Policy and Politics: Campaigners slate Blair on food law

Francois Le Goff

Government paying lip service to children's legislation, says Sustain.

The 126-strong coalition backing the Children's Food Bill is scaling up its campaign to prepare the ground for the Bill's reintroduction to Parliament after the General Election, expected in May.

Food and farming charity Sustain, which co-ordinates the campaign on behalf of organisations such as Cancer Research UK and Barnardo's, said the Private Member's Bill would not survive its second reading stage on 8 April because it has no Government support.

The news came last week as the Prime Minister voiced his support for Jamie Oliver's Feed Me Better campaign and announced the setting up of a School Food Trust that will advise head teachers and parents on how to improve children's meals.

"It is a farce, just a pre-election stunt," said Charlie Powell, Children's Food Bill campaigner at Sustain. "The Government is clearly not supporting the Bill, and I don't think they are prepared to support the Jamie Oliver campaign either. They are just paying lip service to it."

The PM's pledge was quickly followed by a speech from education secretary Ruth Kelly proposing tougher nutritional standards as part of Labour's manifesto for children. But Powell described the speech as "lacking in detail" and "meaningless".

Barnardo's criticised the proposed School Food Trust, arguing that it would actually downplay campaigns criticising the poor quality of school meals. In a letter to the Department for Education and Skills, the charity said that the Scottish Executive had improved school meals in Scotland by investing an extra £65m, not by setting up a School Food Trust.

The Children's Food Bill Campaign is now planning to hand out more than a million leaflets urging MPs to back an Early Day Motion to reintroduce the Bill after the election.

The Bill was first tabled as an EDM by Debra Shipley MP in May last year.

It has so far received support from 248 MPs, which makes it the 12th most signed EDM of the current Parliamentary session. "We want more support next time; 248 is just a starting point," Powell said.

A DfES spokesperson said: "We are working to raise the bar to improve school meals ahead of the introduction of tough minimum nutrition standards in 2006."

KEY POINTS

- Children's Food Bill will not survive second reading on 8 April

- PM backs Jamie Oliver's Feed Me Better initiative

- Ruth Kelly proposes tougher nutritional standards

- Sustain calls these proposals 'meaningless'.

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