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Lord Bach: The amendment moved so briefly and ably by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp of Guildford, together with Amendment No. 234A seeks to make changes to the provision of careers education in schools and colleges.

Amendment No. 234 would make both pupils and students undergo careers education until they were 19. It would also enable the Secretary of State to extend careers education in primary schools. There is no argument that careers education is important for young people, whether they are still in compulsory education or not. However, there is at present no mandatory subject for post-16s--other than, of course, religious education in schools sixth forms--and we believe that it would be wrong to make formal careers education a requirement for all.

The amendment would also give the Secretary of State a specific power to secure careers education for primary school children. Again we think that legislation is not necessary. Section 46(2) of the 1997 Education Act is broad enough to allow that without the amendment.

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The noble Baroness's second amendment, Amendment No. 234A, seeks to make similar changes but perhaps by a less laborious route. It would provide compulsory careers education for pupils up to the age of 19 and would also put a duty on the Secretary of State to make regulations requiring further education colleges to provide careers education and guidance for their students. Again I am sorry to disappoint the noble Baroness. We do not think that compulsion is either necessary or appropriate. It is better, in our view, that schools and colleges continue to develop their careers education programmes with the support of the new Connexions service.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: I thank the Minister for his reply, but I am somewhat disappointed with it. It seems to me that both amendments have some force. However, I will for now withdraw Amendment No. 234 and perhaps return to the matter on Report.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 243A not moved.]

The Lord Bishop of Blackburn moved Amendment No. 235:


    Before Clause 109, insert the following new clause--

SEX EDUCATION: MANNER OF PROVISION

(" .--(1) Section 403 of the Education Act 1996 (sex education: manner of provision) shall be amended as follows.
(2) In subsection (1) after "family life" insert "and having regard to the following principles--
(a) that marriage should be promoted as the fundamental building block of society and of family life and as the proper context for the nurture of children, and
(b) that pupils are entitled to develop without being subjected to--
(i) any physical or verbal abuse about sexual orientation, or
(ii) the encouragement of sexual activity."").

The right reverend Prelate said: Amendment No. 235 would have the effect of introducing into the Bill a new clause concerned with educational matters. It would amend Section 403 of the Education Act 1996 on the provision of sex education in schools.

The debate in your Lordships' House last week on Section 28 of the Local Government Act and my on Amendment No. 364B (Hansard, cols. 396 to 437) was lengthy and well argued. I shall therefore try to be brief tonight.

Since that debate, I have been greatly gratified and encouraged by the support I have received for the spirit of that amendment, to which this is parallel, from all parts of this Chamber, the media and people in every part of the United Kingdom. I believe that the Government accept the force of this in the light of the misunderstanding, which continues in the country at large, on the relationship between Section 28 and schools and therefore the corresponding fear that its repeal will open the floodgates to the aggressive promotion of homosexuality on children and young people.

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Sex education is now rightly a matter for the governors and head teachers of schools, with a parental right of withdrawal, but for that they need clear guidance on the framework of the principles and morality on which such teaching must be based. It is claimed that moral consensus in this area is hard to achieve in our so-called pluralist society. But I have to say that it is my firm conviction that in moving the amendment I speak with the support not only of the Church of England Board of Education, which I chair, the Catholic Education Service, with which I work closely, the other Christian Churches and all the other major faith communities in the United Kingdom, but also of a vast majority of the British people. The ideal and practice of marriage as set out in British law--namely, that between a man and a woman--is the fundamental building block for our society, for family life, and is the proper context for the nurture of children.

In addition to the remarks which I made in last week's debate about the commitment of the Secretary of State for Education and Employment, the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority and the PSHE framework document, I am happy to be able to tell the Committee that since the debate I have been in close contact with the Secretary of State, and we hope to meet early next week to pursue this matter.

I therefore hope that in her reply the Minister will be able to give me the assurances I seek so that the fears of so many parents and others as to the basis of what is to be taught in our schools by way of sex and personal relationships education can be removed and a more positive approach adopted to this vitally important subject for the good of society now and for future generations. I beg to move.

Baroness Blackstone: Let me say straightaway that the Government accept the spirit of the amendment moved by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Blackburn. A similar amendment was moved by him when the House debated the repeal of Section 28 of the Local Government Act a week last Monday. His intention then, as it is now, was to seek further to reinforce the moral framework for sex education and to put in place safeguards with regard to the delivery of sex and relationships education in schools, as we did in announcing the revised national curriculum. During the debate, my noble friend Lord Whitty made it clear, as I seek to do now, that the Government agree with much of the substance of what the right reverend Prelate was seeking to achieve.

Much heat has been generated already around this issue. The Government have made clear their intention to repeal Section 28 on the grounds not only that it is bad legislation, but also that it is divisive legislation. It is misunderstood, misquoted and misinterpreted. There is as much misunderstanding about its effect today as there was when it was put on the statute book 12 years ago.

