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 Baroness Young Baroness Young Conservative 8:00 pm, 24th July 2000

My Lords, I should like to thank all those who have spoken in support of me today. I thank in particular the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester. He said--I think I quote him correctly--that Section 28 is a stabilising benchmark. In using those words, he used the precise words that were used by the noble Lord, Lord Habgood, when we debated this matter previously. The right reverend Prelate said something else which I think is profoundly true. One of the tragedies of life today is that what has always been accepted--the wisdom of one generation being passed on to another--has been given up; and, because it has been given up, adults have abnegated their responsibility to children. If I may say so to the Government, there is no greater example of that abnegation than the guidelines on sex education. I have read all 33 pages. It is difficult not to draw the conclusion that they are value free and that they are just saying to young people, "Do what you feel comfortable with and take contraceptive advice". That is not a very good message to give to young people.

I should like also to thank the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, who spoke from a wealth of experience. I thought that his wise words are ones to which we should all pay attention. I am grateful for the support that I have had all the way through from my noble friend Lady Blatch, who has been consistent and steadfast in her support on these matters.

Perhaps I may conclude by saying to the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, that I was very sorry to hear what he said in his final remarks. He attributed to me a good many opinions which I do not hold. If he reads what I actually said, he will see that I neither said them nor think them. He based his arguments very largely on the guidelines for sex education. Before entering the debate, I, too, took legal advice. I simply make two points. First, the local authority employs teachers. It is therefore responsible ultimately for the actions of its employees. Secondly, to say that Section 28 has no effect is simply not true; nor is it true that children will be protected in other subjects outside sex education. The legal advice which I have been given suggests that that is not the case.

This question is not about discrimination towards adults. We are not talking about adults at all. As I said earlier, how adults choose to conduct their lives is a matter for them. The whole question of Section 28 started with parents concerned about children. At the centre of it have always been parents and, above all, children. If we really care about what happens to children--what is said to children in schools and outside--and if we are to fulfil our adult responsibilities, we will vote to keep Section 28. I commend the amendment to the House.