HC Deb 09 March 1988 vol 129 cc414-32


That, at this day's sitting, the Lords Amendments to the Local Government Bill may be proceeded with, though opposed, until any hour.—[Mr. Peter Lloyd.]

Question again proposed, That the amendment to the Lords amendment be made.

Mr. Pike

It has to be said that frequently the material has not been used in the way described by hon. Members supporting the clause.

The hon. Member for Hornchurch said that there was a solid view on both sides of the House that we wished to protect children. He was absolutely right to say that. Of course we all wish children to be protected from sexual abuse, whether homosexual or heterosexual. We also wish to protect them from mental and physical abuse of any kind. There is no dispute whatsoever about that.

However, the amendment does not deal only with education, as some Conservative Members have claimed. Its scope goes way beyond that. If the protection of children is the main criterion on which the Government wish to take action, the Local Government Bill is not the means by which they should do that.

In my last speech on this issue, I said that, if it were in the Local Government Bill, it would not apply to children being educated in the private sector. If one takes the Government's point of view and says that promoting homosexuality is totally wrong, effectively the clause is saying that it is all right in private education. If one accepted for a moment that there was a problem, and I do not, the amendment would not deal with it.

The hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Dame J. Knight) referred to instructions to teachers about teaching about homosexuality in a positive way. She objected to that. Teaching about homosexuality in a positive way is not telling people receiving education that they should be homosexual, gay or lesbian.

The hon. Lady really should examine the education guidelines in other fields such as religious education, which state that teachers should give a positive image of religions other than Christianity—such as the Hindu and Moslem religions. I am sure that those guidelines are not arguing that children should convert to those religions. It is right that they should be taught in a positive way about those religions so that they can understand them, just as we believe it is right that they should recognise that homosexuality exists, that people do not make a choice and that homosexuality should he recognised and fully understood.

In the last debate on this issue I referred to two letters which clearly made that case. One was from a teacher who expressed concern and doubt about the clause. I have had a number of such letters since that debate.[Interruption.] Mr. Speaker: Order. It is very difficult to hear at this end of the Chamber.

Mr. Pike

I have had a number of letters since that debate that have supported my argument and have expressed similar fears to those in the letter I quoted in that previous debate. I have received letters from teachers, youth workers and community workers expressing genuine fears about how they will be inhibited in dealing with problems. For example, a young person may think that he or she is gay or lesbian and want to be understood and given advice. Young people may feel that they are the only gay or lesbian people in the whole world and that there is no one else in that position. They want to be advised that it is not totally abnormal but quite common and that it can be accepted and fully understood. Such a person should have the opportunity to live his or her life in peace and freedom, just as a heterosexual person does.

10 pm

Having analysed the speeches by Ministers, including that made by the Minister in Committee, those in the Chamber and in the other House, it is clear that they believe that the clause will be interpreted in a narrow way and that our fears will not be fulfilled. If that is what they genuinely believe, they must recognise that, as I have said many times, interpretation of the clause once the Bill becomes an Act of Parliament will be not for the House to determine, but for the courts. The courts will determine the word "promote" in a way which the Ministers do not.

I give Ministers the benefit of the doubt because I do not believe that they want to go as far as the way in which the wording may be interpreted if the Bill is carried.

I sent to the Minister a letter from a youth community worker in my constituency. I asked the Minister to meet me to discuss that letter because it summarised that youth community worker's feelings and fears about the way in which the clause will be interpreted.

The amendments in the names of my right hon. and hon. Friends should he carried because, like the Lords amendments that have gone through, they make at least some improvement to the situation. Even at this late stage, it might be advisable for the Government to say, "We have thought again. We have gone too far. We withdraw the clause and will send it hack to the Lords and ask that it be deleted from the Bill."

Mr. Dickens

This House should address itself first of all to the reason why the 90 per cent. majority of parents and grandparents in this country feel threatened and intimidated by the 10 per cent.

Back in 1967, when the Sexual Offences Act was introduced, we said that it was an Act of tolerance, compassion and understanding. I think that it will always so remain. However, it seemed to give the homosexual fraternity an opportunity to run gay clubs, gay centres and gay pubs that specialised in a homosexual clientele, where magazines could flourish and contacts be made, enticing and corrupting others to join their ranks who perhaps would never have done so.

Much more serious than that are the memories of grandparents who remember Cambridge in the 1930s, when the intellectuals of Cambridge—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. We must listen to the hon. Gentleman's argument.

Mr. Dickens

I am not intimidated by the noise, Mr. Speaker. It is like addressing an audience from the stage of "La Cage Aux Folles". I should like to remind hon. Members of that well-known hymn "I am what I am", and this is no illusion.

I return to my point about Cambridge university in the 1930s. The so-called intellectuals of that time were latching on to every minority group in the hope of gaining power. Many of them flirted with Communism in exactly the same way—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. This is a place where we all express our opinions freely.

Mr. Dickens

Many of them flirted with Communism in exactly the same way—Conservative Members will agree with this—that the loony Left has attached itself with a sympathetic ear to the homosexuals to snare them into its ranks. That is something we must watch.

What is the homosexuals' shopping list and why do the 90 per cent. of society feel intimidated? They now want the age of consent to be lowered to 16 years if you please and they want spouses of the same sex to be allowed entry to the United Kingdom as immigrants. They even want to adopt children. Such is the path to be followed by the homosexuals. It is doing homosexuals no favour to flaunt their activities by marches and protests in our cities.

