Parliamentary activity
Meetings and engagements 

One meeting took place in the House of Commons on 7th February:

  • Mary Glindon MP, Shadow Farming Minister

During the meeting with Ms Glindon, we discussed the role school and nursery milk can play in supporting the health and development of children. We also highlighted our concerns over the recent revisions to the Eatwell Guide, and our desire to see a national school milk programme replace the European scheme when the UK departs the EU. Ms Glindon expressed her willingness to support the Alliance in highlighting the importance of school and nursery milk, through tabling additional parliamentary questions and applying for a Westminster Hall debate.

Additionally, we have one meeting arranged for 27th February with:
  • Maria Eagle MP, Former Shadow Defra Secretary
We are in the process of re-organising our meeting with Lucy Powell MP, which has been delayed due to a scheduling conflict. Diana Johnson MP, who was due to meet with us this month, has requested to re-schedule for after the Easter recess.

House of Lords oral question
Lord Lexden asked an oral question in the House of Lords on how the Government intends to promote the increased consumption of school milk, following discussions with the SNMA. Education Minister Lord Nash responded that the Government recognised the importance of pupils being healthy, and already promotes the importance of the consumption of dairy products. He also noted that the School Food Standards make it clear that milk must be made available during the day, and that childcare and school settings received £70m in funding per year through the EU and Nursery Milk Schemes.

Following Lord Nash’s response, a number of supplementary questions were asked, several of which were the result of our earlier briefing of peers with an interest in school and nursery milk, including Baroness Masham and Lord Watson. The most notable included a question from Labour Shadow Education Minister Lord Watson, who asked the Government what plans it has to continue the school milk scheme after it left the EU, and if it would commit to provide a replacement scheme. Lord Nash said that the UK would remain in the scheme until it left the EU, but that long term plans would be considered post-Brexit. Additionally, Labour peer Lord Brooke asked if the minister would confirm that “free milk” will still be available post-2019. Lord Nash responded that he would be surprised if it were not.

House of Commons written question

This month we have received answers to five previously tabled written questions. Labour MP Nic Dakin had asked the Environment Secretary for her assessment of the impact of the revisions to the Eatwell Guide on the dairy sector; what discussions she has had with the Health Secretary on the effect of the linear programming model used to develop the Eatwell Guide on the dairy and milk industry; and what representations she has received on the Eatwell Guide since March 2016. Farming Minister George Eustice answered the questions collectively, stating that the department meets regularly with stakeholders to discuss key issues and opportunities for the UK dairy sector. He added that he is well aware of concerns regarding recommendations on the consumption of dairy products in the Eatwell Guide produced by PHE in March 2016.

Additionally, Shadow Public Health Minister Sharon Hodgson had her two previously tabled questions answered. Mrs Hodgson had asked the Health Secretary whether PHE had identified any disadvantages to using a linear programming model to generate the food group segment sizes in the revised Eatwell Guide. Responding, Public Health Minister Nicola Blackwood said that PHE established an External Reference Group to consider potential options to generate the food group segment sizes in the revised Eatwell Guide, and that it carefully considered the advantages and disadvantages and recommended that a linear programming approach as the most robust. 

Ms Hodgson also asked what assessment the minister had made of the findings of PHE's report relating to the process of determining changes to recommended dairy consumption levels. Responding, Ms Blackwood broadly repeated her answer to Ms Hodgson’s first question, adding that outcome of the linear programming work resulted in a new image with a reduced dairy and alternatives segment, but ensured that government dietary recommendations were met.

We have also secured the tabling of two new questions this month. Shadow Farming Minister Mary Glindon MP asked the Defra Secretary what progress her Department has made on implementing the revised European School Milk scheme. Responding, George Eustice said that the EU School Milk Scheme plays a valuable role in encouraging the consumption of dairy products, that the UK will continue to participate in the new EU scheme from 1st August 2017, and that officials are working on the detailed arrangements.

Additionally, Labour MP and Vice-chair of the Fit and Healthy Childhood APPG Julie Elliott asked the Defra Secretary if her Department will continue to implement the provisions of the European school milk scheme after the UK leaves the EU. Mr Eustice repeated the answer he gave to Mary Glindon’s question.

Westminster Hall debate  

We are making arrangements for a debate on school and nursery milk to take place in Westminster Hall in early 2017. We initially approached SNP MP Martyn Day, who was supportive of the idea, but suggested that we ask an English MP given that some aspects of school milk and children’s health policy are devolved. We have now approached two MPs who we have previously engaged with to apply for the debate.

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