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Antenatal Screening, Eugenic Abortion and Pre-implementation Genetic Diagnosis

Baroness Masham of Ilton asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Andrews: There have been no specific surveys among disabled people. However, the voluntary body Antenatal Results and Choices is represented on the United Kingdom National Screening Committee's (NSC) antenatal screening sub-group. The aims of the antenatal screening programme are to enable parents to make informed choices about the future of the pregnancy. The decision should be made when the best interests of the woman, her partner, the future baby and the family have all been considered.

Abortion is only legal in Great Britain subject to the Abortion Act 1967, as amended. Termination on the grounds of foetal abnormality is permitted where "there is substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped". The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists guideline Termination of Pregnancy for foetal abnormality (1996) states that the woman, and her partner, need to be given enough information and time to help her understand the nature of the foetal

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abnormality and the probable outcome of the pregnancy in order that she can make an informed decision as to whether or not to proceed with the pregnancy.

The Human Genetics Commission has stressed the importance of balanced information for parents in their work with the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) on pre-implantation genetic diagnosis and will be working with the NSC to ensure that this work informs plans to implement national antenatal screening programmes. Representatives from disability groups were included on the recent HFEA working group on pre-implantation genetic diagnoses.


Baroness Masham of Ilton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have information of fear, particularly among disabled and seriously ill people, about campaigns to legalise euthanasia.[HL2600]

Baroness Andrews: The Government continue to receive considerable correspondence from those who are in favour and those who are against campaigns to legalise euthanasia. Whilst comments and strength of opinion differ greatly, there has been little evidence of "fear" from seriously ill or disabled people themselves.

The Government currently have no plans of their own to change the current law. Any proposal to change the law in this area would need to be considered very carefully.


Baroness Masham of Ilton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What advice they give for determining whether a person desiring suicide should be counselled to change their mind; and whether the person's disability or non-disability is considered as a factor for such a determination. [HL2602]

Baroness Andrews: The type of counselling a person contemplating suicide should receive is a matter for the practitioner concerned to determine in consultation with the individual and their family or carer. A persons's disability would be one of the factors that the practitioner would need to take into account in reaching a clinical judgment.

Child Abuse

Baroness Cox asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the number of—

    (a) reported incidences of child abuse; and

    (b) convictions for child abuse

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    in the years 1966; 1968; 1969; 1970; 1980; 1990; and 2000. [HL2606]

Baroness Andrews: Information detailing the number of reported incidences of child abuse in the years 1966; 1968; 1969; 1970; 1980; 1990; and 2000 is not held centrally.

However, by revamping its database of serious cases, the Department of Health has a record of serious case notifications from 1 April 2002. A serious case notification concerns the death of, or serious injury to, a child where abuse and/or neglect is known or suspected to have been a factor.

One hundred and twenty-one serious case notifications are recorded on the Department of Health's database between 1 April and 31 December 2002; 62 serious case notifications are recorded on the database for the period 1 January to 1 May 2003.

Information on convictions for child abuse are given in the following table.

Persons convicted at all courts for violent offences against children where the age of victim is identified by the offence, 1980, 1990 and 2000.

England and WalesNumber of persons Persons convicted
Indictable Offences
Violence against the person
Murder of infant under 1 year of age15
Child destruction
Cruelty to, or neglect of children147247448
Abandoning children under 2 years2
Child abduction103350
Concealment of birth31
Sexual offences
Buggery with a boy under the age of 16 or with a woman or an animal147189
Attempt to commit buggery with a boy under the age of 16 or with a woman or an animal1518
Buggery by a male of a male under 1651
Buggery by a male with a female under 1613
Indecent assault on male person under 16 years562421299
Rape of a female aged under 16206
Rape of a male aged under 1624
Attempted rape of a female aged under 1632
Attempted rape of a male aged under 162
Indecent assault on a female under 161,6851,5371,353
Unlawful sexual intercourse with a girl under 1310211053
Unlawful sexual intercourse with a girl under 16566304214
Incest with a girl under 13528412
Inciting girl under 16 to have incestuous sexual intercourse632
Householder permitting unlawful sexual intercourse with girl under 1655
Person responsible for girl under 16 causing or encouraging her prositution etc.32
Abduction of unmarried girl under 161183
Gross indecency with boys aged 14 and under13012858
Gross indecency with girls aged 14 and under134148135
Other indictable offences
Take or make indecent photographs, or pseudo-photographs, of children35218
Summary Offences
Cruelty to or neglect of children4242
Possession of an indecent photograph, or pseudo-photograph of a child3277

— =not applicable.

(3) Staffordshire Police were only able to submit sample data for persons convicted at magistrates' courts in 2000.

Although sufficient to estimate higher orders of data, these data are not robust enough at a detailed level and have been excluded from this table.


Home Office.

Data prior to 1980 are not available at this level of detail.

Emergency Hormonal Contraception

Baroness Cox asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the number of morning-after pills prescribed, sold or supplied in the years 1990; 1995; 2000; and 2001.[HL2607]

Baroness Andrews: Emergency hormonal contraception is available from a number of sources. Data on all of these are not collected centrally. In particular, data are not collected on over the counter pharmacy sales.

The following tables show prescriptions for emergency hormonal contraception dispensed in family planning clinics and prescriptions dispensed in the community by community pharmacists and dispensing doctors in England.

NHS Family Planning Clinics and Brook Advisory Centres+


+Post-coital contraceptives which excludes IDUs.

Prescriptions Dispensed in the Community*


*This includes community pharmacists and appliance contractors, dispensing doctors, and prescriptions submitted by prescribing doctors.

Mobile Phones: Possible Health Effects

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they intend to take following the research undertaken in Sweden, and published in the International Journal of Oncology, providing evidence of a link between mobile phone use and brain tumours.[HL2620]

Baroness Andrews: The publication of the Stewart report in May 2000 provided a comprehensive review of the possible health effects of radiofrequency (RF) exposure from the use of mobile phones. Experimental and epidemiological studies gave no indication of a risk of cancer on the basis of evidence available. The expert group did, however, note the limited amount of time that phones had been in use and the need for more research.

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Over the last few years a number of review groups for example in Canada, the Netherlands and France as well as the Stewart group have assessed the possible health effects of exposure to RF radiation, as from mobile phone masts. In all cases the conclusion has been that the epidemiological evidence currently available does not suggest that RF exposure causes cancer.

A recommendation in the Stewart report was that there should be a further comprehensive review of the science related to possible health effects of exposure to RF radiation within three years. The Government asked for this review to be carried out by the National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB) and the board of NRPB asked for this to be undertaken by its independent Advisory Group on Non-ionising Radiation. This review is nearing completion and will be finalised by the end of 2003. It will include a review of the totality of scientific evidence related to concerns about the risk of cancer.

The main on-going epidemiology (human health) study related to the use of mobile phones is the Interphone study being conducted by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. This combined series of multi-national case-control studies has greater power to provide definitive information on this subject than any previous or individual study.

Results from the Interphone study are expected in 2004 and more information about this study is available on the web site

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