Page last updated at 14:44 GMT, Wednesday, 27 August 2008 15:44 UK

Tories warn of obesity 'excuses'

Overweight people
Being overweight cannot be allowed to become the norm, say the Tories

People should not be offered "excuses" for being overweight, shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley has said.

The Tories say people should take more responsibility for their lifestyles, exercise more and eat more healthily.

They would not promote the "traffic lights" food labelling of fatty and sugary foods and focus on an improved diet, rather than "fear of junk foods".

Minister Ann Keen said the Tories would cut NHS spending in poorer areas and had "very little policy substance".

Mr Lansley made his comments as he launched the Conservatives' plans for a "responsibility deal" on public health between businesses and government.

'No nannying'

He told the BBC earlier the government-commissioned Foresight report, published last year, sent a message that "it's not about you, it's about your environment".

He said there was nothing "inevitable" about being overweight: "We can't afford to move to a world where being overweight is normal and being obese is common."

The Tories are using individual responsibility as an excuse for their lack of effective policies in this area
Ann Keen
Health Minister

In a speech titled "no nannying, no excuses" he said: "Tell people that biology and the environment causes obesity and they are offered the one thing we have to avoid: an excuse.

"As it is, people who see more fat people around them may themselves be more likely to gain weight. "

'Vilifying'

He told the BBC he wanted to work with businesses on food labelling, reducing portion sizes of ready meals and reducing saturated fats and sugar in food as well as giving people ideas about improving their exercise.

And he defended asking Unilever UK chairman Dave Lewis, whose company produces "Ben and Jerry's" ice cream and Pot Noodle, to head a working group looking at obesity and promoting healthier lifestyles.

Andrew Lansley's speech exposes the confusion at the heart of the Conservative's strategy
Norman Lamb
Lib Dems

He said Mr Lewis had the power to influence other business leaders and the Tories had no intention of becoming the "food police".

On food labelling, Mr Lansley said "ever more intrusive regulation" was not the answer - instead they favoured a more effective voluntary scheme and working with businesses.

Health Minister Ann Keen said the government was committed to a 75m "Healthy Weights, Healthy Lives" campaign to encourage shops and sports clubs to help people lead healthier lives.

Responsibility 'rhetoric'

She said Mr Lansley's claim that the distribution of NHS resources was "skewed" for putting measures of deprivation on a par with age - as a way of determining those most in need - showed the party would cut spending in poor areas.

"Of course everyone agrees that individuals have to take responsibility for their health," she said. "But for all Andrew Lansley's rhetoric about individual responsibility, his speech today confirms that the Conservatives would cut health spending in poorer areas and that would take funding from NHS services that need it most."

For the Liberal Democrats, health spokesman Norman Lamb said: "Andrew Lansley's speech exposes the confusion at the heart of the Conservative's strategy.

"He lectures people about their responsibility. He blames people for being overweight and says they lack self-discipline and self-esteem.

"Yet when it comes to junk food he's much more sensitive about the problem of 'stigmatising' it."




SEE ALSO
Johnson urges obesity 'movement'
23 Jul 08 |  UK Politics
Child obesity 'a major problem'
21 Feb 08 |  Health

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