MOTION MOVED ON CONSIDERATION OF COMMONS AMENDMENT No. 377

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:15 pm on 24th July 2000.

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Photo of Lord Alli Lord Alli Labour 7:15 pm, 24th July 2000

My Lords, I do not accept that. To discuss is not to promote. When children ask questions about sexuality they need and deserve an honest answer, if only to prevent bullying in the playground. Sometimes knowledge is their only protection in an ugly world. No one suggests that knowledge of racism makes a person black and no one suggests that knowledge of anti-Semitism makes a person Jewish, so how can knowledge of homosexuality make a person a homosexual? That argument defies logic and evidence. Research shows that straight people cannot be "converted" into gay people. It is hard enough to teach children to read and write let alone to attempt to change their very nature.

The third main argument is that homosexuality is morally wrong; to quote the noble Duke, the Duke of Norfolk, it is "unnatural". I know that these are honestly and deeply held opinions, but surely they are not a basis for our legislation.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford was right when he said:

"Irrespective of the judgements we make about people's personal lifestyles and choices, the law has a duty to refer to all citizens with the respect required by their God-given dignity".

A noble part of the heritage of this House has been its willingness to scrutinise and improve legislation and to ask the questions that have not been raised in another place. We have fulfilled that task. Equally noble has been the ability of this House to reach conclusions that are consensual and inclusive. We have fulfilled that task too. There are procedures and guidelines in place to teach, to guide and to protect children. There is no longer a legal need for Section 28. It is a redundant piece of legislation.