Local Government Bill
Lords amendments considered.
Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I raise with you a matter of which you are already aware, the selection in relation to what was clause 28 when it left the House and will now be clause 29 of the Local Government Bill. You have given considerable thought to the amendments that I have tabled. For one last time, I shall briefly put to you the argument for taking one or both of the amendments that I propose.May we be allowed to debate whether, instead of the word "promote" in clause 29, as it will now be, we should have an alternative word, "commend", as was suggested in another place? The dictionary makes it clear — perhaps I did not make this argument clear before—that, whereas "commend" has only one meaning, "promote" is open to a variety of meanings. The ambiguity of the word "promote" could render the legislation controversial and problematic in a way that "commend" could not. The "Oxford Dictionary" makes it clear that there are different types of meaning of "promote", but "commend" has only a positive, welcoming or recommending sense. That word would seem to restrict the ambit of the clause and, therefore, raise a different issue about its reach. The other matter relates to the grouped pair of amendments that were tabled by me, amendments (b) and (d) to Lords amendment No. 10. The proposed amendment would delete the word "homosexuality" and replace it by
That matter, too, was debated in the other place. To paraphrase the argument in the other place, to promote or commend homosexuality is arguably scientifically impossible in the sense that, if homosexuality is a condition or an orientation, it cannot in any way be promoted or commended with any concrete effect. The alternative would be to make it clear—it would accord with the mischief with which the original proposer of the new clause sought to deal in Committee—that what was intended to be dealt with by the legislation was the promotion or commendation of sexual activity between people of the same sex. That clearly falls to be considered within the context of the legislation, and certainly—I do not think that there is any dispute—should not be promoted or commended by local authorities. But there is a difference. In practice, it would be the difference between a local authority properly allowing a teacher, for example, to respond to a proper question, and the local authority going on with its present duties and responsibilities in commending specific activity and being seen to endorse it. I am aware that you have given thought to the matter, Mr. Speaker, and I am grateful. But I ask you, particularly in respect of the first point, which I may not have put clearly enough before, to consider one more time whether we could have an opportunity to have what would be the only possible debate on the substance of the legal wording and interpretation of a controversial clause to a controversial Bill."sexual activity between persons of the same sex."
As the hon. Gentleman knows, we have had discussions about the matter. In the light of what he has said to me, I have looked at the matter again. I am afraid I cannot change my selection.
Dr. John Cunningham (Copeland)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. My point of order arises out of the fact that we are discussing the business at all today. The Lords amendments were available to Members of the House of Commons only some time on Friday of last week. That meant that it was impossible for hon. Members, particularly Opposition Members, since the Government knew what the situation was, to table amendments until the sitting of the House on Monday. Clearly, the Clerks of the House had to judge whether the amendments were in order. Such decisions were, broadly speaking, communicated, at least to me, yesterday — I make no criticism of the Clerks in that respect—by which time, of course, it was impossible to table any further amendments and have them on the Order Paper to be accepted by you for debate. That cannot be a reasonable way for the House to deal with its business.The problem was raised by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition with the Leader of the House during the business statement last Thursday. The Leader of the House said:
I am not sure that it was available first thing, but it was certainly available during Friday. That is simply not good enough to enable all Opposition parties proper time to scrutinise the implications, to table amendments, to discuss them with the Clerks, to seek advice, and to secure debates on issues that we believe to be of importance to us and to our constituents. Like the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes), I regret that some amendments standing in my name and in the names of my right hon. and hon. Friends have not been selected. Had the business not been concertinaed in such a way, the problems could have been avoided. It cannot be an acceptable or satisfactory way in which to proceed with important legislation affecting not only aspects of local government finance and contract compliance but people's civil rights and other matters of fundamental importance to us all in a democratic society. Although it is probably too late to do anything about today's proceedings, I hope that somehow these problems can be eliminated in future. The position of the House is weak and growing weaker vis-a-vis the executive — whichever party forms the executive. I cannot believe that Members of Parliament or the public want Parliament to grow weaker and weaker, especially with a mounting load of legislation from any Government. I raise this matter with you, Mr. Speaker, because it is important to put it on record and to seek ways of ensuring that these problems do not arise again in future."The Bill will be available in the Vote Office first thing tomorrow".— [Official Report, 3 March 1988; Vol. 1440, c. 1156.]
I fully appreciate what the hon. Member has said about time. I think that it is important that the Opposition, and indeed the whole House, has time to table properly drafted amendments. I shall look again carefully at the starred amendments, but at first sight I do not think that I can change my selection.
Mr. Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. No one is criticising your selection of amendments or the advice that the Clerks have put forward. What is causing great concern to Opposition Members is the deliberate efforts by the Government's business managers to make it difficult for Opposition Members to table amendments that are in order on difficult matters, and the totally slipshod approach by the Department of the Environment and the Office of the Leader of the House. Those are the only possible explanations as to why you, Mr. Speaker, and the Clerk have been put in some difficulty, as have Opposition Members.We have heard today from the same Secretary of State on a different Bill. He made an announcement about three matters he wanted to introduce into the Local Government Finance Bill, but he cannot even promise that they will be brought forward in time to be considered in the already guillotined Committee. He is proposing, or at best promising, that they will be brought forward to be discussed in the already guillotined report stage of the Bill. That statement follows the problems that we have had with a major announcement of new policies which are to be incorporated into the Education Reform Bill so that we had to change guillotine motions and God knows what else. The House is being treated with contempt by the Government's business managers, who are not one jot interested in giving the House the opportunity properly to scrutinise the legislation. They want simply to push through slipshod amendments as rapidly as possible. It is simply not good enough. If necessary, will you, Mr. Speaker, call a meeting of the usual channels so that we can avoid what is happening at the moment occurring again and again?
Mr. Simon Hughes
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. As amendments to Lords amendments are by nature the most difficult to draft satisfactorily because of the limited scope of what is before us, is it not the normal practice for the period between Lords amendments coming to the House and being debated by the House after Third Reading in the Lords to be two weekends and a full week in which we can, as the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) argued, consider any amendments that we wish to table, see whether they are acceptable in drafting terms for consideration by you, Mr. Speaker and table further amendments if they are not? I seek your ruling about whether the timetable was complied with in this case and whether any course is open to us whereby we could proceed with this business for some time, see how far we get and resume it on another day while we deal with the remaining Orders of the Day.
I fully appreciate the importance of time to the Opposition and to the whole House in tabling amendments, particularly to Lords amendments. Although the matters that have been raised have my sympathy, they are not matters for me. Perhaps they should be pursued with the Leader of the House when he is here tomorrow.
Lords amendment: No. 1, in page 2, leave out line 13.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Ian Grist)
I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.
With this it will be convenient to discuss also Lords amendments Nos. 6, 31 and 33.
The Development Board for Rural Wales is established to operate as a development agency with economic and social functions in rural Wales. The DBRW is akin to the Highlands and Islands Development Board and the Development Commission in England, which are both precluded from the Bill's provisions.My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales ensures that the board exposes its activities to competition and uses private contractors wherever it is possible and reasonable. The opportunity has also been taken in amendments Nos. 31 and 33 to remove the board from the competitive tendering provisions of part III of the Local Government, Planning and Land Act 1980 governing building and maintenance by direct labour organisations. The part III provisions have little practical impact on the board as they apply to bodies with direct labour organisations of about 30 employees. The board has only 12 employees in its organisation.
Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarfon)
Will the Minister confirm that the board is seeking these amendments?
That being so, can the Minister provide any enlightenment as to why the provision was included in the Bill in the first place?
I believe that it was a slight oversight.
Question put and agreed to.
Lords amendment: No. 2, in page 3, line 38, leave out "a parish or community council".
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Christopher Chope)
I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.When parish and community councils were added to the list of defined authorities in clause 1, it became necessary to delete the reference to them in clause 3 which implied that they were not defined authorities. This was only noticed after the Bill had left this House.
Question put and agreed to.
Report For Financial Year
Lords amendment: No. 3, in page 10, line 11, leave out "the first relevant date" and insert "30th September".
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton)
I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.
Madam Deputy Speaker (Miss Betty Boothroyd)
With this it will be convenient to discuss also Lords amendments Nos. 4, 5 and 28 to 30.
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton
These amendments bring the Scottish report dates into line with those applicable to England and Wales.There was some discussion about this in Committee, and a plea was made by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mrs. Fyfe) for a consistent approach north and south of the border. Although the amendment was tabled by the hon. Member for Maryhill, the hon. Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) also spoke about it. He said:
I am glad that in response to that my hon. Friend said:"The date of 31 December specified in the Bill could give rise to practical problems. The Bill does not say, 'By the last post on 31 December'—if there is a last post … Can the Scottish Office confirm that an official, or at least a Minister will be present in New St. Andrew's House and that the doors will he open to receive the hundreds of annual reports at one minute to midnight on hogmanay?"
We did see the force of the argument of the hon. Member for East Lothian. It is no part of my desire to see the terms of the Bill impinge on the happiness of Scotsmen at hogmanay, hence the amendment. However, a more weighty argument was made by the hon. Member for Maryhill who said that we should have consistency north and south of the border. What was a practical proposal by the Accounts Commission has simply been rendered redundant by the introduction into the Bill of a further refinement of the audit process. As previously drafted, reports by Scottish authorities were to be prepared by 30 November and submitted to the Secretary of State by 31 December. The Bill now requires reports by all authorities, including Scottish authorities, to be prepared by 30 September and sent both to the Secretary of State and to auditors by 31 October. The Commission for Local Authority Accounts in Scotland takes the view that it is no longer necessary to have different dates for preparation and submission of reports for Scotland. This is because the Bill now makes provision for auditors to check the statements of rate of return for those activities covered in the Local Government. Planning and Land Act 1980, as well as those covered by this Bill and to highlight any discrepancies in the report. This will ensure that the reports received in the Department are subject to scrutiny and based on audited figures. I am sure that the House will agree that that provides welcome consistency north and south of the border. I hope that the House will agree that these are uncontentious points. Indeed, they are in response to the hon. Member for Maryhill who spoke, not only on behalf of herself, but the Opposition when she said:"throughout the year Scottish Office Ministers are available."
It is perhaps slightly ironic that I am responding to the representations of those hon. Members when they are absent today. However, I am sure that in due course the hon. Member for Glasgow, Springburn (Mr. Martin) will bear that news to his colleagues—[Interruption.] Yes, I realise that they are in Scotland at a conference. The amendment does precisely what they asked and I commend it to the House."The Opposition believe that it is only fair that England, Scotland and Wales should keep to the same dates, whatever they may be." —[Official Report, Standing Committee A, 10 November 1987: c. 620–24.]
Mr. Andrew Welsh (Angus, East)
In response to the Minister, although Labour Members are not present [Interruption.]—although the hon. Members who raised those points are not present—I am sure that they will appreciate what the Minister has said because it shows that the Government have at least some sense of humour. I am glad to note that Scottish custom, tradition and long usage has been taken into account in producing the changes.
Mr. Simon Hughes
I wish that the Minister would convey to his colleagues the same willingness to make sure that the same rules apply north and south of the border and in Wales in other pieces of legislation. On the Housing Bill, for example, it has been strongly argued—but not yet accepted — that what is happening in Scotland should happen in England and Wales. Perhaps the Minister could use his best offices to secure similar provisions across the border in that Bill as he has now secured in this.
Question put and agreed to.
Lords amendments Nos. 4 to 6 agreed to.
Local And Other Public Authority Contracts: Exclusion Of Non-Commercial Considerations
Lords amendment: No. 7, in page 14, line 17, at beginning insert
"Subject to the provisions of sections 18 and (Questions relevant to code of Practice on Employment of Disabled),".
Madam Deputy Speaker
With this it will be convenient to discuss Lords amendment No. 8.
The Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Nicholas Ridley)
I beg to move, That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said amendment.Hon. Members will have noted that, apart from these two amendments, no substantive changes to the provisions of part II of the Bill were made in the other place. Their Lordships accepted the principle behind the provisions, as did this House, that local authorities should not be in the business of setting themselves up as extra-statutory enforcement agencies on matters which are already the subject of existing statute and which have, where appropriate, their own enforcement processes. The position in relation to the Race Relations Act 1976 is quite different. In it, the local authorities are given a specific statutory role of enforcement, and this is acknowledged in the Bill in clause 18, where the local authorities may ask specific questions of contractors, and take into account the replies that they receive. However, the statutes directly relating to the employment of the disabled are the Disabled Persons (Employment) Acts of 1944 and 1958 which do not include such a role for local authorities. I shall give reasons why that is correct later. Their Lordships accepted, as did this House, the principle that local authorities should not assume the role of enforcing the provisions of those Acts, a role which rightfully belongs to the employment service of the Department of Employment. What we are all seeking—their Lordships, this House and certainly the Government — are the best possible opportunities for the disabled to be able to gain employment. I would like to emphasise our total commitment to the principle that disabled people should have every opportunity to obtain useful and gainful employment. Our record on positive measures to help disabled people gain those opportunities is strong. For example, last month sections 5 and 6 of the Disabled Persons (Services, Consultation and Representation) Act 1986 came into force. Those measures include a requirement to assess the needs of disabled school leavers, taking account of a range of services including education, vocational training and employment. We have also recognised that disabled people on income support should be able to earn more money without it affecting their benefit. and next month that disregarded sum will be increased from £4 to £15 per week. In 1986–87 nearly 84,000 disabled people were placed in work through MSC general programmes, and over 17,000 disabled people were in sheltered employment. In 1987–88 the MSC will spend some £133 million on programmes specifically for the disabled, of which some £87 million will have been spent on sheltered employment. £22 million on employment rehabilitation;£15 million on resettlement services; and almost £9 million on training at residential training colleges. 4.45 pm Nevertheless, it is clear that the other place felt strongly that more should be done to help disabled people with employment. There was concern about this in this House too before the Bill left here. The Government accept that they should respond to this clear feeling of both Houses. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment is announcing a review within his Department of the policies and programmes that he supports for disabled people in employment. The review will take account of the recently completed study by the National Advisory Council on Employment of Disabled People. It will also take account of the conclusions that the Public Accounts Committee reaches on the National Audit Office's examination of the quota arrangement and other arrangements made for the benefit of people with disabilities. In the light of this, I hope that the House will be willing to accept that it would be appropriate for the amendments to be reversed.
Mr. Simon Hughes
The Secretary of State may be coming on to this point. and I apologise for intervening if he is, but does he accept that what he has said so far relates only to national Government policy and to employment by central Government, whereas we are obviously concerned about local government employment policies and local government's ability to take on disabled people and employ then adequately?
Yes, I am coming to that, but if I do not satisfy the hon. Gentleman when I do come to it, I shall happily give way to him again.If the amendments agreed in the other place were to be accepted, it is our belief that they would do nothing to further the interests of disabled people, but would in fact provide a possible means whereby local authorities could discriminate against contractors that they did not like for other reasons. Amendment 7 merely paves the way for the new clause introduced by amendment 8. That new clause empowers authorities to ask questions of potential contractors about the non-commercial matters set out in clause 17(5)(a), in order to ensure that contractors have due regard to the Manpower Services Commission's code of good practice on the employment of disabled people. When the amendments were debated in the other place, the argument in their defence was that there was no contract compliance requirement in the amendments; no extra-statutory enforcement rights; no compulsion for local authorities; and no interference with the efficiency of the companies concerned. Hon. Members will recognise that that is simply not the case. If the Bill was now to remain unamended as their Lordships have sent it to us, an authority could decide to refuse to do business with a particular company on the ground that, in the authority's view, the company did not have proper regard to this particular non-statutory advisory code. In our view, that is an open invitation to local authorities to exercise covert discrimination against contractors of whom they disapprove possibly for other reasons. If all a local authority wishes to do—this was the expressed reason for the clause when moved in the other place — is bring the code of good practice to the attention of firms with which it is considering doing business, there is nothing in the Bill which prevents that. Indeed, that part of the new clause in amendment 8, which would allow authorities to refer prospective contractors to relevant agencies, is entirely superfluous. Nothing in the Bill stops authorities referring contractors to the employment service or the Manpower Services Commission — the relevant agencies — if they consider that contractors need advice or guidance on employment of disabled people. Nor is there anything in the Bill to stop authorities calling together employers in their area to discuss ways in which the various recommendations and suggestions in the code of good practice can best be implemented. That sort of action seems far more relevant to local government, and indeed much more likely to have an effect on the local people whom local authorities exist to serve, than crude contract compliance measures applied to contractors in general. Many contractors will be supplying goods made in factories miles from the authority's area and some even overseas. No system of local enforcement regarding disabled employment is sensible when a national policy is essential, and that is what we have. The amendments are not about local authorities dealing with employers in their area. They are not even concerned with authorities' own role as an employer of disabled people—in no sense affected by the amendments—or with the way in which the 1944 and 1958 Acts are observed. They are about giving local authorities the power to discriminate against certain firms by imposing their own views on how an advisory code of good practice should be observed, and refusing to do business with them if the authority does not agree with those firms' interpretation of the code. I do not believe that the amendments would result in any more jobs for disabled people. They would give the most intransigent of authorities a new weapon with which to discriminate against contractors in a subjective and non-commercial way. It is at the heart of part II of the Bill to deny authorities the chance to do such things; and it would be very difficult to defend not extending the practice embodied in the amendments to other matters, such as sexual discrimination, nuclear-free zones, apartheid or anything else. We would have lost the logical distinction upon which the Bill is based.
Mr. Simon Hughes
Can the Secretary of State explain the relevance of the amendments to the local authorities? If the amendments were accepted, they might not produce more employment for the disabled, but they certainly would not produce less. Indeed, they could result in more employment possibilities. The amendments would not have automatic consequences, but they would at least challenge local authorities and their contractors to consider whether they are doing enough. That is the great merit of the amendments and why they got all-party support in the other place.
I believe that the amendments could easily result in fewer jobs. The harassment of firms could result in them being unprepared to tender for a local authority contract. Therefore, the result could be possible employment losses and even job losses for the disabled.
Mr. Peter Thurnham (Bolton, North-East)
Does my right hon. Friend agree that, although the amendments are well-meaning, they might risk undermining the whole basis of the Bill — to stop political discrimination — and generally weaken Government policies that have resulted in an 80 per cent. increase, in real terms, in spending on the long-term sick and disabled?
My hon. Friend has summarised the case that I put at greater length. We have tried to recognise the concern felt by hon. Members and the Lords that more could be done for the disabled. Indeed, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment has introduced a new intitiative to find ways to help the disabled nationally. I believe that such help is better given nationally rather than through patchy and sometimes unhelpful attempts to use contract compliance for that purpose.
