§ Lord Hylton
asked Her Majesty's Government:
Whether they will revise the Department of Health Best Practice Guidance on Effective Contraception and Advice Services for Young People, dated November 2000, making clear what they mean by "informed choices", and whether such choices include abstaining from sexual intercourse. [HL866]
§ Lord Hunt of Kings Heath
The Government neither condone nor encourage under-age sex. The national media campaign we have initiated as part of our broader strategy to tackle teenage pregnancy encourages young people to take control of their lives and not to be pressurised into having sex.
The new guidance on sex and relationship education issued by the Department for Education and Employment in July 2000 emphasises the importance of learning the reasons for delaying sexual activity, and the benefits to be gained from such delay.
However much we may disapprove, we must recognise that a minority of young people do become sexually active before they are 16. Research suggests that only half of these young people use contraception the first time they have sex. That is why improving access to contraception and advice services is central to our strategy to tackle teenage pregnancy.
Research with young people has identified nonjudgmental staff as a key feature of a service they would trust and access. The best practice guidance on the provision of effective contraception and advice services for young people, taken together 143WA with Health Circular (86)1/HC(FP)(86)1/LAC(86)3 Family Planning Services for Young People (copies of which are available in the Library), provides a responsible framework to ensure that young people are protected from unnecessary harm, consistent with the House of Lords judgment in the case of Gillick v West Norfolk and Wisbech Area Health Authority in 1985. This judgment made clear that health professionals are justified in giving advice and treatment provided they are satisfied after discussion with a young person under 16 that, amongst other things, the young person would be very likely to begin, or to continue having, sexual intercourse with or without contraceptive treatment.