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Lord Waddington: My Lords, before the right reverend Prelate sits down, could he help me on one small matter? Is it not right that in his original amendment, he urged that marriage should be promoted as the fundamental building block of society and of family life? How, in those circumstances, can he now live with a new clause which, having referred to the nature of marriage and its importance for family life, in subparagraph (b) completely undermines that statement by lumping together marriage and other stable relationships and which actually declares that a homosexual relationship can be a key building block of society? I simply do not understand how those two approaches can be taken by the same man.

The Lord Bishop of Blackburn: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, asks a significant question. Much time was taken in framing those particular subparagraphs. The first specifies that pupils should,

"Importance" is the significant word in that subparagraph. We then go on to learn--in a realistic way--about,

    "the significance of marriage and stable relationships",

within community and society. The noble Lord brought in the word "homosexual", but the amendment did not bring in that word. That is his way of looking at the matter, not necessarily mine. As I was accused of saying on the "Today" programme, stable relationships exist and their significance is obvious over and against promiscuous and unstable relationships. I am therefore able to live with the amendment, although in a perfect world--the world for which I plead with all my heart--it would not be so.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford: My Lords, I have a simple question. There have been rumours in the Church papers that the right reverend Prelate does not represent the views of the whole Board of Education. Was there a total discussion of the matter by the whole Board of Education before the right reverend Prelate entered into discussion with the Government?

The Lord Bishop of Blackburn: My Lords, there has been a total discussion in the way referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington. It took place, at great length, last Tuesday afternoon. All members of the board knew that it was to be on the agenda. It was not possible to have such a discussion before, but I took the opportunity of having a full discussion with the Council of the National Society, which, as the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, will know, is a key Anglican

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body for the promotion of education in our schools. Our cycle of meetings does not always allow us to react to government business in the way that we might like to, but on Tuesday afternoon there was a full debate. I am pleased to tell the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, that the board agreed to reaffirm the principles on which we have been working in these discussions.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, I wonder whether it might be to your Lordships' convenience if I were to make my few remarks. I have tabled a number of amendments. It might be to the convenience of the House to have one complete debate to cover all the amendments. It might be helpful if I were to refer to those now.

A noble Lord: No, it would not be helpful.

Earl Ferrers: The noble Lord says that it is not helpful, but I believe that some noble Lords would find it helpful.

I have tabled Amendments Nos. 10, 11, 12, 14 and 18. Although I feel strongly about some of them, I do not propose to press them because that might muddy the waters of what we are trying to do. Amendment No. 7, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, is a struggle to meet the wishes of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Blackburn. He himself admitted that he did not obtain all that he wanted. That means that what we are discussing is the Government's overriding view. The Government, therefore, will not be able to say that they had the approval of the Churches for their amendment. It was surprising that, when there was concern, the discussions did not include my noble friends Lady Young or Lady Blatch in order to try to find a common course.

I do not know whether it is possible to find a common course because line 15 of Amendment No. 7--which has been referred to--states that people must learn,

    "the significance of marriage and stable relationships",

and that they are the building blocks of society. What is meant by "stable relationships"? Is two weeks a stable relationship? Or two months? Or nine months? Or two years? Nowhere is the definition of "a stable relationship" covered. Does it include homosexual relationships? The right reverend Prelate said that the word "homosexual" was the word of my noble friend Lord Waddington and not of the right reverend Prelate, but the fact is that this is a statute. The statute, when it is read, makes it perfectly clear that that provision can cover homosexual relationships.

Two lesbians were apparently getting married today. It was all in the newspapers. Is that supposed to be a good thing? The amendment equates marriage with homosexual relationships and other relationships. I am bound to say that I am amazed that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Blackburn fell for that. The Church has always taught that homosexuality is wrong, that fornication is wrong and that adultery is wrong. That does not mean to say that none of it happens. Of

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course it happens; it happens all the time all over the place. But the fact is that the Church should then turn around and help those people. But one does not actually put it in the statute that those are matters about which one should teach children. That is a great mistake.

I hope, as my noble friend Lord Pilkington requested, that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Blackburn is not speaking for the Church of England. I am a member of the Church of England; it is a church which I admire greatly. But if these are the kinds of conditions which the Church of England feels it appropriate to teach children, I believe that it is wrong. I am amazed also that it is necessary to produce a vast great document--the guidelines. People then have to read that huge great document before they can instruct children. Of course, the amendment itself is long. The trouble with both is that the more that is put in, the more important becomes what is not put in.

With this amendment and guidance we are in danger of trying to cover every item. In 1987 there was pretty strong guidance saying:

    "There is no place in any school in any circumstances for teaching which advocates homosexual behaviour, which presents it as the 'norm', or which encourages homosexual experimentation by pupils".

That is clear and robust stuff. A year later it proved necessary to introduce Section 28. In view of the criticism that that section received, let us look at what it says:

    "A local authority shall not

    (a) intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality;

    (b) promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship".

This amendment does not say that, and it is a huge weakening of the position. I believe that the Government are making a great mistake.

Perhaps I may refer briefly to my amendments. Amendment No. 10 suggests that we leave out the words "and stable relationships", for the reasons I have already given. I say to the noble Lord the Captain of the Gentlemen-at-Arms that it is a pity that the amendment was not recommitted. He mentioned that the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Young, was not tabled until last night. But my amendments were tabled some days ago. The amendment should have been recommitted because it creates a precedent and it should be considered properly.

