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Mr. David Prior (North Norfolk): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Hall: No, I do not have time.

Section 28, or section 2A as it is now called, gets in the way of the serious, necessary task of educating, bringing up and guiding all our children. It is born of prejudice; it seeks to perpetuate prejudice, and it has no place in a decent society.

Ms Armstrong: This has been an interesting debate. It is always difficult to have a reasoned and measured debate on this issue in the House. Among those participating in the debate, only the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Brazier) and myself were present in the House in 1988 when clause 28 was added to a local government Bill. Because it was added to such a Bill, it seems perfectly logical to repeal it in another local government Bill. In my reading of those early debates and my memory of the feeling in the House at the time there was a lot of bigotry and prejudice driving the decision to include clause 28 in that Bill. That meant that, whatever the detail of the clause and the Bill, people thought at the time that the measure was homophobic, and that has had an effect.

5.45 pm

We have heard about bullying from hon. Members on both sides of the argument. The hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Waterson) asked whether we think that section 28 should be repealed because it is not important, or because it has had such a strong effect. In a sense, the answer is both. The hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) made it clear that section 28 should not have had an effect on the way in which teachers deal with bullying that is driven by homophobia. It should have had no effect on how children are treated in schools, but, for too many, it has had a very damaging effect on them as individuals.

Section 28 has bred the feeling that it is all right to have a go at homosexuals. None of us in the House has condoned that view today. Deciding whether that happens is inevitably a matter of judgment, but the evidence that

5 Jul 2000 : Column 366

has been quoted by my hon. Friends the Members for South Ribble (Mr. Borrow) and for Brentford and Isleworth (Ann Keen) and by the hon. Member for Bath should at least be sufficient to make us all think about the actual effect of section 28, whatever its intention or whatever we read into its wording. If it has affected some people in a way that we say is intolerable, we must ask whether it is good legislation and whether it should exist.

The Government have made it absolutely clear that we do not think that section 28 is good legislation and that we are committed to the repeal of section 2A of the Local Government Act 1986, as it is properly called. We believe that the official Opposition are attempting to reinstate a flawed and offensive provision. Those in favour of its retention have argued that children are at risk, and I suspect that that argument has been used in most of the letters that hon. Members have received in support of its retention. Indeed, the hon. Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman) has used that argument. However, the framework that the Government have put in place makes it absolutely clear to everyone, especially to those of us in the House, that the provision can have no effect on children in schools.

The arguments about how the previous Government dealt with such matters have been made, while ignoring the real changes that have taken place in the relationship between schools and local education authorities since the original legislation was passed. Given the safeguards that we are introducing under the Learning and Skills Bill and through our guidance on sex and relationship education, that argument is dishonest. It is clear that children in schools will be protected by the framework that we shall put in place under the Learning and Skills Bill.

Children are be protected from anything that local authorities or health authorities might seek to do in schools because we have placed the responsibility firmly on teachers and school governors. We have made it clear that LEAs have no power to determine sex education in schools. The Learning and Skills Bill states that bullying is unacceptable in any form--whether it is racial, the result of a pupil's appearance or related to sexual orientation.

Concern was expressed that by removing the measure we are saying that the promotion of homosexuality is all right. Local authorities are governed by Acts of Parliament, which make clear what they are able and not able to do, and the promotion of homosexuality is not within their scope anyway so that argument also falls. Some people say, "Local authorities and schools should not highlight any form of sexuality." I understand where they are coming from, but the problem is that homosexuality is a form of sexuality that has attracted bigotry and prejudice and highlighting it through section 28 has legitimised bigotry and prejudice in a way that no one in the House would tolerate. Therefore, the Government are determined to press ahead.

We do not want the House to promote bigotry and intolerance. We want to support everyone, recognising and celebrating difference and diversity while making sure that none of us has any truck with intolerance and bigotry. I hope that the House will vote in such way tonight.

Mr. Waterson: I do not want to revisit the arguments--I agree with my hon. Friends; this has been

5 Jul 2000 : Column 367

a good debate, marred only by the early intervention of the hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. Bradshaw)--nor do I want to review all the speeches, although in their way they were classics on the subject, whichever side of the argument they supported. One cannot help but feel that the debate will not get an inch of coverage anywhere in the outside world, although it deserves coverage as the arguments have been put in an exemplary fashion. With no disrespect to other hon. Members who participated, I must single out the hon. Member for Morecambe and Lunesdale (Miss Smith), who made a speech of great courage and conviction, in equal measure. She deserves to be congratulated on that.