Ms. Jo Richardson (Barking)
I support the Lords amendment. I was amazed by the Secretary of State's defence of the present position. First, he went through a long catalogue citing the so-called generosity of the Government towards disabled people. The disabled people in my constituency do not find the Government very generous.The right hon. Gentleman has hinted that the Secretary of State for Employment will undertake a national review of disabled people's ability to get jobs. Why has the Secretary of State for Employment not done that before? Why has he waited all this time? I am sure that that question will not be lost on disabled people. The Secretary of State for the Environment has suggested that the Lords amendment may allow local authorities to threaten contractors. What we are discussing is opening up opportunities for disabled people. If nothing else, the Lords amendment helps to raise the awareness of contractors, which is at the heart of the matter, to their obligations and to the common decency of allowing disabled people greater opportunities in the job market. The Lords amendment is not strong. It merely allows local authorities to draw contractors' attention to the code of practice on the employment of disabled people, to consider their employment policies in the light of that code and to enable the authority to refer them to the local disablement advisory service. There is nothing earth-shattering about that. There is no provision in the amendment that would allow a local authority to refuse a contract if it considered that the contractor was not complying with the code. Employment quotas, as set out in the Disabled Persons (Employment) Act 1944, are also excluded from the amendment. In short, the amendment is limited, but it is extremely important. It puts a marker down to ensure that local authorities and contractors who submit tenders should consider closely the needs of disabled people in the community. If we pass the amendment, it would provide an extra encouragement — not a statutory duty — to employers to employ disabled people and reduce discrimination against their employment. It is unbelievable that the Government are contemplating the removal of the amendment, especially when we are aware that an increasing number of employers are failing to meet the disabled employment quotas, and therefore their legal obligations under the 1944 Act. In 1986, only 27 per cent. of employers carried out their legal obligations. Unemployment among disabled people is double the rate among their peers—for some disabled groups the difference is even greater. In such circumstances, given the emotional implications for the disabled, their economic dignity and well-being, it is nothing less than a disgrace that the Government should seek to change the law not only to outlaw practices that are presently lawful, but also to seek to throw out an amendment that attempts to encourage employers to meet existing legal obligations and encourages compliance with a voluntary—I stress that word—code of practice. That code of practice was launched in 1984 with the support of the Prime Minister, the CBI, the TUC, the Institute of Personnel Management, Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation and the all-party disablement group of which my right hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley) is joint chairman. That code of practice encouraged employers to establish a written policy for the employment of disabled people and the rehabilitation of those who had become disabled. Throughout what has passed for a debate on this subject and on sex discrimination, the Government have monotonously repeated that they accepted, reluctantly, racial equality as part of contract compliance because, tinder section 71 of the Race Relations Act 1976, local councils already had an existing statutory duty to act thus. However, by the same token the Government would not accept that disabled people or women should be included in the Bill because there was no equivalent to section 71 that related to them. Yesterday, the Equal Opportunities Commission published the report that it has sent to the Home Secretary regarding the urgent reforms that are needed to our sex equality legislation. It has recommended contract compliance. The report is addressed to the Home Secretary and I do not know whether the Secretary of State for the Environment has received a copy. I have a copy with me today. It was sent to me this morning and it makes very good reading. It pleads with the Government to introduce contract compliance as a statutory duty on all local authorities, health authorities and other public bodies. I understand that the Government said that if the Equal Opportunities Commission recommended contract compliance, they would consider it. There could be no better time than now — during the week of international women's day—for the Minister to honour his assurances to the Equal Opportunities Commission and to the women of this country on this matter and to bring forward an amendment in line with what is proposed in "Equal Treatment for Men and Women — Strengthening the Acts." 5 pm It is ironic that last week the Government announced their intention to bring forward a Bill later this year to introduce contract compliance—the very same policy — in Northern Ireland. The Government hardly bother any longer to deny that their actions in Northern Ireland are being prompted by strong pressure from the United States, where a campaign to boycott investment, or even to encourage disinvestment, has been gaining ground because of persistent discrimination against the Catholic minority. The introduction of contract compliance in Northern Ireland is meant to head off that pressure. I appeal to the House to consider what message we shall be sending out to people with disabilities and to women if we reject the Lords amendment. It is invidious and highly divisive to appear to be elevating one form of discrimination above another. The Government have been shown today to be hiding behind empty formalism to cover their opposition to contract compliance — and even to voluntary codes of practice — to improve opportunities for disabled people and for women, and we shall never forget their actions on these issues. Contract compliance has shown its tremendous value to women in the United States. It has been welcomed in this country by a great many people, including the Institute of Personnel Management, which sees it as a valuable mechanism for spreading good and more professional codes of practice. Baroness Platt of Writtle, who chairs the Equal Opportunities Commission, is not, I may say, a supporter of the Labour party—far from it. She said of the Bill:
That comes not from a Labour peer but from Baroness Platt, who is a Conservative. We commend the amendments to the House. We welcome the initiative on Northern Ireland, and we want the Government to act even-handedly. If they are introducing contract compliance in one form in Northern Ireland, they should introduce it in this other form on the mainland. We shall reserve judgment on the question of ethnic minorities until we see what comes of the Secretary of State's list of questions. We urge the Government to think again about the totally incomprehensible exclusion of people with disabilities and of women from the Bill. We shall oppose the Government and support the House of Lords. I know that my hon. Friends will join me in the Division Lobby, as, I hope, will those Conservative Members who believe that people with disabilities need the maximum encouragement and support and that those of us who do not share their problems should be constantly aware of them nevertheless. I hope that for once we might defeat the Government."Because local authorities will have the power to impose requirements and ask questions about issues of racial discrimination but not sex discrimination, their customers will inevitably concentrate on the former to the exclusion of the latter. This would be a most retrograde development, given the very serious problems of discrimination against women that still need to be tackled. It could seriously prejudice the position of women".
Several Hon. Members
Madam Deputy Speaker
Order. I remind the House that the amendments deal specifically with the disabled and not with women.
Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster)
As a long-time member of the all-party disablement group, I am naturally interested in the amendments. I was intrigued when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State pointed out that these are the only two substantive amendments that their Lordships suggested to this part of the Bill. I should have thought that that would give added weight to them.When I first read the amendments, they seemed likely to help disabled people who are seeking employment. All of us must know that disabled people, once employed, are diligent and valuable employees—probably the best on the payroll—but that it is far from easy from them to get the job in the first instance. It seemed to me that the amendments might help disabled people, and I therefore proposed positively to support them. However, I listened carefully to what my right hon. Friend said and was interested to hear that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment is to bring forward a review of policies for the disabled. I cannot bring myself to vote with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, but I am seriously considering abstaining, because I feel that he gave a very good explanation of his reasons for opposing the amendments.
Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
The hon. Member for Lancaster (Dame E. Kellett-Bowman) was absolutely right in her initial decision fully to support the amendments. She is wrong to say now that she will abstain. She should have sufficient courage, as many of us have done over the years, to vote against the Government whom she supports if she thinks they are wrong. She accepts the assurance that the Government will bring forward proposals in the future, and perhaps they will. However, this is here and now and she should support the amendments on that basis. The amendments will do something positive at this moment, so why wait for proposals to emerge in the distant future which, knowing this Government, will get more and more distant? Why not give the benefit of the doubt to the amendment No. 7, which is extremely good?I can understand the Government's being vindictive in relation to contract compliance when it comes to whether an employee should or should not be a trade unionist. I can understand it when they say, "You cannot seek contract compliance in relation to those who deal with regimes pursuing policies of apartheid." I can understand that, because that is the Government's nature, and such decisions are perfectly acceptable from their point of view. However, I find it difficult to understand why they should be vindictive to the disabled, which is what their attitude amounts to. I suppose that I know the real reason: their friends may find that their profit margins will be down a little if they have to employ some disabled people.
Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman
That is an absolute insult to disabled people. Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
No. If the hon. Lady will not join us in the Lobby, I am not giving way.
Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman
But it is an insult.
It is not an insult. It is my view of the Government's attitude, based on the bitter experience that we have had since they came to power nine years ago. They put profits before the interests of ordinary people and concern themselves only with their friends in the City of London and those who make profits at the expense of the mass of the people. That is what is behind the clause. It is disgraceful that the Government are not prepared to give the amendment their support. I welcome the fact that my hon. Friends on the Front Bench are prepared to do so.
Mr. Jack Ashley (Stoke-on-Trent, South)
A number of us spend much of our time dealing with disabled people, including the hon. Members for Exeter (Mr. Hannam) and for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley) and myself. We have discussed this issue at a meeting of the all-party disablement group and there is a difference of opinion between us that will probably emerge during the debate.The Secretary of State was ill advised to speak of the Government's record of helping disabled people. He was on extremely weak ground. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the Disabled Persons (Services, Consultation and Representation) Act 1986. He was not in the House yesterday when the Minister for Social Security and the Disabled was condemned for failing fully to implement that Act. That is a failure by the Government. The Secretary of State mentioned what the Government had done in terms of income support. Practically everyone who is involved with disablement is concerned about the Government's failure to provide adequately for disabled people under that head. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the jobs that have been found for disabled people under the general programme of the Manpower Services Commission. He did not mention the thousands who have not been helped through that programme. The right hon. Gentleman was wrong to speak of the Government's successes in this area. I am amazed that the Secretary of State should be opposed to the amendment. It is incredible that he should object to it. The proposed clause would be helpful to disabled people and damaging to no one. It reflects badly on the Government that they have chosen to bring their full force against the amendment and to make clear their determination to oppose it. What is it in the clause that is terrifying the Secretary of State? It provides that local authorities will be able to refer contractors which have not adopted the recommendations of the code of practice on the employment of disabled people to the disablement advisory service. It would allow — not force — local authorities to ask questions about a company's policy on the employment of disabled people. What is wrong with that? Surely it would be a great step forward. Companies that did not have a policy could be referred to the DAS, and it would then be for the DAS to decide how best to proceed. This simple measure would help us to ensure that good practice is promoted, and it would advance the excellent work of the DAS. No one is opposed to the code of good practice. The Prime Minister has stated:
I was present when the right hon. Lady launched the code of good practice. It was a happy occasion. We were all together, including the hon. Member for Exeter, who does so much for disabled people. Everyone supports the code, and I and others are seeking merely to draw attention to it. If local authorities are willing to help with encouraging contractors to utilise disabled people's skills, and to retain staff who become disabled, they should be permitted to do so. No one would lose by contractors having the expert advice of the DAS brought to their attention. At the same time, disabled people would gain. However fine the code may be, and however distinguished the members of the DAS may be, no one would claim that it is getting the support or the results that it deserves. A common attitude among far too many employers is, "The code is fine but it has nothing to do with me, thank you very much." 5.15 pm Some companies adopt the code but far too many do not. What do we do about the companies which do not? The relative failure is effectively measured by the statistic that shows that many disabled people are unable to gain employment. The level of unemployment among the disabled is twice that of the unemployment among the able-bodied. That is the official figure, which we can take with a pinch of salt. Suffice to say that a far greater proportion of disabled than able-bodied people are unemployed. A major cause of the unemployment of disabled people is prejudice. It is vicious, bitter, vindictive, unpleasant and unacceptable prejudice. The disabled are rejected by employers who do not want to know. I know many disabled people who apply for jobs. If they are honest enough or naive enough to mention their disability on the application form, they will not even be seen. I know some disabled people who have made over 100 applications for jobs. They are not even granted an interview when they mention their disability. More effort should be made in promoting the code of practice. Local authorities are an important weapon in the armoury for promoting the code, and the proposed clause will enhance their effectiveness. The Government argue that the proposed clause is superfluous and that local authorities will be able without it to promote good employment practices in their own areas. I believe that the clause would provide an important instrument for local authorities to acquire information that would enable them to know which employers should be referred to the DAS. It would be an easy, cheap and cost-effective procedure. The Minister in the other place said that this aspect of the clause was superfluous. He claimed that local authorities could refer companies to relevant agencies in any event. Unfortunately, he missed the point. It is crucial that we should know which companies to refer. If local authorities sought to obtain that knowledge through general surveys, the Government would be quick to condemn them for wasting resources. They would argue that that was not the job of local authorities. The Government cannot have it both ways. The Government suggest that local authorities will be able to discriminate against contractors during the tendering process by using their response to questions to decide who receives a contract. That is not the intention of the proposed clause. The Secretary of State should take that on board. I spoke to Lord Basnett this morning—it is his amendment—and he confirmed that that is not the intention of the proposed clause. Instead, it would allow a basic question to be asked: "Have you adopted the recommendation of the code of practice on the employment of disabled people?" A negative response would mean that the contractor could be referred to the DAS. The amendment would not allow contracts to be withheld. It would not give local authorities extra statutory powers and duties. I would favour an amendment that permitted discrimination against companies that did not play fair with disabled people. I am all in favour of that sort of discrimination. I would be prepared to hit contractors very hard if they discriminated against disabled people. It is discrimination that causes distress, anxiety, suffering, poverty and despair. I would deny contracts to such companies. I make no bones about that. If I could persuade local authorities to deny them contracts, I would do all in my power to ensure that that happened. The Secretary of State should recognise that the clause does not do that. It is very limited. All the clause proposes is to help to promote good practice. If the Secretary of State found that there were technical problems, he could easily change it."employing disabled people makes good business sense."
For the sake of fact, may I point out that local authorities are enabled to disallow a contractor if they are not satisfied with him? In other parts of the Bill there are powers for them to take that decision. If the new clause were in the Bill, it could be a defence against the district audit questioning why a local authority had not gone to the lowest tenderer. The hon. Gentleman is wrong. He does not realise the effect that the amendment would have.
The Secretary of State is trying to say that, if this small amendment was agreed, as I hope it will be, local authorities, whom I thought he trusted as responsible people elected by the electorate, would use it as a trigger to do something illegal. That is a very poor interpretation of the responsibility of local authorities. I believe that they would interpret the clause in the spirit which Lord Basnett intended—that is, to draw the attention of employers to the code of practice. It would encourage them to do that. The Secretary of State does not understand the proposed new clause. He has misinterpreted it. He is misleading the House. He should accept that it would be in the interests of disabled people.I have spoken long enough. If the Secretary of State insists on rejecting the clause, he will show that dogma is more important to the Government than helping disabled people. The clause has no drastic implications and would not alter Government policy towards local government. It would encourage efficiency and would help employers to develop good employment practices. It would help disabled people and would give them hope. It would lead to them getting more jobs. It is absurd for the Secretary of State to say that it would lead to disabled people getting fewer jobs. That is standing the truth on its head. I hope that the House will speak clearly tonight. I hope that Conservative Members will join us in the Lobby and give fresh hope to disabled people.
Mr. John Hannam (Exeter)
My right hon. Friend will know that the Lords amendment which he is asking us to reject is supported by a wide range of voluntary organisations representing the disabled and by the all-party disablement group. Therefore, it is rather more of a cross-party issue than we are accustomed to.The amendment represents a genuine attempt to advance the cause of disabled people in the vital employment sphere. Over the years I and colleagues on both sides of the House, working within the all-party disablement group, have secured the support of the Government for small but important amendments to diverse pieces of legislation. We have done this to remove discrimination or to remove obstacles which are placed in the path of disabled people trying to pursue normal lives. We all know that the disabled desperately want to work and to live normal lives. They make very good employees, as other hon. Members have pointed out. In fact, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister gave the best description in 1984 when she said:
I could not find a better description for employers thinking of taking on disabled workers. The sad thing is that, despite the quota system and all the other measures which have been adopted over recent years, the level of disabled unemployment is double the rate for able-bodied people. The Lords amendment, as I read it, is designed to draw the attention of contractors to the recommendations which are put forward in the Government's own code of good practice on the employment of disabled people. The amendment seeks to get local authorities to refer contractors who have not adopted the recommendations to the Disablement Advisory Service. The question which we face is whether the Lords amendment gives local authorities a power of any sort to force contractors into contract compliance or to interfere in their efficiency, and whether that works against the principle of part II of the Bill. I am grateful to my hon. and learned Friend the Minister for writing to me about this. My right hon. Friend has explained the Department's view, which is that the amendment would in some way give powers to local authorities to interfere in normal business practice. I find that hard to believe, just as I find it hard to accept the other point which my right hon. Friend made, that we can leave things exactly as they are because local authorities can carry this out anyway. According to my right hon. Friend, they can advise firms which are putting forward tenders for contracts to get in touch with the Disablement Advisory Service or with any other body. I do not accept that that stands up to examination. It is only a few years since we secured an amendment to the companies legislation to require a company in its annual report to make a direct statement about what it was doing for its disabled employees and for disabled people. One could adopt the same argument as my right hon. Friend and say that we did not need that because companies could always put something in their reports about what they were doing for disabled people. In fact, Parliament judged that it was necessary to do more than that. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster (Dame E. Kellett-Bowman), I cannot go into the Division Lobby against the Lords amendment. I accept my right hon. Friend's assurance that he has been working extremely hard, in conjunction with his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment, on bringing forward a new programme for disabled employment. I welcome that assurance deeply. I can only stress how vital it is to develop a new and more effective strategy for the employment of disabled people. The position is not good. The quota system is not being enforced and too many disabled people are out of work. I look forward to the initiative which my right hon. Friend has promised, but today I must declare my support for this small voluntary step towards good practice. I cannot go into the Lobby to vote for the rejection of the Lords amendment."People who employ disabled workers know from experience that it makes good business sense to employ people who are loyal and hard-working and have skills and abilities to offer."
