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Nigel Griffiths: The hon. Member makes a very valuable point. However, let me tell her that if such well-funded industries as the food processing and advertising industries thought that her conclusions were likely to be valid, they would have commissioned their own research and presented it to us. The fact that they have not done so tells me a lot.
Nigel Griffiths: I will, of course, give way to the hon. Lady, because she will want to explain her statement that there is considerable opposition to the Bill. I concede that an early-day motion was tabled against my early-day motion. Mine attracted 211 signatures and the other attracted nine signatures, although I notice that it has only seven signatories listed today. It is one of the few early-day motions that have lost supporters in the three months during which it has been tabled, and two people signed both early-day motions.
Nigel Griffiths: The restrictions have been in place not for one year, but for less than 10 months. However, if it is too early to evaluate the consequences, why has everything fallen off a cliff, to use the words of the hon. Member for Wantage (Mr. Vaizey)?
Clause 2 would allow the Secretary of State to produce guidance, in consultation with the Food Standards Agency and Ofcom, on the content of adverts and the association between a less healthy product and a brand name. It would also allow him to produce guidance on the appropriate level of fines. Clause 2(2)(a) sets the 9 pm watershed. Clause 3 clarifies the role of the FSA, and clause 4 provides for the time scale of the Bill coming into force and its extent.
All Governments readily accept severe restrictions on the advertising and marketing of perfectly legal goods and services. Not only cigarettes and alcohol are subject to very tight restrictions, but so are casinos, betting and gambling. From last summer, unhealthy foodstuffs could no longer be advertised on childrens TV. That followed work by Liverpool university and others demonstrating that children watching cartoons interspaced with junk food adverts increased their consumption of such foods and drinks, while a control group watching the same cartoons with adverts for toys were not affected.
Ofcom, the TV regulator, now concedes that only 41 per cent. of programmes watched by children are currently covered by such restrictions and that barely 50 per cent. of programmes for the youngest children are covered. However, much of childrens viewing is not of childrens programmes, but of family entertainment.
Which? examined the top 20 most popular TV programmes this year watched by the whole family. The X Factor and Ant and Decs Saturday Night Takeaway are among the 19 of the top 20 that are simply not covered by the present ban. Only one of the most popular TV programmes watched by the familyby many childrenis covered.
Mr. John Whittingdale (Maldon and East Chelmsford) (Con): Is the hon. Gentleman aware that as several of those top 20 programmes were shown after the 9 pm watershed, they would not be covered by his Bill either?
Nigel Griffiths: I do not favour a complete ban. I believe that adults have the right to exercise a choice and that children have to be protected until they are old enough to make an informed choice. The gap is being exploited through the marketing of certain types of foods, which my Bill would abolish.
Mrs. Betty Williams (Conwy) (Lab): Those of us who have followed debates on this matter in the Chamber for a long time will have noticed that organisations such as those cited by my hon. Friendthe British Heart Foundation, Diabetes UK and the BMAhave made totally consistent arguments over the years. There is cross-country support for my hon. Friends Bill, including in WalesI think that I am the only Welsh Member in the Chamberwhich I point out just in case he thinks that support comes from only England and Scotland. Does he agree that the consistency of those organisations arguments shows that they believe that the health of the nation is more important than that of the marketers?
Nigel Griffiths: I do. In short, they have been right and we have been wrong. It is time that the House caught up by legislating to take firm action in the face of the dire warnings given by the organisations that my hon. Friend mentioned. I am pretty sure that that was why, on 17 October 2007, our Health Secretary said that
the reason why advertising restrictions should go much further is that about 70 per cent. of children watch television...outside the traditional childrens viewing times.[ Official Report, 17 October 2007; Vol. 464, c. 838.]
we need a ban on all high-fat, salty and sugary foods before the 9 pm watershed.[ Official Report, House of Lords, 29 November 2007; Vol. 696, c. 1297.]
The Bill embraces other media, such as websites, which is necessary following the exposure by Which? of companies tricks to hook our children on their HFSS products. In anticipation of the ban on adverts during childrens programmes that started last summer, cereal companies set up child-friendly websites to entice children to pester their parents for their products. The
public were so shocked by the cases that Which? presented that they forced the closure of a least six websites. The kids zones run by Pizza Hut and Burger King, the Nestlé cereals, Nesquik, Cookie Crisp and Golden Nuggets websites, the Frosties and Coco Pops sites, and dairylea.co.uk were all withdrawn after the name and shame report by Which?.
