Before Tony Blair arrived, the audience sat around tables to discuss key questions on public health - or what the prime minister now likes to refer to as 'healthy living' - on the role of the state in tackling obesity, encouraging greater participation in sport and tackling alcohol abuse.

Before Tony Blair arrived, the audience sat around tables to discuss key questions on public health - or what the prime minister now likes to refer to as 'healthy living' - on the role of the state in tackling obesity, encouraging greater participation in sport and tackling alcohol abuse.

In keeping with the key words of the day, delegates were also asked: 'Where does responsibility lie for ensuring the health of the public? What is the role for the individual, the company and the state?'

Public health minister Caroline Flint, who is a Nottingham MP, went from table to table contributing to the debate and taking comments before the arrival of the PM.

Some delegates claimed food labelling and advertising were confusing and said some large supermarkets had not adopted the government traffic-light system indicating healthy and less-healthy foods.

'What is &Quot;low fat&Quot;? Lower than what? And even when it is low fat it means high sugar,' one participant commented.

Ms Flint said food manufacturers are beginning to change. 'They want to be seen as the good guys and if we can push consumers to make them change then it helps us because it's not us doing the pushing like some big brother, it's a consumer thing.'

Chronic under-funding

Jenny Weaver from Clipstone Sure Start told Mr Blair about the great success of an allotment scheme in encouraging people to grow their own food and learn about healthy eating. But she said there was chronic under-funding.

'We have about 200 kids involved and we get grants of£2,500 that have to pay for everything: seeds, volunteers, tools. There is money there, Tony, but you need to do something about making it easier to get access to it.'

Gill Haymes, a Nottingham Labour councillor who sits on the council's health overview and scrutiny committee, said health inequalities were widening across the city. She is concerned that local area agreements between health and local authorities, the voluntary sector and other groups should be given maximum flexibility to make sure they reflect local needs.

And she wanted reassurances: 'You must make sure that primary care trusts do not lose their public health remit,' she insisted, in reference to concerns about possible bids from outside the NHS to run primary care services. Perhaps unsurprisingly Mr Blair did not give any concrete promises on that.

At the end of the session Mr Blair reiterated some of the things he had heard and promised they would be taken forward as part of the dialogue over new policy development.