I too support the Lords amendment and thank Lord Basnett and his colleagues for the all-party support in the Lords for this important change to the Bill, which would help disabled people if it were enacted. Like other hon. Members I am disappointed at the attitude of the Government Front Bench. Some Government Departments have had an honourable and progressive approach towards disability. I am afraid that the attitude of the Secretary of State confirms that the Department of the Environment regrettably is at the back of the queue when it comes to making progress for disabled people. We have seen that before and we see it again today.The reality is that discrimination against disabled people exists in employment. We had this argument three or four years ago when the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing) introduced an antidiscrimination Bill. Mr. Donald Stewart, who then represented the Western Isles, also brought forward a Bill. We were assured that other steps were being taken, as we have been assured today that other steps are being taken. The right hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley) mentioned what we heard in the Chamber yesterday, that assurances given two years ago about the carrying out of the provisions of the Disabled Persons (Services, Consultation and Representation) Act 1986 are still subject to negotiation with local authorities. Two years have gone by and we are still no nearer getting some of those provisions brought into force. I welcome any discussion which is taking place and any progress on improving the position under the quota scheme, to which the hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. Hannam) referred and which is completely inadequate. Some of the provisions have not been enacted. We have an opportunity with the Lords amendment to do something now. Although this is a very modest provision, we have the opportunity to do something which has already been done. All we have to do is to desist from undoing what has been done in another place. Goodness me, I cannot see the Government's justification for taking this line. If we disagree with the amendment, we shall be putting the interests of disabled people second to the interests of a totally unfettered, free market economy. There are times when a Government, even this Government, must strike a balance. 5.30 pm Instances of discrimination still come to our attention. Only a few weeks ago in my constituency surgery I learned of a case of blatant discrimination. An employer said that disabled people need not apply for a vacancy. For that to happen in this day and age, and for the Government not to support even the modest provision in the Lords amendment, underlines the need for us to take more draconian powers. We should seek an anti-discrimination Bill which will deal with this question in the context of employment and in a number of other areas as well. People would then be aware that they cannot get away with the kind of stipulation that occurred in my constituency. My colleagues and I have received representations from many bodies about Lords amendment No. 7. I am involved with disability matters in a number of ways. I am the president of the Spastics Society in Wales. The Spastics Society wrote to me from its headquarters in London about the amendment stating:
I put these views formally on the record on behalf of the Spastics Society. Hon. Members will have received similar representations. Organisations making those representations understand the difficulties facing disabled people in work. We should heed those representations. I have also received representations from the Royal National Institute for the Blind. It states:"Research by The Spastics Society shows that disabled people suffer unjustifiable discrimination in the labour market. The clause is a modest proposal to ensure that good practice is actively encouraged in this important area. We see it as entirely appropriate that the Government's policy should be promoted in an attempt to ensure disabled people have the same opportunities as their abled-bodied counterparts. It is difficult to understand why the Government would not want to see its own policy and the work of its Departments supported in this way. Disabled people trying to find work will also feel let down if this support is withdrawn from their attempts."
Obviously, the RNIB feels as strongly as the Spastics Society on this matter. The Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation, the umbrella organisation that pulls together on behalf of numerous disability organisations, has also made representations to all members of the all-party disablement group. This matter cuts across party lines. It states:"The RNIB supports the clause, which would help the employment prospects of visually handicapped people seeking work. They have to compete on unequal terms in the labour market, in an era when the industrial base of the economy, the area in which the majority of visually handicapped people have historically found jobs, has contracted considerably. During the last decade there has been a dramatic fall in the number of visually handicapped people getting jobs in the blue collar sector, and sheltered employment has not taken up the slack … RNIB is concerned that the positive steps which local authorities have been able to make in encouraging companies to promote equal employment opportunities for people with disabilities should be allowed to continue. Lord Basnett's clause would achieve this."
I know that the Secretary of State has said that taken together with another part of the Bill the amendment could create an excuse for local authorities to discriminate against companies that are not willing to go along with the requirements. If local authorities discriminate unfairly against those companies, that could be actionable. If they discriminate on the basis of a policy against disabled people, that is completely justifiable discrimination and I would strongly uphold that. However, the benefits that could arise from having a checklist are more important than the occurrence of a handful or one or two difficult cases. A formal checklist would act as a formal requirement to nudge and remind companies of the need to take that matter into consideration. I do not believe that the provision will put the world right overnight, but by having a checklist approach—which is not a straitjacket, but an enabling measure—we shall ensure that local authorities that are so minded will have powers to create a checklist and companies seeking tender contracts will be aware that they must take such consideration on board. The proposal is a gentle shove in the right direction. It could be of tremendous benefit to many disabled people. It could also possibly avoid much more fundamental legislation in future. If the Government oppose this modest proposal, I have no doubt that the House must press for something very much more radical."The amendment will not prevent contracts being awarded, but allows local authorities to refer those companies who have not adopted the Code's recommendations to the Department of Employment's Disablement Advisory Service so that they may obtain information on how to improve their policies; nor will it allow contracts to be withheld, but will enable local authorities to ask for information which can be passed on to those responsible for promoting the Code of Good Practice. In this respect the amendment also complements existing Government policy which supports the Code. The CBI, TUC, RADAR and other voluntary organisations also support the Code of Good Practice."
Sir John Farr (Harborough)
I rise to support Lords amendment No. 7. Unfortunately, I was unable to hear the comments made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State earlier. I had been given a very pressing green card from a delegation of Royal College of Nursing members from my constituency. I had to use my discretion and make a very difficult choice between listening to my right hon. Friend and seeing Mr. Tony Atkins and my constituents from Leicester who are members of the RCN. I had a very fruitful and rewarding discussion with Mr. Atkins. However, I am placed in a very difficult position because I did not hear my right hon. Friend. If I had heard him, I am sure that I would have found his comments fruitful and rewarding. However, because I did not hear him, I can only state that I have the gravest reservations about rejecting the Lords amendment.I listened to the comments made by the right hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley). He made his comments with great emphasis, in his usual way. My hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr. Hannam) elaborated the virtues of the new clause very well. As I read the amendment, it will allow local authorities to continue to ask questions of prospective contractors, but it would not allow local authorities to refuse contracts on the grounds that a prospective contractor did not encourage the employment of disabled people. It would allow local authorities to promote the Manpower Services Commission's code of good practice on the employment of disabled people. I do not believe that the new clause is very binding. It would not direct—"direct" is too strong a word—local authorities; rather it would guide them on a code of good behaviour towards their dealings with disabled people. Tributes have been paid to the right hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South and my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter for their fine work for the parliamentary disablement group. I want to add to those tributes. Quite rightly, we must recognise that discrimination on grounds of sex or colour is properly banned by law. I am not in favour of banning discrimination of the disabled by law. However, I feel so strongly about it that I would like to see legislation enacted that would make discrimination act for the disabled. A disabled person is a bargain in the labour market. He is conscientious, keen, unfailingly loyal and hardworking. Perhaps at some time in the future when we are discussing disablement we can introduce legislation requiring employers — the Crown, local authorities or private companies — to discriminate in favour of disabled people. It would be good for disabled people, and certainly for those lucky enough to employ them. Although I shall listen carefully to what my right hon. Friend says to try to persuade me to support his case against the new clause, at the moment I am fully inclined to support it.
Mr. Peter L. Pike (Burnley)
In this relatively short debate, it appears that no one except the Secretary of State is to speak in favour of the Government's line. That, surely, should make the Secretary of State think again about whether he is right in deciding that the amendment should be rejected. Certainly, I shall not accept his advice.Lord Basnett's amendment is a modest but important improvement to the Bill. No doubt Lord Basnett tabled it in this modest form because he knew that if he went too far he would not persuade the other place to accept it, and he wanted to go as far as he could while still standing a chance of success. I am also fairly certain that he was bearing in mind the vast experience that he had gained over many years in the trade union movement, representing workers not only in local government but in a wide range of industries. He recognised that at present, despite quota systems and other efforts to ensure that disabled people have fair opportunity of employment, they have no such opportunity. We too must face up to that fact. My right hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley) made it clear that some disabled people, when applying for jobs, are tempted either to omit any reference to their disability on the application form, or to deny it. It is regrettable that they are forced to act in that way, but, as most hon. Members will know, it sometimes happens. Employers often disregard disabled applicants even when the disability has no reference to the job for which they are applying, which is very sad. Both my right hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South and the hon. Member for Harborough (Sir J. Farr) recommended more positive discrimination in favour of the disabled, and I see the case for that. It is regrettable that we should sometimes have to legislate to ensure discrimination in favour of the disabled, or any other category who might otherwise be discriminated against, but sometimes it is the only way to ensure that they receive the fair treatment to which they are entitled. 5.45 pm As I have said, this is a modest amendment, and there is no reason why the Government should reject it. It in no way destroys the principle of the Bill. The Secretary of State knows that Opposition Members are strongly opposed to that principle, but the amendment will merely give disabled people a fair opportunity of consideration by employers. I thought it outrageous of the Secretary of State to suggest in his opening speech — I assume that I understand him correctly—that some local authorities might not disbar contractors purely because they were not giving disabled people a proper opportunity of employment, but might use that as an excuse to disbar them for other reasons. That is entirely wrong, and shows how the Secretary of State misjudges local authorities on every possible occasion. He seems to feel that their motivation must always be questioned by him and by other Ministers. The amendment is moving in the right direction, and I feel that the Secretary of State should reconsider his advice. Even if he is not prepared to do so, however, I hope that other Conservative Members will join us in the Aye Lobby. When the amendment was approved in the other place, it was widely acclaimed in the national press as an improvement to the Bill. It has also been welcomed by many voluntary organisations closely connected with the disabled. Those are further reasons for the Government to think again, and to accept this improvement to the Bill.
Mr. Michael J. Martin (Glasgow, Springburn)
Before I came to the House, I had the good fortune to be a member of Glasgow district council, and a full-time union officer. From time to time, I had to represent disabled members.The Secretary of State would be the first to condemn any local authority that did not pay due regard to the fact that disabled people must be employed. Surely, therefore, it is fitting that local authorities should establish what contractors are doing about employing them. The right hon. Gentleman knows that we are not talking about a window cleaner who may be contracted by the local authority to clean 20 or 30 windows. I was once a member of the finance committee of Glasgow district council. Prices have risen since I left, but we were then handing out contracts of over £1 million. In some instances the contracts awarded in one day exceeded £2 million. That is a lot of labour, and in many cases it is the big employers who are receiving the contracts. It is only natural that local authorities should be entitled to ask contractors who are employing several hundred men and women what quotas they have for the employment of disabled people, and how those employees are being treated. I do not think that it is enough for an employer simply to say how many disabled people he employs; steps must be taken to ensure that they are not exploited. In many cases, they are exploited: there are no two ways about it. The other local authority that covers my constituency is Strathclyde, which looks after the needs of 2·5 million people. It can give out contracts for water reservoirs, large civil engineering contracts and motorway contracts. I often hear the Secretary of State talk as if contractors were being bullied by local authorities which have all the power. That is nonsense. If the right hon. Gentleman knows anything about local authorities and contractors, he will know that there is often a dialogue going on on a weekly basis. Some of those companies are employing people—call them PR people, or whatever—whose job is simply to keep in touch with local councils. They have not been bullied; far from it. They know their way around the town halls, and they know who to talk to. If it is put into legislation that regard has to be given to the care of the disabled, I am sure that contractors will ensure that they inform their companies that the legislation has to be adhered to. The Secretary of State said that his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment will be involved in a review. He said that everything is all right because the Government have a good record on looking after the disabled. Since becoming a Member of the House I have served on almost every Committee where the Government have sought to destroy the labour and trades union legislation introduced by the Labour Government. They have weakened the unfair dismissal tribunals and done away with schedule 11 to the Employment Protection Act 1975. One of their most recent acts was to abolish the wages councils. All of those actions have affected the disabled. It has meant that the disabled in our society and in the work force — those who have been fortunate enough to find a job—can be exploited. I hope that the Secretary of State will tell his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment that it is not only within private industry that the disabled are not being too well looked after. As I have said, I was a full-time officer representing public employees and I often had to defend those employees against Government employers. For example, sometimes people in the Health Service were treated shamefully because those in charge did not pay due regard to legislation. I put it to the Secretary of State that he should look at what sometimes happens in some Government Departments and in agencies such as the Health Service, which work directly for the Government. I accept that 90 per cent. of the time those Departments and agencies are excellent employers. However, there is evidence to prove that disabled employees are not being looked after and that their rights under legislation are not being exercised properly. In spite of what I have said about bad employers, there are many good employers in the private sector and the public sector. If any review is to be held, it is within the wit of the officials serving the Secretary of State to find those good employers and to discover how they can be good employers for the disabled. They should try to get them to give evidence to the review body so that we can ensure that people are looked after properly.
Mr. Simon Hughes
It is clear that the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Pike) was correct. So far, the only supporter of the proposal to delete the Lords amendment has been the Secretary of State. Three Conservative Members, four Labour Members, one representative of Plaid Cymru and myself have all asked that he change his mind. It is a hit shameful that the only two proposals on the Amendment Paper in the name of the Secretary of State which suggest that we should not agree with the Lords are in relation to this proposal. The all-party view expressed in the other place, the view expressed by the all-party committee on the disabled in this place and the view expressed in all the contributions to this debate has had no effect. We have said to the Secretary of State, "Please think again. You are misjudging the mood of Parliament across the parties by seeking to amend what the other place has done." The more one looks at the Lords amendment, the more circumscribed one sees that it is. It simply says that nothing shall preclude a local authority from asking questions and from referring prospective contractors to relevant agencies if that information is necessary in order to ensure that the contractors have proper regard to the Manpower Services Commission's code of good practice in relation to the employment of the disabled.The Secretary of State admitted that that does not mean that there has to be a duty on a local authority to employ a certain number of people. That does not follow. There is a duty to address the issue, to ask questions and to challenge what may he a failure to meet the needs of the disabled. That is the limit of the amendment. Presumably, that is why it was passed, against the wishes of the Government, in the other place. The Secretary of State may hold the view that the amendment could prejudice the employment of disabled people. However, the advice of many agencies and charities is that the probability is that it will improve prospects for disabled people. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Springburn (Mr. Martin) and other hon. Members have said the same thing. I had occasion last year to interview for a job somebody who was disabled by blindness. In the end, for various reasons, I selected somebody else. However, I then took up with the Officers of the House what we do as a corporate body to ensure that we employ adequate numbers of disabled people arid to see whether we do our duty. I was given a perfectly courteous reply through the good offices of the Serjeant at Arms and those responsible for the employment of staff. I was told that we seek to ensure that sufficient numbers of disabled people are employed. That prompting resulted in a specific meeting to consider whether we should be better able to employ blind people or other disabled people in the House. I do not pretend that that meeting would not have taken place in time. However, it was not billed to happen. By asking some questions about the employment of disabled people, particularly the blind, the officials of the House looked again at current practice. That is what this amendment is seeking to do. It is simply to encourage people to look again at their practice. I should like to refer the Secretary of State to the fact that he and his colleagues conceded that principle during the passage of the Local Government Bill in relation to the Race Relations Act 1975. He will remember that when the Bill was originally presented to Parliament last summer, clause 18 did not exist in its present form. The title of clause 18 is "Race relations matters". We had a debate in Committee in which the hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Hughes) argued that in the matter of race relations people should be allowed to ask approved questions. The Minister for Local Government, quite properly, accepted the principle in relation to the employment of individuals from ethnic minority communities and accepted the need to ensure that the practices in operation did not conflict with race relations legislation. The Bill came back on Report with an appropriate amendment. By the time the Bill went to the other place we had built in a provision so that people with non-white skins in Britain will be employed fairly and without discrimination. The Secretary of State has accepted that there can be compromise on this issue and that is why I am not making a ranting or shouting speech. I am asking in a reasonable and, I hope, proper way for him to do for disabled people what he has done for people from ethnic minority communities. It is clear that there is universal support for what the other place did. I ask the Secretary of State to think again and to say that the Government are prepared to hear the argument and recognise the strength of feeling about this matter and change their minds at this late stage.
With the leave of the House, I shall reply briefly to the points that have been made, although I made a lengthy speech earlier that contained the main arguments that the Government have advanced.In case the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) missed it, I shall repeat the point that I made earlier. There is a clause about race relations because a specific statutory duty is laid on local authorities by the parent statute, which is quite different from the case of disabled employment. Indeed, there was a clause on race relations in the Bill when it was first published. We have consistently said that where a local authority is already an enforcement agent that should be reflected in the Bill, but, where it is not, it should not. I should like to pay tribute to my hon. Friends the Members for Lancaster (Dame E. Kellett-Bowman), for Exeter (Mr. Hannam) and for Harborough (Sir J. Farr) for their helpful and constructive speeches as well as for the work that they do for the all-party disablement group, which I very much admire. To have to make up their minds about this amendment puts them in a difficult position as they are normally supporters of the Government. Perhaps the fact that my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster is prepared to abstain means that what I had to say earlier caused her to see that this is not the best way to achieve the results that the House wants. The initiative of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment to review employment for disabled people will prove to be a better way forward. 6 pm Having listened to the debate carefully, there appear to be two misconceptions about what the Lords amendments would achieve and what they mean. The hon. Member for Barking (Ms Richardson) went off on to the subject of women. I would be out of order if I were to discuss that matter under this amendment—[Interruption.] It would be perfectly in order to discuss disabled women, but not discrimination against women as such. However, I do not intend to discuss this whether it is in order or not. The hon. Member for Barking said that if the clause remained in the Bill a local authority would not be able to refuse a contract simply on the ground of the disablement employment policies of a contractor. As I pointed out to the right hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley), that is not the case, because no local authority is bound to accept any tender. However, if it fails to accept what is clearly the lowest and best tender, it must give good reason for so doing publicly, first, to the district auditor and, secondly, to its ratepayers, who have every right to supervise its decisions in such matters. It would not be possible to refuse a contractor's tender because of his disablement employment record and at the same time get it past the district auditor. If this clause were in the Bill, that would be a perfectly valid reason for refusing a tender from such a contractor. The hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley) gave the game away. He said that if authorities were to be subjective and not objective in interpreting a firm's use of the code and its compliance with it, it would be actionable if they made an ill-judged response. Yes, it would be, without the clause, but it would not be with the clause. The new clause says:
The words "is reasonably necessary" will fall within the judgment of the local authority. If the local authority's judgment were that it should not award a contract because of the disablement employment policies of a contractor, the result would be that that decision would be proof against challenge. That is why the hon. Gentleman was wrong in his interpretation."Nothing ߪ shall preclude a local authority from—(a) asking questions or seeking information relating to work force matters and considering responses to them or ߪ consideration of the information is reasonably necessary to ensure".
Did not the Secretary of State rest his case on the slightly different premise that a local authority would be using this as an excuse and not as a reason and might have some other motivation at the back of its mind? If we accept that local authorities are working in a bonafide fashion, would the Secretary of State accept that it is not unreasonable for them to bear this in mind in deciding how a contract is determined?
