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Column 1341substantive provisions of the Bill remain unaffected by those amendments. The assumptions in clause 2 will apply, looking back six years from the date of the offender's conviction. All that the amendments do is to provide that the triggering offences must have been committed after the commencement of the Bill.
It is worth reflecting on some of the clauses that have not been debated today--for example, clauses 3 and 4, which provide for statements by both the prosecution and the defendant. That will do much to ensure that confiscation orders are made for the true value of the benefits that have been obtained. The police will welcome the new powers in clauses 12 and 13. Both in Committee and in the House today, hon. Members have mentioned how adept criminals are at concealing and laundering the proceeds of their crimes. It is vital that the police are given the same powers to obtain financial information from banks, and to have search and seizure powers in relation to the proceeds of crime generally. The law allows them to do that in relation to the proceeds of drug trafficking.
All too often, despite all the information available to it, the court manages to confiscate only the tip of the iceberg. All too often, as the hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green rightly said, a crime is seen to pay. It is important that the criminal should not be able to conceal the proceeds and get away with it. Clauses 5, 6 and 7 will give prosecutors new powers to go back to court and seek a revaluation of the proceeds if new evidence comes to light. It only remains for me to repeat that the Government are deeply grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter for steering the Bill so ably through Committee and through the House today, for listening to my hon. Friends, and for making sensible amendments to the Bill. Last year, various sections of the big Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 received much media attention. I do not think that the media or, perhaps, my colleagues in the police service have fully realised the extent and effect of the Bill before us today. They may have seen that it was a private Member's Bill and how terribly complex it was, but perhaps failed to pick up how sexy it is deep down.
I hope that, after the Bill returns successfully from another place, becomes an Act of Parliament and begins to bite, a wave of fear will go through the criminal fraternity. It will say, "Where on earth did this measure come from? Who invented this? We didn't know this went through." My hon. Friend will take the credit for that. It is a pity that he cannot also take a percentage of the assets belonging to the individuals who have been robbed and burgled and that we shall recover, as it would be a sound investment.
The message should go out from the House today that a powerful weapon has been created in the Bill. That weapon will be used effectively not just against drug traffickers and terrorists--we have provision to do that--but against every criminal who wants to profit from the proceeds of crime. We can get at their assets. We can destroy their life style. The Bill will ensure that, for a great many of the nastiest criminals in society, crime does not pay. I commend it wholeheartedly to the House and congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter yet again.
Bill read the Third time, and passed .
Order for Second Reading read.
It is important to put it on record that when I introduced the Bill last year I was completely overwhelmed by the response and the support that it received. I received great support from the media, national newspapers, women's magazines, the medical profession, eminent nutritionists such as Dr. Tom Sanders of King's college, the Advertising Standards Authority, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and an active organisation called Diet Breakers founded by Mary Evans Young. Most important, I was also bowled over by the support that I received from thousands of women, and a few men, who have tried dieting, sometimes for years, and have either poured money down the drain and regained any weight lost after a couple of years or damaged their health, sometimes seriously.
It was the health hazards of dieting that first caught my interest as a Member of Parliament. A few years ago, two young girls and their mothers visited me at one of my weekly advice surgeries. Both girls, who were very young, were suffering from serious slimming illnesses. One of them had decided when she was 11 years old that she was too fat. She wanted to look like the skinny models on the catwalks and in girls' and women's magazines. She set about starving herself to fulfil her aim. She did so secretly, without her parents knowing. For at least two years, her anxious parents fretted about her weight loss, listlessness and mood swings. Only when it was almost too late did they find out what the truth. They then sought help because she was suffering from severe anorexia nervosa. The girl, who is now almost 17 years old, is still ill. She does not have periods and doctors fear for her fertility. There have been many well-publicised extreme cases involving young women who have been slimming. Some have ended in death. I shall deal with slimming diseases in a moment.
Further investigation on my part led to the discovery that we have an epidemic of dieting in the United Kingdom and, indeed, in the western world. In this country, 90 per cent. of women diet at some time in their lives. At any given time, 50 per cent. of women are dieting, including girls as young as seven and eight and women as old as 75.
