Orders of the Day — Civil Partnership Bill [Lords]

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:38 pm on 12th October 2004.

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Photo of Charles Hendry Charles Hendry Shadow Minister (Children, Young People and Families), Deputy Chair, Conservative Party 5:38 pm, 12th October 2004

Shareholders will decide whether our noble Friend is the right person to hold a position on that board. My hon. Friend says that she may be forced out. It is entirely legitimate in a democracy to make people aware of the views and the comments that others have expressed.

I shall take head-on the suggestion that is made, especially in the media, that the Bill confers unfair advantages on same-sex couples or that it panders to the gay agenda. In my role as shadow Minister with responsibility for young people, I have met different youth groups throughout the country. Sometimes they have been working in inner cities, sometimes they have been involved in colleges and schools and sometimes they have been working with young gays and lesbians. The most shocking things that I have heard have been about the abuse that young people face.

I heard a young lad in Brighton describe how he was beaten up in the streets simply because he was out with his partner. He was not doing anything that anyone in the heterosexual community would find it difficult to do. He was beaten up merely because he was out with his partner. I heard from a young kid in Leeds who had suffered constant homophobic bullying in school. When he, as an individual, finally fought back he was the one who was excluded. That was abominable. He was the victim. Bullied children are always the victims and they need Members of this place to stand up for them.

As people grow up they might find that they face difficulties and discrimination merely because of their sexuality—something with which they are not able to deal. There are those who have to go through the trauma of telling their families and friends that they are gay or lesbian, as a result of which they are often thrown out of their homes.

In my old role as chairman of the all-party group on homelessness I heard of 16-year-olds who had been kicked out of their homes because their parents were not prepared to accept their sexuality. I cannot understand people facing abuse throughout their daily lives because of their sexuality. We are right to address these issues, and we must put a stop to them.

People who happen to be gay or lesbian and play a role in public life end up finding that they can be gratuitously insulted because of their sexuality. Brian Paddick is the Assistant Metropolitan Police Commissioner. He is a fine and outstanding police officer. I often feel that the media think that they can give him a kicking and criticise him because he is an openly gay policeman. Such attitudes belong to a bygone era, and the Bill is part of kicking them into history.