They may be wrong because they may have misjudged a contractor's compliance. He may be the best complier in the world, but if the local authority gets it wrong he will have no redress. Local authorities may use the disablement employment excuse when they have other reasons in mind. That is why I do not believe that the main result of the clause will be to help disabled people. It will give local authorities a subjective method of discriminating against contractors on spurious grounds.The second theme of the debate was, "What is wrong with new clause 18(b)?" Clause 18 (b) relates to
As I said earlier, there is nothing wrong with that. Any local authority may refer an employer to the Disablement Advisory Service and may call meetings of local employers to discuss their practices. If a local authority is still not happy, it can bring in the MSC or the Disablement Advisory Service. That is possible at present and will remain so. It is unnecessary, therefore, to incorporate it into the legislation. It does not achieve anything that is not already in the legislation. The distinction is between local authorities doing what is perfectly right and proper and deciding on the award of tenders on their subjective judgment as to whether a contractor complies with the code of practice. Those are the misunderstandings that arose, and I believe that we will help more disabled people into employment by what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment suggested than the amendment could ever hope to achieve. The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) said that the clause was vindictive towards disabled people. I do not believe that that is remotely true. He further said that many contractors would not employ their full share of disabled people because it would bring their profit margins down. That was vindictive towards disabled people. For the hon. Gentleman to suggest that employing disabled people is bad for profits and that therefore firms do not do it was a slur on disabled people, and the House was revolted to hear him say that. I hope that he will withdraw it, and I hope that the House will reject this new clause."referring prospective contractors to relevant agencies."
On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I did not say that the clause as drafted was wrong; I said that the attitude of the Government to it was wrong. I said that some employers would no doubt feel that they might lose a bit of profit, but that is not a slur on disabled people. I have always fought for disabled people and I shall continue to do so. It is the Government's attitude that forgets disabled people.
Mr. Jeff Rooker (Birmingham, Perry Barr)
I can confirm at the outset that my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) has just repeated exactly what he said in his speech—[Interruption.] After the speech of the hon. Member for Lancaster (Dame E. Kellett-Bowman), winding up with an abstention, we need take nothing from her.The clause is so modest that one could ask why we should bother with it in the first place. However, there is a thoroughly justifiable reason for the clause. It is important that we should send signals to all sections of the community. The clause was drawn up not out of thin air, but from the results and the experiences of our debates in Committee and on Report before the Bill got to the Lords. It was drawn up to take account of all the Government's objections to earlier amendments. It does not extend the enforcement role of local authorities—the Secretary of State's bogey men. It need not involve any additional resources in its operation. Its effect is simply to allow local authorities a limited discretion to ask a question and seek to foster good practice in place of the blanket prohibition currently contained in the Bill. Let me go back to what this is all about. Lords amendments Nos. 7 and 8, which the Government are seeking to reject, amend clause 17 and add a new clause. Let me remind the House why clause 17 was put in the Bill in the first place. We are here to try to stop the Government taking it out on the disabled. The original notes on clauses stated:
The notes on clauses list most of the things that should not be covered by the clause so that local authorities cannot get involved. The Government particularly highlighted the fact that local authorities should not ask about rates of pay, numbers of apprentices, work on nuclear missile sites, lorries crossing picket lines, links with South Africa and freemasonry. There is no mention whatever of banning local authorities from asking about the disabled employed by contractors. To seek now to lump in the disabled — that is what the Secretary of State is now trying to do—is a thundering disgrace and the Secretary of State should be ashamed of himself. The issue is not central to the Government's economic policy, yet not a single Conservative Member of Parliament today has had the guts to come to the Chamber to support what the Government are doing with his or her voice, despite a three-line Whip. The Secretary of State is alone. Most of his hon. Friends, who have not heard the debate and are ignorant about the issues, will be shepherded in by the Whips to vote against the disabled at the end of the debate. That is not democracy. My hon. Friends do not have to be Whipped on a matter such as this. Two of the three Conservative Members who have spoken gave the impression that they would support the Lords amendments in the Lobby. Certainly the hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. Hannam) gave every impression of doing so. However, I was not clear whether, as he sat down, he was saying that he would abstain."The purpose of clause 17 is to prevent local authorities and the other specified public bodies discriminating against particular contractors by introducing political or irrelevant considerations into the contractual process."
What I said was that I could not support their rejection.
I thought so—another abstainer Why on earth are Tories abstaining when they speak as they do? The hon. Gentleman made it clear that he would not support the Government and that he stood by the all-party group in the belief that the Lords were right in putting the clause in the Bill.6.15 pm If the hon. Gentleman comes into the Lobby with the Welsh Nationalists, Liberals and Labour Members of Parliament, and, indeed, with at least one Conservative Member who is sitting behind, him, he will not be alone. [Interruption.] Have I got that wrong as well? I have got it all wrong. Not one Conservative Member of Parliament has had the guts to come in the Chamber and speak in favour of what the Secretary of State is doing. Three of them have come in with their bleeding hearts on their arms, but have not had the guts to support the Lords in what they have done. It is important that that should be on the record. They are only prepared to abstain. This is a modest clause. I do not have to deploy the case of modesty too much because the clause has no teeth. No contractor or local authority need worry about it. But it is important that both Houses of Parliament should send out a signal, and we should send a signal to their Lordships that if the Government get their way the Lords should not lie down and accept it. They should have the guts to insist on their amendment and send it back to this place. In addition, the House of Commons should send a signal to employers that Parliament will not tolerate continued discrimination in employment practices in so far as they affect disabled people. I do not propose to read out the list, but the Secretary of Slate's claims simply do not stand up to examination. Able-bodied applicants are at least 1.6 times more likely to receive a positive response from an employer than a disabled person, and the proportion of companies employing 3 per cent. or more registered disabled — their legal quota under the 1944 legislation—has fallen from 53 per cent. in 1965 to only 27 per cent. last year. Therefore, we must send a signal to employers and, even more importantly, to disabled people. We have a bounden duty to do so. All I am asking hon. Members to do is simply to assist us tonight in sending those signals.
Question put, That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said amendment:—
The House divided: Ayes 258, Noes 208.
Division No. 206]
|Adley, Robert||Boscawen, Hon Robert|
|Alexander, Richard||Boswell, Tim|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael||Bottomley, Peter|
|Amess, David||Bottomley, Mrs Virginia|
|Amos, Alan||Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n)|
|Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)||Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)|
|Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)||Bowis, John|
|Ashby, David||Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard|
|Atkins, Robert||Brandon-Bravo, Martin|
|Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)||Brazier, Julian|
|Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)||Bright, Graham|
|Banks, Robert (Harrogate)||Brittan, Rt Hon Leon|
|Batiste, Spencer||Brooke, Rt Hon Peter|
|Bellingham, Henry||Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)|
|Bendall, Vivian||Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)|
|Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick|
|Benyon, W.||Buck, Sir Antony|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Budgen, Nicholas|
|Bonsor, Sir Nicholas||Burns, Simon|
|Butler, Chris||Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)|
|Butterfill, John||Holt, Richard|
|Carlisle, John, (Luton N)||Hordern, Sir Peter|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Howard, Michael|
|Carrington, Matthew||Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)|
|Carttiss, Michael||Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)|
|Cash, William||Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)|
|Channon, Rt Hon Paul||Hunt, David (Wirral W)|
|Chapman, Sydney||Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)|
|Chope, Christopher||Hunter, Andrew|
|Clark. Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n)||Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas|
|Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)||Irvine, Michael|
|Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)||Irving, Charles|
|Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)||Jack, Michael|
|Colvin, Michael||Jackson, Robert|
|Conway, Derek||Janman, Tim|
|Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)||Jessel, Toby|
|Coombs, Simon (Swindon)||Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey|
|Cran, James||Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)|
|Critchley, Julian||Jones, Robert B (Herts W)|
|Currie, Mrs Edwina||Key, Robert|
|Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)||King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)|
|Day, Stephen||Knapman, Roger|
|Devlin, Tim||Knight, Greg (Derby North)|
|Dickens, Geoffrey||Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)|
|Dorrell, Stephen||Knowles, Michael|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Knox, David|
|Dover, Den||Lamont, Rt Hon Norman|
|Dunn, Bob||Lang, Ian|
|Dykes, Hugh||Latham, Michael|
|Eggar, Tim||Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)|
|Evennett, David||Lightbown, David|
|Fairbairn, Nicholas||Lilley, Peter|
|Fallon, Michael||Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)|
|Favell, Tony||Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)|
|Fenner, Dame Peggy||Lord, Michael|
|Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)||Luce, Rt Hon Richard|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||Lyell, Sir Nicholas|
|Forman, Nigel||McCrindle, Robert|
|Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)||Macfarlane, Sir Neil|
|Forth, Eric||MacGregor, Rt Hon John|
|Fox, Sir Marcus||MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)|
|Franks, Cecil||Maclean, David|
|Freeman, Roger||McLoughlin, Patrick|
|French, Douglas||McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)|
|Gale, Roger||McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)|
|Gardiner, George||Madel, David|
|Garel-Jones, Tristan||Major, Rt Hon John|
|Gill, Christopher||Malins, Humfrey|
|Glyn, Dr Alan||Mans, Keith|
|Goodlad, Alastair||Maples, John|
|Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles||Marlow, Tony|
|Gorman, Mrs Teresa||Martin, David (Portsmouth S)|
|Gorst, John||Maude, Hon Francis|
|Gow, Ian||Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick|
|Gower, Sir Raymond||Mellor, David|
|Greenway, John (Ryedale)||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Gregory, Conal||Miller, Hal|
|Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E')||Mills, Iain|
|Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Grist, Ian||Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)|
|Ground, Patrick||Monro, Sir Hector|
|Grylls, Michael||Montgomery, Sir Fergus|
|Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)||Morris, M (N'hampton S)|
|Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)||Moss, Malcolm|
|Hanley, Jeremy||Neale, Gerrard|
|Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')||Needham, Richard|
|Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)||Neubert, Michael|
|Harris, David||Nicholson, David (Taunton)|
|Haselhurst, Alan||Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley|
|Hawkins, Christopher||Oppenheim, Phillip|
|Hayes, Jerry||Page, Richard|
|Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney||Paice, James|
|Hayward, Robert||Patnick, Irvine|
|Heathcoat-Amory, David||Pawsey, James|
|Heddle, John||Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth|
|Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)||Porter, David (Waveney)|
|Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)||Portillo, Michael|
|Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.||Powell, William (Corby)|
|Hind, Kenneth||Price, Sir David|
|Raison, Rt Hon Timothy||Squire, Robin|
|Rathbone, Tim||Stern, Michael|
|Renton, Tim||Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)|
|Rhodes James, Robert||Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)|
|Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon||Stokes, John|
|Riddick, Graham||Stradling Thomas, Sir John|
|Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas||Summerson, Hugo|
|Ridsdale, Sir Julian||Taylor, John M (Solihull)|
|Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm||Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman|
|Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)||Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)|
|Roe, Mrs Marion||Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)|
|Rossi, Sir Hugh||Thurnham, Peter|
|Rowe, Andrew||Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)|
|Ryder, Richard||Vaughan, Sir Gerard|
|Sackville, Hon Tom||Waddington, Rt Hon David|
|Sainsbury, Hon Tim||Walker, Bill (T'side North)|
|Sayeed, Jonathan||Waller, Gary|
|Shaw, David (Dover)||Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)|
|Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)||Watts, John|
|Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')||Wells, Bowen|
|Shelton, William (Streatham)||Wheeler, John|
|Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)||Widdecombe, Ann|
|Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)||Wilshire, David|
|Shersby, Michael||Winterton, Mrs Ann|
|Sims, Roger||Wood, Timothy|
|Skeet, Sir Trevor||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)|
|Soames, Hon Nicholas||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)||Mr. Tony Durant and|
|Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)||Mr. Mark Lennox-Boyd.|
|Abbott, Ms Diane||Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)|
|Adams, Allen (Paisley N)||Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)|
|Allen, Graham||Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)|
|Alton, David||Dewar, Donald|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Dixon, Don|
|Armstrong, Hilary||Dobson, Frank|
|Ashdown, Paddy||Doran, Frank|
|Ashley, Rt Hon Jack||Douglas, Dick|
|Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)||Duffy, A. E. P.|
|Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich)||Dunnachie, Jimmy|
|Battle, John||Eastham, Ken|
|Beckett, Margaret||Evans, John (St Helens N)|
|Beith, A. J.||Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E)|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Faulds, Andrew|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Fearn, Ronald|
|Blair, Tony||Field, Frank (Birkenhead)|
|Boateng, Paul||Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)|
|Boyes, Roland||Fisher, Mark|
|Bradley, Keith||Flannery, Martin|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Flynn, Paul|
|Brown, Gordon (D'mline E)||Foot, Rt Hon Michael|
|Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)||Foster, Derek|
|Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith)||Foulkes, George|
|Buchan, Norman||Fraser, John|
|Buckley, George J||Galbraith, Sam|
|Caborn, Richard||Galloway, George|
|Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)||Garrett, John (Norwich South)|
|Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)||Garrett, Ted (Wallsend)|
|Campbell-Savours, D. N.||George, Bruce|
|Cartwright, John||Gordon, Mildred|
|Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)||Graham, Thomas|
|Clay, Bob||Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)|
|Clelland, David||Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)|
|Clwyd, Mrs Ann||Grocott, Bruce|
|Cohen, Harry||Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy|
|Cook, Frank (Stockton N)||Haynes, Frank|
|Cook, Robin (Livingston)||Healey, Rt Hon Denis|
|Corbett, Robin||Heffer, Eric S.|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||Henderson, Doug|
|Cousins, Jim||Hinchliffe, David|
|Cox, Tom||Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)|
|Cryer, Bob||Holland, Stuart|
|Cummings, John||Home Robertson, John|
|Cunningham, Dr John||Hood, Jimmy|
|Dalyell, Tam||Howarth, George (Knowsley N)|
|Darling, Alistair||Hughes, John (Coventry NE)|
|Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||O'Neill, Martin|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport E)||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley|
|Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)||Parry, Robert|
|Hughes, Simon (Southwark)||Patchett, Terry|
|Illsley, Eric||Pendry, Tom|
|Ingram, Adam||Pike, Peter L.|
|Janner, Greville||Powell, Ray (Ogmore)|
|John, Brynmor||Prescott, John|
|Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)||Quin, Ms Joyce|
|Jones, Ieuan (Ynys Môn)||Radice, Giles|
|Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)||Randall, Stuart|
|Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald||Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn|
|Kennedy, Charles||Reid, Dr John|
|Kilfedder, James||Richardson, Jo|
|Kirkwood, Archy||Roberts, Allan (Bootle)|
|Lamond, James||Robertson, George|
|Leighton, Ron||Robinson, Geoffrey|
|Lestor, Joan (Eccles)||Rooker, Jeff|
|Lewis, Terry||Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)|
|Litherland, Robert||Ruddock, Joan|
|Livingstone, Ken||Salmond, Alex|
|Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Lofthouse, Geoffrey||Sheerman, Barry|
|Loyden, Eddie||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert|
|McAllion, John||Short, Clare|
|McAvoy, Thomas||Skinner, Dennis|
|McCartney, Ian||Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)|
|Macdonald, Calum A.||Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)|
|McFall, John||Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)|
|McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)||Snape, Peter|
|McKelvey, William||Soley, Clive|
|McLeish, Henry||Spearing, Nigel|
|Maclennan, Robert||Steel, Rt Hon David|
|McNamara, Kevin||Steinberg, Gerry|
|McTaggart, Bob||Stott, Roger|
|McWilliam, John||Strang, Gavin|
|Madden, Max||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)|
|Mahon, Mrs Alice||Thomas, Dr Dafydd Elis|
|Marek, Dr John||Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)|
|Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)||Turner, Dennis|
|Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)||Vaz, Keith|
|Martlew, Eric||Wall, Pat|
|Meacher, Michael||Wallace, James|
|Meale, Alan||Walley, Joan|
|Michael, Alun||Wardell, Gareth (Gower)|
|Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)||Wareing, Robert N|
|Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)||Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)|
|Millan, Rt Hon Bruce||Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)|
|Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Moonie, Dr Lewis||Williams, Rt Hon Alan|
|Morgan, Rhodri||Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)|
|Morley, Elliott||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)||Worthington, Tony|
|Mowlam, Marjorie||Wray, Jimmy|
|Mullin, Chris||Young, David (Bolton SE)|
|Nellist, Dave||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon||Mrs. Llin Golding and|
|O'Brien, William||Mr. Tony Banks.|
Question accordingly agreed to.
Lords amendment No. 8 disagreed to.
Provisions Supplementary To Or Consequential On Section 17
Lords amendment: No. 9, in page 18, line 28, after "1972" insert
"or in relation to Scotland section 56 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973"
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton
I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.It is a straightforward drafting amendment to include reference to Scottish legislation, and should have been included from the outset. The provisions of section 58 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 are, so far as relevant here, the same in effect as those of section 101 of the 1972 Act, and the same provision should be made in respect of arrangements made under section 56 as are made in respect of section 101.
Question put and agreed to.
Prohibition On Promoting Homosexuality By Teaching Or By Publishing Material
Lords amendment: No. 10, in page 28, leave out lines 18 and 19 and insert—
"(a) intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality"
Read a Second time.
I beg to move amendment (e) to the Lords amendment, at end add
'other than by any action undertaken for the purpose of discouraging discrimination against or protecting the civil rights of any person.'
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)
With this, it will be convenient to discuss amendment (f) to the Lords amendment, at end add
'except that nothing in this subsection shall prevent the provision of any service by a local authority to any person where that provision is necessary in the view of the authority for a purpose other than that prohibited by this subsection.'
