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Earl Russell: My Lords, is the noble Lord suggesting that necrophiliacs have relationships?

Lord Moran: My Lords, I believe the noble Earl knows more about that than I do.

That is the first and far and away the most serious defect in the government amendment. The second is the reference to "inappropriate teaching". We know what that means, but the word "inappropriate" is extraordinarily vague. What I think is inappropriate

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may not be thought to be inappropriate by someone else. It can mean anything to any number of people and should not appear in an Act of Parliament.

The third defect is the reference to,

    "The Secretary of State may at any time revise his guidance".

That is entirely wrong. Another Secretary of State for Education may arrive with quite different views and there is no stability at all. Our amendment requires Parliament to look at the guidance, and that is much better.

There have been references in the debate to the health aspect and to the activities of health promotion services. That is not a matter for this Bill, nor indeed for the Local Government Bill. But it needs to be addressed and I hope that the Government will look at it. There may be urgent need for guidelines to health authorities. They have been, if not producing them themselves, at any rate providing public funds for some of this appalling material that we have all seen.

I make one reference to what was said by the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers. I sympathise with him about "building blocks". We are responsible for including the phrase in Amendment No. 8. However, I hope he will concede that we meant well. It is not a phrase that I should like to see too often in statute.

Privileged people, beginning with the Prime Minister, can send their children to schools they choose very carefully and where the "inappropriate teaching" of these matters is inconceivable. But for those who are not privileged, there is a real risk. I come from Wales where we are still in shock over the appalling story of the abuse of children in care. These are, largely, the children of underprivileged parents and they are entitled to our protection. Therefore, defective guidance to teachers, allowing a small minority of teachers to promote homosexuality in schools, will endanger these children and put them at risk. I do not think that we should do that.

When my colleagues on the Cross Benches and, indeed, all Members of the House consider the vote on this matter, I should like them to compare the two texts; namely, the Government's Amendment No. 7 as it stands, and the government amendment as it would be if our amendments were accepted. I ask them to search their consciences when considering those two alternatives and decide what would be best for their children and grandchildren to be taught. Having decided between the two what is best, I urge them to vote accordingly.

6.30 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Winchester: My Lords, I hope that the House warmly welcomes the close, careful and sustained collaboration between the Catholic Education Service and the Church of England Board of Education, represented especially by their chairmen, Archbishop Vincent Nichols and my friend the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Blackburn, that has paved the way for this amendment. I warmly welcome, too, the Government's preparedness to listen to them and to work closely with them. The prominence given to subsection (2)(a) of new Section

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403A (to the 1996 Act) in the Minister's amendment, is especially welcome. I shall be looking for confirmation in her reply to this debate that this priority for the promotion of marriage really is, in the Government's intention, the key to this amendment; and that, like the lettering in a stick of rock, it will appear as such throughout the draft guidance once it has been revised. I shall suggest in a moment that this is not the case in its present form.

With Marianne Talbot in her very important article in last Sunday's Observer, I do not underestimate what a critically important and very demanding change of direction this is, not only for the Government but also throughout our society at this juncture. So I profoundly hope that we shall now see the Government listening in every other area of policy, too, to the clear and persuasive case made by the Churches, by representatives of other faiths and by many others for giving priority to marriage.

There is much both in the amendment introduced by the Minister this afternoon, and in the draft guidance which accompanies it, that I warmly welcome. I have already mentioned subsection (2)(a). I also have in mind subsections (2)(c), (2)(d) and (4)(b) of the Government's amendment and the sensitive and sensible material in the guidance, to which the Minister gave much excellent space in her introductory speech, which explicates these and some of the other subsections. I include in what I welcome as being most important those elements emphasising the unacceptability of bullying (paragraph 1.32) and that encouraging care that there should be,

    "no stigmatisation of children based on their home circumstances".

In their statement released a week ago welcoming the amendment now before us, Archbishop Nichols and my brother, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Blackburn, described it as going,

    "a long way to meet the concerns we have expressed to the Secretary of State".

They noted, as I have just done, with warm appreciation that it represents, as they put it,

    "a significant development in Government thinking".

