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Baroness Whitaker: My Lords, can my noble friend confirm that the rate of teenage pregnancy is actually coming down a little now?

Baroness Andrews: My Lords, yes, I can confirm that. As a result of the teenage pregnancy initiative it has dropped by 10 per cent. That figure is for over-16s and under-16s. It is still too high, but we are seeing improvement.

Baroness Noakes: My Lords, can the Minister confirm that the rate of use of emergency contraception fell slightly in 2001, after the morning-after pill was made available from pharmacists, thus undermining one of the initial rationales? Does she join me in being concerned that the proportion of women obtaining the morning-after pill from their doctor has plummeted from 59 per cent to 43 per cent, thus increasing the likelihood that sexually transmitted infections will go undetected?

Baroness Andrews: My Lords, I do not have the figures that the noble Baroness quoted. I would be most interested in seeing them, if there has been a drop in prescribing. However, we should bear in mind that the morning-after pill, prescribed in this way, was not intended to deal with teenage pregnancy. It was intended to be provided for older women, in fact, and the average age for prescribing is 28. That figure comes from Schering's own research. We are looking at a particular part of the population.

The increase in sexually transmitted diseases has many causes, and I do not see any parallel.

Iraq: Arms Inspections

2.58 p.m.

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister for Trade (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): My Lords, the Government appreciate the need for credible, independent validation of any discoveries made by coalition forces. We have been actively engaged in discussion with all interested parties in order to take this forward. UNMOVIC and the IAEA would be an option to provide such a validation. Dr Blix himself, however, has said that the circumstances are not right for the return of UN inspectors at present. The task of any inspectors in current circumstances would be monitoring verification, not one of detection.

Lord Judd: My Lords, while thanking my noble friend for that reply and agreeing that it will be

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necessary for matters to move forward and, arguably, for new United Nations authorisation to be introduced for the return of Dr Blix and his inspectors, I wonder whether she will confirm that—given that the Government were at pains to argue that the legitimacy for war was the series of United Nations resolutions over the years recently preceding it calling on the Saddam regime to disarm, and that the Government and their allies went to war because the demands were not met and the conditions for proper inspection were not present—the logical step now is for the UN to continue its work as soon as it is possible to do so? Does she not also agree—I think that she does, but will she confirm—that the international community will welcome the credibility of the UN rather than handpicked inspectors from outside the coalition?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Yes, my Lords. I hope that I made that absolutely clear in my Answer by saying that we appreciate the need for credible and—I stress the word—independent validation of any discoveries. Of course it is important to find the evidence of the weapons of mass destruction. That is why coalition forces are now actively pursuing sites, looking at documentation and interviewing individuals who have been connected with Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programme. Both the United Kingdom and the United States have deployed specialist personnel and both countries are due to send more specialist personnel into Iraq. However, I entirely agree with my noble friend. It is important that there is independent verification of anything that is found.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the difficulty that the coalition is having in locating these weapons and these programmes casts a rather new light on the carping criticism that was made of UNMOVIC in the period before hostilities broke out by many circles in the United States? Does she not also agree that there is a trade-off between the credibility to which she and others of us would, I am sure, attach primordial importance and the length of time that it takes to get UN inspectors back into Iraq working alongside the coalition?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Yes, my Lords, I can agree with that. I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, was very clear in saying that what he described as "carping criticism" had come from the United States. I do not believe that any of that criticism came from the United Kingdom. I also remind the noble Lord that we are dealing with a country the size of France where we believe that these weapons have been very carefully hidden. As he will know—indeed, the point has been made in another place by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister—in Northern Ireland it has taken a very long time to be able to discover weapons which have been very carefully hidden.

Even now, scientists are coming forward or being found by the coalition forces who we believe were part of the programme of weapons of mass destruction. We

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hope very much that they will be able to contribute to our sum of knowledge about the whereabouts of those weapons.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, does the Minister agree that smallish containers of germs, poisons and nerve agents are extremely easy to hide in a very large country and probably remain beyond the capacity of any visiting inspectors to uncover? Further to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Judd, does she therefore not also agree that it might have been a little more prudent from the start not only to have talked about weapons of mass destruction but also to have emphasised the fact that Saddam was quite simply a brutal tyrant, an aider and abettor of terror of all kinds and a huge threat to Middle East stability, and that it was and remains the duty of all responsible states to get rid of him and restore Iraq to the democracy which it knew before 1968?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I very much agree with the point about these being small containers and substances that are very easy to hide. Indeed, I believe that I made those points very strongly from these Benches in the discussion that we had in your Lordships' House prior to the military conflict. I agree with the noble Lord that it is important not to forget the type of regime with which we are dealing. However, I stress to him, as I think I did before the military conflict began, that, however brutal that regime, the legal basis on which we took up the military conflict was the United Nations Security Council resolutions which stressed the importance of the weapons of mass destruction. That was the legal base. However, I agree wholeheartedly with the noble Lord. It would be a great mistake to forget what a terrible regime that was. In remembering that, we should also remember the brutality facing those who might have wanted to come forward and tell us about the weapons of mass destruction and the fear that they would have had.

Lord Redesdale: My Lords, this morning there was an article in the Guardian saying that some of the Iraqi scientists who worked on these programmes are fearful of coming forward and working with the Americans because any statement they might make that they did not work on weapons of mass destruction will not meet with joy from the Americans. They fear that they could end up being arrested. Is there not a case for giving an amnesty to those scientists if they are prepared to work with the Americans in locating materials produced under those programmes?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I have not read the article in the Guardian and I do not know its origins or the validity of the points that it makes. However, the point of substance in the question from the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, is whether there will be an amnesty for scientists. I believe that the full circumstances in which people were forced to work on those terrible weapons programmes—it is quite possible that some individuals were forced to work on them—should be

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taken into account. However, amnesty for the prime movers—for those who perhaps exerted the force majeure on other scientists—would be entirely inappropriate.

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, what if anything has Dr Blix done which deserves his treatment as a pariah?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I am afraid that I do not accept the premise of my noble friend's question that Dr Blix is being treated as a pariah. I am sure that there are those who have said disobliging things about Dr Blix—indeed, I have heard disobliging things said about Dr Blix—but they have not been said by any representative of the United Kingdom Government.

Lord Rea: My Lords, since Hans Blix and UNMOVIC withdrew voluntarily from Iraq at the start of hostilities, why can they not return as soon as they feel that the security situation is safe enough, without having a further UN resolution?


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