HL Deb 03 March 1987 vol 485 cc518-20

2.50 p.m.

Lord Rodney

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what effect they believe the AIDS leaflet and advertising campaign has had.

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, the objective of the Government's public education campaign is to create a general awareness of the facts about AIDS, how the disease is transmitted and how the spread of infection can be controlled. The results of the latest Gallup Poll survey commissioned by the department are most encouraging and show that these objectives are being met. There is evidence too that the campaign is helping to dispel some of the groundless fears of infection and that fewer people now appear to be worried about catching AIDS through normal social contact. The Government will continue to monitor the effectiveness of the campaign and will of course take account of findings in the development of future strategy.

Lord Rodney

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that very comprehensive reply. In view of the very considerable coverage given on both television channels recently and which will be continuing for another week, will the noble Lord say whether the DHSS is monitoring these programmes? Very different information has recently been given by two such programmes which I think will have confused anybody who watched both of them.

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his supplementary question. We are undertaking direct research with regard to teenagers both before and after the programmes currently being broadcast this week.

Lord Orr-Ewing

My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that it is very encouraging that the two broadcasting and television organisations should co-operate in getting the message across? However, is it not a little disastrous that they should include "Spitting Image" which introduces political characters into what is a very serious and sensible effort to inform the electorate.

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, I am grateful for the noble Lord's question. Unfortunately, I did not see the programme to which he referred.

Lord Ennals

My Lords, the noble Lord missed a very amusing episode, I must say. Will the noble Lord confirm that in their continuing educational campaign, which I very much commend, the Government will reflect on two points: first, that some genuine, warm human relations are endangered by unjustified fears; and, secondly, that at the other extreme there are still some irresponsible youngsters who say that they just do not give a damn?

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, I accept those two points; but I am not sure that there is very much that the Government can do about that attitude.

The Earl of Halsbury

My Lords, will the noble Lord be encouraged to learn that a teenager of my acquaintance, on being accosted and importuned on the way home from school by a man who asked her to come home and have a good time, replied, "Yes, if you wish to play Russian roulette. I'm an AIDS carrier"? Thereafter the man was not visible for dust.

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, as always, the noble Earl provides fascinating information.

Lord Chalfont

My Lords, does the noble Lord have any sympathy at all with the somewhat old-fashioned view that some of the publicity and advertising connected with the campaign is distasteful, insensitive and in some cases downright offensive? Will the Government use their influence to persuade some of the more imaginative advertising agencies to control their more esoteric exercises in appealing to what seems to be the worst instincts of the general public?

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, there are really two parts to that question. With regard to the Government's own directly commissioned activities, such as the AIDS leaflet and the television campaign, there were 20 million leaflets sent out and we have received 41 letters of complaint so I feel that we have got it just about right. With regard to television advertisements, the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, is probably referring to a series of advertisements that were commissioned by Marketing Week, which of course do not have anything to do with the Government.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that some young people do not think that the campaign is explicit and straightforward enough; and that the campaign does not take into consideration the fact that some young people have high moral standards?

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, it is always rather difficult to strike a happy medium. Clearly, it is important that we should communicate in language that young people understand and use themselves. The campaign will continue to be direct and will pull no punches; but being explicit does not necessarily have to mean using four letter words, which can stand in the way of communication.

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