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Below are extracts from 2 speeches made in the House of Lords with regard to the Child Poverty Bill last year below. The speeches were made by Baroness Finlay and Lord Rea who are both positioned in the medical field and the former was until recently President of the Royal Society of Medicine.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff:  ...25 Jan 2010 : Column GC249

...  child poverty and not only its symptoms,... and the Government have repeatedly acknowledged this as a priority. We have heard the term "cycle of poverty" many times, and yet we continue to shy away from the very axis that accelerates the problem-namely, the health of the mother and the child. ....................

In the time available, I could not do justice to the crucial importance of nutrition during pregnancy and infancy in tackling disadvantage. The noble Lord, Lord Freud, touched on the importance of maternal nutrition, and I should like to elaborate a little further. In brief, it is becoming apparent that low birth weights, of which Britain has the highest rate in western Europe, are associated with poor cognitive abilities and serious brain disorders such as cerebral palsy.....

..................The cycle of poverty will remain repetitive and relentless unless we have the courage to tackle its very core and root that out. That is what the amendment seeks to do.

Lord Rea: What I have to say is very complimentary to what the noble Baroness has just said, and may be slightly repetitive. However, it gives me an opportunity to cover further that vital stage in child development-the earliest stage, with the foetus in utero. Healthy babies, as the noble Baroness said, are produced by healthy mothers, particularly adequately nourished mothers. Many studies have shown that the most critical phase of development-the foetal environment at the very beginning of pregnancy-is the time when damaging effects can occur and is the most vulnerable time for the child. It is the time when the heart and cardiovascular system and the central nervous system are formed from the primitive streak, before the foetus is recognisable as a future human being. This occurs in the first few weeks of gestation, often before the mother realises that she is pregnant. That is why it is so important to ensure that not only mothers and women who know they are pregnant but also potential mothers-that is, all women of child-bearing age-have sufficient income to buy an adequate diet.

4.30 pm

The noble Baroness pointed out, in particular, the effects of anencephaly and spina bifida resulting from folate deficiency. If that can occur, then other vital nutrient deficiencies are also likely to have serious effects. I should like to point out the possible effect of a lack of long-chained polyunsaturated fatty acids, found most richly in fish, on the subsequent IQ of babies. The ALSPAC study of 14,000 babies from pregnancy  ........ -showed that those aged eight whose mothers had consumed very little fish during pregnancy had significantly lower IQs than those whose mothers had eaten quite a lot of fish. Of course, many social factors were involved but a lot of care was taken to allow for any bias based on things such as social class, education, smoking and so on.

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