HEALTH – TACKLING OBESITY – 22 January 2008

Dr Julian Lewis: I sympathise with my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry), because the last time I dared to mention having lost a stone and a half, I was taken to task by one of the more delectable parliamentary sketchwriters, who disputed that at great length in her column. Having said that, I am a little puzzled by the idea of inspecting children's lunch boxes to remove forbidden fruits – or, rather, forbidden chocolates. Given that children for good reasons now have more disposable income than 30 years ago, how will that solve the problem of them simply going out afterwards and buying whatever unsuitable food they wish to purchase?

[The Secretary of State for Health (Alan Johnson): I am afraid that that suggests that if we cannot do everything, we should do nothing. Schools across the country are already doing what we seek to do on school lunch boxes: work with parents to ensure that they have information and advice. The hon. Gentleman will have seen what children in his constituency have in their lunch boxes. Some of them come to school, probably having had no breakfast, with only a packet of Hula Hoops and a chocolate bar in their lunch box. Irrespective of what they might eat outside the school, our responsibility is what happens inside the school. Having put, with all-party support, a lot of effort into getting school meals right, we should use – without introducing the lunch box police or being heavy-handed – the initiatives that teachers themselves are introducing and spread best practice. At all stages, we should work with parents rather than against them.]