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Lord Harris of Haringey: I shall, of course, look at the reference in detail to check that it is in context. However, the point is that that is about making sure that professionals know how to cope with situations in which young people are not clear about their sexuality. I was hoping that we would return to Jenny Lives with Eric and Martin because there is an interesting

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quotation in this document about the circumstances in which that book should and should not be used. I find it extraordinary--

Baroness Park of Monmouth: I believe that I am right in saying that one will find the photograph which was referred to inside that book. The noble Lord is perfectly correct that it is not on the cover, but it is inside. I mention that simply as a matter of fact.

Lord Harris of Haringey: That may be the case. However, the point is that when people use the phrase "on the front cover", a specific impression is given. Of course, it was not a document promoted by my local authority or by any other local authority. The quotation which I was itching to read and which, thanks to the noble Baroness's intervention, I now shall read, is from the famous document Mirrors Round the Walls, which the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, found such awful reading. It says:

    "We have been unable to discover anyone who would positively recommend the book Jenny lives with Eric and Martin for use in a school".

So a mirage is created, a climate where attacks can be made on lesbians and gay men. If anyone doubts that the significance of Section 28 does not live on, I am aware of a case in a London borough in which the deputy manager of a children's and adolescents' residential home asked the manager what to do about the fact that one of the young women residents had informed her that she thought she was a lesbian. She asked where she should go for advice. The deputy manager told the young woman that she could not talk to her about that because she could lose her job. That is not the intended consequence of Section 28, but it is the practical consequence of Section 28. That is why it is bad legislation. We need to remove that section. We need to ensure that we have sensible guidance for the professionals who have to deal with these situations every day of their working lives.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: Like my noble friends--

Lord Whitty: I feel that in this, at least, I do have the support of the House.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: Let us test it in the Division Lobbies then.

Lord Whitty: I think that the Members of the Committee do feel that all sides of this debate have been represented.

Baroness Blatch: I find it interesting, no less, that the Minister cuts out the one person in the Chamber still to speak who may not agree with him. Of course, I do

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not know what the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, wished to say, but the Minister encouraged everyone else who wished to speak.

Lord Whitty: I am perfectly willing that the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, should speak now. He was behind me and I could not see him.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: I am most obliged to my noble friend the Minister for what he has said, and for giving way to me. Like my noble friends Lord Peston and Lord Bragg, I, too, have been sitting here all day listening to the debate. I wanted to make a substantial speech. However, like the noble Lord, Lord Bragg, I have scrapped that speech. I want to make only two points.

First, my noble friend Lord Peston, asks what we have against homosexuals. The fact of the matter is that many of us who support the retention of Section 28 have nothing against homosexuals at all, but we do not want the promotion of homosexuality in our schools. That is the simple message. Many of us are very concerned that sexual teaching in school should be of the right sort and should achieve the objectives. Many of us who supported compulsory sex education have been appalled at some of the results which have occurred. There are more teenage single mothers; there is sexual promiscuity; we now have child mothers aged 11 and 12. Young boys of 10 and 11 being prosecuted, or at least arrested, accused of rape. Therefore many of us are concerned about the quality of sex education per se. That might include, at a later stage, sex education about homosexuality. But for the time being we have only what we have. I want to see that improve.

Secondly, many of my noble friends have been encouraged by a Whip--I think that is unfortunate as this is a matter of conscience--to vote against their conscience. I hope they will not do so tonight. The reason for that is that until there was resistance to Clause 68 in the Bill, the Government were proposing to do absolutely nothing to improve Section 28, and the question of homosexual education in schools. It is only since there has been an outcry in this Chamber, in another place, and throughout the country that the Government have moved in any way and given any promises at all. Therefore, although I hope we can arrive at an agreed position on this, I hope that at this stage, in order to encourage the Government further to bring forward relevant amendments and relevant legislation, that we shall keep Section 28 in the Bill. I hope that my noble friends, who may have been discouraged by the Three Line Whip, and who previously voted for Section 28, will continue to do so tonight.

Lord Whitty: I think that, even in a slightly more subdued form, I now have the ear of the House. I think it was right to allow this debate to go on. One can look back and see how the groupings were structured, and of course it is necessary for us to look back at precisely what was contained in each of the amendments. We began this afternoon rather well. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Blackburn was accused of being

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Jesuitical in getting to the head of the list. Leaving aside the fact that I think in this debate of all debates we would rather have a Jesuit than a Dominican, nevertheless, whatever means he found to get to the head of the list, it was very important that he did so. That enabled not only the right reverend Prelate to spell out the concerns of the Churches and others, but also allowed the Government to indicate that we were--I refute what my noble friend Lord Stoddart has just said--already engaged in a constructive dialogue with those who had moral and other concerns about this legislation.

As a result, I had hoped that we would have a rational debate and would treat this issue in the same mature way as other Committee stages. I regret, therefore, that the noble Baroness, Lady Young, has indicated that she wishes to push this matter to a vote tonight. I am afraid that the Government will have to oppose her amendment. Therefore, although I do not necessarily disagree with all that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester said, I shall also have to advise the Committee to oppose that amendment.

I was hoping for a rational debate to which we perhaps could return at a later stage of the Bill, because I believe that much of the concern that has been expressed both outside and inside this House has now been removed from this debate and we can now concentrate on the real issues. Members of the Committee should be in no doubt that much of the discussion causes grave distress to groups of people who adopt different attitudes to the issue. It is the role of this House to examine the way forward calmly, collectively and with the maximum consensus that can be achieved. It is not the role of Members of this House--as has occasionally occurred in the course of this debate--to rationalise their prejudices and believe that we can transfer them into law. That is always bad law. It is particularly bad law in an area where a significant proportion of our community would feel themselves rightly and seriously discriminated against. That is the history of Section 28.

Perhaps I may record a few of the facts of life, if I can use those words. The first facts are legal facts. Section 28 is probably one of the worst drafted clauses on our statute book. Reference has been made to how badly the Section is drafted and the fact that the word "promote" is subject to a wide range of interpretations, and how that has led to some of the difficulties in discussing this issue. The other part of Section 28 refers to "pretended family relationships". Those, too, are not the words of calm parliamentary draftsmen. Those are the words used by those in the saloon bars in the Home Counties. It has nothing to do with precision in legislation. It is the kind of terminology used by two middle-aged gentlemen in florid ties who with one breath claim that they have never met a homosexual since they left boarding school and in the other claim that the BBC is absolutely crawling with them.

Those are the sentiments which were reflected in the discussion of Section 28 when it was first proposed and we should sweep such sentiments from our statute book.

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It is wrong also because it has led to the impression that it applies directly to teachers in schools when, as Members from all sides of the argument have indicated, it does not.

It has been alleged also that if we remove it, despite its imperfections, then we open the floodgates. Even before we make--it is hoped--some further progress, as I indicated in my reply to the right reverend Prelate, we already have a substantial substructure of protection for our children. Guidelines exist already in relation to sex and health education. That is legally embodied in statute, in Section 403 of the 1996 Act. The guidelines exist and there is the procedure built in to the role of school governors and parent governors in particular. We are not leaving a vacuum. We hope that we can improve on that infrastructure through further discussions. I commit the Government to engaging constructively in those discussions and I am glad that the Churches and other faiths have indicated that they too wish to engage in them.

8.30 p.m.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford: Is the Minister prepared to guarantee this evening, on behalf of the Government, that the guarantees for which the right reverend Prelate asked will be embodied in statute?

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