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Baroness Young: My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for giving way. The point about that question is that it is inaccurate. It does not set out what the provisions of abuse of trust really are, so that those answering the question cannot possibly understand what the original question was. It does not cover all individuals in positions of trust, as I made clear in my remarks.
Earl Russell: My Lords, I heard those remarks, but if those are the noble Baroness's concerns they can all be addressed by amendments in Committee. The Minister has indicated that he is willing to listen to such amendments. It is not a basis for throwing the Bill out at Second Reading.
In any case, I do not believe that public opinion is the ultimate arbiter in this case. Noble Lords will be familiar with Burke's view that the Member of another place is a representative and not a delegate. Here, we are not even representatives. Our purpose is to try to take decisions in the public interest as we conceive it. That has always been our purpose. That is what I am trying to do.
It is also relevant that the opinion poll evidence indicates that it is the age group that the noble Baroness most determinedly wishes to protect which most determinedly rejects that protection. It is a common enough situation. It has been the cross of parents since Adam and Eve gave birth to Cain. We have to live with that.
Also, I do not believe that public opinion is the answer to a human rights issue. Human rights are not to be taken away simply because the majority does not want them. In fact, it is where the majority does not want human rights that they are most needed. When the statue of Oscar Wilde was unveiled last winter there was a cartoon, I believe in The Spectator, which showed two 10 year-old boys looking at him with intense disapproval and saying, "They say he was a smoker". I believe that 16 and 17 year-old homosexuals have quite as much right to love each other in the privacy of their own rooms as I have to smoke in the privacy of my own room.
We cannot divide human rights; they are for all of us. It is those whose behaviour we dislike most whose human rights we must champion most strongly. That is where it really matters. When it comes to human rights, we all live in glasshouses, and I think we had better put the stones away.
Finally, I care deeply about the reputation of this House. I have loved this House as at present constituted, with all its magnificent illogicality. But we are a rather random collection of power. Where we are to justify ourselves at the bar of public opinion, we need to satisfy at least one, and preferably two, tests. First, we need to prove that we speak for expert opinion and that some of us deserve attention simply because of who we are. I think of the contributions of the late Lady Faithfull to many social security debates in the past. We do not have that expert opinion behind the amendment.
Secondly, we need to be speaking on behalf of the underdog, to be using privilege to defend the under-privileged. I know that the noble Baroness believes that she is doing that, and I respect that. But they have indicated very plainly that they do not want it. In the eyes of this House, I think that that should be final.
The Lord Bishop of Bath and Wells: My Lords, I feel very humbled by the distinguished previous speakers in the debate. However, like the noble Baroness, I believe in the importance of standing up for what is right, however uncomfortable it might be. I do not want to repeat the speech that I made last July. Since that time, like many of your Lordships, I have received substantial correspondence and taken part in several debates outside this House, including the Lambeth Conference, when we learned how difficult it was to have a world-wide view on something so dominated by culture. As the House will hear from these Benches later in the debate, we are not all of the same opinion as to how to respond to the Bill, but I am clear, and I believe that I have to express my view.
I have read the debate in another place. There were, if I may say so, several outstanding speeches from people closely in touch with those for whom we are most concerned. I especially commend the speech of the honourable Member for Witney.
One of the interesting aspects of all the communication since our last debate has been the witness not only of the organisations mentioned by the Minister but that of many who are particularly concerned for, and who work with, young gay people as doctors, social workers, priests, teachers, counsellors and, professionally, many people involved in children's organisations. They speak from direct experience of the issues involved. I believe that they need to be heard and to be given some authority in this situation.
What I have found most moving is hearing from the parents of gay children. In my diocese, at the end of a talk or discussion on these issues, when most of the people have gone home, there are nearly always two elderly couples standing at the back of the room who come to me and say, "Why has no one ever said this to us? Our son (or our daughter) is gay but was never able to tell us until recently and it was too late." There is a very tragic dishonesty at the heart of family life which I believe comes from the attitude that people take towards gay people.
