Parental Involvement in Teaching: Equality Act

Part of Petition - Closure of Heywood Crown Post Office – in the House of Commons at 4:27 pm on 25th June 2019.

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Photo of Lloyd Russell-Moyle Lloyd Russell-Moyle Labour/Co-operative, Brighton, Kemptown 4:27 pm, 25th June 2019

I totally agree. It is even more important that a Member of Parliament, and I would not want to tell anyone how to do their job, should not go and plonk themselves down on one side of the debate without analysing—my hon. Friend Stephen Doughty gave resources to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green—the content of what is being discussed. It is extremely dangerous not to show that leadership, and that is why the debate was wrong from the beginning. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green has been deeply wrong in how he has handled the issue. Pandering to the mob is never right. It is always easy for an MP to do, but we go in the wrong direction if we do it.

Let us remember that one of the things that instigated section 28 was the book “Jenny lives with Eric and Martin”. It is a pretty mundane and boring book: Jenny goes and has an ice cream; Jenny has a book read to her by one of her fathers. It is hardly high literature. There was a backlash, against a backdrop of rising right-wing tension—[Interruption.] I thought you said something, Mr Speaker. Of course, that led to the introduction of section 28. I do not think that we are on the verge of section 28 being introduced again, but we must be vigilant about bringing people along on that journey.

I shall conclude with two points. First, there is a place for parents on that journey, not to consult them on whether something should be included in the curriculum or not but, to some extent, to make up for the fact that we had section 28 for so long. Many parents failed to receive that level of education and understanding. There is a purpose in reaching out to the community.

Secondly, before I became an MP, I wrote an education resource for the Council of Europe on how we talked to educated children under 10 about sexuality and different families. The Council of Europe hardly draws its members from purely progressive countries—it includes Russia, Turkey and Poland—and the resource was accessible in all those countries. I am proud of that resource, which a team helped to write. People in the Council of Europe, including British Ministers, helped to lead a debate at that level to change attitudes and run campaigns to change minds and educate people.

We have not really received an apology. What we heard was a defence of the position taken by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green, with a little apology at the end. I wish that he had just been honest about having real problems with the content of the teaching or said that he had not decided to take one side or the other. What we now have is a very disappointing outcome.