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Lord Graham of Edmonton: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for allowing me to intervene. He made his apologies to the House for not having his name down to speak and also for having to leave. Perhaps I may remind him that speaking in the gap is governed by the Companion to the Standing Orders, which states that when speeches are made in the gap they should be brief.
Lord Annan: My Lords, I am sorry and I apologise to the House. Perhaps I may finish simply by saying that we are dealing with the question of behaviour and provocative behaviour. All I am saying is, please let those of a different sexual orientation remember that provocative behaviour does their cause no good at all.
The Viscount of Falkland: My Lords, I rise to speak on a subject which I have addressed on a number of occasions. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Turner, for her introduction of the Bill. It is an important Bill and the noble Baroness has explained it in some detail. It is worthy of the consideration not only of your Lordships and the Minister but also of the wide public outside who will read it.
I am also grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Annan, who has had to leave to attend another engagement. His speech was a fine mixture of erudition and entertainment, which makes him such a valuable member of your Lordships' House. I shall not follow him down some of the philosophical pathways that he indicated to us.
Perhaps I may be forgiven by the House for not going strictly through the Bill, as did the noble Baroness. I shall take a more personal line and follow the path of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, which was interesting and sensitive. It reflected a good deal of my own approach to the subject.
I claim to be a human being like everyone else. I am capable of bad temper, prejudice and insufferable behaviour, as my wife will confirm. Since I have been aware of sexual orientationand perhaps it took longer for me to reach the age at which one can differentiate between these complicated matters than it takes todayI have never understood this particular kind of prejudice or discrimination.
Again, if I understand correctly the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, it seems to me that one should be conscious of one's own sexuality from a very early age. In my case, it has been uniquely heterosexual. I went through a difficult adolescence as do most adolescents in that I was extremely shy and an only child. It took me a long time to settle into putting sexuality into the right context in my life. I always felt that the difficulties which face those who have a tendency to another sexual orientationin other words,
I stuck my neck out earlier in your Lordships' House in 1985 when we discussed what I still think was one of the most deplorable pieces of legislation which the Government of that time introduced; namely, Clause 28 of the Local Government Bill. With some vehemence, and supported by others in your Lordships' House, some of whom are in the Chamber today, we attacked it without mercy. I believe that we were extremely effective. In support of the Government, I have to say that, in the interim period, their attitude towards the problems of gays and lesbians in our society has softened a good deal. Indeed, they have become a good deal more understanding. I believe that a certain amount of credit must be given to the Prime Minister in that respect because in no way has he shown himself during his tenure of office to be in any way that I can identify as homophobic. Nevertheless, there is a great deal to be done.
I do not accept that governments do not think it necessary to legislate in an area where there is such clear discrimination. It is the Government's job not to feed or encourage prejudice in whatever area. It is their responsibility to give a lead in that respect and not follow public opinion if it is slow to come round to changes in culture which, I suggest, are taking place rather more rapidly in other countries some of which are not too far away from us across the English Channel.
The lobbying groups which are now working in the field and which have advised all of us were mentioned by the noble Baroness. Principally, Stonewall, which arose out of the campaign for the arts against Clause 28 (of which I was a part), has proved itself to be the most moderate and most intelligent of lobbying groups when compared with the rather more flamboyantto use the phrase used by the noble Lord who has just spokenfull war-paint approach to the problem. I have met Mr. Peter Tatchell. I like him as a person, but I believe that his approach is unproductive in the area. Indeed, I much prefer the approach of Stonewall because it is moderate and recognises the changes of culture in our society and the pace at which they are taking place.
However, it is quite unacceptable at this time that we should not seek to accelerate in our country the movement towards toleration of homosexuals in the workplace. Of course, part of the problem, as suggested by other speakers, is that people at large, who do not address themselves in any detail as to the complexities of the problem, confuse a number of factors. For example, they imagine that what happens in schools, sometimes unfortunately, and what happens in the Church, sometimes unfortunately, where young people are victims of behaviour which can only be described as paedophilia, is in some way inseparably linked to homosexuality. It is not. Paedophiles are not the same at all.
