Right of Reply: Victoria Gillick

The campaigner for the family responds to yesterday's article by Tessa Jowell, the health minister
IF THE great majority of teenage pregnancies today were occurring to young married women aged 17 to 19, would Tessa Jowell ("We've short- changed our young over sex") consider these mothers to be a grave social problem? No, of course not.

Thirty years ago teenage marriage and birth rates in Britain had both reached the highest levels this century, and were at least four times higher than in France, Germany or Holland.

In most of Europe it is still the cultural norm for women to marry and to start a family in their mid- to late-twenties. But Britain has always been different. Today, we still have a far higher teenage pregnancy rate than elsewhere on the Continent, but over 90 per cent of these pregnancies are now occurring to unmarried girls at younger ages.

The Government's Social Exclusion Unit thinks it has found the solution by giving parents sex lessons, and by making contraception even more easily available to adolescents. So, the medics and teachers can carry on as before, and the birth control industry can continue to rely on the taxpayer. When everything goes pear-shaped for the government in the future, they can always blame the parents. Neat, very neat.

One can predict failure. There never was, and never will be, such a thing as "safe sex" for children. Promiscuity is harmful, and contraceptives were not invented for children to use. Every doctor, nurse and sexual health counsellor (if they are honest) knows this. Unless the vested interest of the contraceptive industry is removed, the young will continue to be exploited. Sadly, no government has felt able to stand up and face out the multinational pharmaceuticals. New Labour is no different.