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Lord Stoddart of Swindon: I did not suggest that we should have video cameras; it was the noble Earl, Lord Russell. I do not follow the noble Viscount's argument. He appears to be arguing against me and yet the words he uses appear to be arguing for me.
I repeat that if you cannot enforce the law in relation to buggery at 18, it will be just as difficult to do so at 16. The noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, shakes his head but I should have thought that that was obvious. I say this to the noble Viscount and to the noble Earl, Lord Russell. Generally speaking, people are law abiding. I do not believe that homosexuals are any less law abiding than anyone else. If we had such law, we would expect and hope that they would obey it.
We have also heard today about the generation gap. The noble Lord, Lord Alli, again referred to it. Of course, there is a generation gap. I can remember the Wolfenden report. Indeed, I knew Sir John Wolfenden because I was a member of the court and the council of Reading University at the time when he was preparing his great report. My noble friend Lord Mishcon helped to prepare the report. Those of us who defended that report had to argue very strongly indeed--more strongly than is being argued at present--to get that report set into law. So we do not want to be lectured about generation gaps, when some of us fought to get rid of the serious injustices that were practised against homosexuals. We were there. We fought for the Wolfenden report and got it administered.
Are we now saying that older people may not give counsel and leadership to young people? Young people deserve our assistance and advice and should expect the benefit of our experience. There is no generation gap. I hope that there will be co-operation between the generations.
We have heard from two members of the medical profession this afternoon, both of whom agreed on the medical aspects. The medical fact is that anal sex is dangerous. That has been established and we should not overlook it.
We have an overriding duty to protect the young and the vulnerable. We should do that in all circumstances. I find it amazing that we all apparently want to protect children from everything else--tobacco, hard and soft drugs, alcohol, financial exploitation, contract signing and paedophiles--but not from buggery. Why do we not want to protect them from buggery, when we have heard distinguished medical opinion this afternoon that it is dangerous to their health and their longevity?
We have had a good debate and I have listened carefully to everything that has been said, but I believe now, as I did when I signed the amendments, that we are being offered a reasonable compromise. For the sake of our children and young people, we should unite behind the amendments.
The Duke of Montrose: Rather unusually, we are making legislation for Scotland as well as for the rest of the United Kingdom. At Second Reading, the Attorney-General pointed out that there was a full debate on the procedure for the Bill in the Scottish Parliament on 19th January this year. It was argued that, as the Bill had been thought through in its first incarnation at Westminster before devolution, and as the Government wanted to be in a position to invoke the Parliament Act if they saw fit, this further stage of legislation should be carried through at Westminster on the basis of the Bill presently before us.
Some of the Labour Members in that debate showed a marked antipathy to the idea of anyone having a further say on legislation proposed by the other place. They take great delight in single-chamber legislation in Scotland and they are probably not familiar with the number of government amendments and others that are routinely added in your Lordships' House. Also,
If I may digress, that raises an interesting theoretical issue for voters under a proportional representation system, because they could end up getting all of both parties' manifesto proposals, even if the majority voted for only one set of them.
I have tried to follow the arguments that have been put before the us and I have asked questions of a considerable number of people who work in areas that seem to be germane to the issue. The Government's contention, given in their Answer on 6th November to my noble friend Lady Blatch, that there are no differences between the risks involved in anal and normal sex, was presumably supposed to refer to promiscuous sex among both heterosexuals and homosexuals. There is a clear difference between the risks for the two groups in monogamous sexual relations.
I make my living as a livestock farmer, so I may not be as squeamish about some of the issues as might be proper in the Chamber as we sail in great style through all the goings on. I have read the study published recently under the name of B. G. Silverman, which was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord McColl, on the effectiveness of condoms and their breakage and slippage rates. That is a considerable risk, even before we consider the preference of some, referred to a few minutes ago, for no form of protection.
We have heard in some detail about the pathogens involved. We have great faith that whatever infectious disease comes upon us, medical science can be relied on for a cure. That faith was temporarily dented by the advent of AIDS, but we still like to think that science will win out in the end. However, another publication tells me that there is widespread increased resistance to penicillin in homosexual and bisexual men. That is presumably due to the number of times that they have to resort to such medication to maintain their preferred lifestyle.
We allow those whose settled view is that that is the lifestyle that best suits them the freedom to continue with it. The amendment addresses the fact that some young men mature later. Their smooth young looks may even make them more attractive to those looking for a pretty boy. The noble Lord, Lord Walton, tells us that their sexuality is fixed. Can he also tell us whether they are still uncertain of their sexuality? The amendment would give them some protection from the undoubted dangers of anal sex until they reach the age of 18, when presumably they will be clear in their choice.
Given our reliance on the effectiveness of education to persuade girls that it is better to postpone sexual activity until they are 16, it should be equally possible to persuade boys that they should postpone anal sex for another two years. Those who give such teaching should also impart an understanding of sexuality and explain that differences do occur.
Lord Plant of Highfield: I shall speak briefly in favour of the Bill, as I have done on previous occasions. My main point is equality between heterosexual and homosexual relationships. In a democratic society, there are certain core values, such as equality of concern for each individual, equality of respect for each individual and equality of interests, in the sense that each person's interests should be considered equally with everyone else's. There can be no greater interest to someone than their sexuality or sexual orientation.
What might be the arguments for moving away from equality of treatment? We have heard three this afternoon. The first, put forward by the noble Baroness, Lady Seccombe, and my noble friend Lord Davies of Coity, is that homosexual acts are somehow unnatural. I believe that that is a dangerous argument in that what is natural and unnatural cannot determine a moral point of view. Most of human civilisation occurs in a fantastic struggle against nature. One cannot assume that what is natural is good and what is unnatural is bad. We must look at what is natural and unnatural from our own moral perspective. It is because each of us has a moral perspective that we believe that something that is natural is good or that something unnatural is bad. What is natural and unnatural does not determine that perspective.
In a democratic society moral perspectives will differ markedly, as is obvious from the debate this afternoon. Therefore, in a democratic society I believe that those who have strong views about issues of morality should be prepared to stay their hand over those views if forcing them through a legislature would disadvantage particular groups in the community and infringe the basic democratic values that I have mentioned.
The second reason for departing from equality would be if the actions were harmful to others--that is, others outside the relationship. However, as such relationships are private, it is difficult to see how others could be harmed by them. A great deal of play has been made of the third reason; namely, self harm, and the idea that such acts are likely to cause harm to the individuals who engage in them.
I listened carefully to the noble Lord, Lord McColl. Everything that he said was most telling. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Walton of Detchant, agreed with everything that the noble Lord, Lord McColl, said.
Therefore, I believe that whether in terms of nature, in terms of harm to others or in terms of self harm, there are no good grounds for moving away from the idea of equality. On other occasions my noble and learned friend the Attorney-General has made equality of treatment central to this issue. I believe that there is the strongest possible case for doing so again.