Voters in the UK go to the polls on 7 May to elect a new Parliament and so a new government. Where do the parties stand on infant feeding issues?
We put two questions to all political parties represented in our national parliaments three months ago. Three parties were quick to answer (in order, Scottish National Party, Social Democratic and Labour Party and Green Party). See their responses on our Election 2015 page.
The others have not been so quick, despite our contacting their health and public health spokespeople directly by letter and email, as well as party headquarters or policy units, where these details exist.
So we called on our members, supporters and website visitors to help, providing them with contact details and Twitter addresses for the parties on our Election 2015 page.
With a week to go to voting, we have been sent the response from the Liberal Democrats after Baby Milk Action member, Melissa Wadams, contacted them. I’ve just posted the response to our Election 2015 page.
Well done, Melissa. Here is what she sent to the LibDems:
I am considering voting Lib Dem, but I am also a member of Baby Milk Action. I understand you have not yet responded to their request about what policy will be regarding infant feeding, and upholding the Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding in the UK. I would like some information on your policy regarding this, to inform my decision to vote.
Other parties have still not answered – use the details on our Election 2015 page to ask them to do so.
Voters have a right to know where the parties stand.
The next Parliament – we have a lot to do and need your help
There are several key developments in the pipeline for when the new Parliament is formed and we need your support to work on these – please help us with a donation, becoming a member or buying something from our Virtual Shop.
When the new Parliament is formed, we will work with the elected members from all parties to strengthen measures to protect mothers, babies and their families from aggressive marketing by the baby food industry. We are also calling on the next government to reintroduce the national infant feeding survey and to meet all commitments made by past governments under international agreements (such as the Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding).
This year we have again reported on the infant feeding situation to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child as part of the Children’s Rights Alliance for England and submitted evidence of ongoing violations of marketing standards. Last time the Committee report on the UK (2008) said:
“The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child recommends that the State party implement fully the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes…. The Committee is concerned that implementation continues to be inadequate and that aggressive promotion of breastmilk substitutes remains common.”
Governments since then said they were constrained by European Union measures. This year, we have been briefing the European Commission and EU Member States on the failings of the current EU Directive as new regulations are being developed. Although some improvements to the draft European Union regulations have been made, these still fall far short of minimum international marketing standards. We will work with the UK Parliament and Members of the European Parliament on this matter.
When the new regulations have been made, they will need to be enforced in the UK. We have long experience of monitoring existing measures and taking cases to Trading Standards, the Department of Health and the Advertising Standards Authority. While we have won cases proving promotion has been misleading, the enforcement system cannot be said to be effective. Members of the new Parliament and next government will need to be briefed on the failings and what can be done.
We have long worked on international measures, such as food standards at the Codex Alimentarius Commission and so have particular insight to the risks post by TTIP (the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership), which we are sharing with policy makers and partner organisations.
There will be also the opportunity for a game-changing international treaty to hold corporations accountable for human rights abuses. For years we have been pursuing complaints against Nestlé in particular using non-binding measures and shown them to be ineffective. We were part of a successful campaign last year for the UN Human Rights Council to form a working group to draft a binding Treaty. Making this as strong as it needs to be will not be easy. So we will need your help.
We don’t know which party or parties will form the government after 7 May. What we do know, is that we will have a lot to do!
If you want Baby Milk Action to be around to do this work, please think about making a donation.