Marriage and Christian Values

Oral Answers to Questions — Education and Employment – in the House of Commons at 1:51 pm on 26 February 1997.

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Photo of Mr Andrew Hargreaves Mr Andrew Hargreaves , Birmingham, Hall Green 1:51, 26 February 1997

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what representations she has received regarding amendments to the Education Bill relating to marriage and Christian values. [16061]

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth , Mid Worcestershire

We have received one such representation, in the form of a letter from my right hon. Friend the Member for Selby (Mr. Alison) to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, who replied yesterday.

Photo of Mr Andrew Hargreaves Mr Andrew Hargreaves , Birmingham, Hall Green

Will my right. hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench accept that there was widespread support on the Conservative Benches for the amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle (Mr. Leigh), and that there is rising concern among Christians, of both the Anglican and Roman Catholic faiths, about the position of Dr. Tate and the direction of the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority? Does he further accept that we look to our right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench actively to promote and support Christian values and the model of marriage in our education policy?

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth , Mid Worcestershire

Yes, my hon. Friend is right. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has undertaken to await SCAA's establishing beyond doubt the views of the key religious denominations in this matter to ensure that SCAA and my right hon. Friend know exactly the Churches' views when determining this very important matter. My hon. Friend may also wish to know that my right hon. Friend will shortly meet Mr. Guy Hordern, among others, to discuss these matters.

Photo of Mr Robin Corbett Mr Robin Corbett , Birmingham, Erdington

Does the Minister recall the Prime Minister meeting people from the ethnic communities in London earlier this month and claiming that he and his party supported and embraced the multicultural and multi-faith aspects of our society? How does that square with what the Minister just told the hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Hargreaves) about ignoring the other religions and concentrating solely on the Christian religion?

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth , Mid Worcestershire

That is simply not the case. The main point at issue is the explicit role of marriage in the education curriculum and in the teaching of our young people. I am not aware—I hope that the hon. Gentleman is not implying this—that any of the main faiths, Christian or otherwise, do not give the same central core respect to marriage.

Photo of Mr Michael Alison Mr Michael Alison , Selby

Although my right hon. Friend and my hon. Friend must necessarily be reactive in responding to the SCAA national forum initiative on values in education, the Government as a whole can be thoroughly positive and proactive in supporting and promoting, not least in schools, the Christian ideal of marriage, as was vividly demonstrated by the Lord Chancellor's significant speech on 11 February during national marriage week.

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth , Mid Worcestershire

I am most grateful to my right hon. Friend. I remind the House that, in that excellent speech, our right hon. and noble Friend the Lord Chancellor said: The first thing we can all do is to promote a positive and realistic image of marriage among the public in general and especially among young people who may be contemplating marriage. That, surely, is a typically elegant and succinct expression of the view that Conservative Members share.

My right hon. Friend expressed some reservations about the role of the forum that is advising SCAA on this. In my view, the forum that really matters in the end is the House of Commons.