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Earl Russell: My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord. We extend equality between ourselves to all political parties. Does that mean that we regard them as of equal merit?

Lord Waddington: My Lords, I do not base my opposition to this Bill on the ground of equality. If I was arguing for the Bill, I would not base my arguments on equality. All I am saying is that the logic

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of the position taken by the noble Lord, Lord Alli, the logic of what was said by the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, and the logic of the arguments advanced by Mr Jack Straw in another place and by the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General here today, is exactly as I have stated. I do not think that anybody can gainsay that.

Lord Alli: My Lords, if I may respond to that, I do feel that I am the noble Lord's moral equal; I do feel that morally my lifestyle is as valid as his. If that is what the noble Lord is saying, I agree with him wholeheartedly.

Lord Waddington: My Lords, I respect the noble Lord, Lord Alli, for saying that. I can see that he accepts the logic of the argument advanced by the Government. I am grateful for that.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My Lords, am I right in understanding that the noble Lord disagrees with the judgment of the European Court and of the European Commission of Human Rights in the cases I mentioned: that it is right to compare the treatment of homosexual and heterosexual people? As I understand it, the noble Lord is saying that it is not right to draw a comparison on the basis of equality of treatment. Is that right? Is the noble Lord therefore disagreeing with the Strasbourg case law on this?

Lord Waddington: My Lords, all I shall say at this stage is that the noble Lord, Lord Lester, need have no fears. I hesitate to bore the House, but I am afraid that I shall have to advert to some of the arguments he has advanced and mention the case of Sutherland. I apologise in advance to the House for having to do so.

Worse, to say that the debate is all about equality is to say that the achievement of equality in this area is more important than the protection of vulnerable young people from sexual molestation, harassment and seduction. That is a most extraordinary position for anyone to argue himself into.

There has been much talk during this debate, and in similar debates in recent months, about the need for tolerance. But to send out a signal to young boys that homosexual acts are healthy and acceptable is not a mark of tolerance but an act of gross irresponsibility. I say that not least because of the very special and extra health risks involved in a homosexual lifestyle. As Dr Nicholls, the chief executive of the Public Health Laboratory Service, said in his recent report:

    "The risk of contracting AIDS is vastly greater in homosexual people than in heterosexuals".

We also know that there is little to suggest that those drawn into a homosexual lifestyle find lasting happiness and fulfilment. It is surely our duty to discourage young men, who often at the age of 16 are confused about their sexuality and can go through what turns out to be a passing phase when they are attracted to older men, from going down this road.

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It certainly is not true to say that all experts now accept that young men of 16 are settled in their sexual orientation. That is perhaps--I mention this to the noble Lord, Lord Lester--one reason why one may doubt whether the court will follow the commission in the case of Sutherland. If I have followed the noble Lord's speech, he attaches considerable weight to an assertion made by the commission that there was no doubt at all that all these young men's sexual inclinations were fixed irreversibly at the age of 16.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. That opinion was based on the view of the British Medical Association, which gave evidence that was relied on by the commission. It was not the opinion of the commission.

Lord Waddington: My Lords, I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Lester, would agree with me that all experts are not of that view. I also submit that we should not be telling young people that homosexuals have no choice but to commit homosexual acts; that if you have an appetite for homosexual sex, you are entitled to gratify it. We should be telling them, surely, that some urges are better resisted, particularly when they may involve making a commitment one may later live to regret.

But, in my submission, far worse than giving the wrong signal to young people is making them the legitimate prey of older men. In reintroducing the Bill, the Government seem to have learnt nothing at all from the appalling revelations in the Waterhouse report on the North Wales child abuse inquiry. I would only remind noble Lords of one key finding. Sir Ronald Waterhouse concluded that the dangers to those out of care are as great as for those actually in care. As my noble friend Lady Blatch mentioned, at paragraph 52 of the report is cited the case of "Child B" and the abuse he suffered between the ages of 16 and 18 from people who were not in a position of trust but were paedophiles outside the care system.

In the light of that and other revelations in the report, the breach of trust provisions in the Bill are absurd. By putting the provisions in the Bill, the Government concede that boys of 16 can be exploited and need protection. But does anyone seriously believe that the only people from whom they need protection are those who fall within the various categories set out in Clause 4? Of course, no one believes that.