I am opposed to the Government's attitude towards homosexuality in the Army because it has been recognised in most other countries that if homosexuality manifests itself in an extreme way which is prejudicial to good Army order and discipline, it is up to commanding officers to deal with that in exactly the same way as they deal with such behaviour on the part of heterosexuals. I did my two years in the Army more years ago than I care to remember, and even at my tender young age then as a young officer I knew who the homosexuals in the regiment were. It was quite clear that if there was any problem something would be done about it, but I was not aware that there was any problem that had to be dealt with. It is outrageous that the Government should continue to support some buffoonish opinions which are put to them not only from those within the Armed Forces but also from outside. They will only have to change their attitude in time and the more they resist efforts to bring our practices alongside those of countries which have a better record of understanding these things, the more buffoonish they will appear in the long run.
I shall not go on about this. My speech is a personal one. I believe that the main problem is that most people do not understand what is involved in homosexuality. As I say, they confuse it with many things and fear arises out of ignorance and the lack of understanding. The Government in resisting the attempts to bring us into a more enlightened agesuch as the Bill of the noble Baronessare only feeding that prejudice and ignorance.
The noble Baroness, Lady Turner of Camden, gave, I believe, an example of a homosexual, either declared or discovered, who had been removed from the employment register. I have not been present in your Lordships' Chamber to any great extent while the proposed jobseekers legislation was discussed but I understand that a person who is removed from the employment register does not qualify for jobseeker's allowance.
The Viscount of Falkland: My Lords, I apologise to the noble Baroness as I misunderstood what she said. I am glad that she has enlightened me on that subject. However, it seems to me that to be removed from the records of an employment agency could constitute an extraordinary disadvantage. I hope that that is not general practice among employment agencies.
I know that the Minister is fair minded and sympathetic and I know that she will do her best to meet our concerns within the constraints of her brief. I look forward to hearing her remarks. I am sure that she can do a great deal to assist progress in this area by her reaction to the speeches made in your Lordships' House today. I accept that the position as regards education is frustrating. The changes we would like to see have not
This has been an interesting debate and I hope that we shall make progress in this area. After all, there are some six or seven countries in Europe which have already recognised the need to legislate in this area. We cannot go on as we are. It would be the best possible help to encourage a better understanding among the public at large if the Government take a lead now and do not pay lip service to the lobbying, official or unofficial, of people whose attitude is only, I am afraid, ignorant and often vicious.
Whether the Bill would be introduced by a Labour government in precisely this form is uncertain. Should this Bill fail to be passed in both Houses, which at this stage of the parliamentary year is likely, the principle of making discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation an offence might well be incorporated by a future Labour government into a wider Bill on citizen's rights and duties.
However, raising a matter of public concern such as this in the form of a Private Member's Bill, even if it is unlikely to become legislation is, as noble Lords know, a legitimate and useful route to take. Opinion from all points of view can be voiced. We have already heard many opinions and views, perhaps rather more in favour of the Bill than I expected and rather fewer against it. However, it is a Friday afternoon. Nevertheless, if that is the case it shows that those who oppose the Bill are not taking the matter as seriously as they might.
We also hope that the Government's position can be heard as a result of this Private Member's Bill and subsequently critically examined. That is what we hope the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, who is to reply, will enable us to do.
As my noble friend said, quite apart from the overt statutory discrimination against homosexuals in the Armed Forces, which incidentally Judge Simon Brown recently said in the High Court cannot be retained for long against the tide of history, there is firm evidence of widespread discrimination at all levels and in many different occupations on grounds of sexual orientation. My noble friend outlined some of the evidence, both from the survey of 2,000 lesbians, gay men and bisexuals by the Stonewall group, and the study by Social and Community Planning Research.
An interesting finding of that independent study was that the more open people were about their sexuality the more discrimination they suffered. SCPR also surveyed 600 heterosexuals, as my noble friend mentioned. One in three of those said that they would be less likely to hire a gay or lesbian job applicant. However, two-thirds of the same group of heterosexuals said that they were in favour of legislation to prohibit discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation. Presumably those were the other two-thirds of the sample, but perhaps not necessarily.
There are no occupations which those with unconventional sexual preferences cannot do as well as those of a heterosexual inclination, from the most basic manual work to the most highly intellectual and creative careers and occupations. Of course I accept the caveat of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark that those who are known to seek sexual relationships with children are a different group and should be made an exception and should certainly not be employed in jobs in which they have responsibility for children. However, the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, and the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, made quite clear that that is a different group, which does not refer to the main body of people who have homosexual orientations.
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