So much of the debate seems to be concerned for young people who in the end are probably not gay, often for fear that they may be made gay by post-adolescent experiences of a predatory nature. Of course, children need protection against abuse; but we have to face some facts about abuse. Thirty six per cent. of child abuse is committed against under 10 year-olds as opposed to 2 per cent. against 16 and 17 year-olds. About a third of all sexual abuse of children is thought to be carried out by adolescents themselves. Approximately 44 per cent. of abuse is carried out by the father, the step-father, the
It is my belief that this legislation is not the place to deal with these matters. The Bill inevitably concerns the age at which a person can legally give his consent; it is the age of consent that we are discussing. The Bill therefore refers especially to their capacity to decide and identify their own sexual identity.
Our prime concern should be for those who identify themselves as gay. I believe that they have received inadequate attention in these debates. Perhaps some people believe that they are such a small number as not to warrant justice. But, as the noble Earl suggested, perhaps the smaller the number, the more the need for justice, especially when they feel themselves against the majority view.
Perhaps others see this as an opportunity to restate the moral case against homosexuality itself. I want to speak for the young men and boys who are destined to live a gay life and make their lives as fulfilling, loving and accepting of their own identity as they can. We need to break away from the exaggerated stereotypes frequently presented of homosexual people. Most of them are still struggling with prejudice, ignorance and fear and many remain secret and unable to share it with their nearest and dearest. There is also the fear of mental and physical aggression. The noble Earl mentioned such a case, of which there are many.
Many young gay people turn towards the ghettoised behaviour that is the result of social and psychological exclusion because they do not believe that their own familiar setting will cope with their reality. That is the common, ongoing experience of many young gay people. If young gay people feel that they cannot talk to their parents, however loving those parents are, and that they cannot talk to their teacher or to any adult who will help them through what can be a real identity crisis, it does not seem at all surprising to me that they will seek out the company of those who accept their sexuality.
As I said last July, until there is proper recognition of gay people in our society, until there is a recognisable ethic of personal relationships for the gay person to aspire to, it is likely that there will be continued pressure towards a secret, dangerous underworld. I believe that the gay and lesbian organisations could do much more towards the creation and recognition of this ethic, and it is important that we all share in the thinking about it.
If what is offered to young gay men is promiscuous, narrowly physical relationships or membership of an overt community defined by gayness, it will be all the more difficult for them to live faithful, broader-based lives, to their full humanity. My hope is that young gay people will have the chance to talk about their sexual identity without fear or judgment and certainly without the risk of the law. The brutish taboos have remained a frightening reality for many such young people. It is no surprise that there is such a high incidence of young male suicides related precisely to these issues.
This Bill is in essence concerned with the legal right to give consent. The public attitude, revealed by the polls, as we have heard discussed, has moved towards greater acceptance of gay people. If the resistance remains strong, as it does in places, I believe that the way forward is for the facts to be shared and for attempts to be made, as we are trying to do in our churches, to discuss the issue in an open and fair way so that people can come to a conclusion based on their knowledge and not their fears and sometimes their ignorance.
The law at the moment endorses the marginalising of and judgmental attitudes to gay people. The noble Baroness said that all law influenced behaviour. That can work the other way. If one makes something criminal, undoubtedly it will influence behaviour. Further, it will undoubtedly influence the behaviour of those who treat such people in a way that is completely unacceptable to us. As the law stands now it endorses this judgmental and sometimes violent attitude and makes these people less safe. I believe that it exposes them to greater health risks. They have nowhere to go to find out how they can sort out their lives and are pushed into ghettoised communities where the health risks may be greater. It certainly creates an atmosphere in which either they are encouraged to rebel, which sometimes happens, to the detriment of their health--because that is what they must do--or (more often I believe) their fears are turned into self-despising. To live a self-despising life is just about the most destructive thing a human being can do, and we encourage it.
I remain opposed to anal intercourse on both moral and health grounds for heterosexual as well as homosexual people, but I follow in the public view--certainly, the view of most of those concerned--that that is not what this Bill is about. The central question is when gay young men can decide to consent. I have heard no reason why there should be sexual discrimination over age in this way. Both girls and boys are subject to predatory behaviour. In another place it was said repeatedly that the message sent out by this Bill was that homosexuality and heterosexuality were in some way equal. They cannot be equal because they are different. To live a heterosexual life is not equal because it is not open to a homosexual person.
