Lord Hague warns weakening of anti-obesity strategy is ‘morally reprehensible’

The former Tory leader hit out at Government plans to delay measures to tackle unhealthy eating.

Nina Lloyd
Tuesday 17 May 2022 14:41
Former Tory leader William Hague has blasted the Government for delaying measures to tackle obesity (Dan Kitwood/PA)
Former Tory leader William Hague has blasted the Government for delaying measures to tackle obesity (Dan Kitwood/PA)

Former Conservative leader William Hague has attacked the Government for delaying measures to tackle unhealthy eating, branding the weakening of anti-obesity strategy under pressure from MPs “morally reprehensible”.

Writing in The Times, Lord Hague said the U-turn, which will see a ban on buy-one-get-one-free deals for foods high in fat, salt and sugar postponed for a year, adds to the “history of failed obesity strategies”.

The Government has said it intends to delay the measures for 12 months due to the “unprecedented” squeeze on living standards.

A ban on TV junk food adverts before a 9pm watershed has also been put on hold for a year.

For the Government to give in to them is intellectually shallow, politically weak and morally reprehensible

William Hague

The move has been welcomed by the industry and by some Tory MPs opposed to the state interfering in how people spend their money, but it has alarmed health campaigners.

Lord Hague warned it was a “terrible error” to associate conservatism with a reluctance to protect people, arguing it is in keeping with the party’s traditional values to save consumers from being “abused or misled”.

He wrote: “Under pressure from some Conservative MPs, some of whom have been threatening to write letters of no confidence in Boris Johnson unless they get their way, ministers have retreated from banning buy-one-get-ne-free deals and from imposing a watershed of 9pm on junk food advertising.

“While some measures, such as rules on the positioning of unhealthy foods by retailers, will still go ahead in October, this U-turn adds to the long history of failed obesity strategies.”

Lord Hague added: “MPs who have pressed, seemingly successfully, for the dilution of the obesity strategy are profoundly mistaken.

“They are acquiescing in a future of higher dependence, greater costs, reduced lifestyle choice and endless pain.

“For the Government to give in to them is intellectually shallow, politically weak and morally reprehensible.”

Ministers have said they are deferring the buy-one-get-one-free ban so they can review the impact on family budgets in the face of the cost-of-living crisis, and insisted they remain committed to tackling obesity.

Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver described the U-turn as a “wasted opportunity” and said it was proof the Government’s strategy was “falling apart” in practice.

The delay was also criticised by former health minister Lord Bethell, who said failure to tackle the “obesity crisis” would simply add to the costs of the NHS.

Asked about the Government decision to postpone certain measures to tackle childhood obesity, mental health minister Gillian Keegan said: “The decision has been made to pause by a year and the reason is because the evidence that they put together which showed the behavioural impacts could potentially change as a result of the cost-of-living crisis.

“So, at the time, I think it showed that people were eating more and actually not saving much money because it was more waste.

“I suppose the unknown thing is will people be the less wasteful when we’re paying more for food?

“So just so the Government could do some analysis on that.

“They decided to pause it just because the cost of living and food inflation and food cost and none of that was anticipated when the original evidence was gathered.”

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in