I also discovered that a multi-million pound diet industry operates in this country--it is worth about £1 billion a year. We spend about six times the gross national product of the Gambia on gimmicks such as patches, tablets and various courses and cures, trying more often than not to be unhealthily thin while many people in the developing world are dying because they do not have enough food and subsequently suffer starvation.
Sadly, many of the people who diet do not need to do so. The vast majority have absolutely no reason to diet. I teamed up with Diet Breakers and Mary Evans Young because I liked their positive approach to the subject. So much about dieting is shrouded in secrecy and misery and depends on people's insecurities. Diet Breakers was like a breath of fresh air. It opposes the diet industry by and large and opposes what it calls the tyranny of thinness
Column 1343which has gathered so much momentum in this country. Diet Breakers and Dr. Thomas Sanders of Kings college, who wrote the very good book "You Do Not Have To Diet", gave me considerable help when I was drawing up my Bill to regulate the industry. I would like to record my thanks to Mary Evans Young and Tom Sanders.
Mary Evans Young is bringing out a book that I hope will offer help to thousands of women who are going through the misery of dieting. "Diet Breaking: Having It All Without Having To Diet" is an excellent book. It is a fresh approach and full of common sense. Let us hope that many people read it and that the young, especially, have access so it.
My Bill would regulate the diet industry by requiring weight-loss centres to display prominently a health warning that rapid weight loss can be dangerous to health. All weight-loss companies would have to provide consumers with a card which clearly outlines the risk of any rapid weight loss. Anybody selling such products or running a clinic would also have to disclose any additional charges because too often the consumer buys a product and then discovers that extra charges are incurred when the diet programme is devised. There are many cons in the industry.
Most importantly, my Bill would also require that all weight-loss pills, potions and patches are brought under a medicines Act and, of course, that medicines such as amphetamines and amphetamine-type pills are not given to aid slimming. I very much welcome and congratulate the Minister on his press release on 29 March, which was presumably in response to concerns being expressed in the media, by organisations such as Diet Breakers and, indeed, by hon. Members. The Minister said that a move to ban the use of certain amphetamines and amphetamine-type drugs as aids to losing weight would be shortly under way.
The press release says:
"The Medicine Control Agency, an executive of the Department of Health, is to start consultations with a view to restricting the use of such drugs, under section 62 of the 1968 Medicines Act, under certain circumstances."
I know that the Minister has taken an interest in the matter. He clearly and rightly describes in his press release what is so wrong when he says that a number of doctors have set up slimming clinics to prescribe amphetamines, which are addictive drugs, as an aid to weight loss.
Such drugs have dramatic and devastating effects when they are dished out to some women. There have been reports, as the Minister said, of people being damaged mentally and physically by the drugs and of them leading to addiction and psychosis. There have also been reports of hair loss, palpitations and other side effects. I welcome the press release. The Minister has taken a positive move and I hope that that ban does not take too long to implement.
I should like to tell the House about some of the many hundreds of letters that I have received since I started looking into the industry and, in particular, into the use of drugs which are dished out like sweeties in some of the clinics to which the Minister referred. I shall not give the name of the person who wrote this letter, but it says:
"Dear Mrs. Mahon,
I have been meaning to write to you for some weeks following a report on the BBC news about your involvement in trying to have the slimming business regulated. The enclosed newspaper article can only describe to some extent my experiences in what I can only describe as a year of hell."
Column 1344That person goes on to describe how she was horrified by the side effects of the pills, which appear, she said,
"to be generally well-known among the medical profession", yet doctors still give them out.
An article from Woman's Journal which my correspondent enclosed talked about experiences similar to her husband's. Woman's Journal also outlines a couple of cases that I think are worth putting on the record. One concerns a woman who was brave enough to give her name--Susan Weeks, aged 34. She was a stone heavier than she would have liked to be. Five years ago, six weeks before her marriage, she decided to lose the extra stone before her wedding day. She saw an advertisement in the yellow pages for a local slimming clinic and she made an appointment. In her words:
"I only saw the doctor for a few minutes. He just asked me a few questions, weighed me and gave me two sorts of pills, plus a vitamin supplement and a diet sheet. On the day I married I was the thinnest I'd ever been. I also felt terrible--hypersensitive, panicky and weak. I put it down to stress, but I knew it was the pills and that diet. When I came back from the honeymoon--nearly back to my old weight and feeling really well--I saw the remaining pills and flushed them down the loo."
