Sugar tax ‘not gone far enough’, with new obesity measures coming ‘imminently’, minister says

The Government is poised to launch measures, thought to include a ban on pre-watershed junk food adverts - Getty
The Government is poised to launch measures, thought to include a ban on pre-watershed junk food adverts – Getty

The Government is looking to build on the sugar tax with new measures designed to tackle the UK’s obesity epidemic to be announced “imminently”, a minister has confirmed. 

It is thought a ban on pre-watershed junk food adverts will be introduced as part of the Prime Minister’s war on weight, after he blamed his brush with intensive care on his own size.

Helen Whately, the care minister, told Sky News that the Department of Health “has been consulting on how to protect children from adverts, and [looking at] the impact of adverts for unhealthy food.”

She added: “We know obesity increases your risk of serious complications from Covid, and in fact from dying of Covid. As as country we have a huge obesity challenge.”

While noting the sugar tax has “had an impact”, she noted it “hasn’t gone far enough”.

Ms Whately added: “We need to do more to tackle the challenge of obesity and help people make healthier choices.”

She declined to comment on the specifics, but told BBC Breakfast an announcement would be made “imminently”. 

Follow the latest updates below.

09:09 AM

Boris Johnson: Coronavirus will be with us until next summer

Boris Johnson has warned that coronavirus will be with the country until at least the middle of next year, as he sets out plans for the Government’s flu vaccination programme. 

During a visit to a GP Surgery in East London this morning, the Prime Minister was also overheard calling anti-vaxxers “nuts”. 

Asked how long people might have to wear face masks, he told Sky News it depended on “our ability, collectively” to keep the virus down, and refused to give a date for when measures might be lifted, although noted they would last for “the next few months”. 

He urged people not to “shame” those who did not wear face masks, saying the “common sense of the British people” would prevail. 

“I am not going to give you a trigger point, a trigger moment, but we need to make sure we have really got it under control,” he added. 

“By the middle of next year we will be well on the way past [the pandemic].”

08:55 AM

Social care plan to be unveiled ‘in next few months’, says Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson has said the Government will bring forward cross-party proposals for reforming social care “in the next few months”. 

During a visit to a GP Surgery in East London this morning, the Prime Minister stressed there had been “massive” investment in the sector during the pandemic but acknowledged there was a “separate question” about the long-term situation for care home funding “to make sure people are protected from the risk of having to sell their homes to pay for the possibly exorbitant cost of care.” 

He added: “We will be bringing forward proposals, trying to get cross-party buy in on that. 

“This is something we haven’t been able to fix for 30 years,” he added, noting the challenges involved, before reiterating that the Government would bring forward “cross party proposals in the next few months”.

08:50 AM

Get a flu jab to protect the NHS from second coronavirus spike, says Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson has urged everyone who qualifies for the Government’s mass flu jab programme to get one, saying it will help “protect the NHS in the winter months”. 

Speaking during a visit to a GP Surgery in East London this morning, the Prime Minister said the country still had the “threat of a second spike”, saying it was “vital to keep that pressure off the NHS by everybody getting a flu jab.”

He added: “It is something you can do to protect yourself against the flu, but also something we can all do to protect the NHS.”

08:45 AM

Biggest moments of Boris Johnson’s first year as PM: Proroguing Parliament

It feels like a lifetime ago but it was less than a year when Boris Johnson decided to prorogue Parliament in the midst of the Brexit wars. 

It started with Jacob Rees-Mogg embarking on a secretive mission to Balmoral along with Baroness Evans, the Leader of the Lords, and Mark Spencer, the Chief Whip, with instructions to ask the Queen to prorogue Parliament.

The plan was to prorogued Parliament for five weeks, and reconvene just 17 days before the scheduled Hallowe’en Brexit, prompting the opposition to condemn it as a controversial and unconstitutional attempt to avoid scrutiny during those critical final weeks. 

Ultimately the decision was rule justiciable and unlawful, with the Supreme Court claiming it had “the improper purpose of stymieing Parliament” and had effectively “misled the Queen”. 