Lastly, there is no reason in logic why the age of consent for homosexual and heterosexual acts should be the same when young men generally reach puberty some years after girls. But we are told by some--the noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill, is of this number--that we have to equalise the age because of the European convention. I do not want to get into that debate, except to say that I have seen an opinion from Mr Paul Diamond of counsel, who said that it is unlikely that the Court will accept the commission's view of Sutherland--that there is no pressure from Europe with regard to the equalisation of the age of consent--and that it is wholly a matter for our

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Parliament. If, however, the noble Lord, Lord Lester, is right, I would rather see the age of consent put up to 18 for all than see this Bill pass.

Of course, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill, to this extent: there are obviously serious issues to be addressed as a result of recent legal developments. I hope that I can address them briefly without trying the patience of noble Lords and being thought to be digressing. I think that this Bill and the Government's presentation of it are frightening reminders of the dangerous path we are treading as a result of an obsession with equality which has, I fear, infected not only the Government but the courts.

In the middle of last year, the president of the Family Division expressed her approval of adoption by homosexual couples; and in October last year the Appellate Committee of this House, in a vivid example of judges making new laws, decided in the case of Fitzpatrick that a homosexual partner is a "member of the family" for the purposes of succeeding to a tenancy under the Rent Acts. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Slynn of Hadley, was at pains to say that the decision did not undermine the traditional concept of marriage and the family. But, as I predicted would happen--I take no pride in this--in the debate on the Address on 24th November last year (at col. 469 of the Official Report), the fall-out from that decision was soon to become apparent; for within a matter of months Mr David Pannick, a very eminent QC, was arguing, in an article in The Times on 29th February of this year, that as the courts had held that a homosexual couple could constitute a family, Section 28, designed to prevent local authorities dealing out homosexual propaganda, offended against,

    "the right to respect for family life"

provisions in the European convention simply because our courts had now recognised that homosexual relations amount to family life.

Well, my Lords, if Mr Pannick is right, the conclusion is inescapable. The courts, because of their obsession with equality and determination to treat homosexual and heterosexual relations alike, have succeeded at one and the same time in torpedoing the traditional family and destroying one of the protections that now exist against young people being showered with homosexual propaganda; and now we have this Bill which itself is born of a belief that homosexual and heterosexual acts are as good as each other.

The next stage--this was suggested in plain terms by a Liberal Democrat in another place on 10th February of this year (at col. 482 of the Official Report): I am referring to a speech by Dr Harris--will be, if not homosexual marriage, a complete equalisation of the rights of a homosexual couple with those of a man and wife.

I think that we have to call a halt to this madness. We all know the importance of the traditional family for the bringing up of children and for the stability of society. But the courts and Parliament are allowing its destruction, with completely unpredictable results for both society and civilisation. I will have none of it.

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4.46 p.m.

Baroness Gould of Potternewton: My Lords, I start by fundamentally disagreeing with the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, as might be expected, and with the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch. I should add that my free vote will be used in support of the Bill. I speak as an individual; I do not speak on behalf of the Government. I would also add that I have no obsession with sex or sexuality. What I do have is an obsession with making sure that young people are protected and that we show concern about the future for them. That is what the Bill does. It is a great shame that your Lordships' House has twice rejected the possibility of providing that protection--protection that has meant that young people have lacked the safeguards that could have been put in place some time ago. I sincerely hope that we will not do that again.

My concern for protection arises because there are and will continue to be predatory men who want to abuse, rape and use young girls and boys. Crucially, the Bill provides equal protection for young men and women against adults who may use their position of authority to gain sexual advantage. I hope that the argument about protection and the areas that it covers will not be used in Committee to get rid of that part of the Bill. I have some reservations about whether this part of the Bill goes far enough. Therefore, I was delighted to hear the Minister say, although I think that some noble Lords did not hear him, that the clause would be looked at and that it would be possible under Clause 4(1) for a statutory instrument to be brought forward to extend the areas of protection.

I have a particular difficulty in understanding why part-time education is excluded when full-time education can mean part-time education in two establishments. I do not accept the view--pressure has been brought to bear on this point by some of the teachers' unions--that teachers should be exempt. One cannot realistically argue that those who run a children's home should be subject to the criminal law and at the same time exclude teachers. I hope that we might look at the extension of the clause.

It has also been suggested--it was suggested in the other place--that the clauses of the Bill providing protection are not necessary if there is no equal age of consent. That is to deny protection for young girls. So far we have had little comment about young girls and I want to make some remarks about that. I find extraordinary the indifference and lack of concern on the part of some people as to the consequences for young girls. The Home Office report--

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