Exclusive: Tory right halt sex education campaigns

THE GOVERNMENT has halted its Aids and sexual health education programmes following rows over an explicit sex guide for teenagers and a condom campaign described by ministers as 'offensive'.

At an emergency meeting of the Health Education Authority, the government-funded body that oversees national campaigns, board members decided to suspend indefinitely work on sex-related health promotion despite the fact that it is a priority area under the 'Health of the Nation' White Paper.

HEA staff have condemned the move which they say is the result of pressure from health ministers seeking to appease the Tory right, and from some non-executive board members - including the Bishop of Peterborough, broadcaster Esther Rantzen, and Gillian Butler, wife of the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Robin Butler - in the wake of well-publicised disputes over HEA sex-education material.

A HEA booklet for teenagers, Your Pocket Guide to Sex, was withdrawn in March and 12,000 copies destroyed after Dr Brian Mawhinney, Minister of State for Health, denounced it as 'smutty'. According to sources, the Bishop of Peterborough is said to have complained to the minister about the booklet, while Ms Rantzen objected to the omission of any mention of love.

Later in the month, just days after the board meeting, HEA representatives were surprisingly absent from the launch of a teenage sex survey. The survey was part of a campaign run by the HEA, family planning and anti-Aids organisations to persuade the Government to reconsider its guidelines on sex education now being revised in accordance with the 1993 Education Act.

In January an anti-Aids campaign promoting safer sex and condoms was pulled at the last minute after Baroness Cumberledge, Under Secretary of State for Health, told the HEA that only one of the planned advertisements was acceptable. Senior civil servants had approved the project weeks earlier, and it was the first time that an HEA campaign had been banned by a minister.

Lindsay Neil, director of the HEA, which spends around pounds 9m on sexual-health programmes, was reluctant to comment yesterday.

Sex education was a 'sensitive' issue which was constantly under review. 'We are considering all our sexual-health work. It is not that it has stopped,' she said.

However, sources close to the HEA say that 'an accumulation' of adverse publicity had prompted the suspension. 'The direction came from on high that no one was to do any more work in this area. Basically the Government is running scared of criticism,' said one. Another said that the HEA was 'jumpy' because its survival is in doubt.

The HEA is currently awaiting a decision on its future, following a review of its role by Sir John Lee, a former Tory MP.

The Government wants to contract-out much of the work now done by the quango, and criticism of its recent campaigns is seen as a way of undermining its authority while gaining more direct control over controversial campaigns liable to upset the Tory 'moral majority'.

Ceri Hutton, head of policy at the National Aids Trust, said the suspension of Aids education was 'profoundly worrying'. Successful government campaigns in the 1980s were responsible for the low level of HIV and Aids in the UK, she said. 'It is outrageous that strategic programmes which are set out in the Government's own document, 'Health of the Nation', are now in jeopardy.'

Alison Hadley, of the Brook Advisory Centres, said: 'We are talking about people's lives. I think it is absurd that Dr Mawhinney, who controls the purse strings of the HEA and who knows nothing about sexual health and education, has such power.'

David Blunkett, Labour's spokesman on health, said that the move was a 'panic measure' with the Government bowing to right-wing ministerial pressure in the departments of Health and Education.

However, a spokesman for the Department of Health said last night that recent developments were a matter for the HEA. 'This is something they have decided of their own volition,' he said. Local health authorities would continue promoting safer sex, he added.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
News
people
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
peopleDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Manager

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced