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The Lord Bishop of Winchester: My Lords, does the Minister recognise that while this is a swashbuckling presentation of some of the issues, it really does not seem to me to meet the range of points which have been raised this evening. It appears to me that he has manifestly misrepresented what I said earlier. I have no doubt that among noble Lords on all sides of the House who may be considering how to vote this evening, there is a much wider and more nuance series of positions than he is allowing the possibility of there being.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, there are nuance positions. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman, is attempting a nuance position. Some other people in the course of the debate have had more nuance positions. But those who introduced Section 28 in the first place, those who are the most vociferous in its support and the need for its retention do not have a nuance position; they have a deeply prejudiced position and one which we need to remove from the statute book.

The right reverend Prelate referred to Section 28 as being a stabilising bench mark. That is an entirely erroneous position. It is not a stabilising benchmark. It is, unfortunately, the spark of a deep dispute within our society. It is one which has been seriously misinterpreted, I would agree, by the zealots on all sides of the matter and it is one which has deeply misled the teaching profession, the media, politicians and parents. It is not one on which we can base a sensible approach either to sex education or to dealing with sexual matters in the rest of our society.

Given that we have a deeply destabilising benchmark here, one which has caused great conflict and one which is incapable of rational interpretation, is it not also rational, therefore, for the House of Lords to remove it? Why has the House of Lords hitherto--I hope that noble Lords will change their minds tonight--resisted its removal? It is very strange of this House, because normally it is a well recognised role of this House to defend the position of minorities. It may very well be that the majority of people out there, fed by slightly misleading information in our media and elsewhere, support the retention of Section 28--certainly those aged over 40--but it still remains the responsibility of this House--it is one of the great constitutional checks and balances of our system--to respect and protect the interests of minorities against a populist majority. In this case, for reasons known only to those who oppose the repeal, they have done exactly the opposite.

At the end of the day, it is a human rights issue. It is an issue for individuals. It is an issue of equal treatment of citizens. Section 28 cannot be said to be compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. The House of Lords should recognise that that

24 Jul 2000 : Column 125

is an important statement for the Government and others to have made. I do not believe, therefore, that the House of Lords can, with any light conscience, continue to vote against its repeal. By doing so, it is sending a divisive signal to our society, and one which will encourage discrimination, whatever interpretation noble Lords might benignly try to put on the words of Section 28.

As was said earlier, I fear that there are not a lot of minds to be changed on this issue. However, I hope that when noble Lords go through the Lobbies they will also think of the reputation of this House.

Viscount Bledisloe: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, will he make entirely clear the Government's attitude to the amendment of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman? If the House accepts the repeal of Section 28 but then votes for the amendment of the noble and learned Lord, will the Government accept that, regardless of the textual deficiencies to which the Minister referred? If they will do so, it seems to me that that should satisfy any right-minded person. If, on the other hand, we are told that the Government reject that amendment, I feel that many noble Lords will want to vote a different way. Can the noble Lord be entirely clear on where the Government stand on the noble and learned Lord's amendment?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I thought that I had made it clear earlier that, although I regard the amendment of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman, as a significant move away from the discriminatory wording of Section 28 and believe that it is in that sense an improvement, it has some serious flaws and serious uncertainties. I would not therefore wish to encourage the House to vote for something which is as equally subject to different interpretations as Section 28 itself. If the House were to pass that amendment, following a defeat of the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Young, the Government would have to consider that position and consider whether subsequent changes would be necessary or whether we could continue to live with that amendment, given that it is--I accept the good will in these matters of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman--an improvement on the current situation. However, I think that a cleaner answer tonight would be to vote for the repeal of Section 28, to reject the amendments of the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and to give a clear signal that this House does not wish to give any succour to those who discriminate against any section of our community.

Baroness Young: My Lords, I should like to thank all those who have spoken in support of me today. I thank in particular the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester. He said--I think I quote him correctly--that Section 28 is a stabilising benchmark. In using those words, he used the precise words that were used by the noble Lord, Lord Habgood, when we debated this matter previously. The right reverend Prelate said something else which I think is profoundly

24 Jul 2000 : Column 126

true. One of the tragedies of life today is that what has always been accepted--the wisdom of one generation being passed on to another--has been given up; and, because it has been given up, adults have abnegated their responsibility to children. If I may say so to the Government, there is no greater example of that abnegation than the guidelines on sex education. I have read all 33 pages. It is difficult not to draw the conclusion that they are value free and that they are just saying to young people, "Do what you feel comfortable with and take contraceptive advice". That is not a very good message to give to young people.

