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House of Commons Hansard
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08 May 2018
Volume 640
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13. What steps the Government are taking to tackle obesity. [905171]

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Childhood obesity is one of the biggest public health challenges we face, which is why we are committed to reducing the sugar in products consumed by children by 20% over four years.

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I recently met my constituent, Professor John Wass, at an Obesity Health Alliance tea, where—the Secretary of State will be pleased to know—no cake was served. Professor Wass shares my concerns about the availability of hospital services for those with established obesity. Will my right hon. Friend set out what plans his Department has to treat those who are already obese?

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We recognise the value of bariatric surgery, which is of course subject to the normal waiting time standards for those for whom it is appropriate. However, prevention is better than cure. That is why we are hoping to bring forward shortly further measures to tackle childhood obesity, which is one of our biggest concerns.

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Obesity related hospital admissions in York have more than doubled in the last three years. As part of NHS70, we in York are launching a city-wide public health initiative to ensure that we address issues around obesity, diet and exercise. Will the Secretary of State support such work and ensure that we get the funding that we need to run this initiative for the whole constituency and the city?

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I am happy to give the project my wholehearted support. If we are going to tackle obesity, we need an approach that goes across all Departments of Government, including local government, and this initiative sounds excellent. The Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Steve Brine), will be looking into the funding.

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Lambert Hospital in Thirsk was bequeathed to the town by Sara Lambert in 1890, and was closed via the back door by South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust last year. NHS Property Services is planning a sell-off to the highest bidder, despite the fair offer that is on the table from the local authority which could include provision for community use such as public health advice. Does my right hon. Friend agree that there are times when value to the public might outweigh the requirement to maximise a price?

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I have spoken to my hon. Friend about this matter, and he speaks powerfully about the community interest in this particular transaction. We have listened carefully to what he has said, and will continue to do so before a decision is made.

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This August marks two years since the world’s first childhood obesity plan was published, but the Government’s plan, at just 13 pages, left a lot to be desired. More than 5.5 million children in this country are now officially classed as overweight or obese, with 140,000 classed as morbidly obese, as the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous) mentioned. This is now an epidemic. Will the Secretary of State confirm whether the Government’s second childhood obesity plan—due this summer, we have heard—will include meaningful policies such as restricting junk food advertising and the sale of energy drinks to children?

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I agree with the hon. Lady that we need to do more, because this is a very serious issue. I think that she is being slightly unfair on our first initiative. The sugary drinks tax has been responsible for 45 million kg of sugar being removed from the market, which is enormously important for children. There is more to be done and I hope that we will be able to announce plans soon.

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The Daily Mile initiative in schools has huge potential in reducing childhood obesity, improving academic attainment, and improving the mental wellbeing of our young people. Will my right hon. Friend look closely at that and have conversations across Government about the benefits it could bring?

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That is an excellent initiative from Scotland, and it shows why we all benefit from being in the United Kingdom together. Yes, we will look at it very closely.

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In tackling childhood obesity, will the Health Secretary declare his support for Jamie Oliver’s AdEnough campaign and get rid of pre-watershed television advertising of junk food to our children?

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That is one of a number of measures that we are looking at. We are absolutely determined to do something about this. One in 10 children starts school obese, and by the time they leave primary school the figure is one in five. We cannot wait any longer.