HL Deb 14 May 1987 vol 487 cc721-3

3.19 p.m.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

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 whether either primary or secondary teachers will be represented in the new Health Education Authority.

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, the regulations setting up the Health Education Authority recognise the essential role of the education service in health education by stipulating that one of the members of the authority must be directly nominated by the Secretary of State for Education and Science. My right honourable friend nominated Mrs. Kate Wood, a former chairman of the Wirral Education Committee with experience as a member of the Schools Curriculum Development Committee.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that rather disappointing reply. Is he aware that practising teachers feel left out and saddened by the fact that they are not represented on this new authority?

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, I shall draw the noble Baroness's remarks to the attention of the Minister.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, while warmly supporting the noble Baroness's plea, perhaps I may turn to another point: namely, the fact that this authority applies to Wales as well as to England. Why have the Government neglected to put a Welsh representative on this authority? I note that Tesco Stores are represented, together with Bowater and no doubt a number of other reputable companies in England. Why is the Welsh nation always neglected by this Government? It has a worse reputation than any authority since Edward I.

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, I shall have to write to the noble Lord.

Lord Kilmarnock

My Lords, can the noble Lord say how the activities of the new Health Education Authority will be affected by the sex education provisions of the recent Education Act, particularly in relation to AIDS? Will the new authority have any funds for this principle and will its writ extend to schools?

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, as regards the authorities responsible for sex education in schools, under the Education Act 1986 from 1st September responsibility for the form and content of sex education in schools will progressively pass to the governing bodies of schools. Under the new arrangements the HEA will be able to offer advice and prepare materials for use in schools, but it will be for individual governing bodies to decide whether and how they are employed. We expect the HEA to maintain close liaison with the Department of Education and Science on these matters.

Baroness Lane-Fox

My Lords, is the Minister aware that those of us who are all too familiar with respiratory and orthopaedic wards know so well that good posture is the defence against very costly ill-health? It would seem that in recent years the teaching of this to children has not been notably successful. As it is one of the most important subjects, and of inestimable value to everyone concerned, one would hope that this would be reflected in the new authority.

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, I believe it is felt that it would be inappropriate for the Health Education Authority itself to include advice about posture. However, I am sure that a very large number of people are involved who are very keen on posture and on physical education. I would remind the noble Baroness that, among others, Mr. Sebastian Coe, is a member of the committee.

Viscount Tonypandy

My Lords, will the noble Lord, in answering the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, bear in mind that the Welsh Office has responsibility for health and education in Wales and that it is ordinary common courtesy for consideration to be given to the matters raised by the noble Lord? Secondly, will he bear in mind that it is to the Government's own advantage to have the experience and knowledge of practising teachers on this important body?

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, I very much take the point that the noble Viscount has made to me, and hopefully I shall be able to provide an answer when I write to his noble friend.

Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran

My Lords, with regard to what the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, has said about the important matter of Welsh representation on this committee, will he be good enough also to send me a copy of the letter that he has promised to send to the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn?

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, I shall do so. I shall place a copy of the letter in the Library.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, I am grateful for the support which I have received from the noble Viscount and also from the noble Lord on the Liberal Benches. However, will the noble Lord do more than write me a letter on the matter? Will he give the House an assurance that he will discuss this carefully with his right honourable friend as a matter of deep importance, because the Welsh people will be very offended if a constructive reply is not received?

The Lord President of the Council (Viscount Whitelaw)

My Lords, it might be appropriate if I replied to the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition at this moment in this particular Parliament. I think that this is an appropriate time for me to do so. I fully understand the representations he has made on behalf of the Welsh nation and I also understand the representations made by the noble Viscount, Lord Tonypandy, and others about the representation on this Health Education Council. I shall certainly speak personally to the Ministers concerned, as the noble Lord has requested.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the noble Viscount.

Lord Wallace of Coslany

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that I strongly support the plea made by the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, that teachers' representatives should be on this Health Education Authority? Health education is vitally important when it starts in the primary and secondary schools. We have to get away from the surfeit of sausages, chips and beans which seems to be the staple fare for many young people today.

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, I am very interested in the noble Lord's comments.

Lord Stallard

My Lords, will the noble Lord confirm that those members of the current HEC who are known to be critical of the Government's policy, particularly with reference to the health divide, have not been renominated or re-appointed to the new Health Education Authority? What conditions will be imposed on the new authority regarding future publications?

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, I think that that is a little wide of the Question on the Order Paper.

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