Welcome though the Lords amendments are, frankly, they are simply not good enough to satisfy our remaining fundamental objections to the clause.Before I refer to the amendments in detail, I reiterate our view of the major issues that are involved in this clause. The clause affects all local government, all education services, and the arts and library services of our country. It has caused a storm of protest, and understandably so. Here we are dealing with fundamental issues of principle. It is not just a provision to ensure neutrality on homosexuality. Much more than that is at stake. Indeed, everyone's right to information and the arts, the rights of minorities, the way in which a free society is tolerant of diversity, the way in which a free society organises itself, the way in which minorities are protected' in a free and plural democratic society are at the heart of our objections to the provisions of clause 28. We are confronted here with issues of people's civil rights and individual freedoms. We are confronted here with the possibility of an extension of censorship, either deliberately or by default. That is why the Arts Council of Great Britain has been so active in opposing the provisions of the clause, arguing, as we do, the severe risk that prohibition on "promoting" homosexuality will prohibit almost any literary or artistic activity that has an element of homosexuality within it. The provisions set a dangerous precedent. The clause represents a new and inherently dangerous direction for the law to take. It breaches an important principle of equality before the law, for minorities to seek to advance their own lawful interests, that could in future be extended to other people. Whatever the Minister says about our amendments and the issues, I hope that he will give the House an assurance, a promise on the record, that the provisions will not be extended to other public bodies and activities — for example, broadcasting and the Arts Council — which could in future be prohibited on much the same grounds and arguments that could lead to further censorship. I hope that the Minister will make it absolutely clear that the Government have no intention to go further in that direction. The proposals set a dangerous precedent, because they seek to control what is taught in the classroom, not directly through an education Act, but indirectly by restrictions on the provision of books or other materials that are not themselves prohibited by law. The proposals will encourage discrimination. It is impossible to accept any other construction when the civil rights of homosexuals are already under increased threat and hostility because of the appalling consequences of AIDS. We and many other organisations, including the National Council for Civil Liberties, believe that there is an even greater need to educate and inform and to protect people's equal rights. Whatever is the intention of the supporters of the clause, its impact can only be regressive. Local authorities will have to play safe. They may have to refuse to take any risk in an area that may appear to assist homosexual people, or possibly show them in a favourable light. The proposals provide an excuse to discriminate against gay and lesbian people. Just as the Sex Discrimination Act 1986 and the Race Relations Act 1976 make it less acceptable to discriminate against women and ethnic minorities, this clause will have the reverse effect and will make it more respectable to discriminate against gay and lesbian people. These are major and fundamental reasons why further amendments to the clause are necessary. As it stands, it will be bad law, because it is dangerously imprecise in drafting and open to wide and varied, differing interpretation. Take the key words — "promote", "homosexuality" and "acceptability". None of them is defined. As they stand in the Bill at present, they have no fixed meaning. Organisations outside the House and, for that matter, my hon. Friends, others and I have legal opinions almost by the dozen from senior counsel, saying that anything that is published or done in respect of homosexuality could be said to promote it. We need look no further than those legal opinions for reasons why the House should not accept the clause as it stands. The Government amendments to the local authorities' intention do not substantially alter the impact of the clause. It is still dependent upon how the word "promote" is interpreted. The Government opposed a similar clause in 1986. There has been no explanation from Ministers of why, one year later, they have changed their minds on this matter. There has been no explanation, no argument and no evidence for the about-face by Ministers. There has been no attempt to answer those questions. The Government opposed identical proposals in 1986 specifically because Ministers argued that those proposals were open to harmful misinterpretation. The Government were saying that a year ago. We said it too, but we are saying the same thing now. Why have the Government changed their position? I believe that they have done so for the basest and most contemptible political motives. I believe that they have done so because they seek some political gain from aiding and abetting bigotry and discrimination against gay and lesbian people. In the absence of any other explanation, that is bound to be the conclusion that people will reach, inside and outside the House. [Interruption.] If the hon. Member for Tatton (Mr. Hamilton) wishes to intervene, I am happy to give way to him or to his hon. Friend who is making so much noise from a sedentary position, but does not have the guts to stand up and say publicly what he is muttering in private.
Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)
What the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) is saying is totally contemptible to democracy. He is saying that the Government should not pay the slightest bit of attention to popular feeling on this issue and that, in his opinion, the population at large is bigoted. I should like him to withdraw that.
I said no such thing. I was saying that the Government were bigoted and were seeking to encourage bigotry—which, unlike the hon. Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow), I do not believe is a trait displayed by the majority of people in Britain. On the contrary, I think that the majority of people are decent and civilised in their approach to these matters, as we ought to be in any plural democratic society.
Mr. Nicholas Fairbairn (Perth and Kinross)
This is a very important point. The hon. Gentleman expressed an attitude of principle. He identified what he calls gay and lesbian people, but he must do the House the duty of saying to what extent he regards perversion in any psychopathological form as wrong. There is no question at all that homosexuality in either sex is psychopathological perversion.
Many people, in particular homosexual people, will find the remarks of the hon. and learned Member for Perth and Kinross (Mr. Fairbairn) deeply offensive. Apparently, he fails to recognise the reality of different people's sexual orientation. His intervention shows that he is portraying the very characteristic about which I was complaining among Ministers. He is showing a form of bigotry about these issues which has no place in our debates.
It is honourable that the hon. Gentleman has given way again, but it is not simply a question of different orientation. Sadism and masochism are not just orientations of human conduct; they are psychopathological manifestations of morbid conduct—and homosexuality is the same.
I regret having given way to the hon. and learned Gentleman again. He has just repeated something which I think is totally unacceptable and, frankly, also wrong.
Mr. Nicholas Bennett (Pembroke)
The hon. Gentleman talked about the Government changing their mind. Will he help the House by explaining why he supported what was then clause 27 in Standing Committee? He said:
In regard to the ban on the promotion of homosexuality he said:"I shall vote for the amendment and I hope and expect that my right hon. and hon. Friends will do the same."
"We do not wish to change that in any way, shape or form."
If the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Bennett) were to read all of what I said, he would see that I went on to say:
nor do we expect or want it to be"it is not, and never has been,"
No one is asking for that. Gay and lesbian people do not want that. Since the hon. Gentleman was talking about the record, perhaps he will also acknowledge, as I am sure he knows, that I said in Committee on behalf of my hon. Friends in response to something produced at a very short notice in the Committee that we were fundamentally opposed to some of the provisions of this clause and we would seek to amend it drastically on Report. That is what we tried to do, with the greatest support from outside the House. The hon. Gentleman and his right hon. and hon. Friends voted down those very wide-ranging amendments. We are now presenting the House with yet another opportunity to do exactly that today. I hope that the hon. Gentleman, having reflected on it, will take a different view now from the one that he took at the time. We oppose the proposals because the prohibition on promoting homosexuality covers any and every activity in which a local authority engages in furtherance of its duties and responsibilities. It is not an abuse for local authorities to recognise the existence of a minority in their communities. Estimates suggest that 10 per cent. of the adult population in Britain may be gay or lesbian people. It is not an abuse for a local authority to devote — as some do quite properly — relatively small resource allocations to meet the legitimate needs of those minorities. That is not an abuse. It is a perfectly proper thing for local authorities to do, and should be acceptable in a civilised society. As we have argued before, the teaching of children in school and other places of education also could be adversely affected by the proposals, as could essential activities such as the counselling of young people because of their own sexuality or that of their parents. Amendment No. 10 was said to be moved by the Government in the other place to clarify the Government's position on what was meant by "intentionally promoting homosexuality", although, as I have argued, the meaning of those words is still unclear. The amendment introduces some limitation, however minor, on the concept. As I said, we certainly will not oppose it, but it simply does not go far enough. Other Government amendments accepted in the other place make explicit reference in subsection (1)(b) to the publication of material, and further reference to "financial or other assistance" for the purposes of promotion are welcome in so far as they go, but they do not remove the fundamental objections. Amendment No. 12 is simply a declarity, in that it states that a court shall draw such inferences from evidence before it as it sees fit. That does not seem to move the debate on at all. The amendments tabled in my name and in the name of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition deal with the issues of civil rights and the provision of services for a purpose other than the promotion of homosexuality. I am grateful that they have been selected for debate. I do not want to be too unkind to the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) as we are probably speaking on the same side of the argument—[Interruption.] Well, I welcome the fact that we are on the same side on an important issue of civil liberties. I suppose that he must somewhat regret his comments that were published in The Independent this morning—although perhaps, like me, he was not consulted by the journalist who wrote the article in the first place. However, I am grateful that we are on the same side of the argument in this debate. The amendment, inserted by the Government on Report in the House of Lords, does not go far enough. Amendment (e) would qualify the prohibition on the promotion of homosexuality in relation to"the duty … of any local authority to promote homosexuality."ߞ [Official Report, Standing Committee A, 8 December 1987; c. 1211–14.]
It is an important amendment, pointing to a serious practical difficulty which has still not been resolved either by the Government or by the House of Lords. Amendment (f), which is also tabled in the name of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and myself, goes even further. It would deal directly with the question of a service provided for a purpose other than "the promotion of homosexuality", which, under the clause, would risk falling within the prohibition. The amendment provides that where a service is provided for another purpose and where the provision is necessary to meet a need within the community, it should fall outside the terms of reference of the clause. The amendment seeks to highlight the areas of activity that are undertaken as part of a council's provision which might be thought to have an indirect consequence in the terms of the clause. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Northampton, North is muttering again. I hope that he will participate in the debate and put his views on the record. I am trying to explain to him the purpose of our amendments. If he has something to say, I hope that he will try to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The fact is that the Government, at least privately—they do not have the courage to say so publicly—must be deeply regretting ever having given way to the pressures to embark on this legislation in the first place. There have been many debates in both Houses, and debates and demonstrations around the country, illustrating not only the depth of opposition to this proposal, but the deep concern that is felt by many people in all walks of life, including people way beyond the boundaries of the Labour party or, indeed, any other political party. I make it clear that we do not support the intentions of the clause. The motives and implications behind it are deeply to be deplored. It should not be accepted by Parliament. I make it absolutely clear that a future Labour Government would not allow the implications and provisions of the clause to remain on the statute book."any action undertaken for the purpose of discouraging discrimination against or protecting the civil rights of any person."
Mr. Robin Squire (Hornchurch)
I have listened to our previous debates in the Chamber and suspect that I have read as widely as any hon. Member on this issue both since and during our proceedings. I did not support the clause originally and all that I have subsequently seen has not ultimately persuaded me to change my mind. Amendments (e) and (f) that were moved earlier, by the hon. Member deserve support.I begin on a point on which I hope that I can unite hon. Members. I recognise, as I think do all hon. Members, the importance of protecting our children from evil influences, however defined. I speak as someone who has two teenage children of my own, so I have a little knowledge of what is involved. However, the permutations of wording through which this House and the other place have gone have not persuaded me that we have either justified the need for the clause or that the wording that we have produced is other than a minefield, awaiting exploitation by scores of lawyers in years to come. I do not know whether "promotion" means "talking about", or "selling the advantages of", to take but two possible interpretations. Undoubtedly, hon. Members could provide many more. I speak as one of the honorary vice-presidents of the Conservative group for homosexual equality. We want to put forward four brief points. I hope that if my hon. Friend the Minister for Local Government cannot answer them during the debate, he will at least take account of them. They relate to the question, "What is 'promoting homosexuality'?" First, if a local authority assisted a well-run counselling service to help homosexuals to come to terms with their sexuality and to cope with the consequences that many experience, is that "promoting homosexuality"? Secondly, if a local authority allowed a homosexual organisation to hire a room in one of its buildings for a public meeting on the same terms as any other organisation — I am referring to law-abiding citizens—is that "promoting homosexuality"? Thirdly, if a local authority bought for its public libraries books that discussed homosexual love favourably or presented sympathetically the lives of homosexuals such as the late Lord Britten and Sir Peter Pears, is that "promoting homosexuality"? Fourthly, if sex education classes presented homosexuality in a balanced way, as required by the Department of Education and Science under the Education (No. 2) Act 1986, is that "promoting homosexuality"?
From a sedentary position, my hon. Friend says "yes", and in that case we have a slight problem of conflict with the law.I have mentioned that I have two children. I happen to think that the teaching of sexuality of any sort does not belong in school. I believe that the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms. Ruddock) made some comment to that effect in our earlier exchange. I agree completely that school is not the place for that sort of thing. However, it is the place for teaching an honest and balanced approach to this subject just as to any other. In one of our national newspapers today—the most well-read one—there is a cartoon portraying a middle-aged man retiring through the front door of his house, leaving his son, who is drawn effeminately, hanging by a rope from a lamp post, having clearly been hanged or attempted to be hanged. I put to one side those people who may find the subject funny — presumably that is why they drew a cartoon—because that is not the point that I want to make. In my constituency, I probably have a substantial minority of law-abiding, God-fearing Roman Catholics—I suspect a proportion similar to the number of homosexuals and lesbians—
Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)
I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman when I have finished my point.If it were suggested that a cartoon be drawn, portraying either some militant Protestant group stringing up some Roman Catholic, or the other way round — some Roman Catholic stringing up an identified Protestant—we would be outraged and would raise that issue on the Floor of the House saying, "This is disgraceful." As a further example—again it is an obvious one—if we were even contemplating similar action from somebody of one colour against somebody of another colour, who is another law-abiding citizen we would again be horrified. The person responsible would be in breach of the law, as I understand it, because they would be accused of inciting racial prejudice. I remind hon. Members that we are talking about a law-abiding minority.
Mr. Tony Banks
I am glad that the hon. Gentleman mentioned the cartoon by Franklin in The Sun and which I have referred to the Press Council. If the hon. Gentleman is seeking to make a parallel with that cartoon, I suggest he looks at Der Angrif—a German newspaper that was produced by Julius Streicher, the Jew-baiter, in Nazi Germany. I believe that Franklin bases his cartooning models upon that newspaper.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that information.
Mr. Neil Hamilton (Tatton)
I go along with what my hon. Friend says and I share his disgust at the cartoon in The Sun. Does my hon. Friend agree that part of the reason for such a cartoon appearing in a national newspaper, which is read by millions, is the aggressive proselytising by some local authorities on behalf of homosexuals? That has tended to disgust the vast majority of British people.
I appreciate that my hon. Friend's concern is shared by several of my colleagues and it is important. However, in our discussions on this matter and in our attempts to extract evidence, it appears that most of that evidence arises from one book, in one teacher centre, in one school under one authority. I may be wrong, but I have seen no other evidence. Indeed, as I understand it, that book was kept to help teachers who are occasionally asked to advise pupils who come from homes with gay parents. It is important to realise that we do not live in a world where every child lives with a male and female parent.
Mr. David Wilshire (Spelthorne)
My hon. Friend has asked for examples and perhaps I can assist. I have in my hand a leaflet that was handed out to 15-year-olds at a Bristol school. I will not read out the details of that leaflet because I do not think that I should—[HON. MEMBERS: "Go on."] Opposition Members may want that, but suffice to say that the leaflet describes and illustrates homosexual activity and underneath that description says:
That was handed out to 15-year-olds at a school in Bristol—[HON. MEMBERS: "By whom?"] The Terrence Higgins trust."Go for it! Share the pleasure with a friend."
I can only take at face value what my hon. Friend has said. Of course, it is deplorable and despicable that such leaflets exist and I would be happy to add it to my list of one. From a brief glance at that leaflet I cannot believe that it has been produced by or on behalf of a local authority. I shall pass it over to the hon. Member for Copeland and I will happily give way if he can tell me who is credited with producing it.
Dame Jill Knight (Birmingham, Edgbaston)
I am concerned that it appears that my hon. Friend has not read any of the debates that have previously taken place. For instance, on 11 January the debate in the other place drew attention to the fact that children under two have had access to gay and lesbian books in Lambeth play centres.
Mr. Tony Banks
That is not true.
Mr. John Fraser (Norwood)
That is a lie.
Mr. Stuart Holland (Vauxhall)
Dame Jill Knight
I am not telling lies and I do not believe that it is the practice in this House for one who has intervened to give way again. I am quoting from the House of Lords debateߞ
Mr. Tony Banks
That does not make it true!
Dame Jill Knight
The person in charge, Mrs. Jill Delaney, playleader of the Windmill gardens play centre, said:
"We have been on training courses where members have access to take this kind of literature into the playgroups but nearly everyone refused. Some of the books on display were terrible. I have children in here as young as 2 years old and I don't think they should be seeing pictures of grown men in the nude in different sexual practices." [Official Report, House of Lords, 11 January 1988; Vol. 491, c. 10131]
I cannot respond to that specific point because I do not come from Lambeth and I have not seen the literature about which my hon. Friend complains.
Does my hon. Friend not know of such literature?
I am quite prepared to admitߞ
There is a queue forming.In answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Dame J. Knight), I understand that that charge has been denied in more than one quarter. However, I must leave it to other hon. Members who come from that area to confirm or deny that charge. If my hon. Friend is correct, I share her unease that such literature is available to young children. I recognise the importance of protecting young children and the need to do so. Tonight we are trying to establish the need for the clause as drafted and to what extent the wording of the clause may influence other perfectly normal law-abiding citizens.
I believe that the hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) should get his facts right. There is no information on the leaflet that he brandished as to who was responsible for its publication or distribution. I believe that the hon. Gentleman should be more accurate and precise in his allegations regarding such sensitive matters.
I almost feel that there are two debates going on and I apologise to the extent that I have caused that.
Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
I am anxious to make some progress because I am aware that a number of other hon. Members wish to take part.
It is specifically about Lambeth.
I represent Lambeth and my wife is a nursery nurse in the borough. There is not a scintilla of evidence to support the monstrous allegation that has been made by the hon. Member for Birmingham Edgbaston (Dame J. Knight) who, presumably, is strongly in favour of the promotion of heterosexuality, adultery, troilism arid all the rest of it as opposed to the promotion of homosexuality, about which she is extremely economic with the truth.
I must press on. I am satisfied that there has been some balance put forward for the Lambeth subculture.Over the years there has been considerable scientific discussion about the extent to which people can be persuaded to adopt a sexuality that is not their own. In the overwhelming majority of cases it seems that people are born with a particular sexual preference or acquire it during the passage of their lives without the presence of the influences we are discussing. There are many famous examples in history of people who became homosexuals without the benefit of a gay counselling group ߞ we would be foolish to assume that such groups are an absolute essential. As I have said, I have two teenage children and my wife is a former teacher. In her experience, the suggestion that one can address an average or even below average group of teenagers seeking to proselytise and expect to be heard sympathetically is unrealistic. There has been much overstatement from both sides about the effect of the clause. It has been suggested that some great works of art, great books and great plays that have been performed for scores of years ߞ including during the time when homosexuality was illegal ߞ are threatened. I doubt that. However, it is possible that the clause as drawn, even with the beneficial effects of amendments (e) and (f), will be taken as some sort of signal by a large number of people that society is becoming more intolerant. I remind the House for the last time that we are talking about a law-abiding minority of people. If people break the law, they must be punished through all the avenues available. I do not wish to see my children threatened by sexual or other aggression, but I want to keep a sense of perspective and I very much fear that the clause goes much further than was ever intended.