I come to my final point. I hesitate to say--but I believe that I must--that much is made by many Christians of the teaching of the Bible on homosexuality. I believe that we in the Church will eventually have to accept some responsibility in our generation, knowing what we now know--I am in the minority of Bishops who believe that but I have to say it nonetheless--because we have not always recognised the identity issues involved in this debate. We are not here to support heterosexual people perverting their nature in certain situations because they enjoy cruelty, or want to dominate another male or use another male as a substitute for a woman, which the Book of Leviticus and St. Paul rightly abhor. Here we are talking about people who either by nature or nurture have developed as homosexual boys and men. What they most need from society is to be treated with respect and
Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, from this Dispatch Box I welcome the noble Lord the Minister to the Privy Council. I have always thought it a connoisseur's honour, but it is an historic one and well deserved.
Turning to the Bill, this is to be a free vote. Neither my noble friend the Chief Whip nor I makes any request to colleagues about how they should vote on this measure. I am glad that the Minister said the same. Like him, I shall give my views as concisely as I can. Five years ago when the age was first lowered to 18 I was a Member of another place and voted for that age. We were then offered both 21 and 16 as alternatives. Incidentally, like today it was a free vote, although at that time I was a Minister. I voted again to retain 18 in your Lordships' House about a year ago, and I shall do so again this evening by supporting the amendment moved by my noble friend Lady Young whose tenacity and courage in pursuing this matter I commend.
Whatever the result of today's vote and this Bill, either now or in a few months' time, in law there will not be a single age of maturity, and that is quite right. It reflects real life, for young people mature gradually at different speeds and in respects which vary between individuals. Like my noble friend Lady Young, I believe that young men need protection--and not only from those in authority over them.
The Minister's argument for the Bill was based upon a particular view of equality. I do not accept that acts of anal intercourse or gross indecency of a homosexual kind are as natural as normal heterosexual relations. Certainly, they are not as healthy, as is indicated by the rules of the Blood Transfusion Service, which were read out earlier by my noble friend. That represents a clear difference of view between myself and others and between the Minister and others, including the noble Earl, Lord Russell. I accept that others take that different view sincerely, and I entirely respect their right and duty to do so. However, I do not believe that the logic of the "equality" argument is in any case satisfied by this Bill. The logic of that argument would demand the right to homosexual marriage which would involve a great number of moral and practical problems. But in any case the Home Secretary specifically ruled that out in the debate in another place a few days ago; in other words, he accepted that there are limitations on equality between homosexual and heterosexual behaviour.
It becomes, therefore, a question of degree--of where one draws the line rather than whether there should be a line drawn at all. We all know that, whatever the Home Secretary may say, demands for a further change in the law would follow the passage of this Bill. In practical terms, the proposals in the Bill are probably not as
Of course, that does not stop those activities. Murder continues despite the law against it, as does abuse of children in a far younger age category, as the right reverend Prelate said. Nor does it mean that every case comes to court. Prosecuting authorities rightly use their discretion. But if Parliament, including this House, accepts that this behaviour by 16 year-olds is not to be criticised, it signals a change; and it is not a change which I wish to see; nor do I believe that it is one the British people wish to see.
I, too, have looked at the polls and I believe that my noble friend Lady Young is right to claim their support. But I also agree with the Minister and the noble Earl, Lord Russell, that whatever the truth of public opinion, it is not binding upon us, in particular in this House, but it may and should be influential.
I turn to more detailed points. Clause 2 was inserted during the passage of the Bill in the Commons. If the Bill comes to Committee, the clause will therefore need particularly careful scrutiny. So, too, will Clause 3(3), the let-out clause for existing relationships.
There is a rather curious position as regards Scottish devolution. There is also the question of the Secretary of State's powers to extend the coverage of Clauses 3 to 5, the protection clauses. Those clauses seek to protect young people from those in authority over them but are quite narrowly defined, as my noble friend said. The Minister described them as focused. It is another way of saying the same thing, I suppose. Those clauses will need to be considered carefully, in particular as regards the position of voluntary youth organisations which are not covered at present.
I am of course in favour of protecting young people from those in authority over them. But with regard to homosexual acts, this new protection is required only if the existing protection is removed by the early clauses in the Bill. However, suggestions have also been made that the Bill has become necessary because of cases in the European Court of Human Rights, in particular the case of Sutherland. We know that the court has not yet decided the case although the Commission has expressed its view. However, many of us have received an expert legal opinion by Mr. Paul Diamond which makes clear that the court by no means always follows the Commission's advice. Judging by precedent, it may well not do so in this case.
