July 18: Pub calorie plan is out for count

WHY should it fall to restaurants, pubs and cinema chains to lead a new fight against obesity by being compelled to display the number of calories which are contained in the food and drink sold to their many customers?

This will be the reaction of many, and understandably so, to today’s recommendation by the Local Government Association that is emblematic of New Labour’s ‘nanny state’ when at its most interfering worst.

It is certainly true that obesity is exacerbating the challenges confronting the National Health Service at the end of a week dominated by the stand-off between Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, and the British Medical Association over the introduction of 24/7 contracts for hospital doctors.

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Yet, while burger empire McDonald’s and nationwide pub chain Wetherspoons have chosen to provide calorie details on their menus, it is their prerogative – no one has forced them to do so. And that is the point – food consumption should be a matter of personal responsibility and the onus should be on individuals to eat and drink sensibly. People, and especially those who enjoy a balanced diet, should not be made to feel guilty if they choose to have an indulgence on an evening out.

This is borne out by the significant increase in the number of 16 and 24-year-olds shunning alcohol altogether after being led to believe, erroneously, that becoming paralytic was integral to the weekend entertainment. Though problems do persist, it is revealing that peer pressure has been such a significant contributory factor – no politician or other person of influence has actually told young people to stop drinking. This is about teenagers, and people aged in their 20s, taking responsibility and coming to a mature decision. Perhaps the LGA might reflect upon this before imposing its heavy-handed rules on others.

Syria quandary

EVEN THOUGH military circumstances, rather than political conspiracy, led to RAF pilots joining with their counterparts from the United States and Canada to launch air strikes against “Islamic State” targets on Syria, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon owes Parliament a full explanation about the decision-making process – and any contingency plans if further such action is deemed justifiable during the summer recess.

As the political leader of the Armed Forces, Mr Fallon – who came under heavy fire during the election for a personal attack on Ed Miliband’s integrity – should have been fully aware of the sensitivities surrounding such an operation, and legitimate concerns about mission creep, after MPs rejected the Government’s request to authorise airstrikes two summers ago.

For, while it might be a hindrance to the MoD that the RAF can target Iraq but not neighbouring Syria, Mr Fallon does need to accept the fact that there are many people who blame recent terrorist atrocities – like the massacre of British holiday-makers in the Tunisian resort of Sousse – on the military intervention in the Middle East that was sanctioned by Tony Blair.

In terms of rebuilding this broken trust, the endless delays to the Chilcot report – a factor beyond the Defence Secretary’s control – are unhelpful. Until some clarity is provided, the Government’s duty is to make its case for airstrikes in the House of Commons so democratically-elected MPs can exercise their judgement. Yet, for that happen, Britain needs a clearly-defined foreign policy – and absolute clarity that any action is deemed to be in this country’s best national interests.

The Point of no return?

AS One of the great natural wonders of Yorkshire, it is easy to sympathise with those objectors who do not want Spurn Point – a tiny slither of land jutting out into the Humber Estuary – being over-run with tourists. Its appeal is its remoteness and the terrain is not for the faint-hearted, even in becalmed weather.

Yet those opposing to plans to build a visitor centre, a partnership between Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and energy provider E.ON, are, in all likelihood, the self-same people who believe that the East Riding is the poor relation when it comes to countywide initiatives to boost tourism.

As such, the challenge is ensuring that any plan is beneficial to the area’s economy while also being sensitive to the natural environment. There should be no reason, with a fair wind, why both objectives cannot be achieved – the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors both have plenty of examples where this balance has been carefully struck to the satisfaction of all.