Childhood Obesity

Health and Social Care – in the House of Commons on 18th June 2019.

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Photo of Paul Blomfield Paul Blomfield Shadow Minister (Exiting the European Union)

What recent assessment he has made of progress in implementing Childhood obesity: a plan for action, chapter 2, published in June 2018.

Photo of Ellie Reeves Ellie Reeves Labour, Lewisham West and Penge

What recent assessment he has made of progress in implementing Childhood obesity: a plan for action, chapter 2, published in June 2018.

Photo of Seema Kennedy Seema Kennedy The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

The Government are taking a world-leading approach to obesity. We have held consultations on ending the sale of energy drinks to children, calorie labelling in restaurants, restricting promotions of sugary and fatty foods by price indication, and further advertising restrictions, including a 9 pm watershed. We are considering all the feedback, and will respond later this year.

Photo of Paul Blomfield Paul Blomfield Shadow Minister (Exiting the European Union)

Alongside prevention, we have to do more to help the growing number of children who are already overweight or obese. It is more than a year since the Health and Social Care Committee highlighted the lack of tier 3 and 4 services. Voluntary groups such as Shine Health Academy in my constituency fill the gap. They take children on referral from GPs, but they do not receive any public funding. There can be no other serious health condition affecting children where the NHS says, “Sorry, we can’t help.” Will the Minister take action and agree to meet me to discuss it?

Photo of Seema Kennedy Seema Kennedy The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

I completely agree with the hon. Gentleman that childhood obesity is a massive challenge to our nation. It is a problem internationally, and we are taking serious steps to tackle it. I am happy to meet the hon. Gentleman to hear more about Shine.

Photo of Ellie Reeves Ellie Reeves Labour, Lewisham West and Penge

Public health budgets have fallen by over 5%, with millions more in cuts anticipated. In both Lewisham and Bromley, the ring-fenced public health budget has fallen by 2.6% this year. The Government expect local authorities to play a greater role in tackling obesity while simultaneously cutting funding to councils, schools and the NHS. When will the Minister take action to tackle childhood obesity by restoring funding for public health?

Photo of Seema Kennedy Seema Kennedy The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

I have set out to Paul Blomfield the measures we have taken. Through the childhood obesity trailblazer programme, we are working with local authorities—I am hoping to visit one in Blackburn later this week—that want to see how they can use their powers to best effect, doing things such as limiting new fast-food outlets. We have spent billions of pounds over the past five years. The public health grant will be subject to the spending review.

Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous Conservative, South West Bedfordshire

Given that 46% of food and drink advertising is spent on unhealthy food—and unhealthy foods are three times cheaper than healthy food—will the Minister follow in the footsteps of her predecessor, and go to the Netherlands to look at the Marqt supermarket, which has 16 stores around Amsterdam and does not market any unhealthy food to children. It is a profitable business and a model for our supermarkets, so will she go and look at it?

Photo of Seema Kennedy Seema Kennedy The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

I thank my hon. Friend for his interest in this area. The Amsterdam model has been very successful, but it is not just about food—it is about place and culture. I would hope to be able to visit the model very shortly.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Commons Reference Group on Representation and Inclusion Committee

If Andrew Selous has been trugging round Amsterdam in pursuit of the public interest he is a remarkably assiduous and dedicated fellow. We are all deeply obliged to him—it is way beyond the call of duty, but we are appreciative none the less.

We now come to topical questions. I call Justin Madders.

Photo of Sharon Hodgson Sharon Hodgson Shadow Minister (Public Health)

Thank you, Mr Speaker. The Government’s second childhood obesity plan will celebrate its first birthday a week today, but we will not be celebrating. The Government have ducked and dived on their responsibility to the children in this country and have failed to produce any policies as a result of the six consultations the plan has promised, but the rate of childhood obesity is still at a record high. Instead of waiting for the chief medical officer to report on obesity, will the Government act now to tackle the childhood obesity crisis, and introduce and implement the policies they have consulted on already?

Photo of Seema Kennedy Seema Kennedy The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

We have a very ambitious aim to halve childhood obesity by 2030. We are still considering all the answers to the consultations, and we are hoping to respond to them very shortly.