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Lord Williams of Mostyn: As some Members of the Committee may have observed, I have taken the opportunity to speak to the noble Baroness, Lady Young. Perhaps I may remind the Committee that there is another amendment and suggest that some of the contributions we have heard were more appropriate to that. I do not want to shut anyone out and of course it is not a matter for me but for the House. However, perhaps I may suggest that we hear a contribution from the Conservative Front Bench, followed by a contribution from my noble friend the Minister and then the right reverend Prelate making whatever remarks he thinks appropriate. Then at least the noble Baroness's amendment can be fully discussed. Of course, all Members who want to speak to this amendment will, with a certain amount of discreet tailoring and amendment, be able to speak to her amendment. Is that acceptable to the House?

Noble Lords: Hear, hear!

Lord Elton: On that point, the noble and learned Lord has assumed that we shall continue to debate the subject if the amendment is pressed and carried. It would therefore be most helpful to know the right reverend Prelate's intention. His speech left us in doubt about what he proposes to do with his amendment at the end of the debate.

Lord Hooson: Were we not encouraged to discuss more than one amendment? The Minister who spoke earlier referred to the amendment in the name of the

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noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman, as being an amendment also to consider. I should have thought that at this stage it would be as well broadly to discuss all the amendments because I understand that the Government Front Bench are encouraging not a vote today but reflection.

Baroness Blatch: I support the noble Lord, Lord Hooson. A number of us believe that the intervention of the noble and learned Lord, who is always helpful, has come rather late in the day. I understand that almost all speakers have spoken wider than Amendment No. 364B. I thought that that would be helpful because if we are allowed to continue in that vein it would be possible when we discuss Amendment No. 365 to say that we have had the debate and that we are talking only about the distinctions between one amendment and another.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I think that the noble Baroness is right, I was a little late intervening, but that was because so many of your Lordships wanted to speak and it seemed premature and discourteous to raise the question. However, I said that I had spoken privately to the noble Baroness, Lady Young, in an endeavour to be helpful. As always, I am in your Lordships' hands, but some of the speeches have not remained focused on this amendment. It seemed to me that if the noble Baroness had gone to some trouble--which she plainly has, whether one agrees with her views or not--she ought to have the opportunity to have a debate on her amendment. But it is a matter entirely for your Lordships and I do not know whether the noble Baroness has a view.

Baroness Young: The noble and learned Lord and I had a brief conversation. I told him that I thought that perhaps for the convenience of the Committee we could begin to draw the debate on the right reverend Prelate's amendment towards a conclusion and go on to call a number of other amendments. I thought that I would speak briefly to my amendment and cover some of the points that I should like to have made but have not, and then answer some of the very important points that have been raised. If the Committee were agreeable, that seems to be a helpful way to proceed. I should certainly be agreeable to it.

5.30 p.m.

Lord Peston: Perhaps I may intervene briefly. I am still feeling a little lost on this matter. I wish to make only one speech, which is an all-purpose statement that I shall be able to make to almost any amendment. I assumed that we were behaving properly and debating the amendment tabled in the name of the right reverend Prelate. If the right reverend Prelate is proposing to divide the Committee, I shall make my speech to his amendment. However, if he is not going

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to divide the Committee, I should prefer to wait for the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Young, at which point I shall be able to be really nasty.

The Lord Bishop of Blackburn: I should have preferred to make this little intervention in summing up after the Minister had spoken, but I hope that I can be of help to the Committee.

I am enormously grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken in the debate and I believe that we have broadened discussion on this subject in a sensitive way. However, it would be wrong of me to divide the Committee. I listened carefully to the Minister's words at the beginning of our deliberations and I firmly believe that it is right that consultation should continue with the Secretary of State for Education and Employment and not be curtailed at this point. That is an important part of what needs to be done here and I think that it would be insensitive of me to divide the Committee at this point. For that reason, it is not my intention to do so.

Baroness Knight of Collingtree: Before the right reverend Prelate sits down, I should like to put a small point to him about his amendment. Clearly the right reverend Prelate intends to consider the matter further and he may well return to it at a later stage. However, I am concerned about subsection (1)(b)(i) because it seems to me only sensible and right to end the sentence in the subsection at,

    "any physical or verbal abuse".

I do not understand why the subsection goes on to mention "sexual orientation". I believe that the right reverend Prelate would agree with me that there are many other reasons connected with sex education on which this kind of physical or verbal abuse could be perpetrated.

The Lord Bishop of Blackburn: I did refer more widely to bullying in my opening speech. However, the noble Baroness has reminded me that I should have explained this point in more detail--I am still a novice. It is my intention to return to this subject at Report stage if the matter is not followed through in a way I or those who have been advising me think appropriate or desirable. This issue may certainly be reconsidered at that stage.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: We have now had clarification from the right reverend Prelate and we have heard the contribution that the noble Baroness wished to make. However, I am not sure what the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, now has in mind. However, I invite the Committee to hear the Front Bench contributions and to listen to any concluding remarks from the right reverend Prelate. Then we could move on to the important amendments that still remain to be discussed. I wonder whether that meets with the approval of noble Lords.

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Baroness Blatch: I am in some difficulty because I had been led to believe that we were to speak in more general terms to these amendments. For that reason, I will now confine my comments to the amendment of the right reverend Prelate.

We have had the advantage of meeting earlier today and I am only sorry that the right reverend Prelate was not able to say that. I believe it is important that the Committee knows what discussions have taken place and the fact that the right reverend Prelate has worked fairly closely with the Government on his amendment and has now made it clear that those discussions are to continue. However, it is important to examine the amendment and to point out, for the purposes of those continuing discussions, some of its restrictions. First, as has already been mentioned, it applies only to local education authorities, not to schools, teachers or to the classroom itself. Local education authorities are not responsible for what goes on in the classroom other than by exhortation.

Secondly, as the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Coity, pointed out in an excellent speech, the amendment conflicts with Section 403 of the Education Act 1996. That legislation puts responsibility on governors and teachers, the local education authority, the governing body and the headteacher to,

    "take such steps as are reasonably practicable to secure that where sex education is given to any registered pupils at a maintained school, it is given in such a manner as to encourage those pupils to have due regard to moral considerations and the value of family life".

The point just made by my noble friend stressed that there is a particular issue over the definition of "family" in the amendment of the right reverend Prelate in sub-paragraph (1)(a) where it states,

    "that marriage should be promoted as the fundamental building block".

The point has already been made that there is a particular issue here about the definition of "family". Furthermore, in sub-paragraph (1)(b) it states,

    "that pupils are entitled to develop without being subjected to--

    (i) any physical or verbal abuse about sexual orientation".

That will leave an enormous confusion in the minds of teachers, who may well find that they encounter very poor behaviour on the part of children that is wholly unacceptable both to a teacher and under the sex education policy of the school. Where a teacher remonstrates with a pupil about this, that would become an illegal action on the part of a teacher. It is important to note that when the words,

    "any physical or verbal abuse",

are laid down in statute, it will mean that any mild remonstration on the part of anyone dealing with children in a classroom situation could present problems. For those reasons, there are a number of issues concerning the technical acceptability of this amendment.

I must tell noble Lords that, at the end of the day, Clause 28 on the statute book prevents and prohibits the promotion of homosexuality. As I understand it, if that disappears then it becomes a permissible activity. Therefore no amount of guidance or amendment

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along the lines suggested by the right reverend Prelate will prevent the flow of materials and advice that we know is waiting to flood into the lives of our young people.

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