HC Deb 09 February 1982 vol 17 cc843-5
4. Mr. Haynes

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how much was the grant for the publication of "CHC News" during 1981–82; and how much the grant for 1982–83 will be.

17. Mr. Park asked

the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he will make a statement on the proposed change in the funding of "CHC News" for 1982–83.

19. Mr. Dan Jones

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what consultations he has had with community health councils about the future of "CHC News".

Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg

The estimated cost of central funding for "CHC News" and the associated information service this year is £74,000. In our view, these services should be paid for by community health councils themselves, and the Department is discussing with representatives of their association how the transition from central to subscription funding might best be made.

Mr. Haynes

Is not the Minister ashamed to give such a reply, since that publication is the official organ of community health councils and communicates with the people whom it represents? It seems that the Government want the publication to go. The Minister should be ashamed of himself. Are the Minister and the Government expecting community health councils to meet the cost, because at the moment those councils are providing a valuable service——

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman has asked his question.

Mr. Finsberg

I could answer the hon. Gentleman by saying: "No, we are not ashamed". I shall expand on that slightly. The function of a community health council is to look after the interests of the patients in its area. We believe that if the councils want to produce such a publication, they should fund it and not use Government funding.

Mr. Park

Does the Minister want more or fewer people to take an interest in the National Health Service?

Mr. Haynes

That is what they are after.

Mr. Park

Would it not be more accurate to say that the real reason for the change is that "CHC News" has on occasion dared to be critical of the Government?

Mr. Finsberg

I seem to remember "CHC News" being critical of more than one Government. My wife was a member of a community health council—[Interruption]. That factor did not enter into the mind of the Government when considering funding. It is one of our major principles that the money should be spent by community health councils if they wish to continue that publication.

Mr. Crouch

Is my hon. Friend aware that, other than being a Member of Parliament, I have an opportunity to see the work of a community health councils without wearing a political hat? I value that work very much. Does my hon. Friend think that it would be worth reconsidering keeping that valuable publication?

Mr. Finsberg

No, Sir, I do not. There is nothing in the decision to show that the Government believe that community health councils are not doing a good job. We believe that they are. However, we do not believe that a national publication is necessarily the right thing to be funded by the Government.

Mr. Terry Davis

Does the Minister accept that "CHC News" helps members of community health councils to do a better job? Does it make good economic sense to issue a circular that suggests that the number of members of community health councils should be reduced and at the same time insists that "CHC News" should be funded by subscriptions from that smaller number of members?

Mr. Finsberg

The size of community health councils is the subject of a later question. If the publication is regarded by community health councils as a valuable piece of literature, I do not believe that the decision that they rather than the Government should be asked to fund it can be faulted.

Mr. Latham

Whatever the future funding of that publication, will it be possible for the next edition to contain details of how my hon. Friend proposes to ensure that Leicestershire's 800,000 people have more than one community health council?

Mr. Finsberg

I shall be delighted to look into that point, which is not related to this question, but which shows the real value of a community health council at local level.

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