Schedule 26 — Hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation

Part of Orders of the Day – in the House of Commons at 9:45 pm on 6th May 2008.

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Photo of Maria Eagle Maria Eagle The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice 9:45 pm, 6th May 2008

As far as I am aware, we Government Members are on a whipped vote, but Members will vote whichever way they wish.

I do not believe for a moment that the fact that we are taking the opportunity to get rid of offences that have fallen into disuse and are no longer usable indicates that the Government are not in favour of Christianity, or want to disestablish the Church. I noticed that one or two Opposition Members, including Miss Widdecombe, asserted that the problem was not that the offences were not usable, but that there was no will to use them. I would dispute that; I do not think that they are usable because of the way things have developed over the years. We have discussed those developments during the passage of the legislation. If it is simply a matter of will, the right hon. Lady will note that the last time someone tried to use the offences was in 1977—they have not been used by the public authorities since 1920. So it is not simply the present Government or Labour Governments who have not sought to use the offences or not had the will to use them, but every Conservative Government as well.

I do not believe for a minute, and I am sure the right hon. Lady does not believe, that if the offences were to go when the Bill receives Royal assent and if the Commons agrees to the Lords amendments tonight, we will end up with a more secular society or a society that denies its Christian heritage. Christians and Christian organisations in this country are well able to assert their own history—

It being Ten o'clock, Mr. Speaker put the Question already proposed from the Chair, pursuant to Order [this day].