MOTION MOVED ON CONSIDERATION OF COMMONS AMENDMENT No. 377

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:00 pm on 24th July 2000.

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Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions 8:00 pm, 24th July 2000

My Lords, noble Lords opposite cry "No". But we have heard references in the debate and outside this Chamber to the provision of what is called "explicit sexual material". Any sex education refers explicitly to sexual activity. It is helpful for children and young adults to know what is being talked about in that respect. If noble Lords opposite object to any such explicit material in whatever context it is put, however much it is surrounded by a social and emotional context, if they regard that as promotion of homosexuality, and many of them do, and much of the media do, then the word "promotion" is seriously misleading and should be taken out of the law. It should be recognised even by the proponents of Section 28 that that has greatly undermined its effect.

Behind this also is the need for us not to use the law of the land to enforce moral judgments on specific members of our society. Three hundred years ago we broke the link between the ecclesiastical courts and the civil and criminal courts. Many people appear to want those who appear to favour or give comfort to those who are homosexual--whether in counselling, education or wherever--to be guilty of some kind of civil offence. We should continue to separate out the sphere of our moral leaders from those of our legal enforcement process. I recognise that many people have deep religious convictions, both in this House and elsewhere, that homosexuality is wrong. Many other sexual activities by those same people would probably be regarded as almost equally wrong--fornication, adultery and so on. But these activities exist in our society and many people engage in them. In our society young adults need to know about them. We have to pick up the consequences of relationships which are based on them.