Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Mr. Robathan: There is always a danger in clause stand part debates that the arguments made on Second Reading are repeated. I shall not do that, but it must be said that this clause is the Bill. I am sorry to see the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton) leaving the Chamber, because he tabled some sensible clauses for addition to last year's Crime and Disorder Bill. The other clauses in this Bill are simply a fig leaf. The provision on abuse of trust is nonsense. This clause is what the Bill is all about.

I respect the view that homosexual and heterosexual acts are equal, although I do not agree with it. I sympathise with the view that the law should not be involved in personal relationships between two people, although I do not agree with that, either. One must then go on to determine at what stage the law comes into effect.

I wish to make just three points on this clause. As my hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Howarth) said, people may argue that heterosexual and homosexual acts are equal, but it is obvious to those who are willing to accept the evidence before

10 Feb 1999 : Column 361

their eyes that they are not. They are not equal biologically, physiologically or physically. They may be equal emotionally--I do not know--but otherwise they are not. Those who argue that such acts are equal deceive themselves. They are in thrall to their political correctness or to the single-issue pressure group, because it is simply not true and it is nonsense to pretend that it is. One might say that both acts should be allowed, but they are not equal.

My hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot referred to the National Blood Authority, which does not believe that homosexual and heterosexual intercourse are equal. Should I ever have to have a blood transfusion, I will be glad to know that it has taken that position.

My second point is one that I did not make on Second Reading. Some people have been praying in aid old martyrs to the cause of homosexual equality. Oscar Wilde has been much mentioned.

Mr. Boateng: The hon. Gentleman did mention him.

Mr. Robathan: Only in an intervention. Since Second Reading, I have read a little about Oscar Wilde. I have studied several biographies, which say much the same, including the sympathetic biography by Richard Ellman. We should be careful about romanticising Oscar Wilde, as the placing of a statue of him in the Strand last year did. Clearly, he was persecuted by the father of his male friend, Lord Alfred Douglas, the Earl of Rosebery. He wrote some fine plays and was quite a good poet. However, those who are concerned about paedophilia and sex tourism should know that Oscar Wilde was a paedophile and a sex tourist--[Interruption.] Labour Members shake their heads. Let them read the biography--[Hon. Members: "We have."] I can quote from memory that Alfred and Oscar competed for Neapolitan boys in 1897. What is that if not paedophilia and sex tourism? Let us hear no more nonsense about Oscar Wilde being a martyr to homosexual equality.

6.15 pm

My third point is that the Bill is part of an agenda. It was once a standard joke that people who signed letters, "Yours disgustedly", were retired colonels from Tunbridge Wells. It shows how far this country has changed that on Monday I received a letter signed "Yours in disgust" from somebody to whom I shall refer as Peter from Liverpool. I will not embarrass him by naming him further. All Members of Parliament receive letters from nutters. They are usually heavily underlined, and that letter is underlined all over the place.

I understand that Peter Tatchell has said that the age of consent should be reduced to 14. That is a perfectly respectable position, although I do not agree with it in any circumstances.

Dr. Julian Lewis: It is not respectable at all.

Mr. Robathan: Well, one may hold that view, but I do not. The letter to which I referred, besides being insulting and disgusting, says:

10 Feb 1999 : Column 362

    those words are underlined--

    "other benefits already enjoyed by heterosexual couples need to be extended"--

those words, too, are underlined--

    "to gay couples. They include . . . adoption rights for same-sex couples, housing rights for same sex couples, pension rights for same sex couples.

    Thankfully, we have a government who are committed to the equalization of the heterosexual and homosexual ages of consent."

I do not want to labour the point, but this agenda has been pursued within and without the House by the homosexual lobby, which is a very small lobby. Most people do not wake up worrying about this issue and we know from opinion polls that they are opposed to the equalisation of the age of consent. They do not take a homophobic view, but they happen to think that the homosexual case is different--as it is. However, the homosexual lobby has pursued this agenda with single-minded determination and its sustained campaign is now coming to fruition.

The clause is supposed to be about child protection, but it is about a lack of child protection and about society's position on certain types of behaviour. It is the start, not the end, of the agenda. When the House passes it, as I fear it will, it should be aware of that.

