HC Deb 27 July 1998 vol 317 cc11-2
12. Mr. Bill Rammell (Harlow)

If he will make a statement on the Government's strategy for developing healthy living centres. [50778]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Mark Fisher)

The new opportunities fund is now in place and will provide £300 million for the establishment of a network of healthy living centres across the United Kingdom over the next three years. The centres will reduce health inequalities by giving priority to the needs of people in the most deprived areas.

Mr. Rammell

I warmly welcome the Government's initiative, which is a far more beneficial use of lottery funding than, for example, the £13 million that was spent on the Churchill papers under the previous Government. I urge and re-urge my hon. Friend to ensure that the criteria for funding the centres are drawn so as to prioritise areas of high poverty and tackle one of the remaining real inequalities in society: the fact that people from socio-economic groups D and E are three times more likely to suffer from heart disease than those in groups A and B.

Mr. Fisher

As my hon. Friend says, the new opportunities fund will target areas of urban and rural deprivation and the people who suffer worse than average health, and will complement the Government's plans for health action zones.

Mr. Desmond Swayne (New Forest, West)

Does the Minister agree that the best way of keeping people from requiring the services of healthy living centres is a regime of healthy exercise? In that respect, the withdrawal of physical education from the core curriculum is a most retrograde step. Will he take that up with the Secretary of State for Education and Employment?

Mr. Fisher

The hon. Gentleman clearly was not listening to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State or to my hon. Friend the Minister for Sport. Physical education has not been withdrawn from the national curriculum.