Clearly, there are worries about the repeal and, despite the fact that the issue is one of local government legislation, the focus of those worries has centred around the provision of sex and relationships

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education in schools. We all agree that we need to have in place sensible sex and relationships education in schools. The Secretary of State for Education and Employment has made it clear that the new guidance will be set within the context of the national curriculum and the framework for personal, social and health education announced in September. This sets out that children should be taught about the importance and nature of marriage and family life in bringing up children. The guidance will ensure that pupils are taught to understand human sexuality and to respect themselves and others. This will enable them to understand difference and will help to remove prejudice.

The Secretary of State is in ongoing discussions with the right reverend Prelate, Church representatives and faith groups. These are sensitive issues which require further discussion as to the best way to ensure that guidance has greater coherence and force. I should therefore like to give the right reverend Prelate, from the Floor of the Committee, the same reassurance given to him in the earlier debate by my noble friend Lord Whitty. In response to the right reverend Prelate in agreeing to further discussions about sex and relationships education in schools, my noble friend said:


    "We hope that in those discussions before the Bill completes its passage through Parliament, we shall have reached an understanding as to what is appropriate for primary legislation and what is appropriate for guidance and perhaps secondary legislation".--[Official Report, 7/2/00; col. 400.]

I repeat that reassurance and hope that rather than press the amendment today the right reverend Prelate will agree to those further discussions.

Baroness Blatch: The Minister must forgive me, but I was passed a note by the Chief Whip, which I always instantly obey, and had no idea that the Minister would rise immediately after the right reverend Prelate.

First, I welcome the positive duty to "promote" marriage, as stated in the amendment. I noticed that that word was missing from the Minister's assurances. She spoke of the "importance" of marriage. I welcome a change to the 1996 Act if it is to strengthen it along the lines of promoting marriage. However, a positive duty to promote marriage in no way precludes schools from promoting homosexuality as well. There is no bar on that in this amendment; nor was there such a bar in the amendment that the right reverend Prelate proposed to the Local Government Bill. Therefore, although I support the promotion of marriage, as stated in the amendment, it is no substitute for an argument for repeal of Section 28.

The Government have made no secret of their position. They have said that irrespective of a decision in the other place, the will of Parliament or anything else, they will repeal Section 28 because they have the vote to do so. We understand that they intend to use it and that therefore the fate of Section 28 is sealed. But since that debate, I, too, have received a great deal of mail from the Church and from people around the country saying, "Continue the fight to keep Section 28

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on the statute book". Indeed, I was surprised by the number of teachers who wrote in as a result of reading the debate.

I repeat that the amendment is not a substitute for Section 28. Furthermore, subsection (2)(b)(i) of the proposed new clause, which deals with bullying, confusingly cuts across the provisions of Section 61(4) of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998. That section places a duty on head teachers to prevent bullying for whatever reason; whether the child is fat, thin, from an ethnic minority, is not very bright, or whatever. There is an absolute obligation on schools to produce policies for the prevention of bullying.

Throughout the debate last week, and indeed tonight's debate, one aspect has been ignored. The issue is not only about teachers in classrooms with children, but it is also about public money--that is, the money of local authorities--being spent by grant-aid on the bodies which produce materials such as those displayed in the exhibition recently held in the House of Lords. Some of those materials are horrendous and I do not know how they can be supported. But some of them are teaching aids for key stages 1 and 2 and because it comes through a circuitous route from people who are not caught by Section 28, the young people who use the services, the young people at the school gates and the young people outside the classroom are just as vulnerable. The issue is not only about children inside the classroom in the charge of teachers, but also about those outside.

Earlier in the week, we were subjected to the horrors revealed in the publication of the report into child abuse in Wales. I simply say this to noble Lords: looking at the record and reflecting on my experience in the Home Office, the majority of paedophilic behaviour is shown to be that of men preying on boys; the majority of incest cases usually involve fathers and girls. Thus, paedophilic homosexual behaviour on young boys is often recorded.

A point I raised during our brief discussion on the report when it was brought before the House was that there are still issues of concern about those who have indirect access to young people, rather than those who have direct access. The case for keeping Section 28 on the statute book remains as strong as ever. However, I wish absolutely to give my full support to moves to strengthen the 1996 Education Act along the lines of promoting marriage.

7 p.m.

Lord Tope: I had hoped that we might have been able to discuss the amendment before us without degenerating--and I mean to say "degenerating"--into the kind of contribution that we have just heard. I am sorry if that comment provokes the noble Baroness, but perhaps I may say as a matter of fact that the vast majority of paedophiles are heterosexual rather than homosexual. I deeply regret the inference made by the noble Baroness. I shall give way.


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