Boris Johnson says he could axe 'milkshake tax' if he becomes Prime Minister
Boris Johnson has dropped a major hint that he would scrap plans for a new Government sugar crackdown if he becomes Prime Minister.
The Sun reported this week that ministers are considering extending the existing soft drinks levy to "sugary milk drinks" if firms do not reformulate their recipes to cut the amount of sugar in them.
The levy came into force last April in a bid to try and tackle childhood obesity, and the paper reported that Number 10 has asked health officials to consider going further by bringing milky drinks into scope.
But Mr Johnson told Conservative activists at a hustings in Exeter on Friday: "I am very, very reluctant to impose new taxes disproportionately on those on low incomes.
"A new tax on milkshakes seems to me to clobber those who can least afford it."
And he added: "If we want kids to lose weight we should encourage kids to walk and cycle to school and generally do more exercise. It’s calories in, and calories out.
"I’m not sure that proposal will last long enough to get in the next administration."
The Conservative hopeful's comments were swiftly backed by Cabinet minister Liz Truss, an avowed free-marketeer who is acting as Mr Johnson's 'policy tsar' during the Tory leadership race.
She tweeted: "Quite right. People should be able to enjoy their milkshakes in peace."
Harlow MP Robert Halfon meanwhile told PoliticsHome: "What is it about misery guts, do-gooding puritans who now want to tax milkshake treats?
"As ever it is the professional classes who want to tax ordinary, low-income workers for things that would not even notice if they were buying.
The Tory ex-minister added: "Milkshakes are for drinking, not for taxing. Thanks and well done Boris."
Public Health England has already urged firms that make milkshakes to voluntarily implement a 20% sugar reduction by mid-2021, a move that would cap the calories in a single milky drink to 300.
But, according to The Sun, a government green paper warns that if "industry has not made enough progress on reducing sugar, we will extend the [soft drinks levy] to sugary milk drinks".
Mr Johnson's Conservative leadership rival Jeremy Hunt told the hustings: "The quickest way to deal with this crisis sis the people who manufacture milkshakes is to reduce the amount of sugar without changing the taste too much.
"You threaten them. My experience is that if you make that threat you don’t have to follow through on the dreaded milkshake tax."