The former Tory leader unveiled a fierce response to Boris Johnson for pushing back a ban on buy-one-get-one-free deals on unhealthy food – and branded child obesity a “national disgrace”.
Tory grandee William Hague today blasted Boris Johnson’s “intellectually shallow, politically weak and morally reprehensible” junk food about-face.
The former leader said it was a “national disgrace” that a fifth of children by the age of 11 were obese, in a scathing verdict on the prime minister.
Mr Johnson had promised to end supermarket buy-one-get-one-free and 3-for-2 offers on unhealthy food and drink in October.
However, the ban was pushed back to October 2023 and could be permanently postponed – after he called for ideas to tackle families’ bills.
Tory ministers have also delayed the 9pm ban on junk food TV advertising ahead of the watershed and online – which doesn’t arrive until January 2024.
And restrictions on free soft drink refills at popular restaurants are being pushed back to October 2023.
Restrictions on posting high-fat, salty or sugary products at checkouts, entrances and the end of aisles will remain in place this October.
But the U-turn was blasted by campaign groups Action on Sugar and Action on Salt.
Chair Professor Graham MacGregor said: “Boris Johnson could have left a legacy by being the first Prime Minister to tackle obesity in a meaningful way, particularly by curtailing the advertising and promotion of unhealthy food, which was his flagship policy.
“Instead, he has given in to his own MPs and an aggressive food industry who – ironically – have begun to conform to this new policy.
“This completely contradicts the government’s leveling ambitions.
“It will also have a massive impact on the NHS and the health of the nation, which will suffer the consequences and rising costs of treating obesity, type 2 diabetes and tooth decay.”
Lord Hague wrote in The Times today that the reversal “adds to the long history of failed obesity strategies”.
“This means the current government’s anti-obesity campaign is likely to join the 14 strategies and 689 different policies over the past 30 years that have failed, according to a Cambridge University study,” he said.
He added: “Tragically, one in five children by the age of 11 is obese, and their chances of living a long and healthy life are already compromised. It’s a national disgrace.”
Lord Hague condemned Tory MPs against the ‘nanny state’ who had called for an end to the junk food crackdown as a condition of keeping the Prime Minister in power.
“As a former Tory leader, I strongly disagree with this interpretation of conservatism,” he wrote.
“Conservatives support freedom of choice but have always seen that there is sometimes a need to prevent consumers from being abused or misled.”
He said the cost of living argument is “unfounded” because promotions actually make people spend more, buy groceries they don’t need and trap them in a “junk food cycle”.
He added: “Freedom is climbing a mountain without physical exertion and looking down from the top with excitement and wonder.
“These are the liberties denied to vast numbers of people who are the victims, not free agents, of a system that wants to stuff them with salt, sugar and saturated fats.”
He continued: “MPs who have seemingly succeeded in pushing for a watering down of the obesity strategy are deeply mistaken. They are adjusting to a future of greater dependency, higher costs, limited lifestyle choices, and endless pain.
“The government’s giving in to them is intellectually shallow, politically weak and morally reprehensible.”