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Earl Russell: It might, but it might also, among those who are attracted by the idea of danger, turn the man on. I am not convinced that on balance it makes any great difference. When people are sufficiently determined in this area they are not often deterred by punishment, especially if they think that detection is unlikely. In the case of buggery, I do not see by what means it could be detected. One wonders whether it might be detected by means of CCTV, but I cannot believe that the framers of the amendment contemplate anything so drastic, particularly as there are considerable risks in what might happen to the film thereafter. If it is not to be detected that way, we are left with the point made with great power by the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, and by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham; namely, how can we know? If we cannot know, we cannot enforce the law. I am against making laws which cannot be enforced.
I know how the noble Baroness, Lady Young, will reply to that. She will say, more or less, that the purpose of the law as she intends it is to send a signal. I do not approve of that method of legislating. I do not think that the law is a form of sermon. As soon as you pass a law for no other purpose than to send a signal, knowing you cannot enforce it, you are giving the signal that the law can be disobeyed with impunity. As one who respects the law, I do not like giving the signal that the law can be disobeyed with impunity.
Lord Boardman: Before the noble Earl sits down, is there not the possibility of the criminal law being applied where an older man, say, 30 years old, seduces a 16 year-old and causes that 16 year-old damage of which he ultimately complains?
Earl Russell: If the act was not consensual, there can be a complaint. Otherwise--I speak as one whose parents met when one of them was 65 and the other was 19--if the noble Lord's philosophy had been followed, I might not be here now and I should regret that!
Lord Ackner: I have an abiding recollection of an observation made by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor during the debate on the then House of Lords Bill. It was in relation to what was known as the Weatherill amendment. He said,
When the noble Lord, Lord Quirk, had the courage as a layman to speak in regard to the anal intercourse versus vaginal intercourse debate, there was almost a sense of embarrassment in the House on the basis, I think, that we were dealing with an issue of discrimination and therefore we did not need to go in to all the irrelevant, sordid details.
I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Young, as she has produced an amendment which gets away entirely from the question of discrimination. Therefore the kind of attitude I mentioned cannot be adopted by the House. We are not haunted--as we were--by the spectre of the European courts, nor by the pleasure of hearing a tutorial on the subject from the noble Lord, Lord Lester. This is a situation where there is no question of discrimination. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord McColl, on doing what is essential where one is dealing with questions of health; namely, setting out the situation as a doctor so that the issue of embarrassment does not arise.
My next point has not been mentioned. Strangely enough, there is a letter in today's Daily Telegraph, signed by a number of doctors, and headed "dangers of unnatural sex". The letter states, among other things,
What other explanation or suggestion is made? Is it that safe sex is an answer to this particular risk. But it is not. That has been made clear by the medical experts. I quote from an article published about a year ago by Dr Jeffrey Satinover. He says that,
In all the circumstances, I cannot see how this heavy onus can be discharged. That seems to be the right test. The Government are about to embark upon something which can seriously and significantly prejudice the health of the young. In those circumstances, what is their justification? The answer is: none that we have heard here.
My noble friend Lord Alli said that the amendments were designed to wreck the Bill. That is wholly untrue. The amendments do not wreck the Bill. I believe that the amendments do what amendments should do: they improve the Bill. In no sense do they wreck the Bill; and in no sense can they wreck the Bill. The Bill will stand as the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill with the amendments in the same way as it would without them. So they are not wrecking amendments.
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: From students, yes. That is a very good intervention. All the letters I have received are in favour of the amendments and have urged me to support the amendments. I did not need to be urged because I was going to do so anyway. But the total number of letters and representations that I have received support the amendment.
Like the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, the noble Earl asked how the amendments will be enforced and said that they are unenforceable; that there will have to be video cameras in the bedrooms. If that is true at 18 and 17 years, it is just as true at 16. So the noble Earl is saying that we should abolish all legislation for any age. Is that not the outcome of the argument? I shall give way in my time.
Viscount Bledisloe: Does the noble Lord recognise that if a man of 20 is in a bedroom with a boy of 17, it raises a strong presumption (probably from the state of the bed) that they have been indulging in sexual activity. If all sexual activity is illegal, there you are. But if some form of sexual activity is legal, and one particular form is illegal, without prying cameras how on earth does anyone know what has gone on in that bedroom?
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