centrepiece health and care bill will give ministers more power over the accountability of NHS England, ban junk food adverts online and before the 9pm TV watershed, and make it easier for different parts of the health sector to work together.
Commenting on the plans for calorie counts, Nicholls said: “Hospitality businesses share the government’s objectives in tackling obesity and improving public health, but at a time of huge economic uncertainty these new rules must strike a balance and be proportionate,” she said.
“Layering on new costs for businesses in a sector that has been hardest hit by the pandemic risks prolonging their recovery and business’ ability to invest and create jobs.”
James Quinn, of eating disorder charity Beat, said he was “extremely disappointed” with the plans, which come “despite clear evidence it is ineffective and dangerous to people affected by eating disorders”.
A skills bill will give individuals access to four years’ worth of student loans for higher education qualifications at any point during their lives, in order to help people retrain and find new jobs in the changing world of work.
Plans to ban local authorities and other public authorities from boycotting products from certain nations, for example councils boycotting products from Israel, are likely to prove controversial.
Promised new laws to speed up the planning process could also risk a Tory backlash following a rebellion against using an algorithm for deciding where new homes should be built.
The government will also unveil plans to capitalise on new freedoms from Brexit, including laws to govern how public bodies can subsidise businesses now the UK is free from the EU’s state aid regime.
Legislation will also be introduced to underpin the setting up of freeports, which offer tax reliefs for businesses.
Johnson’s plan also includes an environment bill to set new legally binding green targets.
And the government will abolish the coalition-era fixed-term parliaments act to put the power to call elections back in the hands of the PM.
Laws to require voters to produce photo ID when casting their ballots are likely to be the focus of a battle in the months ahead.
A controversial bill to curb the right to protest will also return, including powers to crack down on demonstrations that are too noisy.
An online safety bill will require tech giants to tackle illegal content on their platforms.
Plans to give regulators the power to fine universities or students’ unions in England if they fail to protect freedom of expression will be put into law.
The Queen’s Speech also proposes a US-style register of foreign agents to help counter espionage and influence from hostile governments.
In an introduction to the speech, which contains 25 new bills and five pieces of legislation carried over from the last parliament, Johnson said: “We must harness the ingenuity and resolve that has been revealed in the struggle against Covid-19 and use it to create a stronger, healthier and more prosperous nation.
“We have been given an historic opportunity to change things for the better, level up opportunities across the whole of the United Kingdom, and address the problems that have constrained us far too often before.”