Matt Hancock tees up clash with Boris Johnson as he plots ban on energy drinks for under-16s

Posted On: 
17th July 2019

Health Secretary Matt Hancock is in line for a showdown with Boris Johnson over plans to ban the sale of energy drinks to children under 16.

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Mr Johnson has pledged to end "the continuing creep of the nanny state" if he becomes Prime Minister.

The Sun reports that the Health Secretary - who has thrown his weight behind the Tory leadership frontrunner after his own push for the top job ran out of steam - will impose fresh curbs on products high in caffeine and sugar.

The move comes despite a pledge by Mr Johnson to end so-called "sin taxes" aimed at encouraging people to eat more healthily if he becomes Prime Minister.

Boris Johnson risks clash with Matt Hancock as he vows review of 'sin taxes'

Boris Johnson says he could axe 'milkshake tax' if he becomes Prime Minister

In a Cabinet 'write round' letter seen by The Sun, Mr Hancock is said to have told colleagues: "Following a high level of interest in the consultation, we plan on announcing that we will be ending the sale of energy drinks to children under the age of 16."

The Health Secretary said he was "taking a precautionary approach to mitigate the potential negative effects associated with their excessive consumption by children".

Mr Hancock has already asked government medical chiefs to look at whether taxes should be levied on all unhealthy foods to try and combat child obesity, a move that would go further than the current tax on sugary soft drinks, brought in last year.

That could include extending the levy to milkshakes if firms do not reformulate their recipes.

But Mr Johnson warned earlier this month: "The recent proposal for a tax on milkshakes seems to me to clobber those who can least afford it.

"If we want people to lose weight and live healthier lifestyles, we should encourage people to walk, cycle and generally do more exercise.

"Rather than just taxing people more, we should look at how effective the so-called 'sin taxes' really are, and if they actually change behaviour."

According to The Sun, Mr Hancock also warned in his Cabinet letter that the Treasury could oppose his energy drinks move amid fears it will hit the bottom line of drinks companies.

A government source told the paper: "It’s interesting to see Hancock trying to get a new sin ban under the wire before his boss Boris arrives."