I should like also to thank the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, who spoke from a wealth of experience. I thought that his wise words are ones to which we should all pay attention. I am grateful for the support that I have had all the way through from my noble friend Lady Blatch, who has been consistent and steadfast in her support on these matters.

Perhaps I may conclude by saying to the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, that I was very sorry to hear what he said in his final remarks. He attributed to me a good many opinions which I do not hold. If he reads what I actually said, he will see that I neither said them nor think them. He based his arguments very largely on the guidelines for sex education. Before entering the debate, I, too, took legal advice. I simply make two points. First, the local authority employs teachers. It is therefore responsible ultimately for the actions of its employees. Secondly, to say that Section 28 has no effect is simply not true; nor is it true that children will be protected in other subjects outside sex education. The legal advice which I have been given suggests that that is not the case.

This question is not about discrimination towards adults. We are not talking about adults at all. As I said earlier, how adults choose to conduct their lives is a matter for them. The whole question of Section 28 started with parents concerned about children. At the centre of it have always been parents and, above all, children. If we really care about what happens to children--what is said to children in schools and outside--and if we are to fulfil our adult responsibilities, we will vote to keep Section 28. I commend the amendment to the House.

8.28 p.m.

On Question, Whether Amendment No. 377A, as an amendment to Commons Amendment No. 377, be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 270; Not-Contents, 228.

