|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Whitty: My Lords, the aim of the guidance is that children should learn. As I understand it, the aim of all teaching is that children should learn. What they should learn in this context is that society is varied;
The guidance also protects children from inappropriate teaching and teaching materials; it requires health service bodies to have regard to the guidance; and it reaffirms the rights of parents to withdraw their children from sex education.
A number of things have been said by the opponents of the Government's position which are not correct. The noble Baronesses, Lady Blatch and Lady Young, said that the guidelines have no force of law. That is not true. The Learning and Skills Bill, on which we reached consensus last week, provides clear statutory requirements on the Secretary of State to issue guidance, and heads and governors will have a clear legal responsibility to have regard to that guidance.
Lord Elton: My Lords, I wish to ask only one question, which is central to what the noble Lord is saying. I am receiving different guidance on this myself. If someone who is subject to the guidance is taken to the High Court for not having done what is in the guidance, and says to the High Court, "I have had regard to the guidance but I did not agree with it", is it not the case that there is nothing further to be done against that person?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, if a statute indicates that someone has to have regard to guidance, they have to have regard to the content of the guidance and to behave reasonably in the light of that guidance. They cannot reject that guidance in the way that the noble Lord suggests.
The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, said that when the Learning and Skills Bill becomes law that will have no effect in relation to youth workers and the youth service. That is not correct. The DfEE guidance specifically covers youth workers. It says specifically that it is inappropriate for youth workers to promote sexual orientation, that they will be expected to respect its guidance when dealing with school-aged children and that their individual views should not affect the independent advice given. Moreover, the youth service itself is inspected by Ofsted in order to ensure that it operates properly in accordance with those guidelines.
The noble Baroness also suggested that if sexuality could not be taught in sex education lessons it could be taught elsewhere. Again that is not true. The provision in the Learning and Skills Bill will apply to sex education wherever a school delivers it. If it occurs in an English lesson, a literary lesson, a history or a
The noble Baroness, Lady Young, said that she did not like gay and lesbian issues being referred to in history lessons. But what are we supposed to do? Airbrush the whole of the gay and lesbian community over the ages out of history, and not refer to the lifestyles of some of our greatest painters, artists, generals and indeed politicians? Of course gay and lesbian matters can be referred to. But when it comes to explicit sex education, whether it takes place in a citizenship lesson or whether it takes place in a sex education lesson, the guidelines apply. It is also not the case that social workers are excluded from any of that legislation. They too will be subject to the legislation to be brought forward with regard to the general care standards authority.
Therefore, there has been much said today which is actually not true. The Government have not only brought forward the guidelines, indicated their general approach and taken account of what has been said in your Lordships' House by right reverend Prelates and others with regard to the importance of marriage, and what has been said elsewhere, but they have also extended the effects of their decisions to these other areas where young people may be affected by local authority activity.
The question therefore is why are we persisting with retaining Section 28? The Government have indicated how all the fears which were run, and in many ways exaggerated during earlier consideration of the Bill and in the more irresponsible parts of the media, have been met under the auspices of the Learning and Skills Bill. Yet we persist in thinking that we need Section 28 in order to protect someone.
Part of the problem was referred to by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman, when he said that if we delete the clause, that is carte blanche for local authorities to promote sexuality. That is why he has presented his own alternative amendment should the noble Baroness's amendment fall. I have some sympathy with what that amendment tries to achieve, but I have some concerns regarding its wording. First, the meaning of the term "sexual lifestyle" is in any case far from clear. Secondly, while the amendment does not prohibit the provision of sex education or counselling by local authorities for young people, how does that apply to adults who are doubtful about their sexuality or are themselves homosexual or bisexual. Thirdly, in relation to schools, it is unnecessary in view of the developments under the Learning and Skills Bills.
While I recognise the need which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman, identifies to replace what he sees as a vacuum were Section 28 to be removed, I do not believe that that is necessary. Indeed, he asks what would happen if the repeal were simply adopted as the Government wish. That would not give local authorities any powers to promote
Behind all that is what we mean by "promote". If we mean proselytise, if we mean hassle and pressurise people into homosexuality, then clearly we are all against it, as we would be in terms of pressurising young people in particular, and indeed adults, into any form of sexual relationship. But it is clear from what the opponents of repeal have said that they do not regard promotion as simply those objectionable facets. They regard promotion of homosexuality almost as any reference to homosexuality and certainly to any explicit sexual information provided either in terms of education or in terms of counselling and social services to the homosexual community or those who may feel that they might be homosexual. It is for that reason that the word promotion cannot be taken at its face value. It has not been defined ever by the proponents of Section 28; it has not been defined in earlier debates on the Bill; and it has not been defined today. As long as people regard any mention of homosexuality, any explanation of what homosexual relations mean as being the promotion of homosexuality, then the words of Section 28 are impossible to interpret with any degree of objectivity.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, noble Lords opposite cry "No". But we have heard references in the debate and outside this Chamber to the provision of what is called "explicit sexual material". Any sex education refers explicitly to sexual activity. It is helpful for children and young adults to know what is being talked about in that respect. If noble Lords opposite object to any such explicit material in whatever context it is put, however much it is surrounded by a social and emotional context, if they regard that as promotion of homosexuality, and many of them do, and much of the media do, then the word "promotion" is seriously misleading and should be taken out of the law. It should be recognised even by the proponents of Section 28 that that has greatly undermined its effect.
Behind this also is the need for us not to use the law of the land to enforce moral judgments on specific members of our society. Three hundred years ago we broke the link between the ecclesiastical courts and the civil and criminal courts. Many people appear to want those who appear to favour or give comfort to those who are homosexual--whether in counselling, education or wherever--to be guilty of some kind of civil offence. We should continue to separate out the sphere of our moral leaders from those of our legal enforcement process. I recognise that many people have deep religious convictions, both in this House and elsewhere, that homosexuality is wrong. Many other sexual activities by those same people would probably be regarded as almost equally wrong--
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|