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Lord Whitty: I shall resist the temptation of arguing with the noble Baroness about the value of spinach or carrots. Her contribution failed to recognise the difference between nutritional standards and the provision of uniform meals. It is true that considerable progress has been made in a number of schools in ensuring that food is of a better nutritional standard and more enjoyable. However, that is not the case in other schools. Technically, as the amendment stands, it would remove the provision of compulsory nutritional standards from the Bill. In fact, the Secretary of State is already capable of issuing voluntary guidance--and has done so. Therefore, these provisions are, in effect, opting for the status quo.

In conjunction with other measures to improve food safety and standards, the Government believe that voluntary guidance was an important step but that compulsory nutritional standards are needed to ensure at least a common minimum in terms of nutrition in all school lunches. It is important that all children attending a maintained school should have the opportunity of a healthy school meal in whatever form it comes. That is commensurate with our drive to avoid an increase in diet-based diseases among schoolchildren and beyond, leading to diseases and premature death. The opportunity of a healthy school meal should not depend on the particular school attended and on whether its regime recognises nutritional standards. The short and long-term health of all children is vital.

I should have thought that Members of the Committee would agree that it is particularly important that children who are entitled to free school meals are guaranteed the opportunity of a nutritional, healthy meal in the middle of the day. Clause 107 guarantees just that. This can be mocked as the noble Baroness attempted to do so in her opening remarks. However, for many children it is vital that we accept the responsibility for ensuring that they have at least one decent meal per day. That is the intention of this clause. I ask the noble Baroness on reflection to withdraw her amendment.

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9.45 p.m.

Baroness Maddock: I am very much in favour of this measure. Over the years there has been a dreadful deterioration in the diet of children in this country. My generation, born at the end of the war, and those who lived through the war--we did not like the lack of choice--were the most healthy and we had healthy eating habits. Those of us who have visited schools recently will have been appalled to see children eating packets of crisps for breakfast. We are storing up tremendous problems for the future. Anything that we can do to encourage children and ensure that they eat healthily is to be applauded. I suffered as a teenager from my parents' belief that because of rationing they would be kind to me and let me eat various things. It was a tremendous mistake and made me rather strict with my own children. But now they are older they appreciate that there is a point in caring about what they eat. For that reason it is important to have minimum nutritional standards at least in early years. We know from all the surveys carried out that eating habits are developed in early years, and those are habits of a lifetime. If we do not get at children when they are young, we will store up all kinds of problems for the future.

Although on the whole I am not in favour of lots of regulation, I have a great deal of sympathy for this measure. If one looks at France, Germany and Scandinavia, those countries are very strict on these matters. Many of their schools provide free food to pupils, which ensures that they get a proper diet. I give this measure my warm support.

Baroness Blatch: I shall not press these amendments. However, my understanding is that the lifespan of men and women has increased quite dramatically. All the figures that I have seen indicate that life expectancy is higher than it was--certainly much higher than when I was a girl. My argument is about promotion. We must continue to promote healthy eating vigorously. I am concerned about rigidity: once it is written in, that is the law.

A very large percentage of children--I suspect, in primary schools, the majority of children--eat lunches outside the jurisdiction of the school. They eat within the school boundaries but lunches are provided by parents. This clause does not touch on that matter. Therefore, one will have a very large proportion of children who will not be caught by this. Before I withdraw my amendment, perhaps the noble Lord can tell me what evidence he has to suggest that there has been a rise in diet-related diseases among children and a rise in premature deaths due to diet. What is the source of that evidence?

Lord Whitty: Perhaps I may have elided two different matters. I do not have at my fingertips the evidence for increased child diseases. I have in mind obesity and breathing difficulties, which can be related to diet. In extreme circumstances in some communities malnutrition has increased. As to premature deaths, I was referring to the knock-on effects into adult life. I do not believe that there is a significant increase, if any, in

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premature deaths among children. I am sorry if what I said was misleading. However, I am fairly sure that I can produce statistics to show an increase in diet-related diseases in school children.

Baroness Maddock: Perhaps I may assist the noble Lord. I am aware that yesterday the Diabetic Association had an exhibition in the House. I am also aware that this morning it launched a report that demonstrated an increase in diabetes particularly connected with today's eating habits.

Baroness Blatch: As the mother of a diabetic child, I can say that it is not eating habits that cause diabetes. It is a breakdown in a particular part of the pancreas. In children it is not diet that causes diabetes. In older people it is diet, but in children it is a breakdown in the function of the pancreas. In my son's case, it was an attack of German measles that was both internal and external.

Baroness Maddock: I realise that what the noble Baroness says is true. Nevertheless, I report what I heard on the radio today: that there are two types of diabetes, as the noble Baroness said. There is concern that there is an increase of diabetes among younger people, but not of the type that the noble Baroness's son had.

Baroness Blatch: I had a lot to do with child diabetics. I know that I am talking about child diabetics and not adult diabetics. If the noble Lord will write to me with the specific evidence to which he referred on the rise in diet-related diseases and premature deaths, I should be grateful. I find the evidence and piece of research interesting. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 233ZJ to 233ZM not moved.]

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 241H:

Page 82, line 1, leave out ("has the meaning given by regulations under this section.") and insert (", in relation to a pupil, means food made available for consumption by the pupil as his midday meal on a school day, whether involving a set meal or the selection of items by him or otherwise.").

The noble Lord said: This is another amendment to put into effect the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee proposals. The committee invited the House to consider whether Clause 107 should be amended either to remove the power to define "school lunch" in Clause 107(5) or to put a definition in the Bill.

The Government agree that there is merit in that view. These amendments are therefore designed to define a school lunch on the face of the Bill. A school lunch can be but is not always a set meal. In the majority of secondary schools and in some primary schools a cafeteria style system exists where people are free to select whatever combination of items they wish. Those are part of the arrangements to which the noble Baroness referred earlier.

These amendments cover both arrangements. They are also designed to ensure that nutritional standards and the duty to provide paid meals only cover food which is

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part of the midday meal, therefore excluding sales of confectionary and crisps at whatever time of the day they are acquired.

There are occasions when LEAs or schools provide food in advance at midday to pupils for consumption at their midday meal. For example, a packed lunch may be supplied for pupils going on a school trip. It is intended that this should be covered by the nutritional standards provisions.

The amendments to Clause 108 apply the same definition of a school lunch to the new obligation to provide a paid lunch. Consequently, an LEA may meet its obligation by providing food either as a set meal or a cash cafeteria but not just by tuckshop sales. The last amendment is consequential on those two. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 107, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 108 [Extension of LEA functions concerning school lunches, etc.]:

Lord Whitty moved Amendments Nos. 241J and 241K:

Page 82, line 11, leave out ("meals") and insert ("school lunches").
Page 82, line 27, leave out ("has such meaning as may be prescribed."") and insert (", in relation to a pupil, means food made available for consumption by the pupil as his midday meal on a school day, whether involving a set meal or the selection of items by him or otherwise."").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 108, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 109 [Transfer of LEA functions concerning school lunches, etc. to governing bodies]:

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