My Lords, I shall not detain your Lordships for long but I feel that I cannot let this moment go by without stating where I stand. I have many concerns about the Bill. However, the one clause which really horrifies me is Clause 68 with its intention to repeal Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988. I find it inconceivable that any government would wish to go down this route. I was interested to see that the issue commanded all of three lines in the Explanatory Notes to the Bill. I do not accept the premise that the repeal is necessary to enable local authorities to tackle homophobic bullying at school. I have to say that that is a practice which I abhor wholeheartedly. However, there are other ways of coping with the problem.
In January this year the Government's Green Paper stated that marriage is still the surest foundation for raising children. Since then, statements made by some Ministers and measures taken are in direct contradiction to the Green Paper. The family is the bedrock of society and we need to strengthen it all we can. Listening to some descriptions of the family makes me realise how the understanding of an issue is so different for different people.
My father died, so I grew up in a one-parent family. My mother was wonderful but I longed for my father; that could not be. I believe most sincerely that where both parents are alive everything should be done to help that union survive. It does not help anyone to be told that it does not matter if you have a peripatetic father who has other liaisons or that life is wonderful if your parent has a live-in lover. If you have to live out of a suitcase because you have your time split between your parents who have other relationships, it does not help to be told that that is fine. It must be hell for everyone, even if no one says it aloud. Marriage should be promoted in schools so that children can grow up, wherever possible, with two parents living together under one roof. Those of us who feel passionately about that must stand up and say so.
I have always felt that homosexuality is a sensitive and personal matter between consenting adults. I have friends who are homosexual and I do not discriminate in any way against people on sexual, religious or gender issues. But I am emphatically against promoting homosexuality. Children have enough problems when they reach puberty coming to terms with their sexuality and to have someone in authority encouraging them to accept alternative lifestyles as normal is abhorrent and against natural teaching.
I want to mention girls because often this is seen as a male problem. Reducing the age of consent will lead to problems for girls as it would legalise consensual buggery with girls of 16 to 18 for the first time. It is a physically harmful practice. It can lead to the spread of infection as well as traumatising girls at a tender age. One wonders if normal, loving relationships could ever succeed after such abuse.
This Government have an obsession with modernisation. In the past, under a Labour government, we had a permissive society. The legacy of this Government may be an "anything goes" society; "Forget about standards, just go for it. Do it your own way. We will back anything you do". If that is where we are going in the Government's so-called modern society, I fear for future generations.