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Mr. Speaker: I have listened carefully to what the hon. Member for Warrington, North (Helen Jones) has said. I must give my decision, without stating any reasons. I am afraid that I do not consider that the matter that she has raised is appropriate for discussion under Standing Order No. 24, and I cannot therefore submit the application to the House.
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 obesity taskforce is pleased to see these issues raised by my Billso 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 advertisingfree 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.
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].
The Finance Bill is about enterprise and fairnessmeeting our responsibilities to business, taxpayers, the environment, the international community and the most vulnerable members of our society. The context of this Bill is one of continued economic uncertainty around the globe. In the past two years, many of our strongest competitorsnotably, the United States, Germany and Japanhave experienced recession. We have recognised that the global slow-down has brought challenging times for businesses. It is a sign of the strength of the economic framework that the Government have put in place over the past six years that the economy has remained stable and has continued to grow, unlike those of our major competitors and in contrast to the recessions of the past.
Despite the economic uncertainty around the world, we are able to meet our military responsibilities, and we have met the requirements of the golden rule and the sustainable investment rule year on year, with the public finances strongly in surplus over the current economic cycle. We do not intend to be diverted from our priorities of record investment in public services, achieving full employment and tackling child and pensioner povertybuilding a Britain of economic strength and social justice.
In the past, in less severe world downturns, as a consequence of the short-termism and economic mismanagement that, I fear, characterised the economic stewardship of the Conservative party[Hon. Members: "Oh no."] Ah, yesBritain was first into recession, last to come out and suffered a deeper depression than other countries. [Interruption.] Conservative Members do not like hearing that.
Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham): Does not the Minister accept that these 448 pages are designed to sandbag the British people with more taxes than have ever been imposed in the past? This is bumper, record taxation to smash enterprise in this economy.
Mr. Boateng: I recognise no such thing, and I well remember when the right hon. Gentleman himself wielded the cosh, and taxation represented a burden on the ordinary taxpayer that it has not represented under this Government.
Mr. Boateng: Taken from its peak, that, as the hon. Gentleman knows, is simply not the case. He knows that global equity markets have suffered in the current downturn, and he would not expect the United Kingdom to be immune from that. However, the fact is that, in the early 1990s, when the hon. Gentleman peddled his wares as a researcher and Conservative party activistwe have got a note of his record on that matter, and it should be made more widely knowninflation reached almost 10 per cent. He well remembers the time. Today, we have inflation at its lowest level for 30 yearsaveraging just 2.3 per cent. since 1997. Under the Conservatives, interest rates hit 15 per cent. [Hon. Members: "Oh no."] Oh yes, and none of them is getting up now to defend a 15 per cent. interest rate. Today, at 3.75 per cent., the interest rate is at its lowest level for 50 years.
In the past, under the Conservatives, unemployment was rising above 3 million, and Opposition Members will remember that. Today, Britain has more people in work than ever before. Almost 250,000 jobs have been created this year and, for the first time in 50 years, unemployment is lower than in Europe, Japan and America simultaneously.