Other experiences did not end as positively as that.
A well-documented case, which the Daily Mail highlighted fairly well, was that of Christine Malik who died the day after taking pills prescribed to help her lose a few pounds before her holidays. Another woman was not even seen by a doctor before she was given diet pills, although they were a controlled drug described as amphetamine-like and chemically related to ecstasy. As a result, the clinic was searched and two arrests were made. That woman was given the pills although she was not even seen by a doctor. That is an example of the dangerous practice now taking place.
I also put on the record another case which came to me from Mary Evans Young of Diet Breakers as we were collecting evidence and information for the Bill. The case concerns a woman called Mandie who is 5 ft 10 in tall-- she is quite a tall woman--and weighs 12 stone. She is 22 and works in a factory. She writes:
"My one wish is to be able to forget dieting and stop worrying about my body size. I have been dieting non-stop for as far back as I can remember. My mum has always dieted too, and so after I received a few jokes about my size at school, I decided I would follow suit. I began to get paranoid and one of my earliest memories of how miserable worrying about my body size is quite funny. I was in the junior school (so I was younger than 11) and besotted with horses like many young girls at that age."
She was very much in love with horses. The letter continues: "The walls of my room were covered in horse posters and religiously, every night before I got undressed, I would pull the top two pieces of Blue-Tak from the wall so that the horses' heads faced towards the wall and they couldn't see my body as I undressed! Then, before I got back into bed every poster was put back again. This ritual was repeated for years."
It is really, really sad that a young girl is so obsessed with how she looks and with her image that she resorts to that when she is less than seven years old.
The letter continues:
"Until recently, dieting had become just a part of my life. Every Monday I began a new diet. Although I was not huge I didn't like myself and my body because if you are told something often enough, you start to believe it. Anyway, I got more miserable and tried more and more diets. With each one I lost weight initially, but after sticking to it for a short while I put on everything I had lost plus
Column 1345some more. I hit rock bottom, became very depressed and would cry for no reason at all. Going out became really hard for me as I was ashamed of myself and couldn't bear to be seen in public. Eventually I got some counselling and as a result I have come to realise that my problems stemmed from the pressure on me to be slimmer than my healthy natural body size."
Mandie's experience is the experience of thousands who are daily bombarded with images of unhealthily thin models on the catwalks. Magazines are full of pictures of size 10 women, but we all come in different shapes and sizes; we are not all alike.
When I was young Marilyn Monroe was my role model, and I used to take bottles and bottles of stuff called Weight On in a desperate attempt to put on a few pounds. Later in life I developed gallstones, much to the surprise of my doctors, who said that sufferers were usually people older and fatter than myself. I am pretty sure that all that stuff that I poured into myself contributed to that illness.
So there was pressure even then, although it is far more intense now than when I was younger. A lack of self-esteem and a desire to look like those whom the image-makers portray as beauties makes many young girls dissatisfied with their bodies. And that now applies to boys, too, because sadly the fashion industry is targeting boys. All those advertisements showing boys in slim-fitting jeans are part of that process.
Diet Breakers undertook a survey to establish the patterns of dieting, and asked where the pressure to diet comes from. The survey, which was extremely interesting, covered 516 women, and 45 per cent. of them answered that the pressure came from the media and from the fashion and advertising industries, whereas only 15 per cent. said that it came from doctors.
When asked what part of their bodies they felt most negative about, 25 per cent. said stomach, 15 per cent. thighs and 15 per cent. bottoms. When my Bill of the same name was before the House last year the hon. Member for Mid-Staffordshire (Mr. Fabricant) said that the diet industry provided a useful back-up service for the overstretched national health service. The statistics that I have quoted show that argument to be flawed, although well before the survey, common sense also showed that it was flawed.
