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Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. There is far too much noise in the House. This important debate is of concern across the nation and the hon. Gentleman should be heard.

Dr. Harris: I pay tribute to Liberal Democrat peers who have twice voted to repeal the measure--the turnout was 100 per cent.--and to the Labour peers who spoke so eloquently.

There is another option. As other hon. Members have suggested, the Government could insist on getting their way and, although I respect the views of the hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. Bradshaw), that would not give Baroness Young further opportunities. Conceding defeat would give succour to our opponents. Baroness Young and her colleagues want the Government to concede defeat, but I could not abide giving them that victory tonight. If we insisted on the Lords reconsidering, that would send a signal from the Prime Minister that the matters referred to in the memo are of no consequence to Labour Members and Labour Ministers. I hope that an honourable Labour Government will not give way on human rights to the so-called family lobby; gay issues, as referred to in that memo, are a human rights matter.

We have lost again on a human rights issue. What signal does that send out from the Government? I am afraid that they have sent out other similar signals. With a few honourable exceptions, Labour Members voted against a proposal made from these Benches to ban discrimination in employment on the ground of sexual orientation, and for nearly three years after taking office, the Government continued to sack gay members of the armed forces even though they knew that they would have to stop doing so. They also voted against a proposal made from these Benches to allow pension sharing and voted to allow the extension of sentences for all hate crimes, not just racially motivated crimes.

The Government have apparently wavered on abolishing the offence of gross indecency and have in terms ruled out giving adoption rights to lesbians and gays. Also, we must ask, where is the age of consent Bill? It could have passed into law on 23 February had the Government business managers introduced it into the House of Lords earlier. If the Lords had accepted the Bill, it would have become law; under the Parliament Act, it would have become law had the Lords rejected it.

Mr. Bradshaw: That is an argument for supporting my suggestion to move forward with an overarching Bill to outlaw all discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation rather than for indulging the hon. Gentleman's pet scheme of playing ping-pong with the bigots in the House of Lords.

Dr. Harris: My hon. Friends and I would welcome an overarching Bill, but one has not been promised tonight.

25 Jul 2000 : Column 1057

I invite the Minister to give such a promise, but, given the Government's record on some of these issues, she is unlikely to do so. I do not doubt the hon. Gentleman's personal commitment, but he should examine the voting records. It would be useful if he and others sent Ministers the message that they want more progress to be made on these matters.

There are other options. The hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn), my hon. Friend the Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) and I have invited the Minister to make specific suggestions. There could be a new Bill in the spillover period, though I fear that that might not work. At least she could offer such a Bill now. There could be a new Commons Bill in the next Session, which would offer the promise of using the Parliament Act. There could be an overarching equality Bill. The Government could show that the memo culture of worrying about gay issues does not apply to them. The Minister could at least guarantee that a pledge to repeal section 28 will appear in the next Labour manifesto. Can she give such a guarantee or say that that is her wish?

Unless we get a guarantee, all that tonight will represent is a victory for intolerance and prejudice, a failure of Government policy and a failure of Labour party policy. That will give aid to our enemies. Amendments such as that tabled by the Bishop of Blackburn, which were not the first preference of Members on these Benches, will have been accepted for nothing. No alternative has been offered by the Government and the atmosphere is one of suspicion.

I want the Minister to do what the opponents of this measure do not want her to do. They want her to continue with her line of offering nothing substantial except a vague commitment. We want her to offer a clear commitment.

1.30 am

Ms Armstrong: We have had a wide-ranging debate. Hon. Members on this side of the House and below the Gangway have made substantial points in support of the repeal of section 28. Those points have been made before, but are none the less very strong indeed. My hon. Friends the Members for Blackpool, South (Mr. Marsden), for Exeter (Mr. Bradshaw) and for Enfield, Southgate (Mr. Twigg) made strong speeches making it absolutely clear that, whatever the official legal position, young people who think that they are gay or lesbian have faced difficult consequences because of the way in which they have been treated at school.

Most Conservative Members have made it clear that they do not believe that homophobic bullying should go on in schools, and I am pleased that they have done so. However, they refuse to listen to any of the evidence that shows clearly that such bullying does occur and that section 28 is used--probably wrongly--to legitimise the reasons for not tackling the problem. Whatever their position in the House, those who want to see the end of such activity should take careful note of the clear evidence of many children's charities across the country, because the introduction of section 28 has had a negative effect. That may not have been the intention of some Conservative Members when they passed the legislation in 1988. However, that has none the less been the consequence.

It was interesting to listen to the meanderings of some Conservative Members. I remind them of what their party leader said in February 1999. He must wish that that was

25 Jul 2000 : Column 1058

long enough ago for people to have forgotten what he said. He told his party that it must be seen as "open, inclusive and compassionate" as opposed to its past "elitist" image. The Tory party is now tearing up its proposal for a common-sense revolution. It has also torn up its commitment to openness, inclusiveness and compassion.

