Body Image and Mental Health

Part of Exiting the European Union (Transport) – in the House of Commons at 3:45 pm on 23rd July 2019.

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Photo of Jackie Doyle-Price Jackie Doyle-Price The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care 3:45 pm, 23rd July 2019

I shall not detain the House for too long, because I think it has heard enough from me for one day. I thank Members for their generous comments, even if they might be career-limiting.

In this debate, however, there is consensus across the House. We all fully recognise the problems that we face and the need for decisive action to tackle them. I will certainly continue to work with all Members to do exactly that, because this is too important and—I make this observation—the people out there expect us to work together more often than not. Such subjects should not be a political football, and it is too important to ensure that we are tackling harms.

Paula Sherriff made the observation that the debate might not be as well attended as previous ones, but to be fair we have had many such debates in this space. Many Members, even if not present this afternoon, clearly have a keen interest. I am utterly at one with her when she expressed her concern about a context in which we have normalised unrealistic body image. Such images have become so normalised that it will take a lot of effort to address it. She also referred to the incident of the lady who, sadly, died as a result of accessing a Brazilian butt lift from a surgeon in Turkey. Unfortunately, she is not the only such person from this country. It is the most dangerous cosmetic procedure that can be undertaken and, as a consequence, is banned in this country. None the less, despite the ban, people are still bombarded with images and with adverts for where they can seek the procedure. That brings home the fact that we need to do much more to make people aware of the risks.

Many Members referred to the influence of advertising, and I am afraid that those organisations that profit from hosting advertising ought to have a duty of care and ensure that the material they carry does not expose people to harm. I therefore welcome the engagement that Mr Jones is undertaking with Facebook on exactly that. It is not good enough for social media providers to retreat to the defence of, “Well, we are a liberated platform, regulated by our users.” Where they become a vehicle for things that will cause harm, those social media providers have a duty of care to the people who use their platforms. We must all continue to challenge them on that issue.

We have had lots of references to “Love Island”. Collectively, perhaps we ought to challenge use of the term “reality TV”, because it is not reality TV; it is fantasy TV. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”] So that might be the outcome of today’s debate—let us all talk about fantasy TV from now on, because such programmes promote lifestyles that are not normal or achievable. Let us do that.