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The Earl of Longford: After 30 years, it is unusual to be quoted as having praised noble Lords opposite. The noble Lord referred to my having praised his book. It is a small masterpiece. Undoubtedly, the noble Lord is one of the most gifted speakers in this House. Today, I am afraid that I have to say something about him that was said by the grandfather of the present noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne--another famous Conservative Cabinet Minister--that he is "too clever by half". If noble Lords really believe in the cause that the noble Baroness, Lady Young, believes in--I had hoped that she would speak first--they will not go along with that.

My reaction to homosexuals is simple enough, and I speak as one who has promoted "homosexualism", if you like, among the gay lobby. Forty years ago, when I promoted the Wolfenden report--no one else would touch it--the late Lord Boothby referred to me as the unpaid leader of the homosexual lobby. That report was in favour of homosexuals not being prosecuted if they were over the age of 21.

Nevertheless, as the noble Lord has just said, homosexuality is against Christian rules, as is any sex outside marriage. Homosexuality can have terrible, tragic results. Whatever else it does, it deprives people of the supreme joy of marriage and children. Helping a young person to become a homosexual means that he will never be married and never have children. That is a terrible burden to inflict on a child, although it is no worse than the behaviour of a heterosexual man who has five mistresses. I do not say that one is worse than the other. They are both against the rules. They are both sinful.

I turn to sexual leanings. We cannot condemn people for their leanings, although leanings can be resisted. I know a young man who has terrible leanings towards girls between the ages of six and 14. He resists them. We have to ask our homosexual friends to resist their leanings.

Next I turn to homosexual behaviour. Any homosexual activity is criminal. Wherever the line is drawn--21, 18 or 16--some homosexual activity is criminal and at that point we must remember that these people are human beings. I speak with little confidence. Recently, in visiting prisons, I have made two much valued and good friends, one serving 10 years for attempted buggery and the other serving 15 years for buggery. One is a Doctor of Divinity and

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a Doctor of Psychology; the other is taking three degrees. When one of them shortly becomes a Roman Catholic I am honoured to think that I shall have my hand on his shoulder. So I am no enemy of homosexuals. However, when they break the Christian rules they have to be penalised.

Will the measure, suggested by the right reverend Prelate, or anybody else, make it any more likely that young people with homosexual leanings will be homosexuals for life? In the end, one cannot be sure about any such matter, but I shall support the noble Baroness, Lady Young. She is not infallible, any more than anybody else, but I shall back her.

3.45 p.m.

Baroness Young: I thank the noble Earl, Lord Longford, for what he said. He, above all, is a man of great principle. He has stood by his principles in every debate in which I have heard him speak.

However, I refer to the words of the noble Lord, Lord Whitty. I agree with him. This debate should be without emotion. One of the great difficulties about so long-running a debate is that those of us who hold to a different view are regarded as being completely intolerant, if not something worse. I have been called a number of names. In politics one expects,

    "to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune",

and I do not complain. However, the noble Lord should understand the true meaning of "tolerance": being able to listen and appreciate points of view which are different from those that other people hold. That does not alter the fact that one can be friends with people with whom one disagrees. We would all be helped by not misusing the word "tolerance" so that we can discuss the matter rationally, as I hope we shall.

Before I turn to the amendment tabled by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Blackburn, it may be helpful to remind the Committee why Section 28 was ever introduced. Section 28 applies to local authorities; it does not apply directly to schools or to teachers. Back in 1988 local authorities--not schools--were spending large sums of money promoting homosexuality. Furthermore, local authorities were seeking to require schools to promote homosexuality and some of us have seen some of the appalling material given out to children at that time. Section 28 protected schools from an overbearing local authority.

Section 28 was introduced only after the failure of two other measures. The first was Section 46 of the Education (No. 2) Act 1986, requiring LEAs to take reasonable steps to secure that sex education has,

    "due regard to moral considerations and the value of family life".

That has since been consolidated into Section 403 of the Education Act 1996.

The second provision was Department of Education circular 11/87, paragraph 22, which advised that,

    "there is no place in any school in any circumstances for teaching which advocates homosexual behaviour or presents it as the norm".

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Because of the failure of those two pieces of legislation, Section 28 was enacted. It has been effective in stopping local authorities promoting homosexuality in schools. It is only right to set that out.

Earl Russell: I am most grateful to the noble Baroness. Perhaps I can ask her a question of which I have given her notice. If I should say, with the knowledge of the local authority, to a school audience that I believe that homosexuals are entitled to equal legal, civil and moral respect, would that be a breach of Section 28 or not? I would also value the advice of the Minister together with that of the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General whom I see sitting beside him.

Baroness Young: I am sure that I am not qualified to give a legal opinion on almost any subject. My answer to the noble Earl, Lord Russell, is that we are not talking about adults. How adults conduct themselves in a free society is a matter for adults. This debate concerns children--children in schools. It concerns children who, in my opinion, ought not to be treated as if they were adults. Adults are in a position to make an informed choice about alternative lifestyles about which children cannot possibly have the experience to judge. That is my answer to the question.