A few weeks ago I was debating this subject in the Oxford union — [Interruption.] I have to be fair. I listened to a speech by a student who opened the innings for the other side with a straight bat—[Laughter.] That speech was one of the best and most moving that I have ever heard. That student was a self-confessed homosexual and he made a sincere speech. I am sure that those who were on my side of the argument were greatly touched by his contribution — [Interruption.] This is a serious subject.—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. Time is getting on.

Mr. Dickens

The homosexual fraternity should not expect too much from the 90 per cent. majority. There is no way in which that majority want homosexuality to be a subject on the school curriculum. My hon. Friends and I are determined that they will not get it. By the same token, people like me should stand shoulder to shoulder with the homosexual fraternity against the so-called "queer bashers". They are only likely to get that support if they stop continuing to flaunt their homosexuality and thrusting it down other people's throats.[Laughter.] Mr. Speaker: Order. We will all digest that. Mr. Livingstone. [Interruption.] Order. Mr. Livingstone.

Mr. Norman Buchan (Paisley, South )

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Are you not aware that 90 per cent. of this House would like to hear more?

Mr. Livingstone

I am glad to follow the hon. Member for Littleborough and Saddleworth (Mr. Dickens) because he said that he is what he is. All we are asking is that he should allow other people to be what they are. The Bill will not allow that; it will reinforce discrimination.

I doubt whether people can remember their own early sexual experiences. Conservative Members have told us that there are points in time when one can go one way or the other, that a bit of pressure or persuasion can turn someone into a homosexual or, presumably, a heterosexual. Is there any hon. Member who can say that, at some point in their early years, they faced a conscious choice of whether to be homosexual or heterosexual? Of course not. We all know that that is nonsense. Our sex drives are there before we are aware of their existence—perhaps even before we can speak. We have to ensure that we do nothing in this House that makes it more difficult for people to give expression to their sexuality. Broadly, I support people's right to do whatever they choose as long as it does not impinge on the freedom or welfare of others.

10.15 pm

As well as some interesting early reminiscences, several bits of what has now become folklore have been invoked to support the clause. All that we hear is the repetition of vague innuendo. Again and again we have called for the name of one school that is teaching homosexuality. No Conservative Member has been able to name a single school in a county or city in this country that is doing what they claim is now so widespread that legislation is needed to stop it. I have listened carefully, and I have heard only three examples given to justify the clause. One was an article in the Evening Standard and one was an article in The Daily Telegraph. Since when did the legislature base legislation on two articles in newspapers? Before introducing detailed legislation affecting the lives of millions, should we not do a little better than to rely on what some journalist has cobbled together, regardless of whether it is accurate?

The only example given to justify the measure to which we should perhaps pay some attention is the third—a GLC publication "Changing the World". Hon. Members say that all this has happened in the past 18 months. I speak with some authority when I say that it is almost two years since the GLC was abolished. I am sure that Conservative Members were delighted to advance my rapid appearance in this place by abolishing it—and I thank them for it.

If Conservative Members have copies of "Changing the World", they will see it for what it is. It is a result of two years of debate, discussion and research in which the lesbian and gay community in London came together to produce a list of 142 changes in legislation and administrative practice that would remove discrimination against them. The only one of those 142 recommendations referred to today was the one dealing with heterosexism.

There is a genuine misunderstanding here. Heterosexism as a term does not mean that we are opposed to heterosexuality or that we wish to discriminate against it. Heterosexism is exactly the same kind of term as racism or sexism. They all describe discrimination against a particular group or class or gender. Heterosexism is no more than a way of describing the institutional and legislative discrimination against homosexuals in our society. If anyone has misunderstood that, I apologise. If hon. Members have thought that those using the term "heterosexism" are in favour of discriminating against heterosexuals, I am sorry, but they are wrong.

I wish to deal with two points that call into question the sincerity of those who will vote for the measure tonight. There is a problem relating to the protection of children in our society. There is widespread and systematic abuse of children—perhaps beyond anything that we fear at present. [Interruption.] I hear Conservative Members saying "Rubbish." It is not on to argue that one is supporting the clause to protect children and then to reject out of hand the suggestion that there is widespread sexual abuse of children in our society.

Studies have been undertaken by centres and groups that provide support for those who have suffered from incest. Their works suggest that one child in 10 is sexually abused by a relative. Almost all these instances of abuse involve fathers and uncles within the family and they are directed against their sons, daughters or nephews. Conservative Members who may want proof of this assertion should be aware that the evidence to support it is more substantial and better documented than any of the arguments that we have heard Conservative Members advance in support of the clause.

I do not accept that the clause is a serious attempt to protect children. I believe that the Government are pandering to bigotry in the hope that that will produce votes.

There are instances of homosexual abuse of children, and I have brought the issue before the House four times since my election to it. Four times I have asked the Prime Minister to open an inquiry into one of the most appalling examples of the homosexual abuse of children in this century. On all those occasions, the Prime Minister has refused my request. The reason is simple. During the homosexual abuse of the children, MI5 was photographing the perpetrators so that it could blackmail the Loyalist politicians who were committing the acts.

If the Government are appalled by the buggery of children, why do they cover it up when it is carried out by one of the state agencies? Why is it that every attempt to raise this issue is stamped upon? [HON. MEMBERS: "Proof."] Conservative Members ask for proof. Proof is available to the House if it is prepared to assert its right to see the MI5 files, including the photographs.

