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Kali Mountford (Colne Valley) (Lab): I very much welcome my right hon. Friend's statement, especially his announcement about screening for chlamydia. Will he go further and look into how sexually transmitted diseases can be prevented through education and an understanding of appropriate sexual behaviour, so that the lives of many are not ruined by irreversible damage that could be prevented?
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Dr. Reid: Yes, I agree with my hon. Friend, and we intend to try to highlight the issue in a major campaign because of the reservoir of anguish that is building up, particularly, although not exclusively, through chlamydia. Although chlamydia has no symptoms, it can lead to infertility and other serious complications further down the line, which is a source of possible anguish and cost for the future. So we will not only lead that campaign, but we fully intend to make much more information much more widely available, including through all the online internet services that young people use so often.

Sir Paul Beresford (Mole Valley) (Con): As a very part-time health professional, I am keen on any move that helps to reduce tobacco smoking and damage. I have talked to a number of publicans and restaurateurs in my constituency, and off the record, particularly away from the public bar, they are basically keen on a ban, but a total ban, perhaps for commercial reasons. I wonder whether the Secretary of State has left that door open.

Dr. Reid: In some ways, the hon. Gentleman may be right. I can understand why such a ban could make things easier, for commercial reasons, for the providers, but our job is to look at the interests of the public— not the producers or providers, but the consumers. I therefore think that the balance that we have reached is appropriate, from the point of view of balancing the protection of the majority of people who want smoke-free areas with the protection of the rights of the minority in England who want to smoke a cigarette without damaging the health of others. That is what we have tried to do, while allowing diversity.

The options would be, first, to say, "You shall not smoke anywhere at your leisure", and then to say, as is now happening in Sydney, with the Health Minister there, or in California, given the campaigns there, "You shall not smoke in the open air or on the beaches", the effect of which could be to increase the amount of smoking that goes on in the home, by pushing people to accept that that is the only place that they can smoke. All the damage in respect of passive smoking that hon. Friends and colleagues have mentioned is based on passive smoking damage to those who live with a smoker at home. I am trying to get the balance right. None of us is infallible and time will tell, but I think that our approach is proportional and balanced.

Mr. Kevin Barron (Rother Valley) (Lab): My right hon. Friend is right to say that the critical issues are those of lifestyle and personal choice. Although he has outlined the education initiatives, with the emphasis in the statement on sport and physical activity, will the Government take initiatives with the national curriculum to ensure that people make informed choices, so that we can really begin to improve health in this country? We are getting messages from different parts of society, but a comprehensive message should start at basic school level.

Dr. Reid: Absolutely. My right hon. Friend has hit on critical point. I can give him some satisfaction by telling him that we will do exactly that, and I have been talking to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Skills about it. Indeed, this afternoon
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I will go a school where the education incorporates practical and theoretical advice at primary level on nutrition and food and the history and narrative of balanced diets and healthy living. I have now extended the healthy school project—the free fruit—from the pilot areas to the whole of England for every four, five and six-year-old going to school, and we also have the five-a-day programme. All that is essential because it is not Jesuitical to say that if we have a child by the age of seven who has learned healthy living, it will stand them in good stead for the rest of their life. That is exactly what will happen.

Mrs. Iris Robinson (Strangford) (DUP): We are all very concerned about the rise in the number of sexually transmitted illnesses. Has any research been carried out to ascertain whether there is a link between the rise in sexually transmitted illnesses and the availability of the morning-after pill?

Dr. Reid: I do not think, off the top of my head, that I am aware of research on that specific item. However, if the hon. Lady will allow me, I will write to her.

Ms Debra Shipley (Stourbridge) (Lab): Why did my right hon. Friend choose Ofcom, which does not support a ban on advertising to children of food high in fat, sugar and salt, to liaise with the food and drink and television industries, which are also against a ban? May I suggest that he should choose another organisation that is perhaps a little less biased, such as the Food Standards Agency or one of the 120 organisations, including the Royal College of Physicians, the Royal College of Surgeons, the Royal College of General Practitioners—the list goes on—that have backed my call for a ban on the advertising of high fat and sugar food and drink to children? If he did that, I reassure him that more than 240 Members of Parliament from both sides of the House would support him, as would between 76 and 81 per cent. of the public, who have been extensively polled.

Dr. Reid: My hon. Friend was too courteous to point out that many of those who signed the motion and supported that very call were Conservative Members. They regarded it as worth while and not nannyish, to use an expression that they tend to use. I used Ofcom to make the decision in the first instance because it is the independent body that has been set up to study such issues, and it has already started its consideration. It is true that it said that a ban, in itself, would not find favour with Ofcom, but it was not opposed to restrictions. I have also made it clear that if, after a reasonable time, the Government find it impossible to achieve their required end or cannot go in the direction in which they wish to go, I will then consider introducing legislation.

A number of possibilities are available. One is the total ban before a certain time that my hon. Friend outlined; another is a tapered approach by which foods of a particular nature could not be advertised before a certain deadline, and would then be regulated after that and restricted. After another deadline, the provisions
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would be wider. One thing is certain: we cannot confine our approach just to television advertising—it must extend beyond that. However, this is our starting point.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke (Rushcliffe) (Con): I remind the House of a well-known interest that I have declared in the Register of Members' Interests.

Does the Secretary of State accept that as his statement was riddled with constant references to the role of individual responsibility and personal choice in our society, he rather betrayed his guilt that his original instincts had been overruled? He has been rolled over by well-intentioned but very powerful lobbies, many of whom sit behind him. He has embarked on an extension of the criminal law, bans on advertising and regulation into areas of choice as to what people drink and eat—their choice of diet—and whether they smoke. That is an extraordinary extension of the role of the state into individual liberty and choice of lifestyle in this country.

Does the Secretary of State further accept that the major pressures upon the health service, for which he is responsible, come from the fact that we have the longest-living, fittest and healthiest specimens of the human race who ever walked these islands? Fortunately, he has to contend with advances in medical care and ever-increasing age expectation, but he has difficulty in doing so. Will he therefore not believe, among the statistical nonsense, all this stuff about the billions of pounds that the proposals will save? Will he make sure that he concentrates on worthwhile things, such as improving the services to deal with sexual ill health, and not start employing yet more campaigners, counsellors, lifestyle advisers and health gurus? They make up an industry in themselves and they will consume his resources and introduce an interventionism into the lives of individual citizens in which Governments should not engage.

Dr. Reid: The right hon. and learned Gentleman, whom I know well, is an archetypal lifestyle guru in his own way. It is just not true that we are dictating to people what they should eat or drink. At their request, we are giving them advice and information in an easily accessible and understandable fashion about what they might or might not want to eat. They can ultimately make their choice. I do not see why he should complain about dealing with the complicated things on the back of processed food that one has to be a biochemist or have hours at hand to understand. I do not understand why it is objectionable to put such messages in a simple fashion.

Ultimately, people will make their own choices. I have made it plain today that they will make their own choices about smoking and drinking; I know that as well as anybody. People make their own choices and they pull themselves out of their own ill health or their own disadvantage. The question is whether we should help them in doing so.

All we are trying to do is to say, "If you wish to live a healthier life, here is the information that will allow you to do it." The one area where we are saying, "You shouldn't be able to do that" is when people are damaging the health of others. We are saying, "In a civilised society, your rights have to be constrained in case they impinge upon the rights and damage the health and lives of others." That is all we are doing with passive
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smoking. I would have hoped that the right hon. and learned Gentleman would think that the solution I came up with was a balanced one that might attract the support of such a balanced person as himself.

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