Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:30 pm on 24th July 2000.

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Photo of Lord Hooson Lord Hooson Liberal Democrat 7:30 pm, 24th July 2000

My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, that it is a great pity that this is a political debate. As my colleagues on these Benches know, I thoroughly disapprove of the fact that there is a three-line Whip on a matter that should be discussed quite apart from political pressures. I agree with my noble friend Lord Russell that if the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Young, is passed this evening, it will not be the end of the matter; but neither will it be the end of the matter if her amendment is defeated. The truth is that we have got ourselves into a situation where we are called upon to exercise our wisdom.

Surely it is possible to analyse the real problem. It is a problem that concerns a very small minority. It is not homosexuals; it is not heterosexuals: it is the zealots on either side, who are very difficult to deal with. If the Government were wise, they would look for a means to solve the problem which I believe is provided by the amendment tabled in the name of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman. I have attached my name to it because I thoroughly approve of it. Indeed, this amendment was tabled at a much earlier stage.

Let us look at the conceived or the perceived evil of Section 28, as far as concerns the homosexual community. Section 28 is the exclusive concern of the zealots of homosexuality. However, we all know that there are also zealots who advocate early sex and experimentation on a heterosexual basis. Therefore, why should we distinguish between the two? If we look at the proposed amendment of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman, we see that, instead of Section 28 being totally repealed, it is amended so as to include the words:

"Subject to the general principle that the institution of marriage is to be supported, a local authority shall not encourage, or publish material intended to encourage, the adoption of any particular sexual life style".

Subsection (3) of the amendment goes on to state:

"This section does not prohibit the provision for young persons of sex education or counselling services on sexual behaviour and associated health risks".

Therefore, it gets rid of the problem of the insult--as it is regarded--to the homosexual community. It applies the prohibition to both the heterosexual and the homosexual communities. If these words had been included in the original Section 28, it would have afforded all the protection for which the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and others, are looking. If that is the protection required, why on earth do not the Government take themselves, as well as everyone else, off the hook on this matter?

We are dealing with a difficult subject. Here I disagree with my noble friend Lord Russell. It is not a question of youth against age. A few young people may be more anxious to promote homosexuality, but this is an area where the older generation can provide some wisdom and guidance. Surely that is what we are looking for in this regard. That is why I believe that this House should look most carefully at the amendment proposed by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman.