HC Deb 14 July 1992 vol 211 cc959-61
7. Mr. Foulkes

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what is her budget for health education for 1992–93; and what is the change since 1991–92 in real terms.

Dr. Mawhinney

We have provided £33.9 million for the health education authority in 1992–93, a real increase of 5.2 per cent. on the previous year. This is more than matched by health education of literally incalculable value throughout the national health service, sustained by the successive real increases in funding provided by the Government.

Mr. Foulkes

Is not that a paltry sum compared with the £72 million spent by the tobacco industry each year on recruiting new customers to take the place of those whom it kills off? Will the Government reconsider the question of an advertising ban and ensure that shopkeepers who sell cigarettes to children are prosecuted?

Dr. Mawhinney

The hon. Gentleman must focus his mind on the ends and not the means to the ends. The ends are that cigarette consumption in this country has decreased substantially over the past few years. The targets that we set in the White Paper suggest that tobacco consumption will drop even further in the years ahead. We have made that commitment. The means to achieve that end will be reviewed constantly, to ensure that it is achieved. I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman does not know that the Children and Young Persons (Protection From Tobacco) Act 1991 addresses precisely the concern that he expressed.

Mr. Sims

Does my hon. Friend recall that at the time of the scares about salmonella and listeria there was criticism of his Department for lack of action and of any sense of urgency, yet when he issues a White Paper pointing out to people the need to pay particular attention to sensible drinking and a balanced diet and to cease smoking, he and our right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health are accused of interfering and nannying? Will he ensure that adequate resources are made available so that although people remain free to make their own choices in these matters, they can make informed choices?

Dr. Mawhinney

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The Government have a responsibility to set before the public information on which they may wish to draw in making individual decisions about individual lifestyles. We are not in the business of nannying. However, we are in the business of discharging our responsibilities to put before people the sort of information that we believe they need and which would give them, if they were to follow it, a better quality of life.

Mr. Robin Cook

Does the Minister recognise that the end that the tobacco industry hopes to achieve by advertising is to encourage people to take up smoking? Why does he not adopt, as one of his means, the banning of tobacco advertising? Is not the real reason to be found in Rothmans' annual report, out this month, which shows that Rothmans gave £100,000 to the Tory party in this election year? Can we really expect the Tory party to take on the tobacco barons so long as they are taking their money?

Dr. Mawhinney

If they were the ends of the tobacco companies, measured against the fall in the consumption of tobacco in the past few years, they have not met those ends—on the contrary. The Government will meet the ends that they have set out by way of targets in the White Paper. It is a matter of great sadness that on his last appearance at the Dispatch Box—almost certainly, dealing with these matters—the hon. Gentleman will not commit the Labour party to achieving the same ends, which will benefit the health of the whole nation.