However much Conservative Members may try to prevent this issue emerging, enough is known now and enough people are now prepared to talk to make it inevitable that the proof will be revealed. How can any Conservative Member vote for the clause one day while refusing to investigate a well-documented case of homosexual child abuse the day before? That brings into question any claim of sincerity. It opens Conservative Members to the charge of the grossest hypocrisy. They are prepared to cover up homosexual child abuse when it is politically embarrassing for the Government of the day while stamping around Britain trying to stir up hatred against the gay and lesbian communities to try to gain votes.

The heterosexual community is not living in fear and intimidation as a result of any activities of the 10 per cent. of society that is homosexual. The people who live in fear are those who are killed in the most appalling way by the queer bashers in our society. There is a growing catalogue of the most horrifying incidents—no doubt egged on by the general climate of homophobia in the press and the media and on the Conservative Benches—where thugs have come out on to the streets to murder gay men.

Mr. Fairbairn

The activities of certain individuals, such as members of the IRA, whatever their sexual habits, are rather worse than anyone to whom the hon. Gentleman has referred.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The debate is going rather wide of the clause.

Mr. Livingstone

I condemn any act of violence wherever it takes place, as I condemn any act of child abuse, whoever commits it and whatever the individual's orientation.

I have one last abiding worry about some of the reasoning that lies behind the clause. The Conservative party whipped up homophobia in the run-up to the last general election and now it feels that it has to pander to the forces that it whipped up. When he was orchestrating the election campaign in the Conservative party, the right hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) made homosexuality an issue in the crudest and grossest way. I hope that he can live with his conscience because of what he has done to demean the lives of gay men and lesbians in Britain, as I hope other Conservative Members can live with their consciences every time another gay man is murdered by queer bashers.

Mr. Howard

It would be difficult to do full justice to all the varying qualities of this remarkable debate. Many of the contributions have been based, like the amendments to the Lords amendment, on a misapprehension of the nature and effect of the provisions which are before the House. That observation also applies to the campaign which has been waged against the provisions of the clause since the Bill left the House for another place.

I re-emphasise that it is no part of the Government's intention in supporting the provision to remove the rights of homosexuals to receive council services. As ratepayers and electors, they are entitled to access to council services on the same basis as anyone else. There is nothing in the provision which would damage that right. Allegations that the provision would lead to censorship of the arts, stop activities in health care and counselling and prevent local authorities from granting entertainment licences are quite unfounded. I am happy that that was recognised.

Ms. Clare Short (Birmingham, Ladywood)

I do not believe it.

Mr. Howard

The hon. Lady says that she does not believe it, but it was recognised by the Opposition spokesman in another place, the noble Lord McIntosh of Haringey, who on Third Reading accepted that the clause did not have the kind of restrictive effect which was feared by many, particularly in the artistic world, who had been so worried about it. Of course, he was speaking in sharp contrast to the observations of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) in making that point.

Mr. Tony Banks

This morning I got from Luke Rittner, the secretary general of the Arts Council, a statement which says that the Arts Council remains deeply concerned at the possible implications and effects of clause 28. The Minister has not satisfied the worries of the Arts Council.

Mr. Howard

No, we have not satisfied all the concerns, but those, including the Opposition spokesman, who have sat through all the debates in another place have a greater appreciation of the true effect and nature of the provisions than do some others who have been considering the matter from outside.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

Can the Minister give the House a categorical assurance that, if a local authority makes a grant to an arts association to put on a play, let us say, about the life and times of Oscar Wilde, that would not fall foul of the cause of promoting homosexuality?

Mr. Howard: I find it a little hard to respond to such questions because, when I do, as I did in a letter to which the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) referred in his speech, I am told that nothing that I say is of any relevance because at the end it is all a matter for the courts. Indeed, it is, at the end of the day, a matter for the courts. Opposition Members cannot have it both ways. They cannot say that the assurances given by Ministers are worthless because at the end of the day the matters are for the courts, and in the next breath pop up with questions about the effect of the provisions.

The best answer that I can give to the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) is that it is most unlikely that such an event would fall foul of the provisions. In order for it to fall foul of the provisions there would have to be a deliberate intention to promote homosexuality behind the act of the local authority in funding that performance. I think that it is most unlikely, in the circumstances to which the hon. Gentleman has referred, that the event would fall foul of the provisions.

In a speech which was characterised by a schizophrenic approach, of which I shall have more to say in a moment, the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) asked for an assurance that we had no intention of extending the purport of the clause to other areas. I think that he specifically mentioned broadcasting and the Arts Council. I am not aware of any abuses in those spheres of the kind which have given rise to the need for the clause. In those circumstances, I am happy to give the hon. Gentleman the assurance for which he has asked.

10.30 pm

Clause 28 was introduced because of the growing concern inside and outside Parliament about the use of ratepayers' money by some local authorities to promote homosexuality. In particular, there was real concern that local authorities were targeting some activities on young people inside and outside schools in an apparent endeavour to glamorise homosexuality. Not surprisingly, parents have become increasingly concerned about public money being used in that way to influence the attitudes and behaviour of impressionable young people.

Dr. Cunningham

If that is so, and all the evidence is in the Government's hands, why was clause 28 not in the Bill in the first place?

Mr. Howard

Many of the clauses were not in the Bill in the first place and we will consider some of those later. When the matter was brought forward by the sponsors, my hon. Friends the Members for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) and for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Dame J. Knight), the Government shared their view that there could be no justification for local authorities using public money for that purpose.

