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Children's Television (Advertising)

Volume 404: debated on Tuesday 6 May 2003

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3.33 pm

beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to prevent food and drink advertising during pre-school children's television programmes and related scheduling.
Our children increasingly suffer from obesity and diabetes. These are potentially killer diseases, and they are of great concern to the Department of Health, which recognises that children eat too much fat, sugar and salt. In a written answer to me, my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department—then a Health Minister—said that
"average intakes of salt are up to twice the recommended amount."—[Official Report,26 April 2002; Vol. 384, c. 512W.]
She went on to say that 85 per cent. of children failed to meet recommendations on the consumption of added sugars, and that a huge 92 per cent. failed to meet recommendations on the consumption of saturated fats.

The Department of Health is tackling that appalling situation with an excellent national school fruit scheme, providing free fruit each day to thousands of pupils.

The Minister also claims to have in place
"major cross-Government programmes of work to improve healthy eating"[Official Report,15 April 2002; Vol. 383, c. 782W.]
Unfortunately, these programmes do not seem to have reached the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, which is responsible for the regulation of advertising during children's TV. It has failed to take action to prevent high fat, high salt and high sugar content food and drink advertising being targeted at pre-school children—two, three and four-year-olds.

Little children watching independent television channels are daily being bombarded with images of happy little boys and girls eating high fat, high sugar and high salt content food and drink. They repeatedly hear catch-phrases and jingles designed to appeal to them. They repeatedly see pictures designed to attract their attention and remain in their young memories.

Sustain, an alliance of more than 100 groups concerned about food issues, has recently campaigned to protect children from the marketing of food targeted specifically at children that gives an unbalanced nutritional message. Its campaign won support from the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of General Practitioners. Sustain supports of my Bill. The National Heart Forum has given its backing too. Its chief executive, Paul Lincoln, stated:

"The harm starts early in life. We are very concerned about the targeting of children and young people as a market for foods high in fat, sugar and salt. The marketing consists of a saturation diet of advertising around children's TV programmes."
He added:
"The marketing of these foods undermines the Department of Health's efforts to promote healthy eating from an early age."
My Bill calls for a ban on all food and drink advertising during toddler TV scheduling. The multinational, multi-billion pound food and drink and advertising industries oppose it. Obviously, their vested interest is not the health of our children. These industries say that children who suffer from diabetes and obesity are nothing to do with them. They say that children should exercise more. I agree; they should exercise more, but they should also eat less fat, sugar and salt.

The obesity taskforce is pleased to see these issues raised by my Bill—so too is Diabetes UK. Diabetes UK believes that the aggressive marketing strategies of food companies, exposing children to high fat foods, have been partly responsible for increasing obesity and diabetes in children. Moreover, it is costing the national health service approximately £5 billion a year. That is an expense met by the taxpayer, not the multi-billion pound food and drink industry.

Spokespeople from the advertising industry claim that if my Bill is successful, less children's television will be broadcast. That seems to me rather threatening and also undermines the claims by the television companies that children's TV is a form of public service broadcasting.

My Bill simply calls for a period each day when children's television is free from food and drink advertising—free from marketing strategies that are becoming increasingly sophisticated. We are currently witnessing a step change in investment and direct targeting of an ever-younger cohort of children. My Bill would offer some brief respite and protection. I commend it to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Ms Shipley, Dr. Howard Stoate, Margaret Moran, Linda Perham, Vera Baird, Ann Clwyd, Ms Karen Buck, Dr. Brian Iddon, Glenda Jackson, Brian White, Mr. Jim Cunningham, Andrew Mackinlay.


Ms Shipley accordingly presented a Bill to prevent food and drink advertising during pre-school children's television programmes and related scheduling: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a. Second time on Friday 11 July, and to be printed [Bill 101].