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Mum's the word, Mrs Bottomley

'WAR On Teeny Mums,' is the Sun's way of billing it. Unveiling the Government's White Paper on health this week Virginia Bottomley, the Secretary of State for Health, promised action to curb the number of teenage pregnancies. 'Family planning plays an important part in the health of children and the wellbeing of families,' she said. 'It is estimated almost half of all conceptions were in some sense unwanted or unintended.' Mrs Bottomley knows her subject better than you imagine. In 1967, when she was a 19-year-old sociology student at Essex University, Virginia Garnett had a baby. A root around the vaults of St Catherine's House produces a birth certificate showing that on 16 September of that year Miss Garnett gave birth to a son, Peter. Father: Peter Bottomley, an economist. Three months later, on 29 December, Miss Garnett married Peter Bottomley in Wandsworth and seven months later, on 23 July 1968, the couple re-registered their son's name as Hugh Joshua Peter - who's now 24. All this just goes to show that you can't be too careful. Still, on reflection, who would you rather have as Health Secretary - a former unmarried teenage mum, or that Kenneth Clarke?

THE Tory MP Michael Fabricant has tabled a motion calling for a curry house to be opened at Westminster. It could, he suggests, be operated by the folk who run the Eastern Eye restaurant in Lichfield, which just happens to be in his constituency. No reflection on the Eastern Eye, but don't MPs generate enough hot air already?

Tie-dyed memories

RELEASE, the soft drugs campaign group, intends a 25th anniversary reconstruction of the full page advertisement that ran in the Times on 24 July 1967, protesting that the law against marijuana was both 'immoral and unworkable'. It was jolly controversial, with a petition to the Home Secretary signed by more than 60 eminentos, including two MPs and four Beatles. Mike Goodman, the director of Release, has now written to all but eight of the original signatories (some are dead) and a clutch of new names, seeking support for a re-run. Tariq Ali and Hanif Kureishi have both agreed to pitch in. But Brian Walden, then an unpompous MP, seems to be having second thoughts. 'I think society will have changed over the years and I shall ponder very carefully whether society's changes mean it is still wise to legalise soft drugs,' he tells us. The playwright Michael Hastings, another of the signatories, has no such doubts. He points out that none of the signatories has died from cannabis addiction, 'though a few may have died from boring the public stiff'. 'I still think it's a happy and healthy weed,' he says; then a multi-coloured, tie-dyed memory surfaces: 'Hash is particularly good in cake. I remember a marmalade cake in Jamaica . . .'

AN independent group promoting George Bush's re-election bid is keen that voters should 'Get to know Bill Clinton the way Gennifer Flowers did': a reference to the cabaret singer with whom the Democratic candidate allegedly had a 12-year affair. You are urged to call a Nevada number and hear Flowers's tapes of their intimate conversations. Oh yes, the number - 010 1 702 784 7600. dollars 4.99 a call.

Pat of gold

DO NOT miss the fair for Age Concern this Sunday at Blagdon Hall, the Northumberland seat of Nicholas Ridley's elder brother, Viscount Ridley. It'll be both worthy and interesting. A field is to be divided into 2,500 squares, one of which you can buy for pounds 1. If Daisy the cow dumps her pat on yours, then that's a pounds 1,600 trip to Norway for two in the bag. And should Daisy's labours straddle squares, there's a trading standards person on hand to settle disputes. With gloves, we presume.

IRRITATED by a common but deeply innaccurate bumper sticker to be seen on French lorries proclaiming that 'Les camionneurs sont sympa' (or 'nice', when they quite plainly are not), we asked you to come up with more suitable adornments. Dean Loughran comes smartly back with 'Les camionneurs do it au middle de la rue', while M Watson suggests 'Apres moi le tailback'. But Heather Moss says it all with: 'TRUCK OFF'.

LORD Justice Butler-Sloss tells us she did not make inquiries of the Garrick over the chances of her becoming an honorary member, should the club have voted to admit women. And so we can only apologise for suggesting anything to the contrary.

Days like this

10 July 1940 Chips Channon writes in his diary after the German invasion of France: 'The Third French Republic has ceased to exist and I don't care; it was graft-ridden, ugly incompetent, Communistic and corrupt, and had long outlived its day. Petain is to be a sort of Hindenburg and has divided France into provinces, as she was before the French Revolution and has appointed local Gauleiters. The old France is dead. The French National Fete Day (14 July) is no more; it is abolished, as is that tiresome motto 'Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite'.'


A MEETING took place yesterday between Andreas Whittam Smith, Editor of the Independent, and Peter Bottomley MP, husband of the Secretary of State for Health, Virginia Bottomley, under the conciliation procedure of the Press Complaints Commission.

This followed a reference to the Commission from Mr Bottomley about a story which appeared in the Independent's diary column on 10 July stating that Mr and Mrs Bottomley's first child was born shortly before her marriage at the age of 19.

While maintaining the legitimate public interest in the report because of the emphasis placed in last week's health White Paper on curbing teenage pregnancies, Mr Whittam Smith expressed regret that the Independent had named the Bottomleys' son - a private person.

Mr Bottomley is withdrawing his complaint to the Press Complaints Commission.