Prohibition on Promoting Homosexuality by Teaching or by Publishing Material

Part of Orders of the Day — Local Government Bill – in the House of Commons at 7:30 pm on 15th December 1987.

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Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 7:30 pm, 15th December 1987

I did not hear that, but I see that the hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Forth) is nodding his assent to the remark. For a moment, I thought that bonking and bonkers had to do with another activity, which might be appropriate to this debate. I do not know whether that is the first use of the word on the record, but I gather that it is in common parlance, so we should talk about it here, too.

I do not believe that homosexuals want their sexuality to be promoted any more than anyone else does. They would argue not for discrimination in their favour, but for equal treatment with everyone else. They want their sexuality to be accepted and to have equal access to jobs, housing, social and medical help, advice and particularly the sort of advice and counselling that take place during education and growing up.

8.15 pm

If the clause's aim is to protect the young, why are we not doing something about soft porn magazines, which are on sale in newsagents? Why are we not doing something about the matter raised by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms. Short) only last year—page 3 pictures in the popular newspapers? If we are trying not to promote different forms of sexuality, why do we not deal with television advertising, which often tries to sell products merely by appealing to people's sexual nature and motives? Why do the Government suddenly select this target, rather than another?

Of course, there are always people who will take advantage of positions of responsibility in a sexual context. However, that is true across the whole range of sexual activity. There is no evidence of any greater incidence of crime against young people by homosexuals than by heterosexuals. Sadly, there is always the risk that some adults will abuse their sexual adulthood in relationships with the young. But that is not a result of the promotion or advancement of arguments about homosexuality's existence. Indeed, I would argue strongly that unless awareness of homosexuality and acceptance of homosexuals is taught in school, they will be taught away from the classroon, in private, in a more harmful way.

That is why our amendments, and those tabled elsewhere, are important. I have heard informally that the Government plan to resist the amendments; but this prejudiced and bigoted late change of mind, which is presumably an effort to capitalise on a populist view and to gain the maximum political advantage from the scares and fears about AIDS and so on is something from which I hope they will resile. It is about time we had some principle on the issue, and not a sudden U-turn in the space of 12 months.

The debate about the new section, as set out in clause 27, raises many questions of definition. The Minister conceded in Committee that there was no definition in the Bill of the words "promotion", "acceptability", "pretended" or "family". Subsection (1)(b), if unamended, would read as follows: A local authority shall not — … (b) promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship by the publication of such material or otherwise".