HC Deb 29 April 1986 vol 96 cc776-7
12. Mr. Tony Lloyd

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what assessment he has made of possible links between ill health and poverty.

Mr. Whitney

It has been widely accepted for many years that there are differences in health experience between socio-economic groups. However, the causes of these differences have proved extremely difficult to establish and are certainly complex. Research in the area continues to be supported by the Medical Research Council, the Economic and the Social Research Council and by universities.

Mr. Lloyd

I do not know much about the Minister's constituency, but I know about my own, where some of the poorest people in Britain live. I know that the chances of my constituents' children surviving birth is lower than the national average, that they will have worse health than the national average, and that they will die earlier. What will the Minister do about that?

Mr. Whitney

I do, indeed, know about my constituency, and I know something about the hon. Gentleman's constituency. Never has so much money been spent on health care in real terms as it now is in the Manchester area.

Mr. Thurnham

Does my hon. Friend agree that the findings of both the Black report and the Holland report, linking poverty and ill health, show that there should be no delay in the provision of urgently needed new hospital facilities in Bolton?

Mr. Whitney

We are continuing to provide new hospital facilities in the north-west region, which has one of the highest capital spending programmes of all the regional health authorities. Therefore, our concern is manifested by the real resources being devoted to new hospitals.

Mr. Dobson

If the Minister acknowledges—he can scarcely do otherwise—that there are differences in health and life expectations between social classes, why are the Government not doing anything to implement the recommendations of the Black report, which clearly sets out proposals intended to reduce those differences?

Mr. Whitney

The differences to which the hon. Gentleman refers have existed for many years and long before the Black report, which did not explain the causes. The proposals which have been implemented by the Government, for example the significant increase in expenditure on national health provision, and the expenditure on inner cities, the urban programme and such initiatives, clearly demonstrate effectively the Government's practical concern.

Mr. Bill Walker

Does my hon. Friend agree that while there must always be a connection between a lack of facilities, wherever they are, and health problems, there are also genuine problems which are created by overindulgence in many different ways as a result of affluence?

Mr. Whitney

I am happy to agree with my hon. Friend. A great deal of good health depends on healthy living styles, which we seek to promote directly through the Government and through the activities of the Government-funded Health Education Council. I agree with my hon. Friend that the level of income is by no means the deciding factor.