We still strongly believe that the Government are wrong: they have embarked on a course that could end in disaster in terms of lack of public support and that sends entirely the wrong message to schools and local authorities. We say that much more in sorrow than in anger, but in the hope and conviction that their lordships--who, as I said earlier, are often much more in tune with the popular mood than are the Government--will reinstate section 28 and, indeed, the amendment that forms part of the new clause.

I am conscious that the House would like a clear-cut vote on the central issue--section 28, or section 2A as it has been called. Although I shall press amendment No. 7 to a vote, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment proposed: No. 7, in page 74, line 2, leave out clause 98.--[Mr. Waterson.]

Question put, That the amendment be made:--

The House divided: Ayes 133, Noes 305.

Division No. 253
[5.54 pm


Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)
Amess, David
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Beggs, Roy
Benton, Joe
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul
Body, Sir Richard
Boswell, Tim
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia
Brady, Graham
Brazier, Julian
Breed, Colin
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Browning, Mrs Angela
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)
Burnett, John
Burns, Simon
Butterfill, John
Chapman, Sir Sydney
(Chipping Barnet)
Chope, Christopher
Clappison, James
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Collins, Tim
Cran, James
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)
Day, Stephen
Donaldson, Jeffrey
Duncan Smith, Iain
Evans, Nigel
Fallon, Michael
Flight, Howard
Forth, Rt Hon Eric
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Fox, Dr Liam
Gale, Roger
Garnier, Edward
Gibb, Nick
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Gray, James
Green, Damian
Greenway, John
Grieve, Dominic
Hague, Rt Hon William
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Hammond, Philip
Hawkins, Nick
Hayes, John
Heald, Oliver
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas
Horam, John
Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Hunter, Andrew
Jack, Rt Hon Michael
Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Jenkin, Bernard
Key, Robert
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Lansley, Andrew
Leigh, Edward
Letwin, Oliver
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Lidington, David
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
MacGregor, Rt Hon John
McIntosh, Miss Anne
MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew
Maclean, Rt Hon David
McLoughlin, Patrick
Madel, Sir David
Major, Rt Hon John
Maples, John
Maude, Rt Hon Francis
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian
May, Mrs Theresa
Moss, Malcolm
Nicholls, Patrick
Norman, Archie
Ottaway, Richard
Paice, James
Pickles, Eric
Portillo, Rt Hon Michael
Prior, David
Randall, John
Redwood, Rt Hon John
Robathan, Andrew
Robertson, Laurence
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Ross, William (E Lond'y)
Ruffley, David
St Aubyn, Nick
Sayeed, Jonathan
Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Smith, Miss Geraldine
(Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Soames, Nicholas
Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spring, Richard
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Streeter, Gary
Swayne, Desmond
Syms, Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Thompson, William
Tredinnick, David
Trend, Michael
Tyrie, Andrew
Viggers, Peter
Walter, Robert
Waterson, Nigel
Wells, Bowen
Whitney, Sir Raymond
Whittingdale, John
Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Willetts, David
Wilshire, David
Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Yeo, Tim
Young, Rt Hon Sir George

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Keith Simpson and
Mrs. Eleanor Laing.


Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)
Alexander, Douglas
Allan, Richard
Allen, Graham
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy
Ashton, Joe
Atherton, Ms Candy
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, John
Baker, Norman
Ballard, Jackie
Barron, Kevin
Battle, John
Bayley, Hugh
Beard, Nigel
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne
Beith, Rt Hon A J
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony (Chesterfield)
Bennett, Andrew F
Berry, Roger
Best, Harold
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blunkett, Rt Hon David
Borrow, David
Bradley, Keith (Withington)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brake, Tom
Brand, Dr Peter
Brinton, Mrs Helen
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Browne, Desmond
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Burstow, Paul
Butler, Mrs Christine
Byers, Rt Hon Stephen
Cable, Dr Vincent
Caborn, Rt Hon Richard
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies
(NE Fife)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Campbell-Savours, Dale
Caplin, Ivor
Caton, Martin
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chaytor, David
Chidgey, David
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Clark, Dr Lynda
(Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clelland, David
Clwyd, Ann
Cook, Rt Hon Robin (Livingston)
Cooper, Yvette
Corbyn, Jeremy
Cotter, Brian
Cousins, Jim
Crausby, David
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr Jack
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Darling, Rt Hon Alistair
Darvill, Keith
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Davidson, Ian
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Denham, John
Dismore, Andrew
Donohoe, Brian H
Doran, Frank
Drew, David
Drown, Ms Julia
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Edwards, Huw
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff
Fearn, Ronnie
Field, Rt Hon Frank
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna
Flynn, Paul
Foster, Don (Bath)
Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Foulkes, George
Fyfe, Maria
Galloway, George
George, Andrew (St Ives)
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr Ian
Gidley, Sandra
Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Godman, Dr Norman A
Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, Paul
Golding, Mrs Llin
Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grocott, Bruce
Gunnell, John
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Hanson, David
Harris, Dr Evan
Harvey, Nick
Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hill, Keith
Hinchliffe, David
Hodge, Ms Margaret
Hoon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Howells, Dr Kim
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hutton, John
Iddon, Dr Brian
Illsley, Eric
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Jowell, Rt Hon Ms Tessa
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Keetch, Paul
Kelly, Ms Ruth
Kemp, Fraser
Kennedy, Rt Hon Charles
(Ross Skye & Inverness W)
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Kidney, David
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
Kirkwood, Archy
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Lammy, David
Laxton, Bob
Lepper, David
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Liddell, Rt Hon Mrs Helen
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Llwyd, Elfyn
Lock, David
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCafferty, Ms Chris
McDonagh, Siobhain
McDonnell, John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKenna, Mrs Rosemary
Maclennan, Rt Hon Robert
McNulty, Tony
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWalter, Tony
McWilliam, John
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mallaber, Judy
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Martlew, Eric
Merron, Gillian
Michael, Rt Hon Alun
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Milburn, Rt Hon Alan
Miller, Andrew
Moffatt, Laura
Moore, Michael
Moran, Ms Margaret
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Morris, Rt Hon Ms Estelle
(B'ham Yardley)
Mountford, Kali
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Naysmith, Dr Doug
Norris, Dan
Oaten, Mark
Öpik, Lembit
Organ, Mrs Diana
Osborne, Ms Sandra
Palmer, Dr Nick
Pearson, Ian
Perham, Ms Linda
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter L
Plaskitt, James
Pollard, Kerry
Pond, Chris
Pope, Greg
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Purchase, Ken
Quin, Rt Hon Ms Joyce
Quinn, Lawrie
Rapson, Syd
Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)
Rendel, David
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Rooker, Rt Hon Jeff
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Ryan, Ms Joan
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
Sedgemore, Brian
Sheerman, Barry
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Shipley, Ms Debra
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Soley, Clive
Southworth, Ms Helen
Spellar, John
Squire, Ms Rachel
Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stevenson, George
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stoate, Dr Howard
Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Stunell, Andrew
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Temple-Morris, Peter
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark
Touhig, Don
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Tyler, Paul
Vis, Dr Rudi
Walley, Ms Joan
Ward, Ms Claire
Wareing, Robert N
Watts, David
Webb, Steve
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, Rt Hon Alan
(Swansea W)
Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Willis, Phil
Wills, Michael
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Wood, Mike
Woodward, Shaun
Woolas, Phil
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, Tony (Cannock)
Wyatt, Derek

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Kevin Hughes and
Mr. Jim Dowd.

Question accordingly negatived.

5 Jul 2000 : Column 370

Clause 100


Amendment made: No. 192, in page 74, line 40, at end insert--
'(3) Any reference in Schedule 1 to the National Assembly for Wales (Transfer of Functions) Order 1999 to an Act which is amended by this Act is to be treated as referring to that Act as amended by this Act.
(4) Subsection (3) does not affect the power to make further Orders varying or omitting that reference.'.--[Mr. Robert Ainsworth.]

Schedule 4

Minor and Consequential Amendments

Amendments made: No. 203, in page 87, line 33, at end insert--
'. In section 86 of that Act (declaration by local authority of vacancy in office in certain cases), in subsection (1)(b) after "1998" there is inserted "or section 76 of the Local Government Act 2000".

