HL Deb 25 February 1991 vol 526 c768

3.5 p.m.

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

What guidance they have issued to local authorities about the prevention of female circumcision since the Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act 1985.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Hooper)

My Lords, we have not previously issued general advice to local authorities on the subject. However, we are about to reissue inter-departmental guidance on inter-agency working in cases of child protection. The new version is being revised to take account of the implementation of the 1989 Children Act, and will draw attention to the Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act.

Lord Kennet

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that most helpful Answer. No doubt she, like many in your Lordships' House, saw the television film last Thursday night. Will the guidance take account of the fact that there is nascent disagreement among local authority officers in different parts of the country? There are those who wish to adopt some forthright programme to protect British children against mutilation; there are others local who still believe that to do so would be in some way racialist.

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, the BBC programme was both balanced and informative. We hope very much that it will alert many people to the fact that the practice is illegal. However, the guidance being issued will take the form of a general statement. Further thought is being given as to how it can be supported with more detailed advice where necessary. We are consulting the leading voluntary sector organisations such as Forward to ensure that the detail of the advice is adequate in this very difficult area.

Lord Walton of Detchant

My Lords, is the Minister aware that before the 1985 Act became law the General Medical Council gave advice to members of the profession in the UK that, whereas there were circumstances when the performance of the operation was indicated on strictly medical grounds, its performance for social, religious or other ritual reasons was in its view unethical? Will she therefore give advice that if there is evidence to support the fact that it is being performed by doctors in the United Kingdom, that should be reported either to the police or to the profession's regulatory body, the General Medical Council?

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, yes. That must certainly be so. The practice is now illegal.

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