New Clause 11 — Guidance on offences that involve hatred on grounds of sexual orientation

Part of Pension Credit and Personal Expense Allowance (Duty of Consultation and Review) – in the House of Commons at 5:30 pm on 24th March 2009.

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Photo of Tom Harris Tom Harris Labour, Glasgow South 5:30 pm, 24th March 2009

I am delighted that so many colleagues have taken their places to listen to my short contribution. I am in a very unusual position. I am speaking against the Government for the first time since I became a Member in 2001 and face the prospect of voting against the Government on a three-line Whip, which I have never done before.

In a sermon in 2006, the Roman Catholic archbishop, Mario Conti, restated the Church's long-held policy that homosexual relationships should not be given the same value as married, heterosexual relationships. As it happens, I do not agree with the archbishop. I am glad that my hon. Friend the Deputy Leader of the House of Commons is in his place. He will remember a conversation that we had a couple of years ago, in which he said, "Tom, the only remotely left-wing thing about you is that you quite like poofs."

I have a long history of support for gay rights in this House. It is a matter of some regret that I have to speak against what the Government are trying to do tonight by removing the so-called Waddington amendment. If one speaks to almost any constituent one will realise that there is clearly public concern that a person who voices an opinion that is not considered to be politically correct could end up being questioned by police.

If they are not avidly tuned into the BBC Parliament channel right now, police officers throughout the country will take a keen interest in this debate, the outcome of which will have a major impact on their already massive work loads. If the Government get their way, officers will have every right to roll their eyes heavenward as they resign themselves to having to deal with an increased volume of correspondence from people who interpret every harsh word uttered as a broken bottle thrown.

When Archbishop Conti delivered his speech, a formal complaint was made against him by Patrick Harvie, a Green Member of the Scottish Parliament, who said that the archbishop's restatement of Church policy was an incitement to homophobic hatred. I assume that Glasgow's chief constable, being a sensible chap, can put that complaint into the bin, but we are making sure that police officers will have to deal with more vexatious actions simply because we are eliminating a provision that any member of the public would consider to be eminent common sense.

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Chris Boyce
Posted on 25 Mar 2009 12:41 pm (Report this annotation)

I pride myself in having opposing opinions of my local MP - Tom Harris, which he knows and I have my 3 acknowledgements from the house of commons on his behalf stuck to my fridge, still waiting for his responses.

Whilst I acknowledge that faith groups have an opinion on this issue I do not feel that religious groups should have the influence in affecting policies that are put in place to protect people.

I would also be interested to know if Mr Harris challenged the language of the deputy leadder of the house of commons in the sense that he seems to be infering that "poofs" are something not to be liked. Furthermore more I feel that it is totally atrociuos that he has used this example to give creedance to support his views, when in fact it is extremely derogatory.