We have to ask ourselves who is standing up against such weighty groupsapart from the hon. Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans). It is just a few advertisers and a handful of companies that do very well out of peddling unhealthy foodstuffs to children, sometimes in unethical ways.
Jim Dowd: On that point, does my hon. Friend agree that food processors, and food processors alone, are resisting traffic-light front-of-pack food labelling? Instead, they go in for the spurious and reprehensible guideline daily amount scheme, which the public do not understand, as they do not want the public to understand exactly how much saturated fat, sugar and salt is in their products.
Nigel Griffiths: My hon. Friend could not be more right, and could not speak on a subject more dear to my heart. Early on in my time in the House, I sought to bring in a Bill introducing a traffic-light system. I commend Sainsburys for introducing a system of that sort, but I am critical of Tescos failure to use a simple colour-coding device. He is right that there is opposition to the traffic-light system, and when those who are opposed to it think that they have been overwhelmed by public opinion, they then seek to confuse us, as Tesco is seeking to do.
The Government started off so well; they introduced initial first-stage restrictions on advertising on childrens television to children under the age of nine, and since January there have been further restrictions that apply to all childrenthat is, those under 16. We need my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport, to commit herself to taking the current Ofcom review seriously. Ofcom will report later this summer, having taken into account the evidence that it is considering. I am sure that it will receive a massive volume of evidence in the lead-up to publication of its report in July. It should not be frightened to recommend a 9 pm watershed, and I hope that my right hon. Friend and the Government will not hesitate to implement such a measure, or even go further if necessary.
I commend the Bill to the House. I know that it is supported by many hon. Members, and I look forward to hearing the Minister give a commitment to ensuring that the health of our children is protected for the next generation.
Martin Horwood (Cheltenham) (LD): I had not intended to speak on the Bill, not least because I am keen to see the next Bill on energy efficiency and microgeneration progress successfully, but I have heard such arrant nonsense being spoken by Conservative Members that I am forced to speak.
Martin Horwood: I am sure that if my hon. Friend the Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) has objections to the Bill, they will be sensible ones, but some of the objections that I have heard Conservative Members give are completely ludicrous.
I have a few qualifications that entitle me to speak on the subject. My first qualification is as a parent. Unlike the hon. Member for Bromsgrove (Miss Kirkbride) , I have certainly been subjected to pester-power by my six-year-old and three-year old when it comes to food. I would be glad to see the back of Mr. Ronald McDonald, who has been responsible for some of it.
Secondly, I have worked in the advertising and marketing industry; my career began in commercial advertising. We have a great, creative advertising industry in this country, and it is absolutely true that its revenues would be affected if the Bill were to be enacted, and as a consequence the revenue of some media owners would be affected, but not nearly as much as they would have been just 10 years ago, because the media environment is increasingly diverse and much more targeted now. The Conservative Front Bencher the hon. Member for Wantage (Mr. Vaizey) asserted that the Bill somehow backs American TV over British TV, but that is a ludicrous assertion. The opposite is true. The non-commercial BBC channels, CBBC and CBeebies, provide plenty of space for domestically produced television programmes, whereas the commercial channelsCiTV and the othersare dominated by American material, so the reverse of what the hon. Gentleman says is true.
Martin Horwood: No, not just yet. I have a point to make. I will not be distracted by debate on the Olympics. My third qualification is that I am secretary of the all-party group on corporate responsibility. There is a very good example of good corporate responsibility in my constituency, in the national headquarters of Kraft Foods. It has run a responsible promotion aimed at children, called Health 4 Schools. It is about promoting healthy cooking and eating in schools. It has resisted making any association with the many confectionery products produced by Kraft. If I have one concern about the Bill, it is with clause 2, which refers to associations. I would regret it very much if Krafts obvious association with confectionary brands meant that it was not able to run a responsible promotion. Subsection (2)(b) offers a mechanism through which that might be addressed; that issue could perhaps be considered in Committee, but it is important that it be addressed.
Finally, I speak as the husband of a public health doctor, and therefore as someone who is well aware, if somewhat vicariously, of the seriousness of the rising
tide of ill health, a lot of it associated with poor diet and nutrition, that is affecting our whole country and that starts in childhood. We are talking about a serious, deadly threat to our nations health and, through the NHS, to our nations finances in the longer term. Those are not issues to be dismissed lightly in defence of Ronald McDonald or the advertising industrys short-term benefit.