Mr. Chris Smith (Islington, South and Finsbury)
Three months ago I rose to express my distress and disquiet at the sudden appearance of what was then clause 27 of the Local Government Bill. I had hoped that in the intervening months a degree of common sense and decency might have crept into the Government's thinking and that we might now be applauding their decision to withdraw the clause in its entirety from the Bill and to reject everything that it stands for. Sadly, that is not the case. At the Government's behest, their Lordships have made two changes to the clause. Lords amendment No. 11 brings a marginal improvement. Lords amendment No. 12 inserts the idea of intentionalityߞof itself not an objectionable move, but, when qualified with such a sweeping catch-all definition of intention, leaving interpretation totally to the courts, it does nothing to allay the genuine fears that the clause has aroused throughout the country.The amendments have left untouched the central flaw at the heart of the clause — the undefined, hopelessly vague and dangerously widely interpretable word "promote". The amendments in the name of my right hon. and hon. Friends attempt to circumscribe that word to a certain extent. That is why I support them. If the amendments tabled by the Liberal party are put to the vote, I shall not support them—[HON. MEMBERS: "Not selected."] I am pleased to hear it, because they would have made matters worse. Three months ago I asked what on earth the originators of the clause meant by the word "promote". After three months of debate and discussion in this Chamber, in the other place, on the radio and television and on platforms up and down the country, that question still remains unanswered. All that we had in the intervening period were statements such as, "Well, we all know what we mean by 'promote', don't we?" or, "We all know that boroughs like Haringey are up to no good," or, "Of course, there will be no threat to sensible acceptable activities conducted by local authorities." None of those statements represents an accurate analysis of what the word "promote" can be interpreted as meaning by the courts. It is not good enough for the Minister to write to me, as he generously did after the debate before Christmas, to say that in his view none of the activities that I had listed as potentially unlawful under the clause would be caught by it. It is not up to the Minister to interpret what the word "promote" means; it is up to the courts. After reading through many pages of the House of Lords Hansard, the only attempt at a definition that I could find — in all the many hours of debate — came from the Earl of Caithness, who is the Minister for Environment, Countryside and Water. He referred to local authorities that have in the recent past promoted homosexuality—
If I were in the business of writing a dictionary, I would certainly not go to the noble Lord for clarity of definition. Such an attempt to define what the word "promote" means takes us no further. 7.15 pm Because of that lack of definition, the central problem remains. The clause will potentially affect any service provided by any local authority for, or on behalf of, or in support of, gays and lesbians in that local authority's area. Let me take just two examples to illustrate my point. First, let us suppose that a teenager begins to discover that he is gay. He feels nervous, upset and isolated. He may be on the verge of contemplating suicide, as the studies suggest many such young people are. Because he would find it difficult to turn to anyone else, he turns to a teacher at his school. He asks, "What on earth is all this about?" In such circumstances, any teacher worth his salt would sit the pupil down and say, "Look, there is nothing at all to be worried about. This is perfectly acceptable. There are millions of people who are gay and they make a valuable contribution to society. There is no reason for you to feel isolated or abnormal about what you are and what you are feeling." That teacher would attempt to advise and counsel and make the teenager feel better about himself and about what he was coming to understand about himself. Would such a teacher be in contravention of the clause? As I understand the clause — certainly as I understand the wishes of those who brought the clause forward—such a teacher would, indeed, be contravening the clause. That means that the important advice and counselling that ought to be available to that very concerned, very scared, teenager will not be available to him. That worries me deeply. My second example relates to a local authority-owned art gallery wishing to sponsor an exhibition of paintings by David Hockney. I choose the painter advisedly because of what he has said forcefully in recent days. The local authority will fear that it risks being in contravention of clause 28, not simply because David Hockney happens to be gay, but because David Hockney's paintings frequently celebrate the fact that he is gay. That is the key point that will concern a local authority when it is considering whether to mount an exhibition of paintings by one of Britain's greatest artists. I believe that the way in which the clause will be interpreted moves us a step closer to censorship of the arts because that is how it is likely to affect local authorities. I have given just two of many examples."that is, giving it a standing over and above the standing that is given to similar matters."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 1 February 1988; Vol. 492, c. 937.]
Mr. Neil Hamilton
For many years we have had a law—in statute, and before that in common law—against indecent displays and obscenity. The hon. Gentleman will know that a great many art galleries in this country contain classical paintings of great distinction depicting scenes of sexual violence and what many people might call depravity. Does he know of any prosecutions—under common law or statute law—that have taken place for contraventions of that law?
The hon. Gentleman makes two mistakes. The first mistake is that the law on matters that are obscene and indecent specifically includes artistic and literary merit as a defence in the Obscene Publications Act 1959. There is no such defence in clauses 28 and 29. Lord Boyd-Carpenter explicitly stated in another place that the artistic element would not be a defence if a prosecution were brought under this clause if it continues to be part of the Bill and if the Bill is enacted.The hon. Gentleman's second mistake is that exhibitions of paintings of the sort that I have described might conceivably be prosecutable under the 1959 Act. That measure can be used to bring prosecutions for matters that are obscene and indecent. If the hon. Gentleman is supporting the clause and its inclusion in our body of law, he is wishing to tighten the law on obscenity further to restrict the definition of obscene and indecent. I suggest that this is the wrong place to do that. If he is taking that approach, he is adopting the wrong course. I have given two examples of the practical, potential implications of the clause. In many ways it will make life worse for teachers, administrators, pupils, artists and librarians. It will have that effect on hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens. It will make life richer for some lawyers and a handful of bigots who want to use the law to their own advantage. To such depths, in the desire of populist advantage, is it sought to drag the Government, a Government who should know better. More enraging and distressing by far than the practical implications of the clause are the motives that underly it. These motives have not been changed one bit by the amendments that have been tabled in the other place. They remain profoundly undemocratic, anti-libertarian and destructive of all the traditions of tolerance for which this country used to stand. The proponents of the clause have been saying persistently throughout the country that there is only one form of relationship, one form of sexuality and one form of lifestyle that is acceptable. That form of sexuality will be endorsed, approved, applauded and given enhanced legal status, and everything else will become second-class. It is a view which refuses to recognise the difference, the diversity and the very richness of human life and human society. It is intolerant, immature and undemocratic, and I venture to assert that it is profoundly immoral. William Shakespeare wrote a major speech as part of a collaborative play about the life of Sir Thomas More. In that play, the king sent out. Sir Thomas More to meet the mob that wishes to drive out the strangers from its midst—the immigrants, the black people, the gays and the lesbians. Sir Thomas More goes out to meet the crowd. He tries to persuade it that it is wrong to drive out strangers and that it might not be in its interests to do so. Shakespeare has Sir Thomas More saying:
That is the sort of society that I do not wish to see in this country. It is the sort of society that the progenitors of the clause will bring about. It is a society in which there is one form of acceptable existence, a society in which everything else is second-rate and second-class. I said three months ago that true morality and true decency mean accepting and celebrating diversity and being tolerant of the fact that everyone, no matter who or what he is, is entitled to live and lead his own life. That is what I shall continue to stand for in the House. I dearly hope that the House will reject the clause and support at the very least the amendments that stand in the names of my right hon. and hon. Friends."Graunt them remoued, and graunt that this your noyce Hath chidd downe all the maiestic of Ingland; Ymagin that you see the wretched straingers, Their babyes at their backes and their poor lugage, Plodding tooth ports and costes for transportacion, Aud that you sytt as kinges in your desyres, Aucthoryty quyte sylenct by your braule, And you in ruff of your opynions clothd; What had you gott? Ile tell you: you had taught How insolence and strong hand shoold preuayle, How ordere shoold be quelld; and by this patterne Not on of you shoold lyue an aged man, For other ruffians, as their fancies wrought, With sealf same hand, sealf reasons, and sealf right, Woold shark on you, and men lyke rauenous fishes Woold feed on on another."
Several Hon. Members
Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. It seems sensible and for the benefit of the House if I allow the debate on the amendment to touch upon matters that are covered by other Lords amendments. I remind the House, however, that we are not debating whether the clause should stand part of the Bill. I hope that hon. Members will bear that in mind.
If I may say so, I do not think that the clause will enrich lawyers. There is one fundamental matter that the House should understand and say. Contrary to what the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) has said, homosexuality is not one of the paths of sexual expression which diversify and enrich human experience. In male homosexuality — homos in Greek meaning "the same" and homo in Latin meaning "man" — there is a perversion of a human function. It is using the excretory anus and rectum with a reproductive organ. That might in itself give us pause, but anyone who comprehends the deep libidinal and psychological orgins of male and female homosexuality should understand that it is a major and unnatural perversion.
Mr. Allan Roberts (Bootle)
Will the hon. and learned Gentleman give way?
I shall give way in a moment.There are other perversions. As a lawyer who has practised at the criminal Bar, I have met many psychopaths. I have met also many bank robbers. I have met people with all sorts of perversion, who decide either to indulge in them or to refrain from them. It is ill in a debate on the education of children that the concept of the indulgence of deeply seated character perversions should be regarded as a mere alternative. If it is a mere alternative, aggression and sadism are merely parts of the diversity of human experience. To take up the speech of the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury, let us consider the small child who goes to his teacher and says, "I have an urge to shoplift. I feel isolated because people tell me that there is something abnormal and wrong about shoplifting." The teacher says, "You must not feel isolated, dear boy. It is just another manifestation of the glorious diversity of human behaviour. So be at home and worry not. There is no morality." I have not heard the words "right", "wrong", "good" or "bad" in the speeches of those who object to the promotion that is to be forbidden under the clause.
The hon. and learned Gentleman is concerned about corruption of the young. He has quoted Greek and has challenged whether things are right or wrong. Does he think that it was right that Socrates should have been prosecuted for corrupting the young? Does he also think it right that hemlock should have been the punishment?
That leads me to a very different matter.
Yes or no?
It is not a question of yes or no. It is a question of yes or no that Socrates, in corrupting the young, was guilty of a criminal offence. Eventually, the glories of Greece and Athens and their philosophy were smothered and corrupted by the very matter which he spread, as indeed Rome was as well. I do not want to take as long as Gibbon took to write "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire".Let us be clear about this. Leonardo da Vinci was a homosexual. So was Peter Pears. The fact that a person has this morbid squint is not a reason to condemn him for all else that he does. In wartime, lots of people indulge instincts of aggression and sadism which they keep in control if they are not given the opportunity to exercise them. I have appeared in capital cases for many people who failed to keep those sentiments in check. But that is not an alternative of the diversity of the expression of psychosexual activity which—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Roberts) may laugh, but he should understand what motivates people who want to shoot, kill, stab, hit children or be aggressive. [Interruption] Opposition Members may laugh but a simple message should go out from the House. Sodomy and buggery are not natural alternative sexual acts. They are perversions. They result from deep-seated psychopathological perversion. The House should not be seen to say that it is as right to be wrong as it is wrong to be right.
Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield)
I would not like to follow the hon. and learned Member for Perth and Kinross (Mr. Fairbairn) too far, but I can think of nothing more psychopathologically sick than to devote one's life to the pursuit of those who follow practices which the hon. and learned Gentleman finds undesirable and to incite the public to hate them. The hon. and learned Gentleman is not a psychiatrist and neither am I. The only reading which I can make of his speech is that he has revealed what many people would regard as a genuine sickness which could do damage to others.I have never spoken before in the House on this subject, but I am moved to do so by growing alarm at the effect that the clause would have upon millions of people and not only upon those who are gay or lesbian, for their relatives have a concern for them and know that this campaign has been whipped up by the gutter press which has done more to lower the standard of personal and public morality than any others in modern British society. The hon. and learned Gentleman is a lawyer and I am not, but I think that the cartoon in The Sun today is an incitement to violence, if not to murder. Those who advocate policies which have that consequence, in collaboration with proprietors who believe that they can increase their circulation by conducting those campaigns, share the moral responsibility for what will flow from them.
The right hon. Gentleman has misunderstood what I said. Let us take many people in history. Let us take Oscar Wilde, one of our greatest playwrights and one of the greatest users of the English language. Let us take Lawrence of Arabia. Many people are homosexual. That is absolutely no criticism of them as people. We are not discussing that. What we are discussing is whether or not a local authority should try to persuade people that if they are homosexual they might be Oscar Wilde.
When the hon. and learned Gentleman reads his speech, I think he will realise that each intervention makes it worse. If it is wrong for local authorities to promote homosexuality, why is it not wrong for anyone to promote it?I admired the speech of the hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Squire). If local authorities cannot do something which will be covered by the clause, the next stage will be that no one can. Every leaflet, every pamphlet, every play and every book would be considered on the basis of whether it put forward a psychopathological condition if we accept the view of the hon. and learned Member for Perth and Kinross. I believe that the pursuit of people who are gay and lesbian is as morbid as could be imagined. It is one thing for the popular press, the sewer press, to pursue such a campaign, but for a Government who have responsibility for the education of children to adopt that campaign and to make it part of the statute of the land can only be interpreted as the crudest opportunism for political purposes. That is my conviction. The effect of it is to scapegoat gays and lesbians. Whatever may be said in the House by Ministers, the courts will not take into account assurances by Ministers. The courts take account only of the wording of legislation. This is the most blatantly and dishonestly worded clause that I have ever come across. I shall tell the House why. If the sense of the word "promote" can be read across from "describe", every murder play promotes murder, every war play promotes war, every drama involving the eternal triangle promotes adultery; and Mr. Richard Branson's condom campaign promotes fornication. The House had better be very careful before it gives to judges, who come from a narrow section of society, the power to interpret "promote". The hon. and learned Member for Perth and Kinross used vivid language, which no doubt will guarantee him a place in The Sun tomorrow. [Interruption.] Of course it will; he knows it well. He is expert at getting himself into the newspapers on sexual matters. I remind the hon. and learned Gentleman that some of the most horrific sexual crimes are crimes within a heterosexual context. That is so with many rapes and much mutilation, which is promoted in videos and films. These show the crime of one person against another, not the love of one person for another. To identify homosexual and gay relationships specially as contributing to crime is to fly in the face of all the evidence that as there is more heterosexual sexual activity, more crime is associated with it than with gay and lesbian relationships.
I will give way, but I do not want to detain the House.
a: I did not suggest that homosexuality produced crime. However, as the right hon. Gentleman has said that I am good at getting into the papers on sexual matters, will he be good enough to tell me Fiona Fullerton's telephone number?
Since the clause first appeared, I have received many letters from people who are gays and lesbians who are in genuine fear for their safety and for their lives. Any hon. Member who is interested in civil liberties will be aware that the harassment of gays and lesbians, first initiated by the sewer press and now by the clause for which the Government are responsible, is a major problem. People are afraid of the legislation and of the effect of the Government's endorsement of this scapegoating.I wondered how I could best contribute to the debate and give my testimony against the clause. I have decided to read to the House in full the resolution on lesbian and gay rights carried by the Labour party conference two and a half years ago. I have sent copies of this resolution to the people who wrote to me. I want to read it out and put on the record the resolution that was passed at the Labour party conference by a majority of more than half a million. The resolution states:
"This Conference opposes all discrimination against lesbians and gay men and recognises that this discrimination is institutionalised in society. Conference notes that existing Labour Party policy with regard to homosexuality fails to meet the legitimate demands of lesbians and gay men and that a consistent and principled campaign conducted over a number of years is necessary to reverse that failure. Conference therefore:
(1) instructs the NEC to draft a lesbian and gay rights policy which would specifically:
(a) declare that lesbian and gay relationships and acts are not contrary to the public policy of the law and that judges must not use their discretion under Common Law to invent new and discriminatory offences; (b) repeal all criminal laws which discriminate against lesbians and gay men, and clarify and codify those sections of the Common Law which deal with public morality; (c) in this clarification they should be guided by the maxim that there should be no crimes without victims; (d) prohibit discrimination against lesbians and gay men in child custody cases; (e) prohibit discrimination and unfair dismissals on grounds in any way connected with lesbian and gay sexuality or life-style; (f) prevent police harassment of lesbians and gay men.
this is relevant to the Bill—(2) Calls upon "—
"all Labour local authorities to adopt practices and policy to prevent discrimination against lesbians and gay men, and in particular:
(a) adopt and enforce equal opportunities in relation to lesbians and gay men along the same lines as Islington, Hackney, GLC, Manchester, Brent and Nottingham; (b) end discrimination against single people and lesbians and gay men in housing policies; (c) support financially and otherwise special lesbian and gay phone lines, centres and youth groups; (d) publicise these anti-discrimination policies.
(3) Instructs the NEC to
(a) organise a campaign of education among Labour Party trade union membership on lesbian and gay oppression in conjunction with the Labour Campaign for Lesbian and Gay Rights; (b) produce a leaflet for public campaign using the slogan 'the Labour Party support lesbian and gay rights—join the Labour Party'.
That resolution was carried under our voting system with 3,395,000 voting for and 2,805,000 voting against. Conservative Members may laugh, but the Labour party conference reaches decisions. It does not simply give ovations to the leader who drafts the policy. Every Labour Member of Parliament was elected knowing the resolution on lesbian and gay rights reached at the Labour party conference. Tory Members, the artificial psychiatrists and people with prejudices can laugh as much as they like. The day will come when people will look back on this debate and be glad that there were hon. Members on both sides of the House who stood against what is an incitement to harass decent people, who, in the course of their orientation, have adopted gay and lesbian practices which are not contrary to the law of the land. I wanted to put that testimony into Hansard because people are frightened by what is happening. They want to know that there are people in this House who believe that the policy is wrong, is motivated wrongly, is drafted wrongly and is designed to gain political advantage out of scapegoating a minority who should be left to enjoy their civil liberties.(4) Instructs the NEC to set up a sub-committee to organise the implementation of this policy."
Dame Jill Knight
Having listened with fascination to all that the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) has read out, I must say that there is nothing in the resolution which states that the Labour party believes that children in schools should have the homosexual lifestyle thrust on them as a desirable alternative to normal heterosexual marriage.The clause is about protecting children. It has absolutely nothing to do with what the right hon. Member for Chesterfield has just read out. There is no doubt that children have been subjected to a most unhappy, unfair and wrong promotion campaign to try to turn them into supporters of homosexuality. If anyone doubts that, why did the children's parents complain? When those parents complained, why were they subjected to such vicious treatment? I cannot think it right—
Will the hon. Lady give way?
Dame Jill Knight
No, I am in the middle of a sentence.I cannot think it right that parents who complained about what was being done to their children at school should have been kicked and spat upon. If their children had not been treated in the way that I have described, the parents would not have complained. One of the things that has impressed me—
Is it true?
Dame Jill Knight
The hon. Gentleman asks whether it is true. If it is not true, why did the parents complain? That is the point of the matter.
Will the hon. Lady give way?
Dame Jill Knight
I will give way to the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Pike) because he asked me first.
Will the hon. Lady produce evidence to support her claim? Does she recognise that the clause goes way beyond the protection of children? Will she also accept that, if the protection of children is the main cause for concern, we must give the same protection to children from the threat from heterosexual abuse, which is far more common and a bigger threat to children than the lesbian or gay threat.