Amendment No. 11 suggests that we leave out the words,

    "key building blocks of community".

That is a perfectly terrible phrase. It is typical Civil Service jargon. During the passage of the House of Lords Act I suggested that the word "a" might be replaced by the word "an" about which there was a fearful hoo-ha. Later, in a television programme the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor thought that the word "an" was correct, as did the noble Baroness the Leader of the House and the noble and learned Lord, the Attorney-General. However, the

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word "a" was used by the parliamentary draftsman. I do not know whether the parliamentary draftsman was on holiday when this Bill was written, but to put the phrase "building blocks" into a statute is perfectly terrible. It is bad English.

For that reason my Amendment No. 14 states:

    "Guidance under subsection (1),

    (a) must be cohesive and coherent;

    (b) must be transparent and consistent;

    (c) should underpin the value of family life and overarch other aspects of family teaching; and

    (d) must be undertaken in an efficient and effective manner".

All those words are Civil Service jargon that appears all over the place, particularly out of the mouths of Ministers, whichever party is in power. Whenever any noble Lord hears a Minister talk about "coherent" and "cohesive" he knows that it is like pressing button "B". Out comes all sorts of stuff. That lowers values. I believe that "building blocks" is a bad phrase to use.

Amendment No. 12 seeks to leave out the words,

    "learn to respect themselves and others".

In my view those words can be omitted because that is part of education.

Amendment No. 15 seeks to leave out the words,

    "and of society".

I do not understand how one can promote spiritual, mental and physical development of society, although such matters can be promoted in relation to individuals.

A number of things have been said about Section 28. The noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, said that it did not work properly because it referred only to local authorities. Amendment No. 18 is written in the same words to ensure that it refers to education authorities, governing bodies and head teachers. If Section 28 in its present form does not work, under that amendment it would work, as it covers the words used in the statute.

I believe that the Government are making a great mistake in regard to this matter, and I hope that your Lordships will agree with my noble friend Lady Young.

6 p.m.

Baroness Richardson of Calow: My Lords, I warmly welcome the attempt by the Government to amend this matter and to provide a strong framework within which sex education can take place. I believe that teachers and governing bodies will be immensely grateful.

I affirm much of what the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Blackburn said. I shall not repeat what he has said. I shall content myself with making one or two points about the amendments currently before the House.

Love, fidelity, stability and joy are not limited to those who have entered into the holy state of matrimony. Such qualities can also be found within

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other relationships. Neither are those values guaranteed by the state of matrimony. Marriage can be abusive and unstable.

I hope we do not go down the road of taking out the reference to stable relationships. That phrase can be taken to mean same-sex relationships. I emphasise that I speak for myself and not as a representative of any Church, but I am delighted to affirm the situation of those of homosexual orientation who manage, in today's society, to achieve stable, loving and mutually respectful relationships that can be of benefit to the society in which they live. Indeed, some people in those relationships have been judged worthy under British law of being fit parents to adopt children. Stable relationships are not limited to same-sex relationships. Society ought to be grateful to a whole host of stable relationships.

Today, cohabitation is acceptable in many societies, sometimes as a precursor to marriage or as a lifestyle for those who have found that marriage, in its unstable forms, has given them such a bad experience that they cannot bring themselves to enter into it again.

However, there are other relationships. A duty of sex education is to give some thought to relationships that are not sexual at all but have been honoured in our society. I refer to relationships of a celibate nature, perhaps of two sisters living together, or indeed friendships which seem to have been so devalued as not to be considered a building block of our society. Such relationships are very real for those who cannot or will not enter into a marriage relationship.

Something has been said about the equivalence of putting marriage and stable relationships in the same sentence as the phrase "key building blocks of community". Forgive me, but my house is brick, cement, wood, glass and other materials and it is the richer because of all those elements. Society is built on many different foundations, one of which is marriage. But there are others. We owe it to our children to give them some indication of the fact that if marriage is not possible for them, they may still achieve the values of stability, fidelity and integrity in their lives.

Turning to Amendment No. 13, I believe that I am a reasonable person, although I suspect that I may not agree entirely with the noble Baroness in whose name the amendment stands. I believe that the best way to protect our children is to prohibit material that is judged to be inappropriate by governors, teachers and parents in our schools. However, that does not mean that our children can be protected from it outside school. I believe that the role of education is to give our children the tools with which they can judge whether material is appropriate, life-enhancing and of value. In order to do that, it is sometimes necessary to allow them to see other things so as to give them the ability to make those judgments for themselves.

The noble Earl mentioned the detailed guidance currently being proposed. It has been put out for consultation in many different quarters. I warmly welcome this. If noble Lords could see the guidance given to teachers on how to teach other aspects of the curriculum, they would see that this is modest in the

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extreme. Nevertheless, teachers value both the protection offered by knowing what the department feels is appropriate for them to teach and also the permission. As currently proposed, the guidelines go some way towards helping in the essential discussion of what is right and proper to teach in the classroom.

I do hope that this amendment can be passed today. It will greatly help the proper teaching of sex education within our schools. It will promote the right thinking, good judgment and integrity of living that our children deserve.

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