It could be argued that while Number 10 lost the battle, it would go on to win the war – albeit not without a few more skirmishes. 

08:22 AM

Boris Johnson attacked over ‘nanny state’ food policies

A think tank has attacked Boris Johnson for “resurrecting Theresa May’s nanny state policies on food”, ahead of the expected announcement of a ban on junk food adverts before the watershed. 

Christopher Snowdon, head of lifestyle economics at the Institute for Economic Affairs, warned the proposed bans could be so wide-ranging as to exclude adverts for items including sultanas, soy sauce, mustard, honey, yoghurts and “many other products that no reasonable person would consider to be unhealthy”. 

He added: “The economy is on its knees, commercial television is in crisis, the advertising industry is making mass redundancies, and yet the government wants to make it more difficult for businesses to reach their customers… An advertising ban is expected to cost TV companies £200 million a year. This cost will be passed on to viewers through poorer programming and fewer channels.   

“And for what? The amount of TV advertising for HFSS (high in fat, sugar or salt). food seen by children has fallen by more than two-thirds in the last fifteen years. If advertising was the problem, rates of childhood obesity should have declined. They haven’t. There is no reason to expect further restrictions to make any difference.”

08:17 AM

Police chief urges shops to refuse entry to people not wearing face masks

The national chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales has urged shops to refuse entry to anyone not wearing a face covering.

John Apter said: “As face coverings become a mandatory requirement in stores, police officers are yet again adapting to a new set of unprecedented laws and guidelines which they wouldn’t have even dreamed of before lockdown.

“It is our members who are expected to police what is a new way of living and I would urge retail outlets to play their part in making the rules crystal clear; if you are not wearing a face covering then you are not coming in.

“Officers will be there to help stores if needed – but only as a last resort, as we simply do not have the resources.

“The vast majority of the public have complied with the lockdown rules so far and I would hope they will continue to do the right thing and wearing face coverings in stores to help protect fellow citizens to minimise the spread of the virus.”

08:11 AM

One year on: Boris Johnson’s first speech as Prime Minister in full 

A year ago today, Boris Johnson stood on the steps of Downing Street as our new Prime Minister, and made a series of pledges to the country. 

No one could have foreseen the chaos caused by coronavirus at that point, but the pandemic has underlined the urgency of some of the key promises he made, not least social care reform and the need to fix the opportunity gap across the country. 

Of course, the pandemic has taken priority and meant some of his pro-active plans have had to take a back seat. But while it was a few months later than planned, Mr Johnson did indeed get Brexit done. 

If you’re feeling nostalgic, have a watch of the speech below – we will be running through the highs and lows of his first year as PM throughout the day. 

07:47 AM

How MPs’ flip-flopping over face masks has confused the public

People buying a takeaway coffee are among those required by law to wear a face covering from Friday, but some high street chains said they will not penalise customers who fail to do so.

Police can hand out £100 fines to people in shops, shopping centres, banks, takeaway outlets, post offices, sandwich shops and supermarkets who flout the rules, but the College of Policing has said officers “should only be required as a last resort”.

Guidance issued by the Government on Thursday for England confirmed face coverings in takeaways would be mandatory, after weeks of confusion and varied messaging from ministers.

07:36 AM

ICYMI: Today’s front page

In case you missed it – here’s our front page today, with all the main stories including the mass vaccination programme, retailers’ refusal to enforce the face mask rule and a warning from Andrew Lloyd-Webber about a Chinese ‘takeover’ of West End theatres.  

“It might not just be Chinese phone networks the Government has to worry about,” he says.

You can read the full interview with the composer here.

07:32 AM

Government doesn’t want ‘people accosted’ over face masks

The Government does not “want to see people being accosted” for not wearing face masks as the new regulations come into force, a minister has said. 

Helen Whately told the Today programme she was confident the “vast majority of people” would wear a mask, but noted some people were exempt.  

Asked whether they should be given a card to prove their exemption, the care minister said there is “a page [online] where you can print out that you are exempt”. 

