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Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: Has the noble Lord received the guidance from the Royal College of Nursing which gives clear examples of school nurses who, under the present law, find themselves greatly at a disadvantage in trying to help pupils to deal with bullying and other problems?
Finally, more and more aggressive demands are coming from the gay community--demands for gay marriage and the rights of gay people to adopt children. Far from the gay community being an oppressed minority, there is what a gay writer recently described as "a gay triumphalism" in public life. Anyone who dares question attacks by the gay community on conventional morality is accused of ugly prejudice or worse. A statement was attributed to the noble Lord, Lord Alli, in the press today. I must tell him that the moral bullies are on the other side of the argument. I therefore congratulate my noble friend on her leadership in the matter and on her courage. When the time comes, I shall certainly support her amendment.
Baroness Massey of Darwen: Before the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, sits down, will he agree with me that the video that he quoted--which is often quoted--is not in fact a video for schools? It is a training video for professionals who may or may not, if they wish, buy it. It is not for children.
Baroness Young: I am most grateful to the noble Earl for giving way. I am sorry if I did not make myself clear. I was making the point that how adults behave in a free society is a matter for adults but that what happens to children in school is a different matter. There is a responsibility on adults, who in school stand in loco parentis, as to what they say to children and what they proselytise.
Earl Russell: I thank the noble Baroness for that clarification. I had noted the point in her original remarks. But my original example posited the case in which I had said these things while speaking in a school. That was my intention. These are things I would be perfectly happy to say in a school, and I would defend myself to the noble Baroness inside this Chamber or outside.
I feel a good deal of sympathy with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Blackburn, who has made a serious effort to be helpful to the Committee. He is probably feeling rather like Cardinal Pole, who attempted to produce a formula on justification acceptable both to Catholics and Protestants and found it damned instantly and simultaneously by Luther and the Pope. I am very sorry to add to that process, but there is one thing I regret seeing in the right reverend Prelate's amendment. I refer to the continuation of this troublesome word "promote". I have read the debate that took place when Clause 28 was first before the House. It was six weeks before I took my seat. My noble friend Lord Falkland remarked that,
What the status of "that thing hitherto" was depends upon whom we are listening too. If we listen to the noble Baroness, Lady Gould, we get a different status from that we get from listening to the noble Lord, Lord Waddington. Which of those a court should take as the status hitherto is a wide open question.
I have two points to make about promoting--one specifically in relation to marriage and the other in relation to Section 28. In relation to marriage, I yield to none in my praise for the institution. I have myself been married only for 37 years, which in the marriage stakes in this House makes me a veritable novice. But I may say, as one of the junior Members of your Lordships' House, that I am not yet old enough to have done any better. I hope to be given time. I hope the right reverend Prelate will respect my intention in saying that I agree with Saint Augustine that the corruption of the best is the worst. Just because I think marriage is such a good thing, I think it is a bad thing for anyone to enter into it for anything other than a genuine calling to enter into that state.
When I was an undergraduate, some of us occasionally used to ask older people, "Should I marry so-and-so or not?" The answer we almost always received was, "When in doubt, don't." When we start talking about promoting marriage, we are encouraging the idea that being married is more respectable than any other state; even possibly that advancement may fall from it. That may well encourage people to enter into the state of marriage who have no genuine calling to that state. That can lead only to unhappiness. In the whole of this unhappy story, there are few, if any, people for whom I feel more sympathy than Mrs Tom Driberg, who entered into marriage, I understand, in the genuine belief that she
As to promotion of homosexuality, that causes confusion, as I think was indicated mostly clearly in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Moran, because it lumps together two things which in his view are very, very similar--so much so that they can be conflated--but in mine are as different as light from darkness. What started the argument was the belief that people are going about trying to recruit people to a particular way of sexual behaviour. I do not think that any Member of the Committee would defend that. What some people might wish to add to it is the argument that people should not be going about recruiting for a heterosexual lifestyle either. We have here a real difference in assumptions about physiology as well as about morals. I noticed that the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, used the word "prefer" in relation to a homosexual lifestyle. I am not particularly comfortable with the word "lifestyle". I agree with my California colleague who said that academics are not rich enough to afford a lifestyle. But in any case it implies choice.
