Tories target teenage sex and drinking

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Indy Politics

Teenage binge drinkers who sleep around are to be targeted by the Tories in a crackdown on "early or unprotected sex" which they said had reached "epidemic" proportions.

Teenage binge drinkers who sleep around are to be targeted by the Tories in a crackdown on "early or unprotected sex" which they said had reached "epidemic" proportions.

The awareness campaign, to include a nationwide advertising drive, is likely to be compared to America's "just say no" campaign to tackle promiscuity among teenagers.

The Tory campaign, which will involve schools, GPs' surgeries and social workers, will focus on young people who repeatedly get drunk and those who sleep around.

The campaign will draw on the hard-hitting messages of the HIV/Aids campaigns of the 1980s and highlight the dangers of drunkenness and moving between multiple sexual partners. "As the Conservative government showed in the 1980s and 1990s in the case of HIV/Aids, campaigns can be effective in preventing the spread of an epidemic," the party's health manifesto said yesterday. "We will launch a sexual health strategy which will ensure young people are targeted with a clear message of the risks of early or unprotected sex."

The crackdown is a signal that the Tories and Labour will vie for the high moral ground over public health. Yesterday, launching the party's health policy, Andrew Lansley, Shadow Secretary of State for Health, blamed the rising rates of promiscuity and binge drinking among young people on "low self esteem and peer pressure." He added: "We are going to try to address these issues directly," he said. "It's a long-term agenda."

But opposition MPs questioned whether "preaching" to promiscuous young people who drink too much would work.

"There's a lot of evidence to show that pre-packaged ad campaigns are not the best way to get across to this group," said Paul Burstow, a Liberal Democrat health spokesman.

The Liberal Democrats plan to crack down on "happy hours" and cut-price drink promotions. Pubs that serve drink to underage children would also face tough penalties. The Tories intend to make a change to the Government's proposed ban on smoking in most pubs and clubs. They plan to agree a voluntary code with the pub industry which they claim will remove smoking from about 80 per cent of pubs.

The Tories said since 1997 public health in Britain had come "close to crisis with an explosion in obesity, heavy drinking, drug abuse and rates of sexually-transmitted diseases."

The Conservatives pledged to inject an extra £34bn a year into the NHS by the end of their first term in office. They said they would cut bureaucracy and abolish targets. All hospitals would become foundation hospitals, with the freedom to hire staff and borrow to invest.

Michael Howard, launching the party's health policy, said spending per patient would rise from £1,450 to about £2,000.

The Tories would subsidise patients who chose to go private - to 50 per cent of the cost of the operation on the NHS. It would also allow private healthcare companies to compete on an equal basis with the NHS. Mr Howard criticised Tony Blair for squandering public money on red tape, while failing to tackle waiting lists and the MRSA bug.


A Labour MP claims Tony Blair is pursuing "ideas with which even those with a Tory philosophy of life can feel at home". Llew Smith, who is stepping down at the next election, said yesterday: "Much good has been achieved following successive Labour election victories but that is becoming overshadowed with policies that have no relevance to our philosophy as Socialists."

His outburst follows a succession of apparent attempts by the Government to steal Tory clothes:


The Conservatives regarded their promise to give the electors a vote on the proposed European constitution, which they oppose, as a trump card.

Although the Government supports the constitution, Mr Blair matched the Tory pledge six weeks before last year's European elections, declaring: "Let the battle be joined." The effect of his announcement, however, was to put off the issue until 2006, well after the election.


Labour's health plan promised patients would have a choice of any hospital, whether in the public or private sector.

The Tories also put choice at the heart of their health proposals; a difference is that they would subsidise the cost of going private. Both parties have promised to improve public health, with action to tackle obesity, drinking and sexually-transmitted disease.


The Conservatives accused the Government of "Xeroxing" their ideas when it produced its five-year education strategy. Labour said it wanted popular schools to expand, which has long been a Tory policy, extended the concept of choice between schools and recommended the return of uniforms for secondary school pupils.

The Tories, however, would scrap tuition fees.


Eight of the 29 Bills or draft measures in the Queen's Speech concentrate on law and order, traditionally seen as Tory territory. They include initiatives to combat terrorism, serious crime, drugs and anti-social behaviour. Peter Hain, the Leader of the Commons, admitted: "We are crowding out any space for them on the security agenda."


In an echo of Margaret Thatcher's electorally successful policy of selling council houses, the Conservatives support allowing housing association tenants to buy their homes.

In the five-year housing strategy, John Prescott said Labour would allow tenants to buy a stake of up to 50 per cent in their home. But he blocked pressure from some Cabinet colleagues to match the Tory pledge.


The Tories looked to Australia to produce proposals to introduce a points system and quotas for migrants and asylum-seekers.

Last week, Labour backed the idea of a points system but rejected quotas.

On Tuesday, the Tories backed screening new arrivals for tuberculosis. Labour said it was already happening.


The Tories are promising to cut the tax bill by £4bn a year. They are delaying the announcement until after the Budget, claiming they fear that Chancellor Gordon Brown will pinch their ideas.

Nigel Morris