Those figures show why the diet industry's chief guru, Rosemary Conley, gives her books titles such as "The Hip and Thigh Diet" and "The Flat Stomach Diet". But Mrs. Conley's own health has not always been good. Like me, she has had gallstones, which is a common ailment among constant dieters.
The survey also asked for the reasons why people could not accept themselves as they were. Low self-esteem was mentioned by 32.5 per cent. of respondents. In other words, that multi-million pound industry is exploiting women's low self-esteem by promising them success, not only in losing weight but with the implied new life that is supposed to go with it.
The Diet Breakers survey also asked, "Did your mother diet?" The results show that dieting runs in families. That has been my experience too. People write to me about it, and one woman in particular sticks in my mind. She said that she had stopped going to Weight Watchers because she had had to rethink dramatically about dieting. She had been taking her 11-year-old daughter, who was very slender, with her to Weight Watchers, and had noticed that even she
Column 1346was becoming interested in losing pounds as a way of life. I found that quite frightening and very honest, and I was pleased that the woman joined Diet Breakers.
Sixty-four per cent. of the respondents aged up to 41 said that their mothers had dieted too, whereas 72 per cent. of respondents aged 60 and over said that their mothers did not diet. That too is an interesting statistic.
Dieting has become an unhealthy national epidemic. We have been encouraged to believe that a diet for losing weight is the same as a healthy diet, but the two are completely different. A healthy diet means being able to enjoy food without feeling guilty. Only then can people develop a well-balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle. Eating what one fancies and stopping when one is full is natural and healthy.
The diet industry, with its gadgets and gimmicks, its meal replacements and low-calorie dinners--we have all seen them--does not teach people to develop a healthy relationship with their bodies and their food. That is why the British Dietetic Association supports my Bill.
Another element of the diet industry rip-off is the so-called "meal replacement" such as biscuits, bars, milk shakes and "healthy" ready-made meals. Those products can cause people to lose weight too quickly, which means a loss of lean tissue and a lowering of the metabolic rate. They can cause people to have poor nutritional value, as most of the products are high in fat and sugar. All the biscuits and bars are low in protein, and we need protein to live for any length of time.
Many of the meal replacements are not significantly lower in calories than many snack foods. They also encourage unhealthy eating habits because of their emphasis on biscuits, sweets and high-fat snacks. They are also enormously expensive, and people are getting ripped off. They are much more expensive than buying fruit and vegetables and having a balanced and healthy diet.
We have also mentioned the diet pill part of the industry, and I am pleased to say that the Royal Pharmaceutical Society--the professional body of pharmacists--supports what I am trying to do. It says that the marketing of products and the claims made for them are a matter of concern. The society believes that the products should be subject to the controls of the marketing of medicinal products.
In addition, the society is concerned about the widespread and inappropriate use of appetite suppressants, and the extent to which these are supplied through slimming clinics to customers who may be unaware of the effects of the medicines. Another young woman who had taken slimming pills told Diet Breakers about what happened to her, and I received similar letters during my campaign.
The young girl said that the first diet pill that she took made her feel dizzy and unwell. She went back to the clinic, and was given a different bottle of pills. These made her hair grow thin and start to fall out. She was worried, stopped taking the pills and returned to the clinic, where it was suggested that she try a third type of diet pill. She took those and her hair regrew, but this time it was permanently grey. She was only 23 years old.
Some 5,000 children in this country are being treated for eating disorders on the NHS. Children as young as seven and eight are dieting and feeling that they are too fat. As legislators and people interested in health, we must
Column 1347teach children to be positive about their body image. The Department of Health is trying to promote healthy eating in its documents on health, and we must teach children that they can look attractive if they are a different shape from the person sitting next to them, or if they have more weight, are taller or have longer arms. Those differences do not mean that a person cannot be attractive and important.
