In a sense, this is a prelude to our next debate. I have some sympathy with the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, in raising this matter, where allegations have been made by organisations and papers suggesting that homosexuals must all be paedophiles and therefore should be treated as criminals. The noble Lord is right to raise that as a matter of concern and to understand that for the gay community that can be very divisive and can generate fear and hostility. Where I do not agree with him is on the necessity for his amendment, for the reasons that the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, suggested.
The question is whether the Bill is capable of catching the circumstances raised by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, if an allegation is made in a threatening way. We do not think that we should expand the offence automatically to cover all suggestions that homosexuals are paedophiles, even if those suggestions are made in a way that would not otherwise be threatening. That would be a small but significant extra incursion into free speech. We have determined that the right place to draw the line in this case is for the offence to catch only material that is really threatening in the ordinary sense of the word. If we extend the offence specifically to cover allegations of a propensity for child sexual abuse, what about other allegations that might be made against homosexuals? What about allegations, for instance, that all gay people have AIDS and intend to infect everyone else, which has been the subject of some material in the past?
If we specify, it leads to the old problem of criminalising one specific aspect of homophobic hatred. There is also the danger that perpetrators will simply shift their line of attack to some other suggestion that is threatening and will stir up hatred. The noble Lord raises a matter of very real concern, but I rest my case in the wording of the Bill under which, when an allegation is considered to be threatening and with intent to stir up hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation, it would already be caught.