HC Deb 27 April 1988 vol 132 cc346-7
16. Mr. McAllion

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the implications for the Government's social and health policies of the recently published preliminary return for 1987 for Scotland by the Registrar General.

Mr. Michael Forsyth

I welcome the fact that the preliminary return indicates that infant mortality is at the lowest rate ever recorded. However, I am concerned about the level of premature deaths from lung cancer and coronary heart disease and will continue to promote health education measures.

Mr. McAllion

I am sure that the Minister joins me in welcoming the Registrar General's information that the lowest-ever rate of infant and perinatal deaths and stillbirths was recorded in 1987. However, I draw his attention to a petition printed in today's Order Paper from mothers and members of the Royal College of Midwives in Dundee, which calls upon the Government to face the facts about the under-funding of the maternity services. Does the Minister agree that unless the Government face the facts and provide adequate funding the information from the Registrar General in future years may not be so encouraging?

Mr. Forsyth

The hon. Gentleman takes my breath away. The return from the Registrar General shows the lowest rates ever recorded for stillbirths and of perinatal mortality. That is an example of the success of this Government's investment in the Health Service. It is an example of the success of the Government's investment in the Health Service. It is true that a result of our success in saving infants with a very low birth weight is that they require some six weeks to three months of intensive and special care, and that of course causes intense pressure on the available cots. However, the hon. Gentleman should acknowledge what is being done in the acceptance of the review body's recommendations on pay for those involved in intensive care in other aspects of the hospital. He should welcome what is being achieved, rather than using it as a means to attack the Government's record, which is excellent.

Mr. Kirkwood

Will the Minister have regard to the burning needs and demands placed on the Health Service, both social and medical, and in particular the special implications of the AIDS epidemic on the east coast of Scotland? Is he satisfied that enough money is being devoted, in both social and the medical directions, to cope with the problem in future?

Mr. Forsyth

Yes, I am satisfied. If we were not satisfied, we would be devoting more resources to the problem. We have made an additional £1 million available to the health boards to help voluntary organisations. As for the resources required for local authorities, the hon. Gentleman knows that a working party has been examining the matter. Its assessment of need is well within the additional resources that we have made available for social work, w hich—I speak from memory—have gone up by nearly one third in real terms under the Government.