Dr. Cunningham

Where is the evidence?

Mr. Howard

The hon. Gentleman, from a sedentary position, asks, "Where is the evidence?" There is evidence. I have a list of the evidence. I will content myself with two examples. The first piece of evidence is the publication "Young, Gay and Proud." I have an excerpt from it here and it contains a most explicit description of homosexual activities. The Inner London education authority recommended it for children aged 13.

My second piece of evidence is from another publication called, curiously, "The milkman is on his way." That also contains very explicit and rather offensive descriptions of homosexual acts. ILEA recommended that publication for children aged 15. It was available for lending from the children's section of a library in the London borough of Haringey, and I have a copy of the sheet which shows that it was taken from the library and used on numerous occasions.

There is no doubt that there is evidence. There is equally no doubt that these activities have provoked considerable public disquiet.

Mr. Battle

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Howard

Not yet.

We believed that removing that source of disquiet would do much to alleviate the resentment that had undoubtedly been building up and that had been having a growing and adverse effect on tolerance and understanding.

Mr. Simon Hughes

How could the Minister's ministerial colleagues have advised the other place exactly one year before the Minister accepted a Conservative Back-Bench new clause that it should not accept an identically drafted clause because there was no need for legislation of that type and that the wording was dangerously vague?

Mr. Howard

if the hon. Gentleman studies the record closely he will find that the remarks made by my noble Friend Lord Skelmersdale in another place were made about a draft of the clause that differed significantly from the form of the present clause. We must also consider what has happened since the remarks were made.

When the Bill started its passage last year it was passed without opposition in another place. It then came to this House and was prevented from passing into law by a filibuster waged by an Opposition Member who has since lost his seat. I believe that his filibuster was carried out on the last day that he was an hon. Member of this House.

In those circumstances, it is reasonable that the Government should have considered the views of another place and of this place and the way in which the wording of the clause differed from that referred to by my noble Friend Lord Skelmersdale. When the Bill was before Parliament, Government spokesmen made it clear that they were sympathetic to the intention behind the clause and, in the light of all those circumstances, acceded to the amendment brought forward by my hon. Friends the Members for Edgbaston and Spelthorne.

Mr. Simon Hughes

I understand that, and I hear what the Minister says. But surely the Government have the same responsibility a year later to caution Parliament about wording that is vague and dangerous. No change in circumstances justifies a Government adopting dangerously wide definitions. Their duty, surely, is to ensure that definition accurately fulfils intention, and does not risk infringing other rights and liberties.

Mr. Howard

I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's remarks about the vagueness of the wording. We are satisfied that the clause can be interpreted by the courts in a perfectly satisfactory way.

Let me now deal with the amendments made to the clause in another place. They have the effect of achieving greater clarity—the kind of clarity that I understood the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) to desire.

Amendment No. 10 makes it explicit that the clause is concerned only with the intentional promotion of homosexuality by a local authority. Amendment No. 11 is consequential on that change. The alternative to deleting the words in question would have been a complex prohibition which, in essence, simply reinforced the effect of the basic prohibition. Amendment No. 12 is, we believe, a useful safeguard. It makes it clear that a court considering a challenge against a local authority would be required to consider all the circumstances of the case and come to a reasonable view on the basis of the evidence before it. It would not be sufficient for an authority simply to claim that its purpose was one thing, when it would be clear to any independent observer taking a reasonable view that that was not its only purpose.

Amendment No. 34 is a necessary amendment to the title of the Bill, which includes a reference to the prohibition of homosexuality by local authorities in clause 28.

Having made that background clear, let me deal with the two amendments proposed by the Opposition to the Lords amendments. They have been explained by the hon. Member for Copeland. The gulf between the words that he used and the effect of the amendments is almost as great as the gulf that opened up, in the course of the Opposition's consideration of the matter, between the view of the hon. Member for Copeland and that of his right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition. When the matter first came before the Standing Committee, the hon. Member for Copeland said that he would vote for the amendment that embodied the clause and that he hoped and expected that his hon. Friends would so the same. He spoke, it is true, of certain amendments that he intended to put down on Report, but he said that he would do nothing to change the first part of the clause, which states that a local authority shall not promote homosexuality or publish material for the promotion of homosexuality. He did not wish to change what that said in any way, shape or form.

In the event, the Committee did not divide on the clause; it was accepted without a vote. That was in December. By the end of January, the Leader of the Opposition had taken an interest in the matter. He made a speech that was widely reported, in which he referred to a pink triangle clause produced and supported by a bunch of bigots. It must be very gratifying for the hon. Member for Copeland to know that his leader is willing to express his confidence in him in such resounding terms.

By February, Labour Campaign Briefing was telling the world: Jack Cunningham and Labour's front bench have made plain their total opposition to Clause 28 … if it should become law Labour is committed to its repeal. In my innocence, I always supposed that if one was totally opposed to a clause the appropriate thing to do was to vote against it. However, the Labour party takes a far more sophisticated approach to such matters. In the new Labour party, if one is totally opposed to something, the thing to do is to say that one supports it and will vote for it, refuse to divide in Committee and, when one's leader has declared one a bigot, to put out a piece of paper saying one is totally opposed to it. That is the extent of the humiliation to which the hon. Member for Copeland has been subjected by the leader of his party. It is against that background that the Opposition's amendments to the clause have to be considered.