They went on to say:

    "One of our concerns as been that, if Section 28 is to be repealed, alternative enforceable safeguards should be in place to ensure that school children are protected from inappropriate teaching and materials".

Here is clear encouragement, not just to those who sit on these Benches but to the House as a whole, to consider the extent to which the noble Baroness's amendment does indeed meet concerns of this kind, which I share. My judgment is that it does not yet sufficiently do so. As my right reverend friend put it, there are some things that could be put more precisely.

I recognise, of course, his other and powerful point--or another of his powerful points--that what is put into law through your Lordships' House, and ultimately the other place, has to be workable. I also appreciate the point made by the noble Earl, Lord Russell--he is not at present in his place, but I am sure

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that he will return later--about the inevitability of a significant element of "fudge". But there is fudge and fudge; it is just a question of its character.

It is surely the logic of subsection (2)(a), as well as perhaps--here I am obviously guessing, but, I think, with some justification--the prime concern of Archbishop Nichols and of my right reverend friend that, in the giving of sex education in maintained schools, marriage should be carefully distinguished from other couple relationships, whether heterosexual or homosexual and however stable. But I also recognise the point made by the Minister and other speakers that other relationships exist which have significant value to the partners, to children and to society because they are stable.

Perhaps I may, again, take up a point made by the noble Earl, Lord Russell. It seems to me that it is not a question of one individual being morally superior to another. The question is that of the state in which they are living; it is not a matter of judging one individual as being morally superior to another. But notwithstanding all that has been said so far in the debate, I still find that subsection (2)(b) with its placing together of "marriage and stable relationships" in a single run of words, the consistent repeating of this conjunction at point after point in the draft guidance and the explicit justification for that position in paragraph 5 (on page two of the guidance), seem fatally to undermine the initial clarity established in subsection (2)(a) of the Government's amendment.

Nor am I yet convinced by some of the remarks that have been made in justification of the word "inappropriate". The only attempts to explicate that word that I found in the draft guidance seem to me, again, to have the effect of undermining the pivotal subsection (2)(a). For example, how can there be taught a priority for marriage if paragraph 1.32 of the draft guidance says that,

    "there should be no direct promotion of sexual orientation"?

That phrase reappears twice again in the guidance.

There are also surprising omissions in the draft guidance, fine as it is in very many of its parts. There is no mention in paragraph 10 on page three of spiritual values among the others that are noted at length. There is no mention of the Churches, or of other faith communities, among the allies and friends that may be looked to in paragraphs 12 and 6.1; and there is no mention of marriage in either paragraphs 1.18 or 3.5 in both of which it should surely be present. If I may repeat the image, much of the stick of rock seems so far to have missed out on its lettering.

I should also like to draw the attention of the House to paragraph 1.6 on page six of the draft guidance, which speaks as if the Government had come to assume that it is only schools of a "particular religious ethos" that,

    "may choose to reflect that ethos in their sex and relationship education policy".

These seem to me to amount to serious deficiencies in the Minister's amendment and in the draft guidance. Even though this is not primarily what we are talking

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about, it is there in the wings, as other noble Lords have recognised. It is fair to say that they certainly do not persuade me to agree to the repeal of what my right reverend friend the Bishop of Lichfield described on February 7th as the "stabilising bench-mark" of Section 28, inadequate as it is not only in some of the detail of its wording but also in its scope. In my judgment either it, or a successor with improved wording and an eye also on the Human Rights Act, needs to continue to apply not only to local authorities--because they continue to have responsibility for work with children and young people outside schools--to PSHE advisory services, and to libraries, but also to health authorities and trusts, and to the health promotion units, at which, for instance, the draft guidance looks in paragraph 12 on page 4.

Lastly, I note that many of the observations that I have made are addressed in amendments before us. I shall listen very carefully, with many others outside your Lordships' House as well as in it, and of faiths other than mine or of none, to the Minister's replies to amendments and then to the debate as a whole. I shall listen especially to hear the extent to which the so welcome subsection (2)(a) really is the governing thread of all that this amendment and this draft guidance are designed to put in place.

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