HL Deb 13 April 1989 vol 506 cc385-6

3.18 p.m.

Lord Jay asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is the total they propose to spend on advertising and publicity in 1988–89, and what was the corresponding total in 1986–87 and 1987–88.

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, the information is not held centrally except in respect of the publicity and advertising placed by departments through the Central Office of Information. The total invoiced by the Central Office of Information to departments was £145 million in 1988–89, £140 million in 1987–88 and 143 million in 1986–87.

Lord Jay

My Lords, can the Minister also give the figure for 1989–90? To what extent does this very large amount of spending involve the use of public money for what is really party propaganda?

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, I cannot give the figure for 1989–90. I do not believe that any of this money has been used for party political propaganda.

Lord Bonham-Carter

My Lords, can the noble Lord let us know what the figure was for 1979 which is the usual benchmark in these matters?

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, I said earlier this week that I did not think that going back to 1978–79 was particularly useful— —

A noble Lord

The noble Lord was still at school!

Lord Strathclyde

—but as the noble Lord has asked the question, the figure in 1978–79 was £35.4 million. However, one has to take into account the fact that media inflation has been substantially higher than ordinary inflation over the last few years and that the Government have to compete for prime television time.

Lord Bruce of Donington

My Lords, will the noble Lord inform the House whether government expenditure on the recent paper in respect of changes in the National Health Service is included in the figures that he gave for advertising? Is the noble Lord aware that the Government's increasing tendency to put out papers in the form of glossy magazines of an extremely expensive type is giving the impression that they are using public money for the purposes of furthering the party political ends of the Conservative Party?

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, I disagree with what the noble Lord said. Although I do not have the exact figure that he requires, I shall endeavour to find it and write to him. It is fundamentally important for a government to publicise the efforts of their departments. A recent survey carried out by Marketing Magazine (on 6th April, 1989) showed that almost 50 per cent. of those who answered believed either that government spending was sufficient or that they should spend more.

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, does the Minister agree that the Government constantly complain about local authorities having propaganda on the rates, while they are having propaganda on the taxpayers?

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, I disagree entirely. The comparison between local authorities and central government is totally unjustified.

Lord Jenkin of Roding

My Lords, is not the true distinction between the giving of information to the public about policy or legislation on the one hand; and, on the other, the political campaigning that was such a signal feature of the local authorities' battles during the last Session of Parliament?

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, I agree with my noble friend.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, is it not the case that the Government have approved the expenditure of £30 million in advertising the 10 water authorities in England and Wales? On the threshold of the water privatisation Bill going through this House, is that not a gross misuse of public money?

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, no. It is important for people to know what is done by their water boards. Secondly, because the boards will belong to their shareholders, it will be for them to decide the future policy of advertising.

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy

My Lords, do not the publications of any government reflect their political complexion to some extent?

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, I am not sure that that is entirely correct. We are talking about public information.

Lord Jay

My Lords, would it not be better if instead some of those millions of pounds were spent on health and education?

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, many millions of pounds are being spent on health and education. I believe that it is important for people o know what is happening in individual government departments.

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