The all-pervasive arm of the diet industry reaches out. The recent survey by Diet Breakers showed the effect that mothers had on their children, but there is also evidence to show that the attitude gets into the classroom. There are now sponsored slims being held in classrooms, and that is irresponsible. "Home Alone", a children's film recently shown on television, was sponsored by Diet Coke, but healthy children who are getting plenty of exercise and who have a healthy diet do not need Diet Coke. It is the subtle introduction to the diet mentality that is worrying. People are losing their right to be viewed and valued for who they are and for their personality. On 6 May this year it is international No Dieting Day. I have to give it a plug before I finish my speech. It is important that people get together and support each other. No Dieting Day has now become international. We have contacts with people all over the world who have been on the treadmill of dieting and want to get off or celebrate the fact that they are off it.
People throw the accusation at us that serious slimming diseases such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia are complex and simply dieting does not bring them on. I have done some work on eating disorders. The Eating Disorders Association is made up mainly of parents or people who have suffered slimming illnesses. They all say that all serious slimming illnesses start with people dieting. There may be other causes, although I am not medically qualified to say yes or no. The Eating Disorders Association says:
"Exciting, new, and miraculous diets, promising weight loss with minimum effort or discomfort are featured every week in various women's magazines, followed by pictures and recipes for delightful, easy to bake treats. As a result, many women worry continually about what they can and cannot eat and it is not surprising that so many turn to dieting."
Most people with eating disorders start by dieting. They start by reading how they should look and how they should not look. Rachel Bryant-Waugh, the principal clinical psychologist working on slimming diseases at the Hospital for Sick Children at Great Ormond street has written an excellent article which goes through the complexities of slimming diseases. I do not pretend that such illnesses are caused simply by dieting. She says:
"Predisposing background conditions include cultural factors such as the current obsession with slimness . . . and possibly factors related to family, school or work."
I pay tribute to a woman whose daughter killed herself recently. Her story was in the Mail on Sunday magazine. She wanted to speak out about her daughter Karen's suicide. It must have been incredibly difficult for her to speak out. Mrs. Ros Frewer told her story to the press because she wanted to warn other parents to watch out for such problems. The young woman had been starving herself. She was bulimic. She had seen a GP and a counsellor, but had kept the illness secret. She was a lovely girl with her whole future in front of her.
Column 1348Mrs. Frewer said:
"It's clear that Karen desperately wanted to be thin. In fact, she was an attractive, fashion-conscious girl, who hovered between sizes 12 and 14--a long way from fat, but she couldn't see it." The image makers got to her. She decided that she could not cope with how she was.
The British Dietetic Association, which supports moves legally to regulate the diet industry, says:
"Western society tends to see `thin as good' encouraging many people, especially women to `diet' unnecessarily."
It goes on to say how many women diet. It points out that "only 16 per cent. are obese ie have a body mass index of 30 or more. This may be detrimental to their physical and psychological health".
It will be more detrimental to them if they do not go to a doctor and reduce their weight properly. It can positively harm them if they go on extreme diets or use patented slimming medicines or potions. Such medicines are ineffective with someone who has a genuine problem of obesity.
State registered dieticians are well-qualified people. They will tell you that it is a healthy diet that matters. It is not all these gimmicks and quacks.
I cannot sit down without paying tribute to the media. It is most unusual for Members--especially Opposition Members--to pay tribute to newspapers such as The Mail on Sunday , the Daily Mail , The Sun and the Daily Mirror . I must also pay tribute to The Guardian , The Daily Telegraph , the Bolton Evening News , the Yorkshire Post and Central Television, Scottish Television and the Kilroy-Silk show. I apologise if I have left out anyone who has mounted a major campaign. In the past few years, all have responsibly looked into clinics and the Jack-the-lads who are peddling all sorts of rubbish and nonsense and highlighted some of the extreme end of the market. We should say congratulations.
Women's Realm , which has been responsible for selling some of the foods in the past, produced an excellent article not long ago, entitled, "Made ill by diet doctors." I have only received one bad report from a newspaper-- Maggie Drummond in The Daily Telegraph suggested that I only had half a brain because I was taking this issue seriously. The fact that only one journalist failed to recognise that the issue is serious is not bad going and the press should be congratulated.