Many of my hon. Friends and some Opposition Members urged me to send the Bill back to the Lords. My hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. McDonnell) made his position clear, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) and the hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Dr. Harris). They do not understand the procedures of the Palace of Westminster. If we send the Bill back, we risk not only not repealing section 28, but the whole Bill. If we remove the Baroness Young clause and send the Bill back to the Lords, who vote on it and once again insert it, the Standing Orders and guide to proceedings of the House of Lords make it absolutely clear that if the Lords insist on their disagreement, without offering alternatives, the Bill is lost.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington said clearly that he respected the Bill and the issue of human rights embodied in the repeal of section 28. I share his respect for both those things. It is because we want the battle on human rights to constitute the dividing line between us and the Tories, between this House and the House of Lords, that I know there is simply no point in sending the Bill back in the way that he wishes. We could have no battle with the House of Lords: it could simply reaffirm its position and there would then be no opportunity for the House to consider or debate the Bill again. On that basis, I urge my hon. Friend to think again.

The hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon gave us a litany of what the Government might now do, and all his suggestions are real possibilities. However, accepting those suggestions tonight without securing consensus across this House and with the House of Lords might not be the most effective way of ensuring that we get rid of section 28.

Those who know me well are aware that I am not in favour of gesture politics. [Interruption.] I said, "Those who know me well"; I do not think any Tories know me well. I am not in favour of gesture politics. I want actual repeal of section 28, and the extension of human rights in this country. I want to be part of making that a reality, and I believe that Liberal Democrats, Welsh nationalists and my hon. Friends share my determination. I want to work with them to find an effective way of guaranteeing the repeal of section 28.

We will repeal the section. The hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon said that we could do it this way and that way; he said that we could do it by putting something into the manifesto. We need to consider all the possibilities properly and to come up with a method that works, rather than one that just throws the issue up in the air. The hon. Member for Ceredigion (Mr. Thomas) attacked us for doing that.

We are determined to get rid of section 28, and determined to find the most effective way of doing so. The Government are committed to that; I believe that the House is committed to it; and I ask Members to support the Government.

25 Jul 2000 : Column 1059

Question put, That this House does not insist on its amendment No. 377, to which the Lords have disagreed:--

The House divided: Ayes 381, Noes 36.