Dr. Cunningham

That is a cheap misrepresentation of the position we have adopted from the beginning. We made it clear that we would be moving amendments to the clause. We did so on Report, we did so in the House of Lords, and we are doing so here. Will the Minister now address himself to some of the issues in the debate and to the fears and concerns of people?

Mr. Howard

I have great sympathy with the hon. Gentleman.

I shall now deal with the amendments that have been tabled by the Leader of the Opposition and his hon. Friends.

Mr. Ian Gow (Eastbourne)

Before my hon. and learned Friend leaves that point, will he please give way again to the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham)?

Mr. Howard

My hon. Friend tempts me. As I have said, I have great sympathy with the position in which the hon. Member for Copeland finds himself.

The first of the amendments tabled by the Opposition, (e), would exempt from the prohibition of the promotion of homosexuality any action undertaken for the purpose of discouraging discrimination against or protecting the civil rights of any person. Let me make it plain that it is no part of our intention in supporting this clause to affect the civil rights of any person. We are talking about the use of public money to give preferential treatment to certain people, activities and tendencies. The clause prevents discrimination in favour of a particular purpose—the promotion of homosexuality. Therefore, there is nothing in the clause that would give any local authority any justification for discrimination against homosexuals. To the extent that the Opposition's proposed amendment is aimed at making that clear, the amendment is unnecessary. The clause is already clear enough. Whatever the aim of the Opposition, the effect of what they are proposing is very different. Intentionally or otherwise, their proposal would enable local authorities to continue all the practices that the Government find so objectionable. Let me try to explain why.

Since the Opposition's amendment operates to exclude from the provisions of the clause action for certain purposes, we are, by definition only, considering those actions that could be affected by the clause. What are those actions? By definition, they must be actions intended to promote homosexuality. Therefore, a council would be able to do anything it wanted, if the amendment were accepted, provided that it could show that, as well as intending to promote homosexuality, it had the purpose of protecting the civil rights of some person. The plain fact is that it is quite unnecessary to promote homosexuality in order to protect anyone's civil rights.

The second amendment is equally, if not more, objectionable. If the Opposition's purpose is simply to say that what is not prohibited by the clause is not prohibited by the clause, it is unnecessary. Whatever their intentions, we have to look at what their drafting would achieve. It is the effect of their amendment that makes it completely unacceptable. It says that any action, however much it promotes homosexuality, is to be permitted if that action is necessary in the authority's view to provide a service for some other purpose. Therefore, any local authority that intended to get round the clause would simply have to show that in its view it was providing the service for some other reason as well as the promotion of homosexuality. We do not accept that a local authority cannot provide the services its ratepayers and electors require without promoting homosexuality. The Opposition appear to take an opposite view. Its amendment would allow a coach and horses to be driven through the prohibition. It has only to be considered in this way for the true nature of the amendment to become apparent.

10.45 pm

The clause has overwhelming public support. Many thousands of worried families in Britain have been concerned about the abuses that have taken place. I shall conclude my observations with a description of how that abuse has grown up. Before Labour Members react with outrage at what I am about to say, I caution them that the words that I am about to use are not mine. Some Labour councils, not all, abused their powers. They took no account of the views of the majority of ordinary people. They launched and financed programmes to aid and abet homosexuality, lesbianism and other minority causes until they became the laughing-stock of the nation … Under the reselection system of Labour councils those minorities apply pressure well beyond their electoral strength. Councillors will be bound to bend the knee. 'Do as you are told, or else' is the theme that determines their reselection. So inevitably all the Labour groups and councils will gradually be pressurised into promoting homosexual activity."—[official Report, House of Lords, 2 February 1988; Vol. 492, c. 1000.] Those are the words of the noble Lord Mason of Barnsley, who, as Secretary of State for Defence and Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in the last Labour Cabinet, performed more distinguished service for this country than any of those Labour Members sitting on the Opposition Front Bench have clone or are likely to do. There can be no better indication to the people of this country of the difference between the Labour party of 10 years ago and the Labour party of today and the gulf between the words of the noble Lord Mason and those that have come forth from the Opposition Front Bench during the debate on this clause.

For the reasons that I gave earlier, I urge the House to reject the amendments moved by the Opposition.

Mr. Allan Roberts

I should like to begin by paying tribute to the hon. Members for Hornchurch (Mr. Squire), for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) and for Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe) for their brave and courageous speeches, for standing up to the intentions of this clause and for standing against obtaining votes by bigotry, to which some of their colleagues are putting their names.

I have noticed a change among Conservative Members since the debates on Third Reading and Report. It is now being said, "The clause will not attack gay rights and the civil liberties of homosexuals; it will not prevent a lot of the funding by local authorities of gay groups and other organisations". Those are the same groups that Tories were attacking so vehemently on Third Reading and Report.

A massive campaign against the clause has been organised by the Arts Council, local government, the National Council for Civil Liberties and many other organisations. There was a march of 20,000 people in Manchester, at which there was no violence or arrests, protesting against this clause.

The approach that is now being adopted by Conservative Members is, "Gently, gently, offer faint praise and, without sneering, teach the rest to sneer." Those who try to use other people's bigotry to obtain votes are as bad as the bigots themselves.

