The House of Lords has voiced its support for the implementation of a traffic light system for nutritional labelling, as it calls for a stronger approach from Government on policies to change consumer behaviour.

The idea that ‘nudging’ on its own is unlikely to change the nation’s behaviour is the main conclusion drawn from the House of Lords Science and Technology Sub-Committee’s report, Behaviour Change, published today.

Instead, a range of measures – including some regulatory measures – would be needed to change behaviour in a way that will make a real difference to society’s biggest problems, for example obesity, states the report.

The Committee has recommended that the Government invest in gathering more evidence on which measures work to influence population behaviour change. In addition it said the Government “should look to take steps to implement a traffic light system of nutritional labelling on all food packaging”.

According to the report, current voluntary agreements with businesses in relation to public health have major failings, and are not a proportionate response to the scale of the problem of obesity.

“There are all manner of things that the Government want us to do – lose weight, give up smoking, use the car less, give blood – but how can they get us to do them?” questioned committee chair Baroness Neuberger.

“It won’t be easy and this inquiry has shown that it certainly won’t be achieved through using ‘nudges’, or any other sort of intervention, in isolation.”

She said that changing the behaviour of a population is likely to take time, perhaps a generation or more, and whereas politicians usually look for “quick-win solutions”, she called for the Government to be braver about mixing and matching policy measures, using both incentives and disincentives to bring about change. “They must also get much better at evaluating the measures they put in place,” she added.

“In order to help people live healthier and happier 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.”