Labour MEPs think selling school playing-fields is a good idea - while one child in seven is classed as obese

Blair promised to end such sales, yet 2,500 playing-fields have disappeared in 10 years and his MEPs are not inclined to stop there

Brussels, February 6 2007 — Labour MEPs have voted against deploring the practice of Governments selling school playing fields for development against a backdrop of growing concern over obesity in the UK.

They unanimously voted against condemning such sales in an amendment to a report on promoting healthy diets and physical exercise. The amendment was nonetheless passed with a large majority.

Obesity has been described by the World Health Organisation as the ‘greatest health threat facing the West’.

The Labour vote, flying in the face of such a stark warning, follows last month’s heavy criticism of the Government for doing too little to address the obesity issue. The problem costs the nation £3.5 billion a year, and that figure is set to rise to £4.5 billion if trends continue.

Today sees a conference on Cardiovascular Disease Risks of Obesity held by the Association for the Study of Obesity in London.

Conservative Deputy Leader in the European Parliament and former Sports Minister, Sir Robert Atkins said: “Child obesity is not just a matter of eating too much: it is also a matter of exercising too little. Although Labour’s 1997 manifesto promised an end to the sale of school playing-fields, 2,540 have since been concreted over. Governments and others should promote competitive sports and stop selling off school playing-fields.

EU Commissioner for health, Markos Kyprianou highlighted the report’s positive reference to sports in schools, saying: “This is a very important factor. It is embarrassing for me to say that in the European Union there is not enough physical activity in schools among children and teenagers.

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