Local Government Bill [H.L.]

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:31 pm on 6th December 1999.

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Photo of Baroness Knight of Collingtree Baroness Knight of Collingtree Conservative 8:31 pm, 6th December 1999

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for drawing my attention and that of the House to what is now being keenly anticipated. It would amaze me if anyone in this House supported what we have just heard. It was those matters which made me introduce Clause 28 and it is important that the House understands that.

I referred earlier to the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey. Haringey council made a video called "How to become a lesbian in 35 minutes". It was intended to be shown in a school for mentally handicapped girls, some of whom were extremely young. In the course of my years as a local councillor I took a great interest in the mentally handicapped children in my area; I served on the boards of schools and had a great deal to do with them. From my experience of those children, it is difficult enough for them to understand normal sexual relations without having homosexuality foisted upon them. I find it horrifying that anyone would support that.

All of that was stopped dead by Clause 28. Clause 28 was introduced for that purpose, and that purpose alone. It was not intended to harm people who, as adults, decided that that was the way of life for them. Clause 28 had nothing to say about that. It was certainly not my intention at any time to try to marginalise or be unfair to those who choose the homosexual way of life. But I am anxious about little children and feel I have a perfect right to be so.

When Clause 28 was introduced, it was recognised that it was necessary. My provision obtained a big majority in the other place, though the most wild allegations were being made. Some people suggested that it would not allow the production or teaching of Shakespeare in schools. That has been proven to be quite wrong, as were many other allegations. My noble friends Lord Waddington and Lady Blatch made it clear that there was nothing in Clause 28 which could encourage or initiate bullying. We all hate bullying. It happens for a number of reasons and it is the job of the teacher to notice it happening and to stop it. There was no suggestion that Clause 28 encouraged bullying and I utterly reject that allegation. In fact, I am in touch with a number of schools and school governors. I am known to be the initiator of Clause 28 and have had not one complaint that it led to bullying. I am sure that I would have done. Clause 28 was intended solely to protect little children. Those who seek to repeal it now must explain why they seek to withdraw that protection and on what grounds they so deplore normal family life.

In the past week I have received over 1,000 letters and petitions from those who support what is now Section 28. I ask your Lordships, and in particular I ask the Government, to realise that there is a well of public opinion that is extremely anxious that it be abolished. People are anxious that their children should not be subject to that kind of proselytising. I suggested to some of those who wrote to me that they ought to write to their Members of Parliament and tell them their views. Many of them did so and some sent me the replies. The Member of Parliament for Brighton Kemptown said that he understood the concern but had to point out that no prosecutions had ever been brought as a result of Section 28. Does that show it is not successful? I should have thought it showed the reverse.

My noble friend Lord Waddington mentioned Nick Seaton. He is the chairman for the Campaign for Real Education and once said:

"Before Section 28 came into force we were getting considerable numbers of parents complaining to us about the promotion of homosexuality in schools. After Section 28 it almost disappeared as an issue. If Section 28 were to be repealed, it is almost certain that the promotion of homosexuality would become a huge bone of contention between parents and schools".

The interjection from my noble friend proves that that is the case. However, when the noble Baroness, Lady Massey of Darwen, spoke, she was very soothing and said that there are a whole number of new rules. But when Clause 28 was introduced there were already rules about governors; that what was being taught should be passed by the whole school; but it was still taught. The noble Baroness said that one of the new rules was that there should be no promotion of homosexuality. But if we repeal Section 28 that is exactly what will happen. The message will be: "Go out and promote homosexuality; go ahead. There is no earthly reason why you should not". And that worries me greatly.

I particularly noticed that at the start of this debate the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, called Section 28 "pernicious". I went to the Library and looked up the word in the dictionary. The meaning of the word pernicious is,

"wicked, malicious, causing grave harm".

I feel that the situation is the other way round; that it is wicked to tell children of five and six years old how to commit a homosexual act and encourage them to do so; that it is malicious to approach young mentally handicapped girls with the idea that homosexuality is a good way to proceed. I do not know what could cause more grave harm than to try to promote, as does the book Jenny lives with Eric and Martin, marriage as being outdated; that we should not have a mummy and daddy and can just as well have a daddy and a homosexual lover. I warn the Government that if they proceed with this, they will come up against a great deal of public objection, with which I heartily agree.