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Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, I did not use the word "targets" in my speech. I asked what action the Government are taking to reduce the numbers of sections and, as a result of their actions, when they expect to see a decline in the rate.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I apologise to the noble Baroness. I think that another noble Lord picked up her point and suggested targets. I understand why some noble Lords think that targets would be appropriate. I do not think that I can respond directly to that issue until we have the results of the NICE clinical guidelines. At that point one would then think about the strategies needed to reduce

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caesarean sections, if, in the light of the work undertaken by NICE, that is considered appropriate. But if noble Lords are asking me whether I have concerns about the current situation, I do have concerns about it.

The noble Baroness raised the point about the World Health Organisation. We have all used the figures of 5 per cent to 15 per cent. My understanding is that the World Health Organisation is now looking again at those issues. That will be helpful and it is to be hoped that, if done quickly, it will inform the work that we also need to take forward.

In the time available I have not answered every point, but I hope that I have convinced noble Lords that I, together with the Government, am not at all complacent about the big issues that face maternity services in this country. I believe that great progress has been made during the past few years. I again commend the noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, for her outstanding work.

I believe that recruitment and retention strategies for midwives, the issue of leadership, the work of the national service framework and the work that we are doing with users will combine together to give us the national cohesive strategy that we all agree needs to be developed. It will be very much informed by the comments made and the points raised in this debate. I assure your Lordships that I will ensure that they are conveyed to those who are leading the national service framework.

8.55 p.m.

Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, I should like to conclude this debate by thanking all noble Lords who have taken part. It has been a wise and interesting debate that has highlighted the great strengths of this House. In particular, I thank the Minister for his full response to the vast majority of our questions. There is no doubt about his personal commitment to the matter, and I thank him for that.

I welcome the introduction of maternity into the national service framework for children. That is an excellent move. I advocate speed on that, because the situation in the country is changing fast. Your Lordships have been enormously generous to me in this debate, and I thank you for that, but I want the Government to produce a maternity policy all its own. I want to see the son and daughter of Changing Childbirth, because it is when the Government embrace their own policies that we shall experience a real difference. People have been so generous and nice—not only in this Chamber but throughout the country—about the work that I did. But that was 10 years ago. Life has moved on and it is time that the Government put some strong political will behind the issue and improved the lot of women and children in this country. My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

        House adjourned at three minutes to nine o'clock.

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