Choice is precisely what I see as a doubtful concept. The way I see it, whether one is homosexual or heterosexual is much more akin to whether one is right-handed or left-handed than to whether one is Liberal, Labour or Conservative. One is a matter of choice; the other is something about which one may be in doubt for some time. My eldest son was in doubt for three or four years as to whether he was right-handed or left-handed. He did not choose to be left-handed. I left him to work out by using his hands, to borrow the phrase of the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, with which he felt most comfortable. I believe that I did right. If I had pushed him into using one with which he was not comfortable, even if it had been, as I believe being right-handed is, something to which the world is much more adjusted and therefore is much easier for people, I do not think that I would have done a good thing. If promotion means going about trying to convert people to homosexuality, that is useless. The vast majority of teenagers are more attached to the opposite sex than to anything else on earth. If I should go about trying to convert them to doing otherwise and got away with a raspberry, I would be lucky.
The other meaning is something quite different. If that is the meaning of the clause, I think it is useless. But I would say of it, as the lower House sometimes says of us, that either the clause is useless or else it is pernicious. If one believes, as I do, that most people do not have a choice about their sexual orientation, one must believe that, whatever is their sexual orientation, they should make as good a job of living that way as they possibly can. If one is to do that, one must be entitled to the respect of being an equal citizen--equal before the law and equal in moral esteem. If one is to be denied that, one finds that life is very difficult indeed. Precisely what annoys most homosexuals about the section is that they see it as being a badge of inequality.
People may, as has happened to me, have pupils come to them and say that they are homosexual and who seek advice on whether to admit it, come out, and live honestly according to their conscience. Simply as one human being to another, I want to be able to tell them that I do not think that there is anything morally wrong in their being what they are, that they should make the best of it and hold their heads high. If there is any possibility--as there clearly is--that Section 28 might in some circumstances criminalise me for giving that advice, it may be selfish of me, but I naturally view that prospect with a certain misgiving.
On 3rd December last year I addressed a school sixth form on the history of Liberalism. I made it very clear that I was not wearing my academic hat. At the end of the meeting, one of the boys asked me what I thought was Paddy Ashdown's chief legacy to the party. Having said something about Bosnia with which I shall not detain the Committee, I said that one of his great contributions was fixing this party in its commitment to legal and moral equality for homosexuals. I did not mention "moral" because I do not believe it to be a matter for politicians. It occurred to me afterwards to wonder whether I had offended against the intention of Section 28. I could not have done so literally: I was speaking in an independent school. But if the motive is, as we are told, the protection of children, why should children in independent schools be thought not to be in need of protection when other children are? It does not make very much sense to me.
Secondly, I had not told those at the school what I intended to say, but they might have thought, if they invited me, that I might be liable to say some such thing. So far as I can see, it is a wide open question whether, if I had done that in a maintained school with the knowledge of the local authority, I should have infringed Section 28. I take exception to the idea of being criminalised for stating the manifesto policy of my party. I hope that the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General will advise the Minister on this matter by the end of the debate. I gave him notice of this question a good many weeks ago. Until a case comes to court, there is doubt as to what might happen.
I even heard, a few days ago, of someone leaving a maintained comprehensive school six years ago who had taught Shakespeare at A-level and had been told that it was impossible to discuss any question of a homosexual relationship in regard to any of Shakespeare's work. How the Sonnets can be discussed without that question being considered is beyond me. That teacher was told that Section 28 prohibited such discussion. I agree that there have been no prosecutions, but the provision has spread a great deal of alarm and despondency--and to no useful purpose.
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