The bigotry and prejudice still came through, even in the smooth Minister's speech, but he did not produce any evidence. It has always been verdict first and evidence second. He produced no evidence of abuse in schools and he did not name any schools. The Minister quoted one of the few sources that he has been able to quote throughout the Committee proceedings—the book, "Young, Gay and Proud", which he claimed is recommended by ILEA for children of 13. He knows that that is not true. It was put on a reading list for parents by ILEA advising parents of books that they might want to read if they wanted to understand their homosexual children. The Minister is about to intervene, as he did in Committee, and read from the sleeve of the book, which says: Recommended for children of 13 and over. That was the publisher's recommendation, nothing to do with ILEA, and it was on the reading list for adults. The Minister knows that.

Mr. Howard

Is the hon. Gentleman denying that in the reading list issued by ILEA against the title, "Young, Gay and Proud" there appear the words: Its friendly, unpatronising and reassuring tone make it easy to read and very helpful for everyone—13-plus, staff and parents."? Mr. Roberts: The Minister has quoted the publisher's notes about a book which was on a reading list for adults and was never recommended by ILEA for children. He gives the lie to his own misrepresentation.

Let me read a paragraph from a leaflet entitled "Understanding homosexuality". It says: Medical evidence suggests that a person's sexual orientation is formed before the age of five. It is, therefore, unlikely that an adolescent could be turned into a homosexual by an occasional contact. But such a contact might bring to the fore an orientation which is already there but unrecognised. The realisation could put an end to a young person's confusion and unhappiness.

Hon. Members

Who wrote that?

Mr. Roberts

I guess that it is controversial literature. It was written and issued by the Mothers Union in 1983 and is still available today. But it will be caught by the clause if the Mothers Union is funded by local government.

The variety of organisations that may find themselves under attack once clause 28 becomes law is staggering. All they need is to be funded by the local authority. The Minister has made that clear in his speech. The Government will not discriminate against the civil liberties of gays, homosexuals and lesbians; they will just make sure that local authorities do not spend money on them, provide services for them and help and assist them. If that is not discrimination, what is?

Another pillar of the community, founded by ladies doing good works, is the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux. Last year, at its national conference, it voted to take account of lesbian and gay issues, oppose discrimination and, where possible, to recruit people who are homosexual to their management committees. Will the Government now turn on the citizens advice bureaux?

The hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) said that the Government were worried not just about schools, but the whole of local government. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Dame J. Knight) said that the clause was just about protecting children, but the Government have produced a clause that has nothing to do with protecting children. According to the advice of lawyers and many organisations, it will make illegal the provision of joint tenancies for persons seeking housing as open homosexuals. It will put in doubt the provision of social services advice and assistance to persons who are uncertain of their sexual orientation. It will put in doubt whether local authorities can refer people seeking advice to social services, and, via social services, to voluntary groups run by and for homosexuals, the provision of grants to students and student unions in higher education, the position of lesbian and gay societies, the stocking and display in public libraries of books and periodicals written by and for homosexuals and the financial support for gay and lesbian centres.

If that is not the case, why are Right-wing Conservative councillors in places like Manchester threatening that when the clause is enacted they will use it to take councillors to court to prevent such funding and activities? That is what is happening at the moment. Yet the Government say that they are against public money being spent for specific purposes. All those activities may, depending on the circumstances and interpretation of the words "promoting homosexuality", be made illegal by the clause.

The Minister admits that he cannot say how the courts will interpret the word "promote" or the words "intentionally promote". The danger that he is putting the civil liberties of homosexual people in by promoting the clause is unbelievable.

The other week Elizabeth Taylor was asked on the Michael Aspel show why she got involved with raising money for AIDS research. She said that she was appalled by the silence from Hollywood. She said that homosexuality had become a taboo subject, and yet, as she put it, Hollywood was built by homosexuals. That is not true only of Hollywood; there are homosexuals everywhere. Homosexuality is a part of society. So why do people fear it so much? Is it because, as some Conservative Members said, people fear the abnormal? [Interruption.] In the case of the clause, we are talking about fear of abnormal relationships and families. That is what Conservative Members say exists.

But what is normal? Are single parents, step-parents, heterosexual couples living together, married couples without children, single sexually active heterosexuals and celibates normal? Is what the majority does normal? Most people who get married get divorced. Is that normal? Normal is hard to define. Morality is based not on what most people do but on what is acceptable. I find love, care and respect acceptable, and exploitation, bullying and unreasonable prejudice unacceptable.

The clause is unacceptable because it is based on unreasoned prejudice. It is a bullying tactic to push homosexuals back into secrecy. It exploits the fear of AIDS and the misinformation that has been whipped up around it. Fear of AIDS has whipped up prejudice against gay people and the Government are cashing in on that. To quote Tom Robinson, The solution is simple. They could do it with ease—stop attacking the patients and attack the disease. To listen to some Conservative Members one would think that homosexuals were going around proselytising and that homosexual images were being presented everywhere—especially by local authorities—to convert people. The opposite is true. Heterosexual images are used to sell everything from chocolate to cars. Exhibitions of homosexuality are discreet compared with those of heterosexuality, but Conservative Members think that because local authorities help gay groups, homosexuals and lesbians, everyone will suddenly be converted. What nonsense. What nonsense.

The hon. Members for Spelthorne and for Edgbaston—

Mr. Anthony Beaumont-Dark (Birmingham, Selly Oak)


Mr. Roberts

—want homosexuality to disappear, and do not want to know of its existence. The hon. Member for Edgbaston has opposed all sex education in schools for years. She would rather that any complication to do with sex disappeared. From the beginning, the Labour party has stood firmly—

Mr. Beaumont-Dark


Mr. Roberts

—against the Government's intention in the clause. My hon. Friends and I made it clear in Committee that we had seen the clause for the first time only briefly and did not know what the word "promote" meant — [Interruption.] If it means advocating homosexuality as an alternative to heterosexuality, we have not changed our position on that. We have tabled amendments to ensure that the clause does not discriminate in the way that the Government refuse to accept that it does.