I wish to mention one last consideration. Some noble Lords may be wondering how voting on the Bill might be viewed by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor in the light of his threats before Easter over the House of Lords Bill. If your Lordships support the amendment of my noble friend, no further time will be taken by this Bill. Presumably, therefore, the noble Lord the Captain of the Gentlemen-at-Arms, in his capacity as our business manager, would prefer the Bill to fall.
Lord Annan: My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Young, had a great triumph last Session. I fear that she will have another triumph this evening but perhaps not quite such a great triumph, for two reasons. First, in the present Bill the Government have introduced safeguards to penalise those in a position of trust or power over boys if they seduce them. I know that a number of Cross-Bench Peers were unwilling in the last Session to support the Government until guarantees on that point were in the Bill. They are now in the Bill. It may be that they are not sufficiently stringent, but in that case do not vote for the amendment today because that prevents any change in the clause which deals with that point.
The second reason is that on this occasion the House of Commons has debated the matter thoroughly. On a free vote it passed the Bill to us with an unequivocal majority of 155 on Second Reading. There is no elected dictatorship there. It was a free vote and all those who voted for the Bill have an electorate to face. They have to face the electorate who may well disapprove of their views. No one is up for election here. That is why I ask the noble Baroness, Lady Young, why she is so determined to insult the electorate, and those in another place whom they elected, by killing the Bill.
This time I hope that we shall have no red herrings dragged before us, such as the argument that to pass this Bill will encourage still further young men to become rent boys. Rent boys, like prostitutes, have always existed and no legislation one way or another is likely to alter that. If I followed the argument of the noble Earl, Lord Russell, keeping the position as it is now will positively add to the number of rent boys.
In the last Session, the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, and the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, gave reasons for supporting the Bill. Again today we have had reasoned speeches. The noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, emphasised that it is quite impossible to control consensual acts in private. Does the noble Baroness, Lady Young, suggest that the police should be employed to enter premises to see whether homosexual acts are being performed, to reward informers, or to act as agents provocateurs which they often did in the past?
People say that this involves a health hazard. All sexual activities present a health hazard. I shall not weary the House with a list of diseases which occur in heterosexual intercourse. Homosexuality does not cause HIV and AIDS. The HIV virus causes AIDS. What causes AIDS is unprotected sex for both men and women; and the BMA Council maintains that the present law inhibits efforts to safeguard the health of young men. Why is it that the important bodies connected with the young--they have been listed already today--are so adamantly in favour of the Bill? The noble Baroness said that she was surprised and pained by that. But she never went to see those bodies. She expected them to come to her.
Then there is the example of Europe. As the reasons of the noble Lord, Lord Williams, and the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, failed to convince the noble Baroness, Lady Young, let me try not reason but ridicule. Why is every country in the European Union, except Luxembourg and Austria, out of step with Great Britain? Of course, you would expect hot-blooded lascivious countries such as Italy and Spain to be different, wouldn't you? What about France? Well, we all know what Noel Coward said; "There's always something fishy about the French". Then there is Germany. What can you expect from the country which produced eminent sexologists such as Hirschfeld and Kraft-Ebbing at the turn of the century? Is it any wonder that in Austria the age is 18 when that fearful fellow, Freud, came from that country? Did he not tell us that excessive mother-love for a son might well turn him into a homosexual? We cannot pay attention to that kind of stuff, can we? Holland is notoriously permissive. Perhaps that is why it has a crime rate well below ours. Then there is Denmark. Denmark is far too tolerant of pornography. It was of course so tolerant that during the war it was the only country which spirited the Jews away and protected them from the Nazis.
They are all out of step except our Johnny Bull, Archie Austria and little Lionel Luxembourg. It really is extraordinary, is it not? If the noble Baroness, Lady Young, wins her amendment, this House will be the laughing stock of Europe as it was in the days when the police burnt D. H. Lawrence's paintings, when Ulysses was banned and when the Lord Chamberlain's Office censored plays. It is clear--is it not?--that the noble Baroness, Lady Young, is not the least disturbed by the humiliation of seeing this country dragged through the courts of Europe. Because we will be; we are in contravention of Articles 8 and 16 of the European Court's Convention on Human Rights.