Dame Jill Knight
The clause has nothing to do with criminal abuse. The clause attempts to stop what has been happening to children. The hon. Member for Burnley must understand the point that I have already made twice—if parents did not believe that what was happening was wrong, why did they complain, and complain to some Conservative Members who tried to stand up for their rights?
Ms. Diane Abbott (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington)
Dame Jill Knight
The evidence is clear for anyone who will take the trouble to read the debates in another place and in this place. I am amazed at the deliberate blindness and deafness of Opposition Members.
Several Hon. Members
Dame Jill Knight
I will not give way. I want to get on; I do not wish to make a long speech.I have been amazed at the way in which the clause has been interpreted by people outside the House, and astonished at some of the things that have been said this evening. In all fairness, they have only been the same things that have been said by the demonstrators. People are screaming and yelling that books by William Shakespeare will all be banned from libraries. That is ridiculous: nothing in the clause could bring that about. I wonder why people who say that it is terrible to burn books from a library, or ban them, when they are for adults — I agree with them — have taken no action against the banning of "Thomas the Tank Engine", Enid Blyton, Rupert Bear and Dr. Doolittle. People who say that it is right to ban those books cannot say that they do not agree with any books being banned.
Mr. Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras)
Dame Jill Knight
I shall not give way. Mr. Deputy Speaker has said that he wants all speeches to be short.I have also been astonished at the degree of viciousness that I have encountered, as one who initiated the clause. My secretary has been abused, and has been the butt of the most appalling campaign of pornographic telephone calls. At 2.20 one morning, she was woken by someone who objected to the clause, and was subjected to a torrent of pornographic abuse. That is not the way to conduct a proper argument, but it tells us quite a lot about the kind of people who have been taking part in the opposition to the clause.
Will my hon. Friend give way?
Dame Jill Knight
I have not given way so far, and I must not do so now.I have been strongly supportive of the attempt to protect children, and no amount of abuse—or having my car vandalised, which has also happened—will stop me protecting them, and protecting the family unit. This I shall do, against all opposition. The family unit is under attack: there is no doubt of that. We have a clear indication of the motivation for what has been going on. Let me read out a short paragraph that encapsulates the effort that has been going into the promotion of homosexuality in schools, and the downgrading of the family unit:
That is the sort of motivation that led to the need for this clause. I strongly support the clause, and oppose the efforts to water it down and to make it possible for our children still to he treated in such a way."The family unit—spawning ground of lies, betrayals, mediocrity, hypocrisy and violence—will be abolished. The family unit, which only dampens imagination and curbs free will, must he eliminated. Perfect boys will be conceived and grown in the genetic laboratory. They will be bonded together in communal setting, under the control and instruction of homosexual savants."
Mr. Simon Hughes
Like the rest of us, the hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Dame J. Knight), by seeking election to this place, must expect her views to be held up for public comment and criticism. That is an obligation. A similar obligation, however, should not apply to those who do not seek public office. Nevertheless, they find their views and lifestyles criticised, often in a far worse way than the hon. Lady or her secretary could ever experience. Let me read from a letter from a constituent that arrived in my office on 5 January:
Let me briefly quote from two more letters, sent since our last debate on this subject. One is from a man in north London, who writes:"As a young lesbian of 19 years, I can recall only too well the problems I faced during early adolescence and the prejudice and hysteria I was confronted with when I 'came out' at 15. I was hounded at school; I had people spitting at me, people trying to ride their bikes into me, etc. I never went out as people kept threatening to beat me up. I left home, and came to London when I was 16, but even now my sister is teased and victimised because I am a lesbian. There is no way this should have happened to me, and, what is worse, is that some friends of mine had even worse happen to them. I got off 'lightly'. Measures need to be taken to combat this prejudice, and some local councils had begun to do this within education and by aiding lesbian and gay groups, etc, with money and resources. (Money and resources that as rate-payers we are entitled to.) This education is not promotion of homosexuality, it is only a presentation of it in a fair, unprejudiced way—no one can be turned gay by it, the same way we cannot be taught to be straight. But the word promotion is open to interpretation by the courts and this is very dangerous … Many people are going through what I did and this must be stopped. If this Bill is passed it will be another blow to us and a serious violation of our human rights."
The other letter is from a parent of a gay child from Sheffield, written in January this year:"When I was at secondary school, struggling to come to terms with my sexuality, a few well-chosen and compassionate words from our sex education teacher left a lasting impression upon me; for years it was all I had to cling to whilst all around me gays were jeered in every playground conversation".
Arguments are commonly put forward about what happens when someone comes to the conclusion that he or she is homosexual. Let me quote another phrase:"I have a daughter who is gay and I believe suffered unnecessarily from the pretence that such do not exist. I had always thought that what took place between fully consenting adults in private should not be against the law, but I had not expected it to touch my own life at all closely. I lean to the view that homosexuals are born and not made because her upbringing doesn't seem to have been different from that of my three other children all of whom are heterosexual. In passing I note that my other daughter is left-handed and fortunate in having escaped persecution for that."
That is testimony to the prejudice, disadvantage and bigotry that we as a country should be trying to reduce and eliminate rather than to increase it. The inevitable consequence of the Bill which has had a timely representation by the cartoon already described will be to fan into greater bigotry those who already have latent prejudice. As the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) pointed out, we challenged the Secretary of State in the House at the end of last year about what Ministers had said a year before. I could quote their speeches. They said that the Government did not believe that the enforcement measures contained in a predecessor Bill were necessary and that legal procedures were already adequate. They criticised both the drafting and the need for legislation. The Minister for Local Government, who is sitting on the Treasury Bench, did not explain why the Government have completely gone back on a view they held a year ago. 8 pm I am aware that since our previous debate small amendments have been made in the other place. I agree with other hon. Members that the three amendments before us tonight marginally improve the previous drafting. The first amendment adds the word "intentionally", and that is certainly an improvement. The second amendment deletes some tautologous words. The third is declaratory and, if it does anything, it might help to make slightly clearer what is already in the clause. However, none of those amendments goes to the heart of the mischief in the clause, nor do they deal with the argument about why the clause should not pass on to the statute book. I shall respond to the arguments about morality. Many people believe that it is hypocritical for the Government to seek to legislate for morality as they define it when, at the same time, the poor become poorer, the rich become relatively richer, the people who depend on social security will have less chance of obtaining it and when for many opportunity in our society will be reduced because they are riot favoured by the capitalist market-led Government. Morality is not what a lot of people see as the result of the Government's policies. It is not for Parliament to legislate for a nation of 50 million or more people. It is not for Parliament to decide that there shall be one morality for all — the morality of the Government of the day. A civilised society should recognise that it has a duty to legislate for civil rights, for civil liberties and for freedom to choose for all. Adults must be allowed to make their own choices and, provided they do not harm others, they must be free to do so without fear of being victimised. Hearsay arguments such as that unreasonably put forward by the hon. Member for Edgbaston must be challenged. The wording of the clause means that there is a risk that the courts will be given a legislative weapon that will allow them not to protect those whom it is thought they might want to protect but to act far more widely. The word "promotion" is still in the clause. It is the "promotion" of homosexuality that will be forbidden. The dictionary definition shows that there are two alternative meanings of the word "promotion". The first says:"When I was young, I was surrounded by images glamorising heterosexuality and it never made me feel I was heterosexual."
The second definition is very different. It says:"To further the growth, development, progress or establishment of (anything); to further advance or encourage".
"Homosexuality" is the second key word of the clause. The meaning is very wide and is not defined clearly in the statute. It will be open to the courts to say that neutral non-commending activity by local councils can be in violation of the law. That is what makes this such a dangerous clause and why it has been perceived widely in the country to be so."To put forth into notice; to publish; to assert, advance". That is simply the neutral state of putting into the public domain information about homosexuality.
Mr. Kenneth Hind (Lancashire, West)
I am concerned about a point that the hon. Gentleman made earlier. He suggested that in some way the clause radically changes existing law in relation to the rights of the individual. The clause changes nothing in existing law in relation to the practice of homosexuality or lesbianism. Therefore, there is grave danger in whipping up a great deal of hysteria about problems that do not exist. I take the point that he made about the word "promotion". He is on much stronger ground there. However, we have to keep away from broadening the argument and misleading the public by raising issues that are unconnected.
The hon. Gentleman cannot have it both ways. Either the clause adds something to the law—the Government say that it adds something necessary and Conservative Members support it for that reason—or, as the Government argued 15 months ago, it adds nothing to the law and in that case it should not be here.Other aspects of the clause are open to misinterpretation and were fallaciously added. Inherent in the clause is the belief that homosexuality can be promoted — [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Edgbaston said that it can. That is a hotly disputed scientific issue. I read direct testimony to the House from people who are homosexual. I did not quote hearsay evidence. Those people said that in their earlier years they had been exposed to heterosexual advertising and that it had not changed them in the slightest. The hon. Member for Edgbaston cannot have it both ways. Surely she accepts that the evidence of many scientists and ordinary people shows that people who discover that they have a homosexual orientation have no ability to do anything about it or believe that they have no ability to do anything about it. Therefore, promoting that condition is a logical inconsistency. Of course one can promote activity, but promoting a psychological state is probably impossible. It certainly could not be promoted by a local authority.
Mr. Nicholas Bennett
If that is so, why does the GLC's charter for lesbian and gay rights say:
"Heterosexuality is not natural but acquired"?
I dissent front that view. I made it clear in Committee that I opposed the clause from the beginning. I believe that the issue is whether people of different sexuality should be given the same facilities by their local council: the same education, the same information and the same support as anybody else. It seems a matter of simple civil liberties and human rights that they should. We should not be judgmental in one direction or another.I hope that the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Bennett) will not seek by law to impose any religious or theological morality on anybody else. He is welcome to seek to persuade somebody to make a choice but not to do that by legislation. People should not be made to put their religion into a second or lower category. That is clearly a parallel implication of the clause. I shall support the amendments tabled in the name of the Labour party. I understand and appreciate the fact that Mr. Speaker could not select the amendments I tabled, but I believe that they would have been to the advantage of the clause and the gay community. The hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) does not share that view. However, the advice that I received from people who looked at the issue carefully was that they would be an improvement. However, I am happy for there to be disagreement about that. I hold to my view. I support the amendments and those tabled by the Government. The tragedy of the matter is that the mischief in the Bill will not be dealt with in the House tonight. An enormous amount of fearful public opinion has asked the Government to allow people with different sexual orientations or concerns to have the same status and recognition as anybody else in our supposed pluralist society.
The Minister for Local Government (Mr. Michael Howard)
I have now had an opportunity to look at the dictionary from which the hon. Gentleman was reading a few moments ago. He will recall that he read out three definitions of the word "promote" and took exception to the third. Will he accept, on reflection, that the definition to which he took exception is marked as being obsolete? The last example is recorded as having been used in 1623.
If the Minister had read the definition carefully I would accept that, but he has not. I did not quote that definition. I specifically quoted the ones—I ask him to look at Hansard tomorrow — which are above that on that page in the dictionary and which are both extant. I can understand that, in the heat of the debate and to try to deal with a point quickly, the Minister may have read too quickly. There are two alternative definitions, both of which are available to the courts and both of which are extant, and that is where the mischief lies.The Government have an opportunity to listen to the fears that are being expressed by hon. Members about this clause. Although we shall pass these amendments, I hope that very soon we shall have an opportunity to right the wrong that will have been done to many people by a Government who say they know better what is best for them than they do themselves.
Mr. Nicholas Bennett
I took part in the debate on this clause in December. Since then I have received no letters in support of the lobbying that has been carried out by the homosexual opponents of the clause, but many people have written to say they are in favour of the clause. Many of my constituents find the proposition so self-evident that they wonder why there has been any debate whatsoever.I take the view that the Christian Church has taken over the past 2,000 years, which recognises that some people have homosexual orientation but that homosexual genital acts and behaviour are intrinsically immoral. I hope that people will recognise that we are not setting out to attack homosexuals for being homosexual, but are entitled to hold the view that homosexual behaviour is immoral. That view has been held by the Christian Church for 2,000 years. St. Paul says that one should condemn the sin but always forgive the sinner. I believe that that is the attitude that Parliament should adopt. The second question that we should ask is, how far should the law be concerned in sexual matters? Few would argue that there is a place for the law in sexual matters. The question is, what is the extent of the law's involvement? The law quite rightly forbids a range of perversions such as bestiality, under-age sex and other behaviour. We are happy that the law should have a view on such matters. I have always taken the view that St. Thomas Aquinas, writing in the "Summa Theologica," got it about right:
We set out to deal only with those that have a dramatic and detrimental effect on society. I believe that the Government are in tune with public opinion and what is right for our society. We are not saying that people cannot be homosexual. All that the clause does is say that local authorities may not promote homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle that people should be encouraged to support. Further, it says that in schools children should not be taught that homosexuality is a way of life that they should follow. That is a very sensible, clear and simple definition."Human legislation, which is enacted for a group composed for the greater part of human beings who are not of consummate virtue, does not forbid all vices, from which the virtuous abstain".
Mr. John Battle (Leeds, West)
The hon. Gentleman's reference to St. Thomas Aquinas reminded me that in the same "Summa Theologica" he suggested that any Government who treat their minorities with injustice are tantamount to a tyrant form of Government and should be overthrown by the popular support of the people. Does the hon. Gentleman recall that passage?
I certainly do and there is nothing in the clause to contradict what St. Thomas said. I am surprised that the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Battle), who once trained for the Catholic priesthood, should find that this clause has any connection with what St. Thomas said.We should be aware of the misinformation campaign that has been run by a number of people in society to stir up fears of and misapprehensions about the homosexual community. I am sorry that the Arts Council—which did not defend the rights of newspapers such as those of the Murdoch group when they were banned from public libraries—should seek to misrepresent the effect of this clause. My hon. Friend the Member for Lancashire, West (Mr. Hind) was right when he intervened during the speech of the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) to ask what civil liberties are under attack. The simple answer is that no civil liberties are under attack. The Bill and this clause do not take away the civil rights of homosexuals. The clause merely prevents the promotion of homosexuality, which does not detract from homosexual rights.
Mr. Simon Hughes
The civil rights that are being taken away are for every growing person and young adult to have the same quality of education and the same level of accurate information as anyone else. The right to education should be given equally; there should be a right to have questions answered equally honestly and there should be a right for the same kind of advice, counselling and support as for anyone else.
There is nothing in the clause that will prevent that. If the hon. Gentleman looks carefully at the clause he will not see that counselling is not forbidden. What is forbidden is the promotion of homosexuality as being a lifestyle that young people should follow.Society has a right to say that there are some things that it does not believe should be promoted in the best interests of children. There are many things that we do not allow schools to promote, and about which Labour Members may agree. For instance, we do not allow schools to promote smoking as a good idea. We believe quite strongly that we should be stopping young people from smoking, and we do not say "You should smoke." We do not believe that we should support racism. We make judgments and decide what schools should teach and how subjects should be balanced in the curriculum. It is not unreasonable to say that the curriculum should he geared to the view that the vast majority of people in our society believe to be right. We want to encourage our young people wherever possible — we know that some people would take a contrary view—to be heterosexual—and to live, if they choose to get married, in a loving family relationship. That is the acceptable and proper way for our society to be preserved and maintained.
Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)
Will the hon. Gentleman say what mischief in the law this amendment is deemed to he tackling? Is there any evidence that he or anyone else can deploy that a local authority has promoted homosexuality? The evidence seems to be very slender.
If the hon. Gentleman had not just walked into the Chamber, he would have heard, over the past hour. Conservative Members giving examples of what has happened in the past year. [Interruption.] I shall give one or two examples. Haringey council has instructed its head teachers to develop courses to
"Promote positive images of lesbians and gays".
Mr. Allan Roberts
Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
No, I have been asked to give examples and I am doing so—
That was from the Sunday Telegraph on 5 July 1986. According to The Evening Standard of 23 June 1987, parents in Haringey tore down posters in Haringey primary schools advertising the Gay Pride week organised on behalf of the local authority. The GLC's charter for lesbian and gay rights, which I mentioned a minute ago, states:"in furtherance of its equal opportunities policy involving 'action against racism and sexism as well as against heterosexism'."
It went on to attack normal sex education because:"Heterosexuality is not natural but acquired."
There have been quite a few examples, in the past year and a half, of where local authorities in some parts of London have gone out of their way to promote homosexuality as a lifestyle. We are entitled as members of society to have a view on that. I am sorry that Labour Members take the view that Conservative Members are not entitled to put forward the viewpoint that is supported by our constituents. Society is entitled to expect all schools to promote a lifestyle which is in accord with Judaic-Christian principles which underlie our society. This clause does no more than ensure that that situation is enforced."the current trend towards teaching parent craft assumes that all parents are heterosexual and encourages students to see marriage as the major goal in life".
Mr. Mark Fisher (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)
Having heard the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Bennett), it is difficult to know whether to scream or cry. The confusion of thought and misguided instincts that led him to speak as he has done make it difficult to understand what is in the mind of the Government or Conservative Members who will go into the Lobby to support this amendment.It is difficult to know whether the motive behind the remarks by the hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) was genuine intolerance, which the hon. and learned Member for Perth and Kinross (Mr. Fairbairn) displayed by referring to homosexuality as a psychopathic logical aversion equivalent to sadism, or simply misguided mischief and the hon. Gentleman thought that he would make a little political capital or have some fun on the Back Benches. I wish that I were speaking after him so that I could understand more fully what led him to make those remarks. Whatever the motive of the hon. Gentleman, or of the Government, unless the clause is amended in the way that my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) has described tonight, it will do immense damage and cause immense pain and anguish to men and women who just happen to find that their attraction, love and comfort are found in a relationship with members of their own sex rather than the opposite sex. Conservative Members have referred constantly to choosing homosexuality. Gays and lesbians no more choose how they feel than heterosexuals choose heterosexuality. This is not a logical choice that people make; this is something that people feel.
Presumably the hon. Gentleman has studied all the available evidence from objective academic sources on that point. I welcome the hon. Gentleman's comments, but I have come to the conclusion that there is a small amount of objective evidence to support what he says and an equally small amount of evidence to the contrary. As long as there are no established facts, we as a society should say that, until it is proved that somebody's sexuality cannot be changed, we must assume that it can be, just in case.
As the hon. Gentleman has said, there is little substantial scientific evidence on either side. It is not something that lends itself to such analysis.