The proposals in the Bill are fairly modest. The Minister is going to tackle the most wicked side of the diet industry, but I want to go much further. I might introduce another Bill later this year, as I want to add the provision that anyone offering weight loss or spot reducing services and advertising them to the public should have to register annually with the Department of Health and submit the following information. Such services should be provided by trained and qualified personnel, who also provide counselling as well as weight loss services. Ingredients and nutritional information should be provided for any food, formula or drug products sold or provided as part of a weight-loss programme so that everyone can see what is in them.
If the service has been on offer for a year or more, a record should be kept of the number of clients in the previous year who successfully achieved weight loss according to the programme's goals. Information on the total number of clients served in the previous year should be provided and, in the case of diet clubs, a breakdown
Column 1349between new members and those rejoining because they have failed. We should also know how many clients have reported medical problems linked to the weight loss service.
Every person, firm or corporation registering pursuant to the legislation would be charged a fee so that the service would not cost the Department of Health anything. The Department should compile the information and make it available to the public in a report every year.
We are going for healthy eating and we recognise that what we eat when we are young often dictates our health in later life. A healthy diet is good preventive medicine and could save the national health service a lot of money. The Department of Health could periodically review the records of firms and corporations advertising weight-loss services, to verify the accuracy of the information submitted. Those aims are fairly moderate and could be worked into another Bill. The Advertising Standards Authority has tightened its code of practice, which is very welcome, and I was interested to see recently that a company in Birmingham had been fined £15,000 for selling misleading slimming aids. Vitahealth Ltd., which supplies the aids by mail order, was charged with six offences under the Trade Descriptions Act 1968. I am pleased about the fine because there are no miracle pills or slimming cures--I will not go into the worst excesses now as I did so when I moved the Bill. They do not exist. Nothing replaces exercise and healthy eating. We should accept how we feel about ourselves. Fat, thin or indifferent, we all have something to offer.
The fourth international No Dieting Day on 6 May will give us a good opportunity to promote and celebrate good health and self-acceptance. People from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Norway will participate. The other weekend, I took part in a radio phone-in to a live Australian chat show which was dealing with this matter, and the Australian health department is taking the matter extremely seriously. Common sense recognises that peddling ill health works to the cost of the health service. We shall hold a press conference in the House of Commons on 3 May; I shall present a further early-day motion, which I hope will have all-party support; and a book by Mary Evans Young will be published on 20 April. So good things are happening. I hope that the Minister will act quickly against the peddlers of misery in slimming clinics. I commend the Second Reading of my Bill to the House.
Lady Olga Maitland (Sutton and Cheam): I congratulate the hon. Member for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon) on introducing this important Bill. It deals with a matter that has always worried me, and I am delighted that the hon. Lady is acting while we have stood around waving our hands in anguish and concern.
The time has come to stop peddling quack remedies and to bring an end to the neurotic obsession with dieting, which began not in recent years but some 70 years ago. It gathered speed after the memorable phrase by the late Duchess of Windsor, who said that one could not be too rich or too thin. I do not mind being a little too rich, but she put on the map the idea that, if one wants to be successful and smart and to make one's way in the world
Column 1350and attract good-looking men, such as we have in the Chamber today, one must be extraordinarily pencil slim to the point that, ultimately, it is dangerous to one's health.
We must pay serious attention to this matter. I applaud the plea by Dr. Tom Sanders for more common sense about eating habits. He said that we should bring to an end the soothsayers of slimming pills and magic potions and return to a sensible approach to our lives. I am sorry that I did not have a chance to meet the Diet Breakers organisation. From what I have heard and read, it sounds as though it is doing excellent work in breaking a myth. That myth has built a billion pound industry in this country alone. In America, which is the founder of many of our cultural developments, it is a $50 billion industry. That is an export to this country which I am happy to send back.
