HC Deb 07 April 1987 vol 114 cc151-3
8. Mr. Andrew MacKay

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will make a further statement on Government measures to combat AIDS.

Mr. Fowler

Action to combat the threat of AIDS continues to be one of our highest priorities. The latest research on our public education campaign shows an exceptionally high level of public awareness of how the AIDS virus is transmitted and how to avoid infection. We are continuing to develop the campaign. In addition, we have provided increased resources for research, counselling and care, and last month I convened two conferences : on predictions of the spread of HIV infection and on community care for people with AIDS.

Mr. MacKay

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the success of his public education campaign. If the number of AIDS victims being suggested as likely to arise in the next few years is reached, is he satisfied that there will be enough hospices?

Mr. Fowler

That is one of the areas in which we are planning increased provision. We will need not only more hospices but more hostel accommodation and more community care. All told, we need more community care involving not just the Health Service but the voluntary services and the social services as well.

Mr. Corbett

Why are there no proper AIDS counselling facilities available in Birmingham, to haemophiliacs identified as carrying the virus?

Mr. Fowler

We are providing resources in Birmingham but if there is a specific area of need I shall certainly look at that and seek to remedy it.

Dame Jill Knight

Bearing in mind the extremely serious implications of AIDS, what steps does my right hon. Friend have in mind to deal with the hard Left Militant Labour councils which actively promote homosexuality among children? Is it not ridiculous—[Interruption.]

Mr. Willie W. Hamilton

Ban public schools.

Mr. Speaker


Dame Jill Knight

I did not go to a public school.

Is it not ridiculous that large sums of public money should be spent on proselytising and encouraging homosexuality in schools while other sums of Government money should be spent in trying to stop the spread of AIDS?

Mr. Fowler

I do not believe that anyone would support or encourage homosexuality among young children, and I believe that that view is shared on both sides of the House.

Mr. David Young

What budget has the Secretary of State allocated to research on AIDS? What proportion will this be of the entire health budget? What research projects are being carried out internationally into this disease?

Mr. Fowler

We have just announced a £14.5 million directed research compaign, organised by the Medical Research Council, which I believe is one of the most exciting and potentially most succesful campaigns. In addition, research campaigns are being organised in other parts of the world, notably in the United States and in European countries.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

Is not the only way to contain this killer disease, for which there is no known cure, and for which there is unlikely to be a cure for at least 10 years, to have widespread public screening of those at risk, so that those groups among which the disease is spreading can be ascertained and identified, and also so that the people who are carrying this deadly virus can be identified and treated?

Mr. Fowler

The argument on compulsory public screening, which is what I think that my hon. Friend is suggesting, means that one has to ask the next question, which is what one does with that information. Does one then advocate a policy of isolation? It is all very well talking about treatment, but, as my hon. Friend has said, treatment is not possible at the moment. We are looking at aspects of testing, although not at compulsory screening. There is now a consensus that public education is the No. 1 priority for a disease for which there is neither a vaccine nor a cure. I hope that my hon. Friend will support that also.

Mr. Meacher

Will the Secretary of State acknowledge that while the Government have given a commitment on publicity and research, they have given no commitment on future clinical care, which is far and away the most costly item in the AIDS budget? Will he confirm the projection of the DHSS on the spread of AIDS, which suggests clinical care costs of about £90 million within the next two years? How will this be met? Will the Secretary of State confirm that health authorities' existing expenditure on AIDS is now funded centrally only to the extent of about one quarter, so that, already, large funds are having to be diverted from other essential health care? Is this not yet another sign of the gross underfunding of the NHS?

Mr. Fowler

The hon. Gentleman must grow up a little in some of the points that he is putting. As even he knows, we do not fund centrally individual programmes throughout the NHS. That is not the way that we have done it, nor the way that he, when he was in government, did it. I do not know where he gets the forecast of £90 million. We recognise the duty that is on us to provide resources so that people can be treated with decency and compassion. I hope that he will support us on that.

Mr. Stern

What advice will my right hon. Friend be giving to dentists in the NHS on the treatment of patients who are antibody positive? Will he be going along with the recommendation made in some parts of the country that such patients should be treated within specialised facilities, or will he continue to recommend treatment as part of the normal service?

Mr. Fowler

As my hon. Friend knows, precautions are already being taken. I hope that we shall be issuing fresh guidance shortly.