The "undermining" influence of recent Department of Health guidelines was spelt out by a QC appearing for a mother of five who is battling for parents' "right to know" if their daughters seek advice or treatment.

Sue Axon, 51, a divorced single parent from Wythenshawe, Manchester, is seeking a judicial review. Her QC, Philip Havers, told Mr Justice Silber, sitting in London: "We contend that contraception, treatment for sexually transmitted infections and abortion for children ... are issues parents and children - and society as a whole - would expect parents to advise their children about. Society cannot expect parents to carry out their responsibilities if they are kept in the dark."

Lawyers for the Health Secretary, Patricia Hewitt, are defending the guidelines, saying the right of confidentiality enjoyed by under-16s is crucial to the battle to reduce teenage pregnancies and improve sexual health. They say children's right to confidentiality must always be protected. The case continues.