POLITICS
05/10/2015 19:22 BST | Updated 05/10/2015 19:59 BST

Jeremy Hunt Signals 'Draconian' Plan To Tackle 'National Disgrace' Of Childhood Obesity

Peter Macdiarmid via Getty Images
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 04: Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt speaks at the UK e-Health Week event at Olympia National on March 4, 2015 in London, England. The e-Health event brings together health professionals from all over the United Kingdom for a two day conference. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has suggested the Tory Government will adopt a "draconian" approach to tackling the "national scandal" of childhood obesity.

At the Conservative party conference in Manchester, he hinted that obesity could be tackled by co-opting the Government's Troubled Families initiative that addresses families with anti-social behaviour problems.

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"We don't like a nanny state," he told delegates. "Except when it comes to children. Children are allowed nannies. We are able to be a little more draconian when it comes to childhood obesity. It is a national disgrace one-in-ten children enter primary school clinically obese, and one-in-five leave primary school obese."

He said the "huge success" of the Troubled Families programme means ministers have a "direct line to 300,000 of the most under-privileged families in the country", and there will be a "much higher proportion of obese children in those families".

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He also slapped down a former Conservative minister and GP who criticised proposals for new pay deals for junior doctors.

The Tory Cabinet minister was dismissive of "angry ex-ministers who opine with their views" after being questioned about Dan Poulter's claim junior doctors are being handed a worse deal than originally set out.

He also suggested he would not be giving ground to the British Medical Association (BMA) over the controversial new deal, saying he would not "waver".

The minister, speaking a The Times event, hit out at protesters outside the centre, saying it reflected a "return to the old politics of the 1980s".

Dr Poulter, still a Tory MP, said the junior doctor contract that has emerged over the summer is "very different from the one being discussed this time last year".

Then there was no talk of 90-hour weeks, no talk of large numbers of junior doctors having their pay cut,” Dr Poulter told The Guardian.

But Mr Hunt: "In politics you do get quite a lot of angry ex-ministers who opine with their views. I have to say in office Dan and I never disagreed on this issue."

The new contract would extend junior doctors’ normal working time from 60 hours to 90 hours, slashing extra pay for working antisocial shifts, which has prompted a series of protests.

Mr Hunt defended the position, as it was the "right thing" for patients and doctors. "I need to be robust when things are mis-represented, this time by the BMA, this is not the time to waver. This is the time to get out there and make the argument."

The contracts are central to creating a seven-day NHS, a big Tory promise, that in turn will ease pressure on frontline services, he said.

Questioned about the "new politics" Jeremy Corbyn has promised, he linked protests outside the conference centre to the Labour leader's rise.

"I don't think this is a new politics," Mr Hunt said. "When I look at the protests going on outside this convention centre, this is a return to the old politics of the 1980s. Sadly, the politics I thought we left behind.

"I don't buy that argument, I do buy the argument there is an anti-politics mood, in this country, in Europe, across the world. We have to redouble our efforts to make sure that the British electorate feel we are connected to them and their everyday concerns."