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Lord Monson had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 2:


Page 3, line 17, at end insert ("male").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, we went through the arguments for this amendment in some detail five weeks ago. I do not intend to repeat the arguments again. Suffice it to say that if service chiefs--to lapse into journalese--are firmly convinced that--

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Lord Henley): My Lords, I hope I may interrupt the noble Lord. I think he is speaking to Amendment No. 3. I got the gist of that from what he was beginning to say. I hope that he will not move Amendment No. 2 and will move on to Amendment No. 3.

Lord Monson: My Lords, I apologise. Of course the noble Lord is absolutely right. I shall not move Amendment No. 2.

[Amendment No. 2 not moved.]

Lord Monson moved Amendment No. 3:


After Clause 6, insert the following new clause--

Armed forces

(" . Nothing in this Act applies to any person serving as a member of the naval, military or air forces of the Crown or to any person employed by an association established for the purposes of Part VI of the Reserve Forces Act 1980.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I shall start again from scratch. We went through the arguments for this amendment in some detail five weeks ago and I do not

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intend to repeat them again. Suffice it to say that if service chiefs--to lapse into journalese--are firmly convinced, as they seem to be, that to abolish the ban on homosexuals in the Armed Forces would adversely affect the morale, discipline and effectiveness of those forces, that should be good enough for anyone.

There are two points I nevertheless wish to make in response to the arguments--or, I suppose, counter-arguments if one is being specific--that the noble Baroness, Lady Turner, made on a previous occasion. She pointed out that homosexuals, like women, could still be excluded from combat duties if the Bill goes through in another place unamended. Theoretically I am sure she is right but practically I guess that it would be an administrative nightmare. After all women are easily identifiable in an emergency. Homosexuals generally cannot be identified unless they wear some sort of identifying badge. In view of what happened in the 1930s and 1940s, I am sure we would not want that for one single second. Homosexuals could, of course, be confined to the catering corps or similar non-combatant units; but that in itself might be judged to be an act of discrimination.

The noble Baroness went on to say that, since the issue is currently being considered by a Commons Select Committee, and indeed elsewhere in the Commons, this House should not interfere. The fact that the Commons quite rightly has the last word does not preclude us from expressing our opinion, which the other place can accept, reject or ignore as it chooses.

There is another aspect to the matter. If the Bill goes through unamended today, theoretically it could be on the statute book next month, before the Commons Select Committee has finished its deliberations. We should then have pre-empted the committee's findings. It is surely better to put the matter on ice until the other place has reported, thereby avoiding any possible clash between the two Houses. Accordingly, I beg to move.

Lord Henley: My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Monson, made quite clear, and as was made clear by me when I had the honour to serve in the Ministry of Defence and by others in that department, homosexuality is incompatible with service life. I do not think it is necessary for me to rehearse on behalf of the Government the arguments that we have put before the House both at earlier stages of this Bill and when the matter has been debated on other occasions. Obviously, the issue will be the subject of discussions on the Armed Forces Bill in another place; it will come before this House and can be discussed at that time.

We have made our position in relation to this Bill fairly clear. We believe that it is neither necessary nor desirable. We hope that when it goes to another place, another place will look at it in the appropriate manner, and therefore it is probably unnecessary for amendments to the Bill to be moved at this stage. However, I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Monson, is right to stress the rightness and correctness of the Government's stance on this particular issue. I hope that he will feel it unnecessary to divide the House, given the assurance that Her Majesty's Government, the Ministry of Defence, service chiefs and all involved certainly

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believe very strongly that their policy is the right one and should be pursued. I hope that the noble Lord will not feel it necessary to press his amendment.

Lord McCarthy: My Lords, it gives me great pleasure very largely to agree with the Minister--if not with his reasons. My view, and the view on this side of the House, is that we would rather this amendment were not pressed because we do not want to settle the issue at all. We do not believe that the Bill as it stands does settle the issue. We believe that it should be left to the kind of processes that are going on in another place and through the courts. The noble Lord's amendment would settle the issue and make it impossible to change the present situation. That would be wrong. The subject is up for review; for that reason, we do not think that a decision embodied in this Bill is appropriate.

