Local Government Bill [H.L.]

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:10 pm on 6th December 1999.

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Photo of Lady Saltoun of Abernethy Lady Saltoun of Abernethy Crossbench 7:10 pm, 6th December 1999

My Lords, I, too, shall concentrate on Clause 68, so anyone bored with it had better leave now. First, the clause was not in the draft Bill which came before the Joint Committee. It was put in--I was going to say "sneaked in"--later. It was not in the manifesto; nor did it form part of the gracious Speech.

Clause 68 repeals Section 2A--better known as Clause 28--of the Local Government Act 1986. Some of your Lordships may be interested in the story of its birth. It started very soon after the opening of Parliament in 1986. The noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, and I were having a drink together in the Bishops' Bar. He said to me, "Well, what are you going to get your teeth into this Session?" I said, "I am very worried about the fact that some local authorities are promoting homosexuality in their schools, teaching children that it is better to be homosexual than heterosexual, and using taxpayers' money to do so. What is more, parents who object have not only been ignored but subjected to every kind of unpleasantness and even to violence". So we decided that probably the best way to deal with the matter would be a Private Member's Bill.

We discussed the issue a little further and decided that the best person to take the Private Member's Bill through this House would be the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, who was so greatly loved and respected on all sides of the House and is sadly missed by all who knew him. The noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, drafted a Bill. If the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, believes that it was abominably drafted, I think that the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, would be the first to agree with him. It was a DIY job and the noble Lord is not a parliamentary draftsman. The Bill was amended by the noble Duke, the Duke of Norfolk. The noble Baroness, Lady Cox, also took a great interest in it. The Bill passed through this House but was talked out in another place. That was the end of the story for a short time. But then in 1988 the Bill was subsumed into the Government's Local Government Bill as Clause 28.

The repeal of Section 28 will remove the small amount of protection which it has provided for the past 11 years against the manipulation of even quite young children against their parents' wishes by a small but vociferous and determined minority, which has recently been trying to get round the limitations imposed by Section 28 by proselytising under the pretence of giving health education or counselling. Section 28 needs to be strengthened, not abolished. I have to say to the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, that he really should not believe all he is told by vociferous lobbies with vested interests. To say that Section 28 has led to the "institutionalisation of intolerance" is nonsense. There is nothing in Section 28 to prevent any teacher checking bullying or giving advice when asked. If there have been no prosecutions under Section 28, which is another indictment of it that I have heard today, perhaps I may say that Section 28 was not devised in order that people should be prosecuted: it was devised in order that people should not need to be prosecuted; and they were not because they paid attention to it.

So what is wrong with teaching children that it is better to be homosexual than heterosexual, because that is what promoting homosexuality means? Well, quite a lot is wrong. First, there is the health risk, particularly to boys, from many homosexual practices. I really am not going to go into the unedifying details. Most noble Lords know perfectly well what I am talking about; and if they do not, I suggest that they read either page five of Bankrolling gay Proselytism, the booklet which the Christian Institute has probably sent to many of them, or else ask the noble Lord, Lord Quirk, who made a speech on the subject not long ago.

Then there is the sadness in the lives of many homosexuals, particularly in later life, that they have no children or grandchildren. Yes, they may be able to adopt, and some lesbians may be able to have in vitro fertilisation, but it is not the same as having children who are your own flesh and blood, quite apart from whether or not it is desirable for the children.

We all know that boys are prone to hero worship older boys or men and that girls have crushes on older girls and women. That is caused by the hormonal changes of puberty. As a result, many young people in their teens are ambivalent about their sexuality and can be manipulated into homosexual relationships which may do permanent damage to their health, whereas had they been protected, they would have grown out of their homosexual leanings without any damage to themselves. It is a time when young people are very vulnerable--that is about only the point on which I agree with what the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford said. The homosexual lobby knows this. There is no such thing as a "homosexual gene", as some have tried to pretend, and they know that too.

So why do homosexuals proselytise? I think it is rather in the same way that drunks try to persuade everyone round them to drink too--because they feel more comfortable if all around are the same as them. If I were purple with orange spots, I should probably want every one of your Lordships to become purple with orange spots, so that I should feel at home. But there is another aspect with homosexuals. They are a minority, and so their choice of "partner", which I suppose is the word I shall have to use, must be restricted. But the more converts they can make, the wider their choice will be.

The various Christian denominations, the Jewish faith and other religions which forbade homosexuality, or used to, did not do it just for the sake of saying no, any more than they forbade the eating of certain food just for fun. They did it for very good reasons--mainly health reasons. I am sorry that the Christian Churches, and especially the Church of England, seem to have weakened their stance recently. I had hoped to see a bank of Bishops here today to support me, but in vain. There is some quite powerful stuff in the gospels about the consequences of corrupting children, but perhaps they do not read the Bible any longer, or only in some new fangled translation where the meaning has been watered down. Perhaps that is why churches are getting emptier and emptier. There is not much point in belonging to a church which has no morals and believes in nothing.

I really cannot understand why the Government want to do this. From where is the money coming for this proselytising? It comes out of the education budget, at the expense of paying teachers, having enough books and so on; or it comes out of the health budget, at the expense of such things as adequate nursing staff in hospitals and necessary drugs for elderly people. What is most important, it is going against the wishes of the vast majority of the people of this country, who are decent people who just want their children to grow up healthy and have a chance of a normal, happy married life. They do not want their children to be manipulated and pressurised at school, and they certainly do not want the taxes they pay to be used to pay for it. Why flout their wishes at the behest of a small, vociferous and sometimes violent minority?

At Committee stage, I hope to join the noble Baroness, Lady Young, in any amendment that she may choose to table to Clause 68. Since this is a moral question, I hope that this House at any rate will be allowed a free vote. It should be. Such matters should not be subject to the dictates of party policy, fashion and political correctness.