Incentivise overweight people to lose weight, says Claire Perry
Overweight people who struggle to shed the pounds should be given incentives to lead a more healthy lifestyle, a junior Conservative minister has said.
Rail Minister Claire Perry said the welfare system should encourage people to make better choices.
David Cameron has said obese people unable to work could see their sickness benefit cut if they refuse treatment.
But Mrs Perry told the BBC she preferred the "carrot" approach rather than the "stick".
The prime minister's proposed cut in benefits would also apply to people who are unable to work because of alcohol or drug problems, and refuse to get help.
'A real problem'
Mrs Perry, who was speaking on BBC 2's Daily Politics programme, said a national debate was needed about what constitutes a healthy diet.
"If it was all about willpower I would weigh eight stone. I think we live in a world where dietary advice is incredibly confusing. Every week we read 'it's carbs, its not carbs, it's fat, it's starvation' - whatever it is, people are busy, running around after their children," she said.
"I think everybody would like to be slimmer and healthier and what the welfare system could do is encourage people to make better choices."
Asked whether she agreed with the PM's benefits proposal, Ms Perry said she preferred to see incentives for people to get healthy and become more active, adding that increased exercise was associated with better mental health.
She added: "For many women who are struggling having to lose weight after children... it is a real problem and anything we can do to motivate people and give incentives to do it. I prefer to focus on carrots - the healthy choice - rather than sticks."
David Cameron has announced a review of the current system, which he says fails to encourage people with long-term, treatable issues to get medical help.
According to the government, some 100,000 people with such conditions claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
Mr Cameron wants the review to look at whether it would be appropriate to withhold benefits from those who are unwilling to accept help.
Labour said the policy would do nothing to help people to get off benefits.