COMMONS

Chair responds to Government's childhood obesity plan

29 June 2018

The Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee, Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, responds to the Government's childhood obesity strategy 'A plan for action' chapter 2.

Chair's comments

In response to the plan, Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee, said:

"The commitments found in Chapter 2 of the Government’s Childhood Obesity Plan are welcome, and represent a substantial improvement on the offerings in the first plan, published in 2016.

In particular, it is positive to see the Government responding to the recommendations of the Health and Social Care Committee, as well as other stakeholders, on legislating to ban price promotions and checkout sales of unhealthy food and drinks. The ambition to halve childhood obesity and significantly reduce the gap in obesity between children from the most and least deprived areas by 2030 is very welcome, and we will be closely monitoring the Government’s progress on this ambition.

Local authorities

We welcome the Government’s pledge to develop a trailblazer programme with local authority partners to show what can be achieved within existing powers and understand “what works” in different communities, and particularly the focus on inequalities and ethnic disparities. Whilst the Government’s commitment to develop resources that support local authorities who want to use their powers is a positive one, we reiterate the point we heard in oral evidence, that  local authorities need further, additional powers to limit the prevalence of high fat, sugar and salt food and drink billboard adverting near schools and to tackle the proliferation of existing takeaways. It is disappointing to see that Chapter 2 of the Government’s Plan does not look to make health a licensing objective for local authorities.

Fiscal measures

We welcome the Government’s commitment to monitoring the progress of PHE’s sugar reduction programme in 2019, and particularly the claim that Government will not shy away from mandatory and fiscal leavers if necessary to encourage reformulation. However, the Committee made it clear in our recent report that we believe the Government has a duty to ensure the proceeds of the soft drinks industry levy are directed towards measures to improve children’s health, and specifically addressing health inequalities. There is nothing in this updated plan to suggest that this recommendation has been taken into account, and we continue to believe this is a disappointing oversight.

Early years and schools

As we recommended in our report, the Government should look to put in place further measures around early years and the first 1000 days of life to combat childhood obesity. While we welcome to Government’s commitment that Ofsted will undertake research into what a curriculum that supports good physical development in the early years looks like, we would like to see further detail on when this review can be expected to report, and full transparency on the recommendations it makes.

Consultation

We are pleased that the Government has put in place plans to consult on a variety of measures to tackle childhood obesity before the end of 2018, including on a 9pm Watershed for junk food marketing and on legislation to mandate consistent calorie labelling for the out of home sector. We will be following up with the Government to ensure that these consultations are done in a transparent manner, with due regard to the urgency of this pressing issue."

Further information

Image: iStockphoto

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