If the Government do not seek to destroy the civil liberties of gay people, why will they not accept the amendment, which reads: other than by any action undertaken for the purpose of discouraging discrimination against or protecting the civil rights of any person"?

Mr. Howard

If the hon. Gentleman had listened to my speech and departed for a moment from his pre-arranged rant, he would have known the answer to that question.

Mr. Roberts

If the Minister had listened to informed public opinion, or the National Council for Civil Liberties, or the associations of local authorities, he would have withdrawn the clause.

Mr. Simon Hughes

Will the hon. Gentleman, whose indignation about the proposal I accept, explain why when he, the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham), the Minister, other Committee Members and I were together in the Committee, we heard the following phrase, said on behalf of the Labour party: I shall vote for the amendment and I hope and expect that my hon. Friends will do the same." — [Official Report, Standing Committee A, 8 December 1987; c. 1213.] That was for this clause as proposed and supported by the Government. Why the change?

Mr. Roberts

I just hope that the hon. Gentleman's party's campaign on the issue of gay rights — [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer the question."] I shall answer the question in my own way.

I just hope that the hon. Gentleman's campaign on the issue will be based on the speech that he made today and not on the kind of literature and gay rights campaign with which he and his party have been involved. A June 1987 general election leaflet, entitled "Bermondsey constituency Liberal focus leaflet in support of the Simon Hughes candidacy", states: Labour's support for positive discrimination for gays is a key reason why Labour was not even fit to be the Opposition, let alone the Government. It ill-behoves the victor of Bermondsey to lecture us about gay rights.

Homosexual people are ordinary people made extraordinary or different by other people's and Conservative Members' obsessive interest about what they might, and probably do not, do in bed. Conservative Members' obsession with sex makes me sick.

Mr. David Shaw (Dover)


Mr. Roberts

I shall not give way.

To quote Michael Cashman, Colin in "Eastenders", who spoke at the gay rights rally in Manchester, we could round up gay people, we could shoot them or gas them, but they will not go away. As long as men and women procreate, they will continue to create homosexuals, and there is nothing that we can do about it, even if Conservative Members want to.

I urge all those Conservative Members who claim that this is not a bigots' charter and that it is not against the civil liberties of gay and lesbian men and women to vote for our amendments.

Question put, That the amendment to the Lords amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 201, Noes 254.