Division No. 292
[1.38 am


AYES


Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)
Allen, Graham
Amess, David
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary
Atherton, Ms Candy
Atkins, Charlotte
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Banks, Tony
Barnes, Harry
Bayley, Hugh
Begg, Miss Anne
Beggs, Roy
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C)
Bennett, Andrew F
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul
Bermingham, Gerald
Berry, Roger
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Blunt, Crispin
Boateng, Rt Hon Paul
Borrow, David
Boswell, Tim
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia
Bradley, Keith (Withington)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brady, Graham
Brazier, Julian
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Browning, Mrs Angela
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Burns, Simon
Butler, Mrs Christine
Butterfill, John
Caborn, Rt Hon Richard
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Cann, Jamie
Caplin, Ivor
Casale, Roger
Cash, William
Caton, Martin
Cawsey, Ian
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chapman, Sir Sydney
(Chipping Barnet)
Chaytor, David
Chisholm, Malcolm
Chope, Christopher
Clapham, Michael
Clappison, James
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David
(S Shields)
Clark, Dr Lynda
(Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth
(Rushcliffe)
Clelland, David
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Coleman, Iain
Collins, Tim
Colman, Tony
Connarty, Michael
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Corston, Jean
Cran, James
Crausby, David
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Darvill, Keith
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)
Davis, Rt Hon Terry
(B'ham Hodge H)
Dawson, Hilton
Day, Stephen
Dean, Mrs Janet
Denham, John
Dobbin, Jim
Dobson, Rt Hon Frank
Donohoe, Brian H
Doran, Frank
Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen
Dowd, Jim
Duncan Smith, Iain
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff
Evans, Nigel
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Michael
Field, Rt Hon Frank
Fisher, Mark
Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna
Flight, Howard
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Forth, Rt Hon Eric
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Fox, Dr Liam
Fraser, Christopher
Fyfe, Maria
Gale, Roger
Garnier, Edward
George, Bruce (Walsall S)
Gerrard, Neil
Gibb, Nick
Gibson, Dr Ian
Gill, Christopher
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Godman, Dr Norman A
Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, Paul
Golding, Mrs Llin
Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Gray, James
Green, Damian
Greenway, John
Grieve, Dominic
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grogan, John
Gummer, Rt Hon John
Hain, Peter
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Hammond, Philip
Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet
Hawkins, Nick
Hayes, John
Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Heald, Oliver
Healey, John
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hesford, Stephen
Hill, Keith
Hodge, Ms Margaret
Hoey, Kate
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Horam, John
Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Howarth, Alan (Newport E)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hurst, Alan
Hutton, John
Iddon, Dr Brian
Illsley, Eric
Ingram, Rt Hon Adam
Jack, Rt Hon Michael
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Jenkin, Bernard
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Johnson, Miss Melanie
(Welwyn Hatfield)
Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Jowell, Rt Hon Ms Tessa
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Key, Robert
Kidney, David
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
Kumar, Dr Ashok
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Lansley, Andrew
Laxton, Bob
Leigh, Edward
Lepper, David
Leslie, Christopher
Letwin, Oliver
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Liddell, Rt Hon Mrs Helen
Lidington, David
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Lock, David
Loughton, Tim
Love, Andrew
Luff, Peter
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCafferty, Ms Chris
Macdonald, Calum
MacGregor, Rt Hon John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIntosh, Miss Anne
McIsaac, Shona
Mackinlay, Andrew
Maclean, Rt Hon David
McLoughlin, Patrick
McNamara, Kevin
MacShane, Denis
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWalter, Tony
Madel, Sir David
Mallaber, Judy
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Martlew, Eric
Maude, Rt Hon Francis
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian
Maxton, John
May, Mrs Theresa
Meacher, Rt Hon Michael
Meale, Alan
Merron, Gillian
Michael, Rt Hon Alun
Miller, Andrew
Moffatt, Laura
Moonie, Dr Lewis
Moran, Ms Margaret
Morley, Elliot
Morris, Rt Hon Ms Estelle
(B'ham Yardley)
Moss, Malcolm
Mountford, Kali
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Naysmith, Dr Doug
Nicholls, Patrick
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
O'Hara, Eddie
Olner, Bill
Organ, Mrs Diana
Osborne, Ms Sandra
Ottaway, Richard
Palmer, Dr Nick
Paterson, Owen
Pearson, Ian
Perham, Ms Linda
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter L
Plaskitt, James
Pollard, Kerry
Pond, Chris
Pope, Greg
Portillo, Rt Hon Michael
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Prescott, Rt Hon John
Primarolo, Dawn
Prior, David
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Ken
Quinn, Lawrie
Randall, John
Rapson, Syd
Raynsford, Nick
Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)
Reid, Rt Hon Dr John (Hamilton N)
Robathan, Andrew
Robertson, Laurence
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Rooker, Rt Hon Jeff
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Rowlands, Ted
Roy, Frank
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Ruffley, David
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
St Aubyn, Nick
Sarwar, Mohammad
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
Sayeed, Jonathan
Sheerman, Barry
Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)
Smith, Miss Geraldine
(Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Soley, Clive
Southworth, Ms Helen
Spellar, John
Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spring, Richard
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Steen, Anthony
Steinberg, Gerry
Stevenson, George
Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Stoate, Dr Howard
Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Streeter, Gary
Stringer, Graham
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Swayne, Desmond
Syms, Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
(Dewsbury)
Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Taylor, Sir Teddy
Temple-Morris, Peter
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark
Townend, John
Tredinnick, David
Trend, Michael
Trickett, Jon
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Tyrie, Andrew
Viggers, Peter
Vis, Dr Rudi
Walley, Ms Joan
Wareing, Robert N
Waterson, Nigel
Watts, David
Wells, Bowen
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Whitney, Sir Raymond
Whittingdale, John
Wicks, Malcolm
Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Williams, Rt Hon Alan
(Swansea W)
Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Wilshire, David
Wilson, Brian
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Wood, Mike
Woodward, Shaun
Woolas, Phil
Worthington, Tony
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Yeo, Tim
Young, Rt Hon Sir George

Tellers for the Ayes:


Mr. Tony McNulty and
Mr. Don Touhig.


NOES


Abbott, Ms Diane
Allan, Richard
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy
Ballard, Jackie
Beith, Rt Hon A J
Brake, Tom
Brand, Dr Peter
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Burstow, Paul
Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies
(NE Fife)
Corbyn, Jeremy
Cotter, Brian
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Fearn, Ronnie
Foster, Don (Bath)
George, Andrew (St Ives)
Gidley, Sandra
Gorrie, Donald
Harvey, Nick
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Keetch, Paul
Kirkwood, Archy
McAllion, John
Moore, Michael
Oaten, Mark
Öpik, Lembit
Rendel, David
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Stunell, Andrew
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Tonge, Dr Jenny
Tyler, Paul
Wallace, James
Webb, Steve
Willis, Phil

Tellers for the Noes:


Mr. John McDonnell and
Dr. Evan Harris.

Question accordingly agreed to.

25 Jul 2000 : Column 1062

Subsequent Lords amendments and reasons agreed to.


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