5 Jul 2000 : Column 371

. In section 87(1) of that Act (date of casual vacancies)--
(a) after paragraph (e) there is inserted--
"(ee) in the case of a disqualification under section 76 of the Local Government Act 2000, on the expiration of the ordinary period allowed for making an appeal or application with respect to the relevant decision under that section or, if an appeal or application is made, on the date on which that appeal or application is finally disposed of or abandoned or fails by reason of non-prosecution thereof;",
(b) in paragraph (f), for "(e)" there is substituted "(ee)".
No. 204, in page 89, line 25, at end insert--
'( ) After that subsection there is inserted--
"(8A) Any reference in this section to the duties of a monitoring officer imposed by this section, or to the duties of a monitoring officer under this section, shall include a reference to the functions which are conferred on a monitoring officer by virtue of Part III of the Local Government Act 2000."'. --[Mr. Robert Ainsworth.]

Schedule 5


Amendment made: No. 205, in page 90, line 31, column 3, at end insert--
'In section 100D(2), "of the list, or".--[Mr. Robert Ainsworth.]

Clause 102


Amendment made: No. 211, in page 75, line 40, leave out subsections (5) and (6) and insert--
'( ) The Secretary of State may by order provide--
( ) for paragraphs 17 and 18 of Schedule 3 to come into force before the time appointed by subsection (4),
( ) for paragraph 26 of Schedule 4 to come into force before the time appointed by that subsection,
( ) for any of the provisions of Part III of this Act so far as they relate to police authorities in Wales to come into force before the time appointed by that subsection, or
( ) for any of the other provisions mentioned in that subsection to come into force in relation to England before the time appointed by that subsection.
( ) The National Assembly for Wales may by order provide--
( ) for paragraph 26 of Schedule 4 to come into force before the time appointed by subsection (4), or
( ) for any of the other provisions mentioned in that subsection to come into force in relation to Wales before the time appointed by that subsection.'.--[Mr. Robert Ainsworth.]

Clause 103

Short title and extent

Amendments made: No. 193, in page 76, line 9, leave out "This section and".
No. 194, in page 76, line 10, at beginning insert "This section". --[Mr. Robert Ainsworth.]
Order for Third Reading read.

6.7 pm

Ms Armstrong: I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

5 Jul 2000 : Column 372

I am delighted that we can move to Third Reading. We had a good day's debate yesterday. My preference would be that we had spent as long on other parts of the Bill as we have just spent on section 28, but we knew that the House wanted to debate that at some length.

The Bill has passed through extensive debate in Committee as well as on Report yesterday and today, following its Second Reading in the House before Easter. I am grateful to the hon. Members who have participated in all stages of consideration of the Bill for their constructive contributions and enduring interest in such an important subject.

Those who have had an opportunity to read the report of the Committee stage will have noticed the great conversion of the official Opposition to local government. They are no longer threatening to get rid of it entirely; they want to embrace local government. We heard positive statements in Committee, which were endorsed by the Leader of the official Opposition last week. Last night, however, the right hon. Gentleman had a go at local education authorities--the education function being an important part of local government--so I am a little confused.

The Bill and the Local Government Act 1999 are designed to improve local communities and the lives of local people in England and Wales.

All our debates and discussions on the Bill have shown that we can now say, in a way that we could not during the previous Administration, that the majority of hon. Members believe that local government has an important part to play in a modern society. Whatever our differences on how that should be achieved, most of us have that goal in common. That has been reflected in the spirit of co-operation and partnership in which most of our discussions have been conducted. I hope that that approach will be reflected further in the way that the legislation is implemented locally. That is the intention of the Bill, which rests on local partnership, local accountability and opportunities for local people to have a better say in how their councils are run and what they do.

With the coming together of this Bill and the previous Local Government Act, we begin to see an opportunity for local government to be much more accountable, to be able to develop much better services and service delivery, and to involve local people in discussion on how to do that most effectively, in the knowledge of who is taking decisions and how those people can be held to account. Local government now has a framework which will allow it to be re-established, not simply as something that politicians think is important, but so that local people know that it changes and considerably enhances their opportunities and quality of life.

The Bill's passage through the House has provoked lively debate around the key issues, which we discussed again yesterday. Hon. Members have taken the opportunity to refine, clarify and generally improve some of the main provisions. The Government have listened to the points raised, and we have now made more far-reaching changes to strengthen and clarify the Bill, as we promised in Committee. I am happy to report that we now have a strong, robust and rigorous Bill.

Effective local government is a vital part of the fabric of the dynamic, democratic, fair and inclusive society that people want to see.

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