Division No. 207] [11.03 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Galbraith, Sam
Allen, Graham Galloway, George
Alton, David Garrett, John (Norwich South)
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Garrett, Ted (Wallsend)
Armstrong, Hilary George, Bruce
Ashdown, Paddy Golding, Mrs Llin
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Gordon, Mildred
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Graham, Thomas
Battle, John Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Beckett, Margaret Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Beith, A. J. Grocott, Bruce
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Harman, Ms Harriet
Bermingham, Gerald Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Bidwell, Sydney Haynes, Frank
Boateng, Paul Healey, Rt Hon Denis
Boyes, Roland Heffer, Eric S.
Bradley, Keith Henderson, Doug
Bray, Dr Jeremy Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E) Holland, Stuart
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Home Robertson, John
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E) Hood, Jimmy
Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith) Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Buchan, Norman Hughes, John (Coventry NE)
Buckley, George J. Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Caborn, Richard Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley) Hughes, Simon (Southwark)s
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Illsley, Eric
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g) Janner, Greville
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) John, Brynmor
Clay, Bob Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Clelland, David Jones, Ieuan (Ynys Môn)
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)
Cohen, Harry Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Kennedy, Charles
Corbett, Robin Kilfedder, James
Corbyn, Jeremy Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil
Cousins, Jim Kirkwood, Archy
Cox, Tom Lamond, James
Cryer, Bob Leighton, Ron
Cummings, John Lestor, Joan (Eccles)
Cunningham, Dr John Lewis, Terry
Dalyell, Tam Litherland, Robert
Darling, Alistair Livsey, Richard
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l) Loyden, Eddie
Dixon, Don McAllion, John
Dobson, Frank McAvoy, Thomas
Doran, Frank McCartney, Ian
Douglas, Dick Macdonald, Calum A.
Duffy, A. E. P. McFall, John
Dunnachie, Jimmy McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)
Eastham, Ken McKelvey, William
Evans, John (St Helens N) McNamara, Kevin
Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E) McTaggart, Bob
Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray) McWilliam, John
Faulds, Andrew Madden, Max
Fearn, Ronald Mahon, Mrs Alice
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Marek, Dr John
Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n) Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Fisher, Mark Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)
Flannery, Martin Martlew, Eric
Flynn, Paul Meacher, Michael
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Meale, Alan
Foster, Derek Michael, Alun
Foulkes, George Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Fraser, John Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby) Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Moonie, Dr Lewis Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Morgan, Rhodri Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)
Morley, Elliott Snape, Peter
Mowlam, Marjorie Soley, Clive
Mullin, Chris Spearing, Nigel
Murphy, Paul Squire, Robin
Nellist, Dave Steel, Rt Hon David
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Steinberg, Gerry
O'Brien, William Stott, Roger
O'Neill, Martin Strang, Gavin
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Parry, Robert Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Patchett, Terry Thomas, Dr Dafydd Elis
Pendry, Tom Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Pike, Peter L. Turner, Dennis
Powell, Ray (Ogmore) Wall, Pat
Prescott, John Wallace, James
Quin, Ms Joyce Walley, Joan
Radice, Giles Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Randall, Stuart Wareing, Robert N.
Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn Welsh. Andrew (Angus E)
Richardson, Jo Welsh. Michael (Doncaster N)
Roberts, Allan (Bootle) Wigley, Dafydd
Robertson, George Williams, Rt Hon Alan
Robinson, Geoffrey Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Rooker, Jeff Wise, Mrs Audrey
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W) Worthington, Tony
Ruddock, Joan Wray, Jimmy
Salmond, Alex Young, David (Bolton SE)
Sedgemore, Brian
Sheerman, Barry Tellers for the Ayes:
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert Mr. Frank Cook and
Short, Clare Mr. Tony Banks.
Skinner, Dennis
Adley, Robert Butterfill, John
Alexander, Richard Carlisle, John, (Luton N)
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Amess, David Carrington, Matthew
Amos, Alan Carttiss, Michael
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Cash, William
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove) Chapman, Sydney
Ashby, David Chope, Christopher
Aspinwall, Jack Clark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n)
Atkins, Robert Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Colvin, Michael
Batiste, Spencer Conway, Derek
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)
Beggs, Roy Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Bellingham, Henry Cran, James
Bendall, Vivian Critchley, Julian
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Currie, Mrs Edwina
Benyon, W. Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)
Biffen, Rt Hon John Davis, David (Boothferry)
Blackburn, Dr John G. Day, Stephen
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Devlin, Tim
Boscawen, Hon Robert Dickens, Geoffrey
Boswell, Tim Dorrell, Stephen
Bottomley, Peter Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Dover, Den
Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n) Dunn, Bob
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Durant, Tony
Bowis, John Dykes, Hugh
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes Eggar, Tim
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard Evennett, David
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Fairbairn, Nicholas
Brazier, Julian Fallon, Michael
Bright, Graham Farr, Sir John
Brittan, Rt Hon Leon Favell, Tony
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Fenner, Dame Peggy
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South) Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick Fookes, Miss Janet
Buck, Sir Antony Forman, Nigel
Budgen, Nicholas Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Burns, Simon Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S)
Burt, Alistair Forth, Eric
Butler, Chris Fox, Sir Marcus
Franks, Cecil Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
Freeman, Roger Hunt, David (Wirral W)
French, Douglas Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Gale, Roger Hunter, Andrew
Gardiner, George Irvine, Michael
Garel-Jones, Tristan Jack, Michael
Gill, Christopher Jackson, Robert
Glyn, Dr Alan Janman, Tim
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles Jessel, Toby
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Gow, Ian Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Gower, Sir Raymond Jones, Robert B (Herts W)
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Key, Robert
Gregory, Conal King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E') King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Knapman, Roger
Grist, Ian Knight, Greg (Derby North)
Ground, Patrick Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)
Grylls, Michael Knowles, Michael
Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom) Knox, David
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Lamont, Rt Hon Norman
Hanley, Jeremy Lang, Ian
Hannam, John Latham, Michael
Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr') Lee, John (Pendle)
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn) Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Harris, David Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Haselhurst, Alan Lilley, Peter
Hawkins, Christopher Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)
Hayes, Jerry Lord, Michael
Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney Luce, Rt Hon Richard
Hayward, Robert Lyell, Sir Nicholas
Heathcoat-Amory, David McCrindle, Robert
Heddle, John Macfarlane, Sir Neil
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)
Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE) Maclean, David
Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE) McLoughlin, Patrick
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)
Hind, Kenneth McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Madel, David
Holt, Richard Maginnis, Ken
Hordern, Sir Peter Major, Rt Hon John
Howard, Michael Malins, Humfrey
Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A) Mans, Keith
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd) Maples, John
Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk) Marlow, Tony
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Maude, Hon Francis Ridsdale, Sir Julian
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Meyer, Sir Anthony Roe, Mrs Marion
Miller, Hal Ross, William (Londonderry E)
Mills, Iain Rossi, Sir Hugh
Miscampbell, Norman Ryder, Richard
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Sackville, Hon Tom
Moate, Roger Sainsbury, Hon Tim
Monro, Sir Hector Sayeed, Jonathan
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Shaw, David (Dover)
Morris, M (N'hampton S) Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Moss, Malcolm Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Moynihan, Hon Colin Shelton, William (Streatham)
Neale, Gerrard Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
Needham, Richard Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Neubert, Michael Shersby, Michael
Nicholls, Patrick Sims, Roger
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Skeet, Sir Trevor
Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Oppenheim, Phillip Soames, Hon Nicholas
Page, Richard Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
Paice, James Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Patnick, Irvine Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Patten, Chris (Bath) Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Pawsey, James Thurnham, Peter
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Porter, David (Waveney) Waddington, Rt Hon David
Portillo, Michael Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Powell, William (Corby) Watts, John
Price, Sir David Wheeler, John
Raison, Rt Hon Timothy Widdecombe, Ann
Rathbone, Tim Wilshire, David
Redwood, John Wood, Timothy
Renton, Tim
Rhodes James, Robert Tellers for the Noes:
Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon Mr. Peter Lloyd and
Riddick, Graham Mr. David Lightbown.

Question accordingly negatived.

Lords amendment agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 11 and 12 agreed to.