Division No. 2


Aberdare, L.
Ackner, L.
Ahmed, L.
Alexander of Weedon, L.
Allenby of Megiddo, V.
Ampthill, L.
Anelay of St Johns, B.
Archer of Weston-Super-Mare, L.
Armstrong of Ilminster, L.
Arran, E.
Astor, V.
Astor of Hever, L.
Attlee, E.
Bagri, L.
Baker of Dorking, L.
Barber, L.
Barber of Tewkesbury, L.
Bell, L.
Belstead, L.
Blackwell, L.
Blatch, B.
Blease, L.
Blyth of Rowington, L.
Boardman, L.
Bowness, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L.
Bradford, Bp.
Bramall, L.
Bridgeman, V.
Bridges, L.
Brightman, L.
Brigstocke, B.
Brookeborough, V.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L.
Burnham, L.
Buscombe, B.
Butler of Brockwell, L.
Butterworth, L.
Buxton of Alsa, L.
Byford, B.
Caithness, E.
Campbell of Alloway, L.
Campbell of Croy, L.
Carlisle of Bucklow, L.
Carnarvon, E.
Carnegy of Lour, B.
Carr of Hadley, L.
Carrington, L.
Cavendish of Furness, L.
Chadlington, L.
Chalfont, L.
Chalker of Wallasey, B.
Chilver, L.
Clark of Kempston, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.
Coe, L.
Colwyn, L.
Cooke of Islandreagh, L.
Cope of Berkeley, L.
Courtown, E.
Cowdrey of Tonbridge, L.
Cox, B.
Craig of Radley, L.
Cranborne, V.
Crathorne, L.
Crickhowell, L.
Croham, L.
Cumberlege, B.
Dean of Harptree, L.
Denham, L.
Dixon, L.
Dixon-Smith, L.
Donaldson of Lymington, L.
Donoughue, L.
Dunn, B.
Eccles of Moulton, B.
Eden of Winton, L.
Elles, B.
Elliott of Morpeth, L.
Elton, L.
Erroll, E.
Evans of Parkside, L.
Feldman, L.
Fellowes, L.
Ferrers, E.
Fitt, L.
Fookes, B.
Forsyth of Drumlean, L.
Freeman, L.
Gardner of Parkes, B.
Geddes, L.
Gibson, L.
Glenarthur, L.
Glentoran, L.
Goschen, V.
Gray of Contin, L.
Greenway, L.
Griffiths, L.
Griffiths of Fforestfach, L.
Habgood, L.
Hambro, L.
Hanham, B.
Hanningfield, L.
Hanson, L.
Harris of High Cross, L.
Harris of Peckham, L.
Hayhoe, L.
Henley, L. [Teller]
Higgins, L.
Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, L.
Hogg, B.
Holderness, L.
Home, E.
Hooper, B.
Howe, E.
Howell of Guildford, L.
Hunt of Wirral, L.
Hurd of Westwell, L.
Hussey of North Bradley, L.
Hylton, L.
Hylton-Foster, B.
Inge, L.
Islwyn, L.
James of Holland Park, B.
Jauncey of Tullichettle, L.
Jellicoe, E.
Jenkin of Roding, L.
Johnston of Rockport, L.
Jopling, L.
Kelvedon, L.
Kimball, L.
King of Wartnaby, L.
Kingsland, L.
Kirkham, L.
Knight of Collingtree, B.
Laing of Dunphail, L.
Laird, L.
Lamont of Lerwick, L.
Lane, L.
Lane of Horsell, L.
Lang of Monkton, L.
Liverpool, E.
Lloyd of Berwick, L.
Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
Longford, E.
Lucas, L.
Luke, L.
Lyell, L.
McColl of Dulwich, L.
McConnell, L.
Macfarlane of Bearsden, L.
McFarlane of Llandaff, B.
Mackay of Clashfern, L.
MacLaurin of Knebworth, L.
Manchester, Bp.
Mancroft, L.
Marlesford, L.
Marshall of Knightsbridge, L.
Masham of Ilton, B.
Mason of Barnsley, L.
Mayhew of Twysden, L.
Miller of Hendon, B.
Mishcon, L.
Molyneaux of Killead, L.
Monson, L.
Montrose, D.
Moore of Wolvercote, L.
Moran, L.
Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Moynihan, L.
Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Naseby, L.
Neill of Bladen, L.
Nickson, L.
Nolan, L.
Norfolk, D.
Northbrook, L.
Northesk, E.
O'Cathain, B.
Oliver of Aylmerton, L.
Onslow, E.
Onslow of Woking, L.
Oppenheim-Barnes, B.
Orme, L.
Oxfuird, V.
Palmer, L.
Park of Monmouth, B.
Parkinson, L.
Patel of Blackburn, L.
Patten, L.
Pearson of Rannoch, L.
Peel, E.
Perry of Southwark, B.
Peyton of Yeovil, L.
Pike, B.
Pilkington of Oxenford, L.
Platt of Writtle, B.
Plumb, L.
Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.
Porter of Luddenham, L.
Prentice, L.
Prior, L.
Pym, L.
Quinton, L.
Quirk, L.
Rawlings, B.
Rawlinson of Ewell, L.
Reay, L.
Rees, L.
Rees-Mogg, L.
Renton, L.
Renton of Mount Harry, L.
Richardson of Duntisbourne, L.
Roberts of Conwy, L.
Rochester, Bp.
Rotherwick, L.
Ryder of Wensum, L.
Saatchi, L.
St. John of Bletso, L.
Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Sanderson of Bowden, L.
Seccombe, B.
Selborne, E.
Selkirk of Douglas, L.
Selsdon, L.
Sharples, B.
Shaw of Northstead, L.
Sheppard of Didgemere, L.
Shore of Stepney, L.
Shrewsbury, E.
Simon, V.
Simon of Glaisdale, L.
Skidelsky, L.
Slim, V.
Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.
Stallard, L.
Sterling of Plaistow, L.
Stewartby, L.
Stodart of Leaston, L.
Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Strange, B.
Strathclyde, L.
Swinfen, L.
Taylor of Warwick, L.
Tebbit, L.
Tenby, V.
Thatcher, B.
Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Tombs, L.
Trefgarne, L.
Trumpington, B.
Vincent of Coleshill, L.
Vinson, L.
Vivian, L.
Waddington, L.
Wakeham, L.
Waverley, V.
Weatherill, L.
Weinstock, L.
Wilcox, B.
Williamson of Horton, L.
Willoughby de Broke, L.
Winchester, Bp.
Windlesham, L.
Wolfson, L.
Wolfson of Sunningdale, L.
Young, B. [Teller]
Young of Graffham, L.
Younger of Leckie, V.


