My Lords, we have just listened to a very moving speech. I cannot go along with everything that the noble Baroness said because she was so harsh about the Government. However, she spoke from her special knowledge.
There has always been a free vote on this matter and therefore I am happy to think that I am able to vote against the policy advocated, so ably as always, by the Minister. I am aware that there are deeply-held views on this subject and therefore I shall speak very briefly.
I suppose that I must present my pro-homosexual credentials by saying that I was the first person who dared touch the subject 40 years ago, when I introduced a Motion in relation to the Wolfenden Report. I said then, as I say now, that we must treat people with homosexual leanings with proper respect; but in those days that was not at all a popular thing to say.
Turning to the present time, I am not bigoted against homosexuals and I hope that nobody thinks I am. I visit in prison two who have been homosexuals, sentenced for grave offences: one to 10 years and the other to 15 years. In the second case the prisoner has now abandoned those ways, and I shall have my hand on his shoulder as his sponsor when he joins the Catholic Church next week--so no one must call me "an enemy of the homos".
Do we or do we not wish our children to be homosexual? Do we just laugh it off, as some people do? The strange fact is that, in the 50 years that I have been in this House, there has been only one man, and no women, who has got up and said that he is homosexual--Lord Alli. I salute him; I give him all credit, and we want men like him. If it is a normal fact of life that people are homosexual, why has no one here said that they are homosexual? We cannot see it in the same way as backing Manchester United rather than the Arsenal, or something like that. It is really very serious and it is very rare.
We have to ask ourselves why we--why Christians, if you like--consider that it is wrong. Christians consider that sex outside marriage is wrong--heterosexual sex or homosexual sex. In that sense, therefore, they are on a par. That, logically, is one way of looking at it. Nevertheless, very few of us would want our children to be homosexual. I have been very lucky, having had eight children, 26 grandchildren, and heaven knows how many great-grandchildren.
Homosexuality is not normal; though that does not prove that it is necessarily wrong, it is very abnormal. People have to bear that in mind. People cannot be blamed for the leanings, of course; it is the performance, the act, which is wrong.
Why is it that so few of us would want our children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren to be homosexual? One obvious answer is that they cannot have families, and most people look upon families as a vital part of human life. That is the very sad fact about being homosexual. We therefore do not want to encourage it. Does anyone want to encourage homosexuality? I cannot believe that anyone does, except possibly my noble friend Lord Alli. I do not think that anyone would get up and say, "I am in favour of homosexuality. There is a lot to be said for it". You may perhaps find people saying it in some artistic club but, in my experience, you will not find it being said here.
We have this problem. Do we want to encourage homosexuality? This proposal will encourage it. We have to face the fact that it will encourage homosexuality in the young, and we do not know where that will lead. Maybe they will recover. The boy who assaulted my son in the bath at Eton, and was later expelled for doing the same to another boy, became a much-respected member of county society and captain of the cricket team. You can recover from it. Nevertheless, I think you are doing permanent damage to young people if you encourage them to be homosexual. I am therefore against this present proposal.