Parliamentary activity
Meetings and engagements 

Parliament was in Easter recess for much of April. The announcement of the election on 18th April followed by the end of parliamentary business (prorogation) on 27th April has led us to reschedule those meetings we had set up for after recess.

We have one meeting scheduled for 28th June:

  • Peter Dowd, Labour MP for Bootle - which has high levels of deprivation 
Additionally, we are re-scheduling meetings with:
  • Education Select Committee member Ian Mearns MP
  • Defra Committee Chair MP Neil Parish
As previously noted, Labour MP Diana Johnson has pledged to meet with us following the Easter recess. All these MPs are in ‘safe’ constituencies for their respective parties and so are likely to win their seats.
Parliamentary written questions
This month nine written parliamentary questions were answered. Following our meeting with her in March, former Shadow Defra Secretary and Labour MP Maria Eagle asked the Department for Education:
  • What steps the Department is taking to ensure that all schools comply with the milk requirements of the School Food Standards for England.
  • What the timescale is for the review of the School Food Standards.
  • Whether the reduced dairy requirements of the revised Eatwell Guide will be considered with regard to the milk requirements of the School Food Standards when they are reviewed.
  • How many schools in her Garston and Halewood constituency are compliant with the milk requirements of the School Food Standards.
Responding collectively to these questions, Children’s Minister Edward Timpson said:
  • The Government wants pupils to be healthy, and it promotes the consumption of dairy products as part of a balanced diet through guidance, funding and legislation. He added that the School Food Standards provide the legislative framework to ensure schools provide children with healthy food and drink options, and that this includes a requirement to make milk available at least once during the school day. He also noted that those schools that are not currently obliged to abide by the Standards will be encouraged to commit to them as part of the Childhood Obesity Plan.
  • Further information on the timetable for the review of the School Food Standards would be available “later in the year”.
  • The revised Eatwell Guide is distributed to schools to use alongside the School Food Standards, and that the guide continues to define the Government’s recommendations on a healthy balanced diet.
  • The Department for Education did not hold information on the number of schools that are compliant with the milk aspect of the Standards in Ms Eagle’s constituency.

Additionally, Ms Eagle asked the Department for Education:
  • How many schools in her constituency of Garston and Halewood constituency receive subsidised milk under the European School Milk Scheme.
  • What plans the Department has to replace the funding of subsidised milk provided under the European School Milk Scheme after the UK leaves the EU.

Again responding collectively, Mr Timpson:
  • Said that data on the uptake level of the European School Milk Scheme was not available.
  • Referred Ms Eagle to an answer to a PQ from January about plans to replace the EU school milk scheme in which Farming Minister George Eustice said that a long-term approach to school milk provisions will be considered as part of a future domestic policy set.

Finally, Ms Eagle asked the Department for Health:
  • What steps it would take to assess the effect of the revised Eatwell Guide on (a) milk consumption by children and (b) changes in the level of childhood obesity.
  • If they would list the members of the External Reference Group (ERG) that informed the March 2016 revisions to the Eatwell Guide.
Public Health Minister Nicola Blackwood responded by:
  • Stating that there are no plans to specifically assess the effect of the Eatwell Guide on children’s milk consumption or changes in the levels of childhood obesity. She added that it is not possible to determine whether individual food and drink consumption patterns are directly influenced by national initiatives such as the Eatwell Guide, due to the range of factors that affect the diet.
  • Providing a link to a database containing information on the ERG members and observers.
Lib Dem Education spokesperson Lord Storey tabled one question on school and nursery milk in the House of Lords, asking the Government what plans they have to promote the benefits of school and nursery milk as part of their childhood obesity strategy.

Health Minister Lord O'Shaughnessy responded by saying that as part of the Childhood Obesity Plan, the Government will publish and promote example menus for early years settings in England later this year, and that these will help settings to meet the latest Government dietary recommendations. He added that where the School Food Standards apply, milk must be available during school hours and offered free to disadvantaged pupils, and free milk is also available to infants if served as part of their lunch.

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