Teen pregnancy numbers are up

Teenage pregnancy rates in England and Wales have gone up, suggesting that a decade of Government initiatives like free condoms and more sex education have not helped.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has reported a 2.7 per cent rise in the rate last year.

There were 42 conceptions for every 1,000 girls aged 15-17 in the 12 months to September 2007.

This figure is expected to go up still further as the last three months of the year traditionally bring the highest pregnancy rates.

This means that 2007’s figures are likely to show the first major jump in teenage conceptions in a decade.

This is an embarrassing blow to the Government, who in 1998 pledged to halve the under-18 conception rate by 2010.

But instead Britain currently has the highest teenage pregnancy levels in Europe.

Jill Kirby of the think tank Centre for Policy Studies said: “It is very worrying, given teenage pregnancy rates are already ahead of those in the rest of Europe, that the slight decline [in 2006] has now gone into reverse.”

She added: “We need a new policy of parental consultation, limited access to contraceptives and a climate in which sexual activity among teenagers is discouraged rather than encouraged.”

As ministers panic, commentators say the figures have been the driving force behind recent increased efforts to intensify sex education and boost the widespread availability of contraception.

Last week the Department of Health announced it will allow pharmacists to give out the contraceptive pill without a doctor’s assessment.

The announcement came shortly after the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), one of Britain’s leading abortion providers, launched an advertising campaign to encourage women and young girls to stock up on the morning-after pill over Christmas.

Critics warn the scheme will encourage women and even young girls to engage in casual sex.

In October Schools Minister Jim Knight sparked controversy for proposing that under-11s should be given compulsory sex education and suggesting parents may lose their right to withdraw their children.