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Lord Mayhew: My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to intervene. The noble Lord did not mention using the experience in the United States, for example, or of other countries where ethnic recruiting has been good. Could that not be fed into the mechanism?
Lord Henley: My Lords, I should certainly be prepared to consider the noble Lord's point. Whether we could learn directly from the experience of the United States, where ethnic minorities have been in the country and have come there for different reasons at different times historically farther back than the ethnic minorities to which we are referring in this country, is another matter. It is certainly an idea that I should be prepared to examine, as I should the experience of our other NATO colleagues. As I said, one has to think very carefully as to whether we can learn from that.
Finally, I turn to the question of homosexuality. I am afraid that we are to some extent in opposing camps on this matter. I note the judgment of Lord Justice Simon Brown, and of his colleague. His colleague obviously supported us. Lord Justice Simon Brown spoke about "the tide of history". I have to say that it is not an argument that I ever take very seriously when people say that we must change our attitudes as a result of the tide of history. I do not accept that there is an illogicality in our position.
The noble Lord, Lord Graham, referred to the position in other countries, and particularly in other NATO countries. Perhaps I may deal with that canard once and very firmly. Britain is not alone in NATOwith the exception of Turkeyin terms of excluding homosexuals. If we take, for example, the policy of the Germans, there is an exclusion of officers but not of other ranks. In other words, they exclude their regular personnel but not those doing national service. The Americans, as we know, quite rightly, after pressure from service chiefs after President Clinton made his change, brought in their own revised version of policy which allows the exclusion of homosexuals. The same is true of many other countries. It is rather simplistic to claim that all NATO countries have gone down that
I should like to make just two points. First, comparisons with the employment of women are not relevant. The important matter to take into account is the advice of the service chiefs. It is to them that we look for advice in terms of the morale and discipline of the Armed Forces. Their advice is that homosexuality does, and would, undermine discipline and morale. Our approach is based on that assessment and not on a moral judgment. It is for that reason that, inevitably, the ban must be complete. It is simply not feasible to employ homosexuals in some areas of the Armed Forces but not in others.
Lord Graham of Edmonton: My Lords, would the Minister say, therefore, that if the service chiefs, by one means or another, came to a different conclusion and decided to recommend policies that were more in line with their NATO allies, the Government would then recognise the wisdom of the advice from the service chiefs?
Lord Henley: My Lords, I made it clear that this is a matter where we obviously would have to take advice and consider very carefully the advice of the service chiefs. That was the mistake made by one particular politician in the United States: he did not listen to the advice of the service chiefs. On such a matter it is absolutely vital that we should look to their advice.
The advice from the service chiefs, which is given very strongly indeed, is that this is not something on which we should change our policy. But I shall consider some of the points made by Lord Justice Simon Brown. There is no more that I can say on that matter.
At the end of my opening remarks I paid tribute to the Armed Forces for all that they do and the excellence with which they serve. In responding to me, both noble Lords made similar points for which I am grateful.
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