Mr. Swayne: Ironically, the reason for rejecting the clause is precisely the same as that for protecting it from amendment No. 2 earlier this afternoon. As it now stands, the clause maintains an important discrimination--or rather, an important difference of treatment, if my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Brazier) will forgive me--in that it treats differently girls under the age of 16 who explore their sexuality and homosexual boys under the age of 16 who seek to explore theirs. That is an important distinction.

However, from what the Minister said, it would appear that that "anomaly"--rather than important principle--may be dealt with on Report. It would therefore be much better to dispose of the entire clause as it now stands than see it amended in such a way.

The important principle of treating differently sexual activity by homosexuals and heterosexuals under the age of 16 is that the law should reinforce social mores and give the clear message that the two life styles are clearly different. It is not as if life is a supermarket and one can choose life styles that have moral equivalence in the same way as one can choose a breakfast cereal.

The problem is the extent to which a person has a choice in determining his sexual orientation, as my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Brazier) said. I take the view of my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis). On Second Reading, Labour Members said that experience clearly showed that the sexual orientation of many people was fixed and they had no role in determining it. I do not question that for a moment: I am sure that that is true.

However, many people are in a different boat. They experience unnatural sexual desires in their early teens, when they are approaching 16 and beyond, and they would otherwise outgrow those desires because of peer pressure, and are ashamed of them. The law has an important role in making it clear what society expects and what is proper and acceptable. If we take away those social mores--which this legislation does--people will be

10 Feb 1999 : Column 363

encouraged to explore those sexual desires rather than to repress them. They will be encouraged to adopt a life style that they may regret later on, whereas they may otherwise have led a blameless life.

It comes down to the question of what one regards as an acceptable life style. I make no apology for the fact that I believe that a homosexual life style is a much less commendable life style. It is a sterile way of life. It precludes giving life to future generations and having a normal, natural family life. The vacuum that is thereby created leads to promiscuity and instability. That in turn leads to the higher incidents of disease among homosexual men, and the state of the blood bank. The determination of the blood transfusion service not to take any blood from men who have had homosexual activity of a particular kind bears witness to that fact.

On Second Reading, we were told that those who take this view on the clause are akin to the slave traders, and that the debate has a moral significance and equivalence to the slavery debate. I suspect that it is rather different. The consequence of rejecting the clause would be to require boys aged 16 who are seeking to express physically their homosexual desires to hold off for two years. I do not regard that as a huge inconvenience, or a huge impediment equivalent to a life of slavery. On the contrary, I regard it as most expedient for their own good, because it may provide them with the liberty and the freedom to escape a life style that, to many, is cursed.

Mr. Townend: I approach the Bill from the point of view of child protection. I ask myself why anyone should support the clause. I do not believe that OutRage is particularly worried about 16 to 18-year-olds. I am even more cynical about its attitude. I believe that it wants the clause to go through to allow older men to prey on younger boys. One of the great problems of many homosexuals is that they proselytise: they want to bring more people into their society.

It is generally accepted that many youngsters, below and above the age of 16, experiment homosexually with other boys of the same age, especially at boys' boarding schools. In the past, they have been under pressure from society to rejoin normal life and become heterosexuals when they leave school. The overwhelming majority of them have done so, and have gone on to lead a normal life, to marry and to have children.

What worries me about the clause is that, at 17, those boys may be preyed on by older men and may get involved in homosexual society. It is a close-knit society; it has its own social life with its own pubs and clubs. Once they are involved in that society, it is difficult to get out of it.

The age of consent has been progressively reduced from 21 to 18 and now to 16. Will it be reduced to 14 next year? The debate is camouflaged with an enormous amount of political correctness. The word "equality" is used, but it is not equality. The Bill will put more young people at risk and a prey to evil older men.

If I had been in the House at the time, I would have voted to remove the criminality from homosexual acts between consenting adults. That is right, but if we go further we will put our young people in danger. Much

10 Feb 1999 : Column 364

nonsense is talked about political correctness and about society. We should discriminate in favour of marriage and a heterosexual society.

My hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury put many arguments against the clause, but he did not mention religion. It is important that the Christian religion bans homosexuality. I am worried that political correctness is creeping into some of the Churches and that they are giving up that original belief.

It will be an ill day for this country if we pass this clause. It will put our young people at risk. We see the terrible social implications for young girls who become pregnant before the age of 16. Given what is happening on television, on the internet and on videos, our children need more protection now than they ever did, so I shall vote against the clause.

Next Section

IndexHome Page