Lord Marsh: I apologise to the noble Baroness for intervening; this is a clear and serious point. The issue for many of us--I agree totally with what the noble Baroness said--is whether it applies to heterosexual as well as homosexual activities.

Baroness Young: I shall try and give an equally clear answer to the noble Lord. I have said publicly on many occasions that, like the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Blackburn, I believe that marriage is best; that marriage is the right way to live.

The right reverend Prelate did not say this, but I believe also that there is no moral equivalence between homosexual and heterosexual relationships. As a teacher and a parent I feel that we need to set in front of children an ideal by which they should live. They may not live up to it; I do not live up to ideals either. But I have an idea of how I ought to live. That is what we should strive for. That is what we should put in front of children. To say to children that there are alternatives in life which are equally valid is not right. One needs to be careful what one says to vulnerable children growing up uncertain of the way. What one says to adults and what adults do is a completely different matter and the two points should not be confused.

Perhaps I may comment in some detail on Amendment No. 364B. As I indicated, I believe that marriage is the best way to live. I am entirely in support of including marriage in any guidelines and putting those at the centre of any policy. If the Government are considering guidelines, I hope that they will do that. I have yet to hear any Minister, except Mr Blunkett, say that. Other Ministers seem to say something different. It will be interesting to know the Government's view.

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A genuine difficulty that I have with the amendment is that the main part of it encourages local education authorities to promote marriage, but does not prevent them promoting homosexual relationships. As we know, in law a prohibition is always much stronger and clearer than a positive duty. It constitutes a clear threshold which we must not cross. It is easier to see when a threshold has been crossed than to see when a positive duty has not been fulfilled.

I do not believe for one moment that the overwhelming majority of governors or teachers will do any of the things set out in the new subsection (3)(b) of the amendment. But its other weakness is that it covers only schools; it does not cover youth organisations or the many activities of local authorities where people would still be free to promote homosexuality. Furthermore, one cannot be sure that some would not promote it in some circumstances.

The reason for the complication is that a positive duty is not exclusive. To be exclusive, the duty would have to be drafted in such a tight way that few would find it acceptable; that is to say, by saying that marriage was the only context for raising children. There are of course a number of drafting difficulties. The word "fundamental" is not defined. Marriage may be,

    "the fundamental building block of society",

but it does not follow from the wording that it is the only building block. Marriage may be fundamental in the sense of being primary, but homosexual couples could also be a secondary or alternative building block; nor is the word "family" defined. However, I do not argue the case on those points because drafting issues can be corrected. But I cannot support the amendment as it stands because it does not meet the case.

I wish to say something about bullying, which will undoubtedly be central to the debate. The amendment makes reference to it. I take the view that bullying is always wrong, whatever the cause. I do not believe that there is a single teacher who would not do all that he or she could to stop it. But it is difficult to stop. The Education Act lays down clearly that there is a duty on governors and head teachers to prevent it. It is an absolute duty and if teachers breach it, they may be disciplined. So there is no doubt where their duty lies.

It is difficult to see where the law could be tightened up on the subject of bullying. It says,

    "The head teacher shall determine measures (which may include the making of rules and provision for enforcing them) to be taken with a view to [among other things] encouraging good behaviour and respect for others on the part of pupils".

That means, in particular, preventing all forms of bullying among pupils. The law could not be firmer or clearer on that matter. So we are all agreed upon it.

I hoped that when the Chief Inspector of Schools made his statement to the Sunday Telegraph one week ago, it would have been welcomed by this Chamber as a reassurance as to what is happening in schools. I confess to having been appalled by the derogatory remarks made last Thursday in Question Time about

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one of the most distinguished men in education today; a man who was originally employed by the Conservative government; one who is clearly regarded as being so good as to be re-employed by Mr Blunkett; and one who has probably done more than almost anybody else to raise standards in schools. He said, on the basis of inspections of thousands of schools in this country,

    "I do not see that teachers are constrained in teaching with these issues [bullying]. The fact that they are not allowed to promote homosexuality does not prevent them from delivering effective teaching on these issues. Furthermore, my own experience is that there is no evidence that Section 28 has had a negative influence on teachers' ability to deal with homophobic bullying. No head teacher has raised with me, in all the many school visits that I have made, Section 28 as a cause of concern".

He is a man who has probably had more experience of visiting schools than anybody else in the country and he makes an unequivocal statement. I stand by what he says. I have no reason to suppose that it is not true.

I may come back to this debate at a later stage, because it may be more helpful to speak to all the amendments at the same time. Though I entirely respect what the right reverend Prelate said in relation to marriage, for the reasons that I have given I shall be unable to support him should he press his amendment to a Division.

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