The House of Lords Science and Technology Sub-Committee’s report, Behaviour Change, is the culmination of a year-long investigation into the way the government tries to influence people’s behaviour.
It says that nudges used in isolation will often not be effective in changing the behaviour of the population and that legislation is often the only way.
Current voluntary agreements with businesses in relation to public health have major failings. They are not a proportionate response to the scale of the problem of obesity and do not reflect the evidence about what will work to reduce obesity. If effective agreements cannot be reached, or if they show minimal benefit, the government should pursue regulation.
Baroness Neuberger says,” There are all manner of things that the government want us to do – lose weight, give up smoking, give blood – but how can they get us to do them? It will not be easy and this inquiry has shown that it certainly will not be achieved through using nudges, or any other sort of intervention, in isolation. But changing the behaviour of a population is likely to take time, perhaps a generation or more, and politicians usually look for quick win solutions. The government needs to be braver about mixing and matching policy measures, using both incentives and disincentives to bring about change. In order to help people live healthier lives, we need to understand much more about what sorts of policies will have an effect on how people behave. And the best way to do this is through research, proper evaluation of policies and the provision of well-informed and independent scientific advice.”