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Mr. Hayes: The hon. Gentleman will understand that the lack of self-worth that he has described is reinforced--indeed, it may be caused--by the lack of stability, certainty and order in those children's lives. The point about stable family relationships and marriage is that they provide order in children's lives and thereby increase their sense of belonging, stability and self-worth.
Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East): The point that the hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Mr. Willis) was urging on my hon. Friend amounts to nothing more than this: if someone comes from an unsatisfactory background, the last thing one should do is tell that person that that background is unsatisfactory because it will damage his or her feelings of self-worth. Surely it is only honest to show people what advantage they can have if, in future, for themselves, they improve on the background from which they suffered in their youth.
Mr. Hayes: My hon. Friend's point is valid in the sense that we do have to provide for young people role models and images of what they may aspire to. The message that we should want to transmit to our young people--through education, but in other ways as well--is that they can aspire to a life that is stable and certain and based on principles such as loyalty and duty. Loyalty and duty may be unfashionable concepts. When one talks about loyalty and duty, some people think that one is being archaic. However, they are important--
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): Order. I am beginning to think that the hon. Gentleman is straying far too far from the amendment, which is about sex education. May I suggest to him that he returns to the point of the amendment?
Mrs. Maria Fyfe (Glasgow, Maryhill): Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting and putting on the record that concepts of duty and loyalty are possible only within marriage and not within a loving relationship between people who are not married?
Mr. Hayes: Of course I would not make that point. Of course, those concepts are not only possible, but often occur in other relationships. They occur in relationships that are outside the family. They occur in professional relationships. They occur in all sorts of relationships, but as you have made clear, Mr. Deputy Speaker, we are dealing specifically with the subject before us, and the subject before us is marriage in relation to children and sex education.
Mr. Gerald Howarth: Is it not the case that marriage is the ultimate test of loyalty and commitment? That is what distinguishes marriage from any other relationship. It is the Government's unwillingness to accept that there is a difference between co-habitation and stable relationships, as they would put it, and marriage that is at the heart of our complaint about the way in which the Government are handling the issue. Marriage is by definition a statement of loyalty. It is a statement of commitment, which co-habitation is not.
Mr. Hayes: I certainly believe that. In fact, I get married as often as I possibly can for exactly that reason, but my hon. Friend is absolutely right. Marriage is that test of commitment, that test of loyalty and duty. That is why it is important.
I must move on before interventions oblige me, or at least encourage me, to stray from the subject at hand. The third point that I want to make is about section 28. It seems to be undeniable that the cocktail that we have before us in the form of an amendment was mixed in order to pacify and placate interests in the House of Lords that were unsympathetic to the abolition of section 28. There is no question about that. That has been made clear during tonight's proceedings.
For that reason, I ask the Minister: would we have the amendment before us had it not been framed in that context? Would the amendment have been tabled on Third Reading in the Lords if we had not had the prevailing tide, if you like, of the possible abolition of section 28? In that sense, I ask the Minister to think again even at this late stage about whether he can put together something more convincing, not just for the House of Commons but for people beyond the House?
My final and concluding point is that guidance is not sufficient. It seems to be important, because of what I said earlier--[Interruption.] I disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford, a former member of the Liberal party, who takes a rather different view. I made my decision about liberalism at an early age; he made his rather later.
I take the view that it is important for guidance to be issued. As I said, I do not take a morally relative view about the matter. I do not take the view that in a frail and faulty world one can always trust all people's discretion.
Mr. St. Aubyn: Does my hon. Friend not share my reservations that perhaps not this but a future Secretary of State might develop guidelines with which neither he nor I would be happy, and that the more these guidelines are entrenched in law, the more damage they might do if they end up being the wrong guidelines from the wrong Secretary of State?
Mr. Hayes: That is almost an argument against any legislation because we entrust in Government and, in particular, in Secretaries of State much discretion to bring to the House, to debate and to persuade the House to enact guidance on a whole range of things not just in the education sector, but in all other aspects of life, which we honour and follow.
Therefore, I do not take the rationalist view that if we leave people unfettered and unrestricted, they will always make the right judgment. I just do not agree philosophically with that view. On the contrary, I tend to support the view of my hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May), who said clearly that the problem with guidance was that it might not be followed, and did not have the weight of regulation or direction. It might lead to a curate's egg of provision in schools across the country.
Mr. St. Aubyn: Is my hon. Friend saying that, given that we have only guidance which is not subject to the regulatory approvals process or the negative procedure in the House, perhaps the guidance should in all cases be scrutinised by the Select Committee on Education and Employment, to which he in his time made such a valuable contribution?
Mr. Hayes: I hardly deserve that praise, in view of the slightly barbed remarks that I made about my hon. Friend earlier, but, given his characteristic generosity, I expect nothing less from him. He is right to say that the Government would need to be accountable to the House for the guidance. We would need to monitor it carefully to ensure that it was efficacious. There is no question about that, and my hon. Friend yet again makes a valuable contribution to the debate.
I have made my concluding remarks--[Interruption.] I know that that will disappoint hon. Members across the House. I cannot finish without saying that I was disappointed that the hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Mr. Willis) made an intemperate attack on my hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead. He brings a great deal of breadth and depth of knowledge about education, but, too often, he lets his own prejudices interfere with that, and we saw that tonight. In the cold light of day, he will regret saying that my hon. Friend did not care about children or young people. None of us would be sitting here, or in my case standing here, tonight, if we did not care very dearly about young people, children and schools.
Despite discussing them at this time of night when our families are asleep, family values are an extremely serious issue. I genuinely regret the way in which the hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May) introduced the subject. As I think we have seen from a number of speeches this evening, and from speeches in the other place, the matter deserves serious attention. We are talking about our children's well-being and their need for appropriate and sensitive sex education within the context of family and personal relationships. Those things are a crucial part of anyone's education. We are also concerned about the risks that our children face--ignorance about sex, stigmatisation, fear, disease and teenage pregnancy.
We have to grow up as a Parliament in discussing matters such as sex education. In Committee, we managed to have sensible and serious discussions. We did not agree with one another on everything and we occasionally divided, but the hon. Member for Daventry (Mr. Boswell) introduced subjects from the Conservative Benches in a serious way.
Many of us were struck by the contribution made by the hon. Member for Hertsmere (Mr. Clappison), when he said that as a parent--I hope that I paraphrase him accurately--his main concern was that nothing should get in the way of the provision of objective, thorough, sensible and professional sex education of children. He said that he wanted his children to receive factual, impartial and objective information about those matters, and for nothing to get in the way of its delivery. He spoke for many parents.