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Lord Hardy of Wath: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend the Minister for that Answer. However, can she say whether particular consideration could be given to the fact that in some education action zones it has been found necessary to provide children with breakfast, as learning is not facilitated by empty stomachs? Could not special consideration be given to the standards of nutrition in those areas where the local education authority has introduced the most drastic changes in the provision of school meals?

Baroness Hayman: Yes, my Lords. My noble friend makes a very important point, especially about the way in which inequalities in health operate in this particular sphere. The Government have made clear that they intend to introduce compulsory national nutrition standards for school lunches. We are currently consulting on proposals in that respect. It is a recognition that, for many children, the school lunch is their main meal of the day. Therefore, its nutritional content is extremely important. I also take my noble friend's point about meals other than lunch being provided. Like him, I have seen the difference that that

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can make to the performance of some very troubled children. It actually gives them a start to the day, which includes a cup of tea and a piece of toast.

Baroness Sharples: My Lords, can the Minister say what proportion of schoolchildren request vegetarian meals?

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, sadly, now that I have heard the noble Baroness's question, I have to admit that I do not have the information at my fingertips to reply to her today. However, I shall certainly obtain that information and respond to the noble Baroness accordingly.

Lord Monkswell: My Lords, bearing in mind the fact that my noble friend the Minister advised the House that young children at school seem to be putting on weight, can she say whether part of the reason is that they are taken to school by car rather than walking there? Can my noble friend say what plans the Government have to reverse that trend?

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, my noble friend is absolutely right. As well as the elements of diet and the preponderance of fat in the diet of children, the lack of exercise is another important reason why children are getting fatter. That is important in terms of their health status, not only as children but later in life. Certainly part of integrated transport policy is to ensure that there are safe ways in which children can walk or cycle to school and get the exercise that will be extremely valuable to them for their future health.

Lord Rea: My Lords, is my noble friend the Minister aware that in Japan, which has the lowest level of heart disease in the entire world, highly nutritious school lunches are universally provided for all social classes in primary schools? Indeed, they are eaten in the classroom and are regarded by children as the best lesson of the day. Does my noble friend agree that popular and nutritious school meals, which, I emphasise, are not incompatible qualities, should be provided for all children, paid for by parents if they can afford it, and used as part of nutritional and health education for children that will last them for the rest of their lives?

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I have seen a recent report in a national newspaper about the Japanese system and the value of the nutritious, attractive and nice to eat food--as my noble friend rightly mentioned--that is offered there. We should aim not only to provide well balanced and nutritious meals for children in schools but also to adopt a whole school approach to food and nutrition which involves wider health education, for example as part of the national curriculum for science, and therefore set in train good habits for the future.

Lord Ewing of Kirkford: My Lords, as regards the surveys mentioned by my noble friend, what percentage of schoolchildren now take school meals as opposed to

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the percentage that took them five years ago? Are the problems that my noble friend has mentioned solely related to the uptake of school meals?

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, it would be wrong to say that they are solely related to the uptake of school meals. A school lunch constitutes only one meal in the day and is available only during term time. We need to consider children's nutrition at all times and the advice that is given to them and the knowledge they gain about balanced and healthy diets. There has been a change in the pattern of school meals. A greater number of children do not take school meals. However, about 15 per cent. of all schoolchildren benefit from free school meals. As I said earlier, we need to pay particular attention to those children.

Lord Davies of Coity: My Lords, I heard what my noble friend said about schoolchildren putting on weight. She mentioned that children are often taken to school by car. But is it not the case that many children are taken to school by car for their own protection? If there is a weight problem, should not schools establish an exercise programme within the curriculum?

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, physical education must be an important part of the school curriculum. Whether children can safely walk or cycle to school are issues that need to be tackled both in terms of community safety and road safety. Often parents' fears exacerbate the situation in that they result in fewer people being on the street and fewer people walking their children to school. It is possible for some parents to walk with their children to school. In areas where there is traffic congestion that may not take any longer than driving the children to school and would be a great deal better for all concerned.

Development: Interdepartmental Working Group

2.53 p.m.

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    On how many occasions the full interdepartmental working group on overseas development co-operation has met at ministerial level since May 1997 and what consideration it has given to security sector reform.

Baroness Amos: My Lords, the Interdepartmental Working Group on Development has met three times, most recently on 24th September 1998. Security sector reform was discussed by the committee at the latest meeting. The meeting considered an analysis of the link between security and poverty elimination and supported proposals for DfID involvement in security sector reform. A paper outlining these proposals will be published in the New Year.

DfID support for security sector reform is likely to focus primarily on strengthening the capacity of civilian authorities to control expenditure, to make security forces more accountable. For example, an

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interdepartmental team recently visited Sierra Leone to examine the security needs of that country. Ministers have endorsed the recommendations that the UK provide assistance to strengthen the capacity of the Ministry of Defence to hold security forces accountable. DfID will provide some part of this assistance.

Lord Judd: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that full and encouraging reply, but does she not agree that the poverty eradication to which the Government are committed will depend upon the success of closely integrated policies in which trade, Treasury, environment as well as development all have their part to play, and that part of the test of the success of DfID is the degree to which it is able to bring interdepartmental policy together? Does she not in particular agree, with reference to security policy, that in too many places development is undermined by conflict or by the ready availability of light weapons and it is absolutely essential to look at demobilisation and the withdrawal of weapons from circulation if there is to be any chance of progress being sustained?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, one of our objectives is to ensure that there is sustainable peace as well as sustainable development. The Government seek to promote international security in a variety of ways; for example, through our membership of organisations such as the UN and NATO, and also through our work with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Ministry of Defence. We also promote security through our support for sustainable development, good governance and human rights. The interdepartmental working group has been an effective forum for promoting the Government's commitment to consistency of all policies affecting developing countries. In addition, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development has had a series of bilateral meetings with her Cabinet colleagues, has addressed the Defence Select Committee, has given a speech at the Royal College of Defence Studies, and later this week will meet the chief of the defence staff to discuss issues of joint interest.

The Earl of Sandwich: My Lords, in view of the outstanding achievement of the Armed Forces in the current emergency in Honduras, which I think everyone appreciates, will the Government report more fully on the role of the Armed Forces in international development, including long-term development?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for that question. I shall report his request to the department.

Lord Quirk: My Lords, might not the noble Lord, Lord Judd, have added education to the list of elements

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that need to be brought together in ODA policy as being the element perhaps most of all that leads to long-term, sustainable development?

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