But she stressed the Government was not “expecting people to carry proof that they are exempt – we are expecting people to be reasonable. We don’t want to see people being accosted.”

“We want the vast majority of people to be wearing face masks when they go into shops,” she added. “People do take guidance and rules very very seriously.”

07:27 AM

Minister fails to rule out sugar tax extension

Helen Whately has not ruled out the possibility that the sugar tax could be extended as part of Government measures to tackle obesity. 

While being interview on the Today programme she was asked about a recommendation from the former CMO to go further on sugar tax, to “encourage the food and drink industry to reformulate you will achieve significant results”. 

The care minister declined to “comment on the details of policy”, but stressed the Government was “committed to tackling the obesity challenge”. 

She added: “There are real health consequences – among them, if you get Covid much greater risk of complications and indeed dying… we want to help people make healthier choices.”

07:23 AM

Government will ‘absolutely’ be able to manage 30m vaccinations, says minister

Helen Whately has stressed the Government will “work with GPs and others to makes sure vaccinations get to those who need them” amid concerns about the logistics of the massive flu vaccination programme announced today. 

The programme, which aims to vaccinate “over half of the population in England”, will see those at highest risk be invited to receive their jabs first, followed by the new group, which includes the 50-64 year olds and yera seven students.  

“I would say to GPs – bear with us. Today we are announcing the determination to reach 30m people. We will be working with them on how that will be delivered,” she added, noting that pharmacies and schools would also be relied on.  

“Absolutely, we will be able to do this,” she added. 

07:18 AM

Minister ‘not expecting police to be called’ over face masks as retailers rule out enforcement

The Government is not expecting police to be called on to enforce the new face mask rule that comes into being today, despite retailers saying it is not their responsibility.

Helen Whatley, the care minister, told BBC Breakfast she was expecting “the vast majority of people” to wear a mask, noting that there had been high compliance to official guidelines throughout the pandemic.  

“We know the people are responsible and will play their own part in looking out for each other,” she added. “We know that the vast majority of people do follow the rules.”

Pressed on what would happen to the minority who don’t, she said there was “the option for police to fine”, but insisted “I really don’t think we will need to go down that line”. 

“We know people will act responsibly and will wear face masks,” she added. “I am not expecting the police to be called whenever someone is not wearing face mask.”

07:13 AM

Minister fails to rule out shop-bought flu vaccine shortage as Govt rolls out programme for 30m

The Government has announced plans to vaccinate 30m this year in a bid to stave off the much-feared second wave – but could there be a shortage of supply?

Helen Whately, the care minister told Sky News the Govt programme would ensure that those who are “most crucial” would be vaccinated and that the programme had only been confirmed because they had “secured the stocks”. 

But she couldn’t comment on what that would do to stocks of flu in pharmacies for those who normally buy it, saying only those who are on the list would be assured a vaccination.

She was quizzed by BBC Breakfast about concerns raised by GlaxoSmithKline, a manufacturer, which has warned that demand might outstrip supply, and worries that GPs will struggle to administer enough doses. 

But Ms Whately said there was sufficient capacity, adding that ministers were working on the “delivery mechanism” to ensure everyone who needs a vaccine gets it, even in the event of a local lockdown.  

06:55 AM

Jeremy Corbyn accused of unleashing wave of legal claims that could bankrupt Labour

Supporters of Sir Keir Starmer have accused Jeremy Corbyn of unleashing a wave of legal claims against Labour that threaten to leave the party at risk of bankruptcy. 

After the party on Wednesday agreed to pay out an estimated £370,000 in fees and damages to anti-Semitism whistleblowers, it has now emerged that Labour is facing at least 40 further civil claims. 

Many of the claims, which are being handled by two law firms, relate to a leaked internal report on the party’s handling of anti-Semitism, and revolve around allegations of data privacy breaches, misuse of private information and libel. 

The report, which was compiled during the last few months of Mr Corbyn’s leadership, included allegations over the conduct of former Labour Party officials and named complainants in anti-Semitism cases.

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