Health and Care Bill Debate

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Department: Leader of the House
These amendments are actually about making the Government’s own policy work, which it will not, as it stands. They are about fairness, the sustainability of the media and ensuring that platforms are responsible. I hope they will find support across the House from those who support the ban and those who do not— that point is actually now behind us—because they are designed to strengthen this important Bill and make the implementation of the policy more effective. I hope, therefore, that my noble friend will say that the Government will accept them, so that it is not necessary to divide the House.
Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
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My Lords, I shall speak to Amendments 149, 151 and 153 in my name and those of the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Walmsley and Lady Boycott. The amendments refer specifically to a deadline for the implementation of the junk food advertising restrictions.

I completely applaud the Minister for the approach of bringing in government amendments to try to refine the terms of the Bill; it is a collaborative approach, which I think all of us have really appreciated. However, in this matter, a government amendment has, I think, overshot, by removing the previous deadline in the first draft of the Bill. These amendments seek to rectify that.

I will not speak at length, but many have said, both in Committee and at Second Reading, how urgent it is to address the issue of obesity in this country. We cannot have any delay or rolling procrastination around these measures, so it is entirely right, proper and suitable for there to be a deadline in place in a Bill such as this.

It is also right to have certainty. I have huge consideration for Grenade and its low-sugar, high-protein bar. I will certainly look out for its excellent product when I am next in the gym, and I think the uncertainty it faces, which my noble friend Lord Moylan has described, is heartbreaking. That is why it is important to start the mechanisms now for answering its quite reasonable questions and to put a deadline on when those answers should be delivered.

I am not blind to the fact that many in the industry have voiced concerns that the deadline is too tight. I have looked at it and I do not accept those concerns. I think the bans have been around and on the books for a very long time and preparations have been in place. I worked in publishing during the tobacco ban: the turnaround for that was quite tight, but it was quite transparent and it happened without too much trouble. I think that a deadline is entirely right and suitable and that the deadline proposed is reasonable. I would like to hear reassurance from the Minister that there will be clear scheduling for these measures.

I would also like very briefly to address Amendment 151A, from my noble friend Lord Black, and the related amendments. On this, I feel utterly conflicted. The harms caused by online advertising have been mounting over several years. They are currently far too damaging and they are set to grow, both in scale and sophistication, without any clear sight of regulatory control. That is of grave concern, and the points made by my noble friend were very persuasive: I think he was right about bringing in compliance by the platforms. On the other hand, I accept that government regulation in this area is so off the pace; the online harms Bill is so far behind and the online advertising review has taken so long that the Government are just not in a position to implement the measures in this amendment.

I shall not be supporting these amendments in any votes that might happen, but my sentiments are very much along those lines. I ask the Minister to say very clearly what the Department for Health and Social Care and the Government will do around these concerns, not just on junk food advertising but on the advertising of alcohol, betting and non-surgical cosmetics, which all face similar concerns around the explosion of complex and persuasive online advertising which is underregulated.

Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs (CB)
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My Lords, I shall speak in support of the amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, to which I have added my name. I do not really need to say anything more than has already been said. We know that this country, according to the World Obesity Atlas published last week and supported by the World Cancer Research Fund, is now top of the European league table for projected levels of female obesity by 2030 and joint top for projected levels of male obesity. Sadly, it is probably already too late to stem this trend, but by acting now on these measures we might be able to protect the next generation. That is why I support the idea of having a firm deadline by which time the measures will be introduced.

I actually wanted to speak in slightly more detail about Amendments 148, 150 and 152 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Moylan. As he explained, they are really just one amendment.

I promise you that this was not set up, but I have in my hand the very Grenade bar to which the noble Lord, Lord Moylan, referred. I wish to explain why this Grenade bar should definitely not be excluded. I am grateful to Dr Emma Boyland, of the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Population Health, for giving me a briefing on the Grenade Carb Killa bar—this particular one is high-protein, low-sugar, white chocolate and salted peanut. I bought it at the weekend from Holland & Barrett, in its health food section; it is marketed and advertised as a healthy product. Is it a healthy product? The answer is no.

First of all, no age group in this country is short of protein. We simply do not need to eat more protein. So the fact that this bar is high-protein is completely irrelevant in terms of health benefits. Secondly, remember that HFSS is high fat, salt and sugar. The bar may be low-sugar, but what about fat? It contains two-thirds of the recommended daily limit of the intake of saturated fat; it is definitely high in fat. It also contains more salt than a bag of salted crisps. Is it right to exclude something that is fatty and salty from the definition of HFSS? I am convinced it is not right, and therefore I completely reject the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Moylan. These products should not be excluded from the measures proposed in Schedule 18 to the Bill.