Clause 3 — Functions of the Centre

Part of Health (Wales) Bill – in the House of Commons at 2:17 pm on 9th January 2003.

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Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans Shadow Secretary of State for Wales 2:17 pm, 9th January 2003

I beg to move amendment No. 1, in page 2, line 21, at end insert—

'provided that it shall not use media channels widely accessible in any area outside Wales for the communication of such information unless that information is communicated jointly with those public information bodies responsible for the communication of health information in that area;'.

Obviously, I am disappointed that we did not win the vote on amendment No. 2. I must wholly disagree with the comment of my hon. Friend Chris Grayling that the Minister was not at his best during the wind-up to the debate: we have never seen the Minister at his best, so I do not understand how my hon. Friend could arrive at that judgment. However, we shall move on.

Amendment No. 1 is straightforward; it relates to the promotional activities with which the Wales centre for health will be involved. We are not dealing at this stage with its role in research or the development of training.

Clause 3 provides that:

XThe Wales Centre for Health must...develop and maintain arrangements for making information about matters related to the protection and improvement of health in Wales available to the public in Wales."

Our amendment would add the words

Xprovided that it shall not use media channels widely accessible in any area outside Wales for the communication of such information unless that information is communicated jointly with those public information bodies responsible for the communication of health information in that area".

That is a common-sense amendment.

In many ways, the amendment builds on the Minister's earlier suggestion that, in practice, the WCH will work with several other organisations, even though that is not specified in the Bill. The Minister will remember that, in Committee, we tried to include a provision that would force the centre to work with similar bodies elsewhere in some of its campaigns. The amendment would do that, in another guise, inasmuch as we recognise that once the WCH is properly and fully established, it may embark on television campaigns that impinge on people outside Wales.

As we know, a considerable number of people in Wales—north and south—turn their aerials away from Welsh television stations for all sorts of reasons. People living in north Wales who were born in England may be more interested in what Granada has to offer, or people in parts of south Wales may point their aerials in the direction of Westcountry television, which is owned by Carlton, rather than watching domestic Welsh services.

The Wales centre for health might embark on a campaign of precautions and warnings against smoking—something that we would all welcome. We know that obesity is a problem, so the centre might launch a campaign for better eating habits, perhaps coupled with the promotion of health exercise. Again, we would support that, especially if the campaign was targeted on people who were vulnerable to those problems.

I do not think that there would be a great problem if such advertisements were broadcast on HTV Wales and also seen by people in Bristol who can receive that channel. However, there might be other campaigns where we should want the centre to collaborate with other bodies and co-ordinate its work with them. That is only common sense.

In Swansea, for example, there is a problem in getting mums and dads to take up the MMR inoculation for their children. Several GPs are so worried about that lack of take-up that they fear that there will be an outbreak of disease. The centre could set up a campaign targeted on the Swansea area, or even nationally throughout Wales. There might be no problem in doing that, but it might run counter to messages coming from England.

One of the beauties or strengths of devolution—so we are told—is that there can be policy differentiation between Wales and England if that is what Wales wants. For example, England already has a diabetes strategy, but Wales is still waiting for one. I am bewildered by that decision and hope that the Government will get on with a proper diabetes strategy for the whole United Kingdom and that all organisations will work together to ensure that it is sensible.

However, the situation could be reversed: Wales might have a strategy on something while England did not. If there was an advertising campaign in Wales on the issue, some English residents might think that it was also English health policy. Such differentiation in policy might not be a strength—it could cause confusion.

Confusion can also arise when we hear references to the XHealth Minister", because, as hon. Members know, the title XSecretary" in the National Assembly for Wales has been replaced by that of XMinister". When that job title is mentioned people do not know whether it means the UK Minister or the Welsh or Scottish one.