Head of Public Health England to be hauled before MPs

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The head of Public Health England is being hauled before MPs amid accusations vital evidence is being withheld about the merits of a sugar tax.

Mr Duncan Selbie has been asked to appear in front of the Commons Health Select Committee on Monday.

MPs say they need to see the report on sugar reduction to make recommendations ahead of the government's new child obesity strategy.

The strategy itself has been delayed.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said it will now be published later this year, along with PHE's report looking at how to curb the nation's sweet tooth, which includes evidence on fiscal measures relating to sugar-sweetened drinks as well as advertising of foods to children.

The head of the Commons Health Select committee, Dr Sarah Wollaston, has accused Public Health England of obstructing its inquiry into child obesity by refusing to publish the report.

In a strongly worded letter to Mr Duncan Selbie, chief of PHE, last week, she said: "The evidence you have assembled is crucial to the committee's ability to consider what the policy priorities should be for addressing childhood obesity.

"Delayed publication is as harmful as non-publication if this means that the public and health professionals wishing to influence the content of the obesity strategy do not have access to the data before the ink is dry on the obesity strategy."

The obesity strategy will consider a number of measures to help prevent children becoming too fat.

One of the most controversial is a mandatory tax on sugary fizzy drinks.

Currently, the government encourages drinks manufacturers to sign up to a voluntary responsibility deal to make beverages more healthy.

Advisers told the Commons Health Select Committee that studies suggested a tax of 20p per litre on sugar-sweetened beverages would prevent 180,000 cases of obesity in the UK and raise between £300m and £1bn of revenue.

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