Roughly 42 years ago, the Wolfenden recommendations came before your Lordships' House, well before the House of Commons dared to consider them. As so often, this House gave a lead to the other place. I was strongly in favour of the proposals, and was one of those who voted in favour for the first time. The result was 94 votes to 49. Bernard Levin, in his column the next day, said, "Hoorah for their Lordships".
Our action seems wholly uncontroversial—indeed, perhaps slightly on the timid side today—but, at that time, a great many people, particularly north of the border but also in England and Wales, regarded it as definitely radical and provocative. We were called all sorts of rude names, which of course one shrugged off. However, there were more moderate opponents, who tended to argue along these lines: "Yes, the Wolfenden proposals are all very well, but they are the thin end of the wedge. The pendulum is bound to swing too far in the other direction. Mark my words, before many years are out, they"—the more militant homosexuals and not, of course, the ordinary discreet sort—"will demand not merely toleration for their sexual activities—no problem about that—but positive respect, even admiration, for them". To which I replied, "Oh, come on. Nonsense. You're being alarmist". With hindsight, I have to say that I was wrong and they were right.
The danger is not that people will go to prison for criticising certain homosexual behaviour—for the simple reason that no British jury would ever convict, even if the Attorney-General authorised a prosecution—but that, as the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, and the noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, pointed out, the police, in their anxiety to carry out the wishes of their politically correct superiors, will harass people. For that reason, it is vital that we support the amendment.