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Childhood Obesity

Volume 643: debated on Tuesday 19 June 2018

We are delivering the most ambitious childhood obesity plan in the world, and we are already seeing results. We always said that our 2016 plan was the start of the conversation, not the final word. [Interruption.] Yes, it does say that here, but I have also said it everywhere else many, many times.

With one in three primary school children leaving either obese or overweight and more than 77% of children not doing the minimum requirement for physical activity, surely the Government’s priority should be getting children active by opening up school facilities after hours and in the holidays, not faffing around with political gestures on television advertising that children have long since stopped watching.

I do not think that it is a binary choice. We recognise that child obesity is caused by many different factors, and that no one policy will work on its own. Yes, this is about tackling advertising, and yes, it is about tackling children’s activity and working with schools; and, as I said recently, we will present new proposals very shortly.

As the Minister will know, perhaps the two biggest challenges that we currently face in relation to young people’s health are mental health and child obesity. Will he update the House on the progress of chapter 1 of his childhood obesity plan in reducing the amount of sugar in both food and drink?

Since we published the plan, progress has been made on sugar reduction. The amount of sugar in soft drinks has been reduced by 11% in response to the industry levy, and Public Health England has published a detailed assessment of progress against delivery of the 5% reduction for the first year. Progress is good, but it is not good enough, which is why we have said that we will produce chapter 2 shortly.

The Minister says that progress is not good enough, so why does he not introduce a levy on high-sugar food as well as the one on sugary drinks? Manufacturers would then reformulate the food that they produce.

Because we believe that there should be a mixture of carrot and stick. We believe that the soft drinks industry levy has been successful, but we are also working with the industry on reformulation across the board. I recently visited Suntory, which makes Lucozade and Ribena. If we work with industry, we see transformative results for companies and for the people who buy their products.

A few years ago, I initiated a debate on this issue in Westminster Hall. Since then, no progress has been made on childhood obesity. Would the Minister care to outline what he thinks will happen in the lifetime of this Parliament in terms of achieving the objectives that he has set out?

We assess the plan all the time, and we make progress reports on it, as we did last month with the sugar report. However, when I addressed the Health Committee recently, I could not have made it clearer that we think there has been progress.

This is a world-leading plan. When we talk to other people around the world, they are very keen to hear about what we are doing and very interested, and we are interested in learning from them. If we do not take action, one of our biggest public health challenges will get worse and worse, and that will have implications for the health service and for all our constituents.