Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt told ITV's The Agenda last night that he is "sceptical" about imposing a tax on sugary foods and drinks, calling the measure a "blunt tool":
The director general of the British Soft Drinks Association, Gavin Partington, has said his industry is already taking steps to help tackle obesity and that a tax on sugary drink won't help:
Obesity is a serious and complex problem, but a tax on soft drinks, which contribute just 2% of the total calories in the average diet, will not help address it.
Over the last 10 years, the consumption of soft drinks containing added sugar has fallen by 9% while the incidence of obesity has increased by 15%.
We all recognise our industry has a role to play in the fight against obesity, which is why soft drinks companies have already taken action to ensure they are playing their part.
– Gavin Partington, British Soft Drinks Association
Sixty-one per cent of soft drinks now contain no added sugar and we have seen soft drinks companies lead the way in committing to further, voluntary action as part of the Government's Responsibility Deal Calorie Reduction Pledge.
A report issued today is calling for a sugary drinks tax, adding 20p a litre to the price of a sugary drink.
Food and farming charity Sustain say that the money raised for each drink could go towards child health, and could raise £1 billion a year to pay for free school dinners.
Sustain argues that the tax could save lives by cutting the consumption of sugary drinks.
Diet related illnesses now cost the Government £6 billion a year.
Speaking on the first episode of series three of The Agenda with Tom Bradby to be broadcast on ITV at 10.35pm tonight, Jeremy Hunt spoke about sugar and obesity.
Asked whether he would impose a tax on sugary foods, the Health Secretary said:
"I'm sceptical of legislation... in the end this is a matter of individual choice. It's a matter of people making decisions about their own lives but I don't rule it out and there are things that we're doing."
On why there is legislation for harmful substances such as tobacco and not for sugar, Mr Hunt said:
"We do legislate for lots of harmful substances and I think we've got to do everything. We need to have a mix, we need to educate people but all I'm saying is the difference between cigarettes and chocolate is that in moderation chocolate is fine. Cigarettes are harmful even in moderation."
• Other guests on tonight’s programme are actress Andrea Riseborough, journalist Jane Moore and comedian David Baddiel.