Baroness Turner of Camden: My Lords, I share the view just enunciated by my noble friend Lord McCarthy on the Front Bench. The noble Lord is making another attempt to import into this Bill a provision relating to the Armed Forces when, as I explained at earlier stages, the Bill seeks to deal with discrimination in public and private employment and not in the Armed Forces. It so happens that, as I made clear, I am against discrimination in the Armed Forces as well. It seems absurd to me that in times of war, when real danger exists and it is necessary for members of the Armed Forces to be able to rely absolutely on each other, in most circumstances we have conscription and the authorities do not bother much then about whether people are gay or lesbian. During the last war there were lots of instances of such liaisons; they were well known about. But nobody took any notice because everybody was united around the common danger and the need to work together to oppose it.

The main reason for my opposition this evening has already been stated. The issue will be debated in another place. It seems quite wrong for this House to pre-empt the discussions that will take place perhaps as early as next week in the other place on the whole issue of the Armed Forces and discrimination within them.

In this Bill, we attempt to remove fear of victimisation and discrimination from people who have done nothing wrong and whose only offence in the eyes of prejudiced people who have power over them at work is that their sexual preferences are not heterosexual ones. I therefore hope that the noble Lord, Lord Monson, will not press his amendment this evening but will take the advice offered by the Minister.

8.45 p.m.

Lord Monson: My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Henley, for his intervention. It was quite helpful.

The noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, implied that I wanted to settle the issue by preventing any relaxation of the ban as it stands. That is not the case at all. In substance, this amendment would not do that: it would in fact hold the matter open. It would simply mean that the question was held over. If the reference to the Armed Forces was not included in this Bill, it would not prevent

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any subsequent legislation from including it if both Houses of Parliament thought that was the proper thing to do.

If the Bill passes through this House unamended, and passes though the other place unamended before the Select Committee has had a chance to complete its report, it would mean that the issue was actually settled in the opposite direction. The service would be obliged to admit homosexuals, starting virtually right away. In view of the rather sanguine approach from the Government Benches, I can only suppose that there is perhaps a plan to see that, when the Bill reaches the other place, that does not actually happen. I cannot believe that they would wish the Bill to go through as it stands.

The noble Baroness talked, as others have done at earlier stages, about what happened in World War II. I accept what she said. I did not get into an argument on the general merits of admitting homosexuals because that was not the point. We discussed that last time. The only point I made was that nearly all senior officers think that lifting the ban is a bad idea. They know what they are talking about probably more than almost any of us here do. On balance, one should be prepared to accept their judgment: one does not have to, but as a general rule it seems the sensible thing to do. Since I have had no further support, I do not intend to press this matter. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Monson moved Amendment No. 4:


After Clause 6, insert the following new clause--

Private households

(" . Notwithstanding section 80(1) of the 1975 Act, nothing in this Act applies to employment for the purposes of a private household.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, now we return to what might be described as the "Englishman's home is his castle" amendment. Of course, that is not only true of the Englishman; the same is true for the Scot, the Welshman and the Ulsterman, who also regards his home as his castle.

It is no secret that I do not believe that any anti-discrimination legislation should apply to private households. If some individuals are so eccentric as to prefer to employ only red-haired, blue-eyed, left-handed, chain-smoking, Welsh-speaking women over six feet tall in their household, they should have the perfect right to do so--if they can find such individuals. They do have that right where self-employed people working in a house are concerned--builders, decorators, agency nurses, piano teachers, foreign language teachers and so on. So it is a slight anomaly that they do not when they employ somebody.

My view may be a minority one, although I doubt it. What I am certain is a majority view is that nobody should be forced to invite into their home, on either a permanent or a temporary basis, people whose personal habits they find distasteful. Whether, objectively, they are reasonable or unreasonable in that dislike is neither

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here nor there. That is what they feel as individuals. It is their home and, however irrational it may seem to others, they have the right to keep out people whom they do not like.

The noble Baroness suggested that acceptance of the amendment, which is the same as one which I moved at Report stage, might lead to a cleaner being sacked on suspicion of being a lesbian. I too deplore the idea of someone who is doing a good job being sacked in that way, but, frankly, the scenario is unrealistic. The supply: demand ratio for people doing that kind of work is such that anyone who is dismissed would find another job within 24 hours.

Nor should the dangers facing households which contain young people be ignored. It is all very well to claim that the Bill does not protect paedophiles. (Perhaps I have not searched hard enough but I cannot see that the Bill specifically excludes them.) The point is that an individual who lusts after a girl of 14 or 15 or a boy of 16 or 17 does not come into the category of paedophiles. If this clause is unamended it will be illegal not to employ such people.

Finally, I reiterate that the amendment cuts both ways. A homosexual couple who, perhaps understandably, wish to employ exclusively homosexuals have just as much right to their preferences as heterosexual couples who wish to employ only heterosexuals. I beg to move.


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