HL Deb 01 March 1984 vol 448 cc1359-60
Lady Saltoun

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they propose to take to implement the recommendations of the James Report on nutrition.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health and Social Security (Lord Glenarthur)

My Lords, the report to which the noble Lady refers is not a Government report. It is an independent discussion paper which has been passed to the expert panel set up by the Chief Medical Officer's Committee on the Medical Aspects of Food Policy. The panel is expected to report later this year.

Lady Saltoun

My Lords, when the panel has reported would the DHSS consider publishing a brief pamphlet setting out its recommendations for circulation to general practitioners and to health and education authorities with a view to improving meals in schools, hospitals and other such places?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, the Government welcome the paper to which the noble Lady has referred as a contribution towards the discussion about diet and health. The James advice regarding the direction in which people should change their diet is very similar to the department's advice given in a pamphlet called Eating for Health. The definitive body is the body to which I have referred in the original Answer. We shall have to await that before we can decide whether or not to publish any pamphlet such as she suggests.

Lord Winstanley

My Lords, in his further consideration of these matters will the noble Lord bear in mind that, if he were to heed the advice of all my medical colleagues about what not to eat, he would come to the conclusion that the only way to stay absolutely healthy would be to starve to death? In that connection, would the noble Lord the Minister bear in mind that the positive advice in the James Report regarding what to eat is of much greater importance than the view that if we all ate a great deal more fibre we would all be a great deal fitter?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, I certainly share with the noble Lord the feeling that if we paid attention to every single comment that is made on health we probably would all end up in the way he described. As far as fibre is concerned, the Government entirely share his view.

Lord Ennals

My Lords, would the noble Lord agree that one encouraging thing revealed in the James Report is that, whereas we have had for a very long time great disagreement in the medical profession about what is a balanced diet and what is dangerous and what is not, we now seem to have agreement with the medical profession, with dieticians and the rest? I wondered why the Government do not themselves feel that they themselves should publish this report; and, secondly, whether it would not now be wise, since there are so many dangers, for the Government to launch a campaign so that the public have a better understanding of what are the recommendations in relation to a balanced and wise diet.

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, as I have said, the James Report was an ad hoc piece of advice to another committee. We are concerned about the degree to which people should change their dietary habits, but I have to say that we think that in some respects—and this, I think, was borne out by what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley—there is a great deal of discussion among the experts as to what is right. We think that James perhaps goes further than can be justified in the present state of scientific knowledge. But it is up to the committee to which I referred to produce the definitive answer.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, would the noble Lord not agree at this time that the addition of leek to the diet would be beneficial to the nation?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, on a day like this how could I possibly say otherwise?

Lord Wallace of Coslany

My Lords, would the Minister not agree that nutritional standards could be advanced considerably if the Government were to campaign to encourage people to grow their own fresh vegetables?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, I am sure the noble Lord is entirely right and I know of his particular interest in this matter.

Lord Leatherland

My Lords, can the Government make this report available to all Members of the House since quite obviously many of us on these Benches are under-nourished?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, the noble Lord looks very well to me, but if he has any complaints I am sure that somebody will be able to look after him.

Lady Saltoun

My Lords, do the Government realise that an improvement in the nation's health would result in a reduction of disease so that the DHSS would save a great deal of money?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, yes, I daresay that the noble Lady is right, but I would still ask her to await the definitive result of the report to which I referred.

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