Acton, L.
Addington, L.
Alderdice, L.
Alli, L.
Amos, B.
Andrews, B.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Ashley of Stoke, L.
Ashton of Upholland, B.
Attenborough, L.
Bach, L.
Baldwin of Bewdley, E.
Barker, B.
Barnett, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L.
Berkeley, L.
Bernstein of Craigweil, L.
Billingham, B.
Birt, L.
Blackstone, B.
Bledisloe, V.
Borrie, L.
Bradshaw, L.
Bragg, L.
Brennan, L.
Brett, L.
Bristol, Bp.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.
Brookman, L.
Bruce of Donington, L.
Burlison, L.
Burns, L.
Carlile of Berriew, L.
Carter, L. [Teller]
Castle of Blackburn, B.
Chandos, V.
Christopher, L.
Clement-Jones, L.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Cohen of Pimlico, B.
Craigavon, V.
Crawley, B.
Currie of Marylebone, L.
Darcy de Knayth, B.
David, B.
Davies of Coity, L.
Davies of Oldham, L.
Desai, L.
Dholakia, L.
Diamond, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Dubs, L.
Eatwell, L.
Elder, L.
Evans of Temple Guiting, L.
Evans of Watford, L.
Ezra, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L.
Falkender, B.
Falkland, V.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Faulkner of Worcester, L.
Filkin, L.
Freyberg, L.
Fyfe of Fairfield, L.
Gale, B.
Garel-Jones, L.
Gavron, L.
Gilbert, L.
Gilmour of Craigmillar, L.
Gladwin of Clee, L.
Goldsmith, L.
Goodhart, L.
Gordon of Strathblane, L.
Goudie, B.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Greaves, L.
Greengross, B.
Gregson, L.
Grenfell, L.
Hamwee, B.
Hardy of Wath, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L.
Harris of Haringey, L.
Harris of Richmond, B.
Harrison, L.
Haskel, L.
Hattersley, L.
Hayman, B.
Healey, L.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hogg of Cumbernauld, L.
Hollick, L.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Holme of Cheltenham, L.
Howells of St. Davids, B.
Hoyle, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hunt of Chesterton, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Hutchinson of Lullington, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L. (Lord Chancellor)
Jacobs, L.
Janner of Braunstone, L.
Jay of Paddington, B. (Lord Privy Seal)
Jeger, B.
Jenkins of Hillhead, L.
Jenkins of Putney, L.
Joffe, L.
Judd, L.
Kennedy of The Shaws, B.
King of West Bromwich, L.
Kirkhill, L.
Laming, L.
Layard, L.
Lea of Crondall, L.
Lester of Herne Hill, L.
Linklater of Butterstone, B.
Lipsey, L.
Lloyd-Webber, L.
Lockwood, B.
Lovell-Davis, L.
Ludford, B.
McCarthy, L.
Macdonald of Tradeston, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller]
McIntosh of Hudnall, B.
MacKenzie of Culkein, L.
Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L.
Mackie of Benshie, L.
McNally, L.
Maddock, B.
Mallalieu, B.
Mar and Kellie, E.
Marsh, L.
Massey of Darwen, B.
Merlyn-Rees, L.
Methuen, L.
Miller of Chilthorne Domer, B.
Mitchell, L.
Molloy, L.
Morgan, L.
Morris of Castle Morris, L.
Morris of Manchester, L.
Murray of Epping Forest, L.
Newby, L.
Nicol, B.
Northover, B.
Norton of Louth, L.
Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay, L.
O'Neill of Bengarve, B.
Oxford, Bp.
Peston, L.
Phillips of Sudbury, L.
Pitkeathley, B.
Plant of Highfield, L.
Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Portsmouth, Bp.
Prashar, B.
Prys-Davies, L.
Puttnam, L.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Randall of St. Budeaux, L.
Razzall, L.
Rea, L.
Redesdale, L.
Rendell of Babergh, B.
Rennard, L.
Richard, L.
Richardson of Calow, B.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Rogers of Riverside, L.
Roll of Ipsden, L.
Roper, L.
Russell, E.
Russell-Johnston, L.
Sainsbury of Turville, L.
St Albans, Bp.
St John of Fawsley, L.
Sandwich, E.
Sawyer, L.
Scotland of Asthal, B.
Scott of Needham Market, B.
Serota, B.
Sewel, L.
Sharman, L.
Sharp of Guildford, B.
Shepherd, L.
Sheppard of Liverpool, L.
Shutt of Greetland, L.
Smith of Clifton, L.
Smith of Gilmorehill, B.
Smith of Leigh, L.
Stern, B.
Stone of Blackheath, L.
Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Thomas of Gresford, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Thornton, B.
Tomlinson, L.
Tope, L.
Tordoff, L.
Turnberg, L.
Turner of Camden, B.
Varley, L.
Walker of Doncaster, L.
Wallace of Saltaire, L.
Walmsley, B.
Warnock, B.
Warwick of Undercliffe, B.
Watson of Invergowrie, L.
Watson of Richmond, L.
Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Whitaker, B.
Whitty, L.
Wigoder, L.
Wilkins, B.
Williams of Crosby, B.
Williams of Elvel, L.
Williams of Mostyn, L.
Winston, L.
Woolmer of Leeds, L.
Young of Dartington, L.
Young of Old Scone, B.

Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment No. 377A, as an amendment to Commons Amendment No. 377, agreed to accordingly.

24 Jul 2000 : Column 130

On Question, Commons Amendment No. 377 disagreed to accordingly.

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