I now turn to the noble Earl, Lord Longford. I am sorry that he is no longer in his place. Last Session, he made a remarkable speech. It was characteristic because he began with his usual compassion for homosexuals, which he voiced in an entirely sincere way. However, he said something which was rather extraordinary. He told us that if a girl was seduced and had a baby, it would not be fatal. She would recover, marry and have lots of children. But if a boy was seduced by a man he was lost; ruined for life. I wonder whether the noble Earl has followed the careers of certain of his school fellows at Eton who left school rather earlier than usual.
However, let me present the noble Earl with a hostage to fortune. I think it is true that if a young man is introduced to homosexual society, he may well be convinced that this should be his life. Homosexual society used to be amusing, witty, full of in-jokes and allusions. It gave a delicious sense of belonging to an in-group which scandalised the world at large and particularly one's parents. I take the noble Earl's point that when a young man joins this world what may have begun as an experiment becomes a way of life.
It may be that today times have changed and that homosexual culture now fires adherents with the politics of protest rather than seduces them by wit. But whatever the type of attraction, should we not remember that other in-groups attract the young? I have to say to the noble Earl that religious sects are one example. The noble Baroness, Lady Young, is too young to remember what the noble Earl and I recollect only too well. We remember before the war the activities of Dr. Buchman and the group he led at Oxford. If you were trapped in that sect you certainly were lost--lost, at any rate, to the life of the mind--and that is the case with other "born again" sects; or sects which follow gurus from the East. Consider the dangers of Scientology.
At the beginning of the century, the lure of the turf--betting on horses--ruined scores of young men. They read the "Pink'un" and argued whether Bayleaf could afford to give 7lbs to The Rake or whether it was true that Steve Donughue was to ride Humorist in the Derby. Today, it is the drug culture, but there will always be sects and groups which seduce young men.
The noble Earl, Lord Russell, did well to remind us that we can become over-protective. He is a smoker and said that it was far worse to encourage smoking among the young than it was to encourage sex. There will always be some young people, some young men, who will go to what Dickens' Mr. Mantalini called the "demnition bow-wows". We cannot stop them by legislation.
I recognise that there is another argument against equalising the age of consent. It is that girls of 16 are more mature than boys of 16. I am not at all sure that the girls I see "clubbing" on television, probably with Ecstasy in their pockets, are more mature than the boys on the pop scene. But, still, I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Young, that girls are more mature at 16. They are less keen to start a sexual relationship at that age; or if they are, they may well prefer an older man because they find boys of their own age, 16, too laddish, too boring and too obsessed with football.
However, among those boys there are plenty who want sexual release. Sixteen is an age when the sex drive is almost at its height. Boys may not be as mature as girls, but they are mature enough to tell an older man who propositions them that they do not want to have
What is worse, they want to criminalise those boys who at school are often considered wimps. Homosexuality is not, as the noble Earl, Lord Longford, declared a "disease". No doctor today regards it as a disease. But some are biologically homosexual and no amount of bullying will turn them into heterosexuals. All this is something that their own generation accepts. Of course, it is not accepted by the bullies and the lager louts like that nasty thug, the Liverpool striker, Robert Fowler, who on the football field taunted an opponent, a married man with children, for being homosexual simply because he did not share the footballers' culture of snooker and the pub. But ask the majority of the young: to them, sexuality is not an issue. I think it was the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, who said that they regard it as one might regard someone who is left-handed rather than right-handed.
May I therefore make a final plea for tolerance on this issue? I remember the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, saying that he hoped that nobody would accuse him of being a homophobe if he voted against the Bill as it was then. Of course, I entirely accept that; no one would dream of calling him that. But I ask him whether he considers English boys so weak-willed, such wimps, such sissies compared with European boys that they cannot say "no" if they are propositioned. Why are British boys supposed to be so much inferior to those in Europe? Of course, they are not, and they do not need special protection.
I shall not go into the business of public opinion. We have had talk about polls. I accept what has been said on both sides. But the noble Earl, Lord Russell, was right to say that we should not be guided by public opinion. If we were guided by public opinion in that way, we should have hanging, and probably boys hanged at 16.
May I say without giving offence that the noble Baroness, Lady Young, sometimes speaks, as in the case of holding important debates in Holy Week, as if she embodied the morality of Britain? I do not think she does. Last time she gave the impression that the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, was acting like the able barrister that she is, an advocate paid to put up the best case that she could in a dirty cause or, which of course I do not believe for one moment, that she thought that the noble Baroness was morally corrupt.