The Bill wisely does not try to tackle too much. If one goes for a limited area, one has a chance of getting it into operation. I congratulate the hon. Lady on suggesting that we should bring a little rationality into our lives and ensure that people understand the risks involved. I agree that risks must be properly advertised so that people understand that rapid weight loss can be dangerous to their health. Likewise, any book, recording or video that is promoted on that subject must carry a health warning, as customers should know not only the benefits but the risks. The customer is entitled to know the timetable of those diets. They appear to be never- ending. The customer also needs to know the charges. If there is one industry in which an enormous scam is going on, it is the diet industry which is making a fortune having promoted itself through a host of media.
The Daily Mirror conducted some research about the clinics that promote those different drugs and diets. It sent out some researchers--I have to say, anonymously--to investigate what was on offer. The Daily Mirror described how a researcher, Kate, "visited . . . the Kings Private Clinic in Paddington Street . . . she was charged £25 and given a six-week supply of ionamin. She wasn't told that the drug can cause nervousness, nausea and insomnia."
That is highly dangerous.
"At Dietmania in London's Harley Street, she was given a three-week supply of ionamin for £50 and told not to worry about side-effects.
Another researcher, Sue, visited the Swiss Cottage DIET Clinic in North London, where they gave her a one-week supply of duromine for £13, with a limited explanation of the side-effects.
At the Medical DIET Centre in Harley Street she was not given any drugs but was charged £50 for a consultation and single sheet of paper"--
talk about an easy way to make money.
The terrifying thing is that, as the Consumers Association, which has investigated the industry very carefully, says,
"Anyone can set up a clinic. And although you need to be registered to buy the drugs and prescribe them . . . there is concern that"
there are clinic doctors operating in the field who are not registered.
We must be sure that patients and people understand the harmful effects of those appetite suppressants, the diuretics and thyroid hormones. Some people definitely must not take those potions, especially people with heart diseases, high blood pressure, asthma, epilepsy or glaucoma and those who are pregnant.
Column 1351All those are serious warnings that the industry has spun out of control. We should listen carefully to people who have studied the industry and who utter health warnings of their own. For instance, I draw the attention of the House to the words of Peter Bazalgette, the executive producer of the BBC's "Food and Drink" programme, who has studied the matter for a long time. He says:
"It's heartening to see scientific research mustered to join the attack on our appalling `dieting' mania. The triple tyrannies of the diet, fashion and health industries have conspired to give us a wholly misleading idea of what a healthy weight is. In fact, we now know that the plump live longer than the very thin."
There is hope for us all.
I refer again to Professor Tom Sanders, because I think that he has managed to strike the key note on the topic. He is the professor of nutrition and dietetics at King's college, London. He said on one occasion:
"The health risks of obesity are often exaggerated compared with other lifestyle aspects such as smoking and drinking. It does increase the risk of diabetes and arthritis. But the health risks of plumpness are negligible: it may even offer advantages to women. The evidence against weight cycling isn't sufficiently compelling to deter the very obese or people with metabolic conditions such as diabetes from controlling their weight."
As time is getting short, I simply want to place on record the support that I give to the hon. Member for Halifax.
I have noticed the way in which our culture has spread dieting mania throughout the country, especially among the young. There is barely a teenage girl who has not said to me, "I am dieting." I have a lovely daughter of my own, aged 19. She watches her weight, but I would be extremely angry with her if I found her going down that obsessive road. It led one or two of her friends to suffer from anorexia, which is the curse of the modern age and, in a sense, of prosperity. One would never find people of the third world opting to diet in such an obsessive and extraordinary way.
We need to enhance education about healthy eating and healthy living habits. It is a curious paradox that today's teenagers are far larger than their parents. They are all giants. One need only visit any university to see that they are bigger people than those in older generations. That is why they should not try to judge their ideal weight according to standards set in the past. They all weigh in at a bigger, healthier weight than their predecessors. That is all the more reason why we should tell them to accept that weight and be proud of that. It will guarantee that they have healthy lives unless they wreck them by falling for the media hype of the diet industry, which, frankly, has conned thousands and thousands of women to profit the pockets of those who run that industry without offering any benefit to others.
I have one word of advice. Let us go back common sense. I believe in moderation, but a little bit of what you fancy does you good. 1.55 pm