Page last updated at 12:45 GMT, Wednesday, 8 September 2010 13:45 UK

Bryant calls for mandatory sex and relationship lessons

Schools should be forced to give sex and relationship education lessons to pupils, a Labour MP has argued.

Introducing a bill under the ten minute rule on 8 September 2010, Chris Bryant said the UK had a "terrible" problem with teenage pregnancy compared with other European countries.

"We have the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in Europe, and not just slightly but by far," the MP for the Rhondda told the Commons.

Explaining why he believes that sex and relationship education should begin at an early age, he said: "The truth of the matter is if you start too late once youngsters are already having sex, you have already lost.

"What we need to do is we need to make sure that every single child in the country has good sex and relationship education."

While it was "absolutely right and proper" for parents to decide to withdraw their children from the lessons "we shouldn't have schools from being able to opt-out entirely from providing this".

Currently it is compulsory for all maintained schools to only teach the biological aspects of sex education.

But in response to Mr Bryant's speech, Tory MP Therese Coffey said it should be for parents to decide how to provide education on these subjects to their children.

Ms Coffey attacked the proposals, which are broadly similar to measures the Labour government failed to get onto the statute book before the general election.

She said: "This constant approach of getting the state to undermine, supersede, parental authority is fundamentally flawed."

The bill was given an unopposed first reading but stands little chance of becoming law.

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