Jim Dowd: The hon. Gentleman mentioned McDonalds. The hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope) has vacated his seat temporarily, but the fact is that McDonalds is sponsor of the International Olympic Committee; that is where the McDonalds sponsorship comes in. It does not come into the issue of the London Olympics. I realise that if the House were to spend its time correcting the hon. Member for Christchurch, we would have to publish a separate supplement to Hansard, but that is the fact of the matter.
Martin Horwood: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that clarification. My closing point is about the seriousness of the epidemic of ill health that we are likely to face, and of the increasing incidence of diseases such as diabetes. Any risks and concerns associated with the Bill should therefore be considered in Committee, and the Bill should certainly be allowed to progress.
Kerry McCarthy (Bristol, East) (Lab): As I suggested in an intervention, I want to focus on the impact that the changing nature of the food that we consume has, not only on childrens physical health, but on the mental health of children and adults. On the detail of what is in some of the food that children are consuming, a Food Commission nutritionist, Annie Seeley, said recently:
Nearly 40 per cent. of childrens foods and drinks contain additives.
Children aged between 11 and 14 were getting as much as 31 per cent. of their energy from sugar, compared with the recommended level of 11 per cent.
Legal additives commonly used in childrens food include tartrazine. It has been assessed that its side-effects include anxiety, migraines, clinical depression, blurred vision, a feeling of suffocation, purple skin patches and sleep disturbance. Most importantly, there is a link to childhood obsessive-compulsive disorder. The Food Standards Agency found that when it was used in combination with other additives, it increased levels of hyperactivity in children.
There are also real concerns about the use of artificial sweeteners in childrens food. Such sweeteners may have a link to carcinogens, and are also linked to migraines, nausea and bowel problems. Other additives in childrens food that have caused concern are hydrogenated and trans fats and refined carbohydrates. A survey by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology reported that the IQ of children who ate the greatest amount of refined carbs was 25 points lower than that of those who ate the least amount of refined carbs. Obviously,
the question of whether that is cause and effect is an issue; the difference is not necessarily the result of diet, but it is a matter that is worth considering.
A study carried out in 2006 looked at the overall impact on mental health of the nutrients that are being consumedor rather not being consumedthese days. It was carried out by Sustain, the food campaign group, and the Mental Health Foundation. They concluded that the changing nature of peoples diets had a significant impact on mental health and could be linked to the rise in mental illness in the past 50 years.
The report was called, Feeding Minds, and examined a topic that is a hobby-horse of minethe growth of industrialised farming. It cited the introduction of pesticides in foods and also the intensive farming of, for example, chickens, which now reach their slaughter weight twice as fast as they did 30 years ago. That means that the fat content is 22 per cent. rather than 2 per cent. The balance of vital fatty acids, such as Omega 3 and Omega 6, in chickens has also been altered. That is not specifically the point of the Bill, but we need to take account of not only the food that we can readily identify as unhealthy, but other food, which is becoming increasingly less nutritious and healthy.
I want to consider surveys of attempts to moderate peoples diets and clinical trials of moderating young peoples diet to affect behavioural problems and improve mental health. A controlled experiment was conducted in the United States in a jail for chronic offenders aged between 13 and 17. Many of the boys there were found to be deficient in specific nutrients. For example, they consumed on average only 63 per cent. of the iron, 42 per cent. of the magnesium, 39 per cent. of the zinc and 39 per cent. of the vitamin B12 in the US Governments recommended daily allowance. The researchers conducted a trial in which half the inmates were treated with placebos and half were given capsules that contained the missing nutrients. They also gave the prisoners advice on how to improve their diets.
As a result of the trial, the number of violent incidents caused by inmates in the control group, which took the placebos, fell by 56 per cent., and those caused by prisoners in the experimental group, which took the capsules, fell by 80 per cent. However, there was no reduction among the inmates who took the placebos but refused to improve their diets. It is therefore clear that those who took the capsules benefited most, those who voluntarily changed their diets showed the second most notable change in behaviour, but those who did not change their diets showed no change.
Other studies have been conducted. A study carried out in Aylesbury young offenders institution between 1995-97 found that, among young adult prisoners given vitamin, fatty acid and mineral supplements, disciplinary offences fell by 26 per cent. and violent offences decreased by 37 per cent. In the control group, which was given placebos, disciplinary and violent offences did not decrease. The author of the report told The Ecologist last year that,
having a bad diet is now a better predictor of future violence than past violent behaviour...Likewise, a diagnosis of psychopathy.
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