Mr. Ken Livingstone (Brent, East)
I shall give way in a moment.The hon. Member for Spelthorne should look into his own life. Did he make a logical choice to be homosexual or heterosexual? I do not believe that he or any other hon. Member has made that logical, rational choice. They followed what they found to be loving, attractive and helpful in their lives. I give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone).
My hon. Friend has just made the point that I was going to make.
Before looking at the nature and possible results of that pain and anguish, I want to consider the effects of the clause in its present form on the artistic life of our society and upon our libraries. There has been a great deal of discussion in the public press and elsewhere about that. Undoubtedly, if the clause is carried in its present form, with the uncertainty of its legal language, books in our libraries, exhibitions of photographs and fine art in our galleries, plays in our theatres, and films in art centres may be at risk if those buildings are run or controlled by a local authority. As I understand the word "promote", anything that potentially glorifies, makes attractive or preferential, homosexual, gay or lesbian love is at risk as a result of this clause. The Minister shakes his head. It may well be that E. M. Forster, Jean Genet and others will remain on our library shelves, but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) so wisely said, not only is David Hockney proud to be a gay person, but much of his work glorifies and has its roots in the fact that that is how he sees the world, having suffered the intolerance and prejudices which are at the core of this clause. He has seen the world through that experience and through those eyes and that is why his work is so powerful.
Mr. Martin M. Brandon-Bravo (Nottingham, South)
The hon. Gentleman made precisely the same point to my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Arts on 25 January. He replied:
Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that that is no longer true?"I have been advised that local authorities seeking simply to provide the public with access to a comprehensive range of artistic and literary material will not be put at risk by that provision."—[Official Report, 25 January 1988; Vol. 126, c. 13.]
As other hon. Members have said, assurances from the Treasury Bench will not stand up in court. They have no validity in court. Equally, I would be curious to know who has advised the Minister for the Arts about that. Undoubtedly, the Arts Council has not advised the Minister for the Arts, nor has the Library Association and nor has any regional arts association in Britain. I know of nobody in the artistic community who has so advised the Minister for the Arts.
Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that possibly the first effort of any Government Department in this sphere was in 1984 when certain literary giants employed by the Customs and Excise raided the Gay's the Word bookshop in my constituency and, exercising their brilliant discretion, confiscated, because they believed it to be obscene, a book which set out the proceedings of the first medical seminar on how to stop the spread of AIDS. That was — I checked it — on advice from solicitors working for the Treasury. If they are the sort of people who are giving advice to Ministers, everybody had better look out.
My hon. Friend makes a valid point. The uncertainty and unsafeness of the wording of the clause will potentially put those artistic activities at risk if they glorify and beautify and therefore could be said to promote homosexual life.Undoubtedly, the most beautiful story that could possibly do that is the story of Jonathan and David. I am sure that no Conservative Member would presume that that would be stripped from our library shelves if it were owned by a local authority. That just shows how ludicrous the clause would be if it were not so dangerous. 8.30 pm There is a danger greater even than that of the direct, overt and clear problem of the activities or concerns of local authorities' arts policies being challenged in the courts. That is the intangible danger of self-censorship in the arts. If the clause is passed, it is inevitable that people running local authority theatres or other such places will ask themselves whether they should put on the play, or whatever, or whether that would be risking the viability of their theatres or other places. They will perhaps decide to censor their programmes for next year in advance so as not to put the work of their colleagues or local authorities at risk. Such self-censorship is a much greater danger because we shall not know that it is happening. None of us will know what local authority theatres are doing behind the scenes, so a whole area of self-expression and witness to what it is like to live in our society will quietly, gently and unobservably be written out of our culture. That should give us great cause for concern. It will make it impossible to come back in a year's time to discover what is happening. The Minister may return in a year's time and say that there have been no prosecutions and that Forster and Genet are still on the library shelves. But he will not be able to say how much self-censorship has been applied when applying for commissions, sponsorships or grants. Already, two clients of the Greater London Arts Association have been advised informally that they would be well advised, when making their grant application for next year, not to refer to the words "gay" or "lesbian" and that their grant applications will be more likely to be successful, and their work to prosper, if they ignore and suppress that side of their work. Such hidden self-censorship is more dangerous, and I hope that the Minister will understand and accept that point. A third thing is more dangerous still. Local authorities' council chambers will be used as law courts. We already have evidence of that. A motion has been tabled by the Conservative minority group on Haringey's council for discussion on 25 April, which calls on the council to
Mr. Roger King (Birmingham, Northfield)
The hon. Gentleman says, "Hear, hear," but when that is debated in Haringey council the constraints of evidence and balance that would exist if the first case were brought before a court of law and duly judged will not exist. In a court everyone could see the terms and conditions on which the judgment had been made, but in the borough of Haringey the issue will be determined more by the balance of power, and the same will apply to other councils. Surely every hon. Member would agree that that is not a satisfactory way in which to interpret the law. It is a perfectly fair way in which to interpret the political mandate of the people of any authority, but in this case the effect of the law will be tested, which must be extremely unsatisfactory.
I understand the point the hon. Gentleman is trying to make, but he has missed one fundamental aspect. If he and I this evening wanted to set up the Westminster gay and lesbian rights association, to raise money and to promote gay and lesbian activities and understanding the problems faced by gay and lesbian people, there is nothing in English law to stop us from doing so. All the clause does is to stop local education authorities from doing that and ramming such ideas down the throats of children in the classroom.
It is extraordinary, after the clause has been so widely debated in the House, in Committee and in the press, that the hon. Gentleman has not read it. It does not mention local education authorities; it is about all local authorities. The hon. Gentleman should have read the clause before he intervened.Any right-minded or tolerant person would find the effects that I have described worrying and undesirable. All hon. Members should recognise that the clause will create an atmosphere of intolerance against, and possibly even witch-hunting of gay and lesbian people. Because promoting their lifestyle is unacceptable, they, by implication, will become unacceptable and dangerous. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) said—by implication—that will affect the way courts view custody decisions, it will affect job applications and it will affect police activity. I see the Minister shaking his head. Of course it will not affect such things directly, but the clause has already created an atmosphere—witness the cartoon in The Sun today and the many letters that we have all received. An atmosphere in society has already been stimulated and provoked by the clause. Surely the Minister can recognise that that is true. He may not have intended it, but that is how it is. This new atmosphere does not want to think about gay or lesbian people or to allow them to express themselves and say what it feels like to he one of them. It wants to turn away from all such things. It is an atmosphere that feels threatened and worried by what people do not understand. Some Conservative Members, like the hon. and learned Member for Perth and Kinross (Mr. Fairbairn), may feel that homosexuality is a mortal sin. No doubt they welcome the fact that gay and lesbian people's rights to express themselves are to be suppressed, driven out and downgraded. Why do Conservative Members feel that way? Some hon. Members have said that it is because of the idea that homosexuality may be promoted. That seems misguided and ludicrous. We are speaking of feelings, instincts. If promotion were effective, everyone would be heterosexual because the overwhelming mass of material in our culture, media, advertising and family lives promotes heterosexuality. Most people are brought up in a heterosexual family atmosphere. That is one of the most determining influences on everyone, quite apart from advertising, Shakespeare and our whole culture, which constantly promotes heterosexual love. If promotion were effective, everyone would be heterosexual. It is perfectly obvious that it is not. The matter is much more complex and personal than that. Other Conservative Members talked about protecting young people. I do not think that they know—none of us does—at what age our sexuality is decided. I do not think they could find a single psychiatrist anywhere in the country to support their contentions, which are centred on the idea of protection. One of the Government's ideas is more bizarre than any of the others. In another place, the noble Lord Caithness implied that the clause, far from provoking witch hunts and an atmosphere of intolerance, as I fear it will, will allay hostility. I see the Minister agrees with that—but he cannot.
It must be a mistake. The clause will not allay anything. Remember the cartoon in The Sun. Have those feelings been allayed by the clause? That cartoon is a direct result of the clause. It is playing and pandering to, and feeding on, the intolerance in our society—
Mr. Tony Banks
Unleashing the forces of evil.
That is a strong phrase, but there undoubtedly is intolerance. The clause will not allay that; it will stimulate it.We are dealing with two overriding issues. Is ours a society in which people are free to say what they want in the arts and the media? Are they free to talk about how they feel about loving people of the same sex? Are they free to say that even in local authority theatres? Is ours a society in which people are free to love and care for others, irrespective of whether they are of their own sex? Surely the Minister will agree that freedom is absolutely paramount in a civilised society. He probably will not agree that the Government's record in defending freedom of speech is pretty rotten. But this is far darker, more sinister and more important than other attempts that the Government have made, through pressure on the BBC, banning books or taking people to court. All such things are sad, sick, totally misguided and wrong, and the people of this country will begin to see it. This is more serious and sinister, because a set of people will be made scapegoats by the clause, and that makes it even more painful. The second point is that a tenth of people in society will not be able to promote what they feel through artistic works. That is difficult. Undoubtedly, there is a streak of male chauvinism in society. Certainly, any woman in our society would recognise that. They have been marginalised. Their voices have been suppressed and marginalised. They have had to battle to make their voices heard in our arts and media. Undoubtedly, that is true also of gay people. In that respect, I suspect that the norm in our society is not heterosexuality but male chauvinism, which is a different thing. Such people are uneasy and fearful of such things that they do not understand. Whether or not that is the case, unless the clause is amended, as is proposed, it will set back tolerance and freedom of expression and the arts and the media in our society. It will drive things underground. The clause cannot change how people feel. It cannot change what people are attracted by. Although the House cannot delete the clause, as it should, it can at last put down a marker, as the Opposition seek to do, for decency and tolerance by voting for the amendment. I hope that it will do so.
Mr. Michael Brown (Brigg and Cleethorpes)
To sonic extent, the debate is a rerun of the arguments that we rehearsed with the Minister in Committee and on Report. My views are already on the record, and the Lords amendment has done nothing to change them. Various arguments have been expressed by Opposition Members. The clause will be totally unenforceable. My hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke (Mr. Bennett) referred to literature. If he thinks that it will result in any court convictions, he is totally off-beam. The Minister's predecessor rejected the clause just over a year ago, when it appeared in the House of Lords in the form of a private Member's Bill. He said that it would be unlikely to work, that it would be unenforceable, and that it would lead to misinterpretation. As several hon. Members have said, on Report, we did not get any satisfactory explanation from my hon. Friend the Minister.I shall repeat the question that was posed not only today but on Report. It was posed also by the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes). How is it that, 15 months ago, for excellent reasons, my hon. Friend's predecessor in the House of Lords advised the House of Lords to reject the private Member's Bill? What has changed? I congratulate my hon. Friend on the way in which he took the legislation through its stages. How is it that, when he presented the Bill on Second Reading, it did not have that clause in it? That is why the clause must be resisted. Smoke signals are being sent out from the House by the enactment of this unenforceable piece of legislation. The House of Commons is getting itself into a frame of mind, ready to legislate down the road of persecution and prejudice. Some of my hon. Friends cannot understand why there has been a reaction from the gay community. The reason is that they see the style, character and attitude of the House of Commons being reflected in the clause. Some hon. Members have admitted — I do not take their names or views in vain—that if they could go further, they would, but they are limited by the scope of the Bill. Therefore, if we pass this new clause, even with the amendments moved by the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham), a smoke screen will go out to the gay community. That is that the character and attitude of the House of Commons in 1988, after several years of reasonably civilised debates, is slowly to reduce an element of the 1970s and early 1980s and to go in the reverse direction. The reason is quite straightforward. It is because of the AIDS scare. My hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) let the cat out of the bag when he suggested that the House had a duty to follow populism. I do not believe that, in matters relating to free society and libertarianism, we have a duty to respond to populism. We have a duty to lead public opinion. This legislation is doing exactly the opposite.
My hon. Friend referred to the gay community as though it were a community. I have many close friends who happen to be homosexuals. They are not a community; they are individual people. The mere fact that my hon. Friend calls them a community, as though they were some sacrosanct church, shows why the clause is necessary.
I am prepared to replace the words "gay community" with "individual homosexuals who have written to hon. Members during the past three or four months".Individual homosexuals feel that there is a threat in the clause. I am prepared to concede that there is unlikely to be a direct threat from the clause. The clause demonstrates to a homosexual that the green light has been given to The Sun, the News of the World and other newspapers to have an open season on homosexuality. That fear is well founded. If the clause is passed, we can expect individual members to introduce private Members' Bills, with the possibility that the Government will back further legislation in other respects. The Minister has set out his views. He was not able to satisfy me on Report. I am saddened by his attitude. It was a pleasure for me to serve on the Committee, when he steered an otherwise perfectly sensible, good piece of legislation. That legislation has been spoiled by this unnecessary new clause. Even with the amendments, it is an unfortunate smear on an otherwise good piece of legislation. The Minister will not admit it, but, had he known that the clause would provoke such a reaction by various organisations and individuals, he would not have taken it on board. I am prepared to accept that certain pieces of good English literature will remain on library shelves. Hon. Members have referred to books by E. M. Forster. Let us suppose that a syllabus for the GCSE examination contains, as is quite possible, books by E. M. Forster. I studied one of his books at O-level. Let us suppose that the school decided to take the class studying that book to see the film "Maurice". I can imagine some people using the clause to prevent that happening. I think that there will be some weird, wonderful and excessive misuses of court time because of this irrelevant and unenforceable piece of legislation. I am sad and sorry that my hon. Friend persists with it.
First, I should like to comment on a claim made by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Dame J. Knight) which concerned a Lambeth nursery group. I sought to intervene in her speech to ask for her evidence and I am sorry that she is not in the Chamber at the moment. With a constituency in Lambeth, I share the views of my hon. Friend the Member for Norwood (Mr. Fraser) who was able to intervene. The hon. Member for Edgbaston said, "When parents complain." I have not had a single parent alleging what the hon. Member for Edgbaston alleged concerning any school in Lambeth. There has not been a single individual complaint from parents on those grounds. I have not had a single letter supporting the clause. I have received many letters and representations opposing the clause.I am grateful to the hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) for passing across the literature alleged to be from the Terrence Higgins Trust, which was referred to earlier. The hon. Gentleman may agree that it is not evident that that literature was published by the Terrence Higgins Trust. It looks rather as if it was produced by a local group advertising the Healthline service of the Terrence Higgins Trust. The whole thrust of the trust's argument is precisely to combat AIDS. It is widely recognised that unless literature concerning AIDS is sexually explicit it will not reach its target audience and will in no way serve to combat AIDS. While there is next to no evidence of public sponsorship of homosexuality, there is overwhelming evidence of private sponsorship of heterosexual pornography, with indecent displays giving grave offence to many people. That is especially relevant to the clause inasmuch as it affects the young. One of my constituents recently sent me a leaflet advertising various forms of sexual aids, including a broad range which I am sure is known to hon. Members, whether or not they use them. In reality, these are very offensive to many people, whether they are vibrators or stimulators, or other forms of sexual aids. The point was that my constituent picked up the leaflet outside an infants' school. He was offended and outraged that it should have been on the pavement outside a school. He asked me what was my view of the impact which that would have on infants or young children if they saw it, and he asked why the Government do not seek to introduce legislation to restrain the availability of such literature. It is very difficult to reply for the Government on this matter. They are overwhelmingly concerned to ensure that local authorities are not seen to promote or to be interpreted as promoting any activity which supports homosexual behaviour, yet show no concern whatever about pornographic literature, including literature about bondage or other forms of abuse which is so widely available and so offensive to women, parents and others. One can only conclude that it is available because it serves the interests of profit. It is such a profitable trade that there is no restraint on it, whereas the other does not involve profit but allegedly involves public spending.
Does my hon. Friend agree with me and with my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) that the crucial difference is that the things he is talking about are designed to harm and humiliate people, whereas homosexuality is about loving and comforting and caring for people of whatever sex?
I very much agree with my hon. Friend.Grave problems are raised by the wording of the clause, including the amendments suggested in the other place. For example, how does one distinguish in a court of law between a relationship which is loving and not seeking to promote offence and one which is not? The Government seem to be incredibly sanguine about that. The other place seems to be very optimistic that the word "intentionally" will remedy the matter. I do not know how many hon. Members have actually studied the issue of intention, or have been able to enjoy what was a standard textbook on that matter in an undergraduate course, certainly read by some hon. Members at a certain university. The book is by Miss G. E. M. Anscombe. The whole point about intention is its ambiguity. Determining what is a fact and the difference between fact and intent is itself ambiguous. Just as the determination of what is a fact may itself be difficult, the problems involving determining intention can be virtually impossible to resolve. That issue is stressed by many philosophers. In some universities that issue has come into the teaching of law. I very much regret to say that in that respect the Lords amendments will not be adequate.
Mr. Simon Hughes
Does the hon. Gentleman accept that if the definition of "promote" is ambiguous, the addition of the word "intentionally" does not remove the ambiguity?
The ambiguity remains and is being compounded. It will certainly be good news for lawyers, as one can argue as long on the meaning of "promotion" as one can on the meaning of "intentionally". The most common-sense course would be to delete both words from the clause and preferably to delete the clause from the Bill.The Minister intervened with some enthusiasm when the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) spoke about quotations from a dictionary. But the Minister was quite unaware of precisely what that meant. Indeed, it was part of a debate by a renowned philosopher, A. J. Ayer, who recognised that it was indeed difficult to determine the meaning of words. He ended by saying that by and large the meanings of words corresponded with their use in the Oxford English Dictionary. Even if one accepts that approach, one still cannot determine meaning unambiguously in an individual context. Wittgenstein stressed that the meaning of words depends on their use, and that the use of words depends in turn on the perception of those who use them, which amounts to their prejudgment of the situation—which, in turn, too often amounts to prejudice. That is the bottom line in the interpretation of those words by those who are likely to bring the actions concerned. 9 pm The Minister's claim that there was no danger in the use of a word in a court action because its meaning had been defined as obsolete or was reckoned as obsolete by the Oxford English Dictionary is absolutely no safeguard with this Government. In retrospect, given the outcome, I am glad to say that I was one of those who, when protesting against apartheid outside the South African embassy, found that the rules on picketing had been changed. I was with my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) and we both had a short ride at the pleasure of the Metropolitan police. The Act under which we were prosecuted was introduced by Wellington after the Napoleonic war. It had not been used since the 1820s or early 1830s, until it was employed, over 150 years later, by the Metropolitan police to justify the restriction on the right to picket and protest against apartheid outside the South African embassy.
Mr. Tony Banks
I hope that my hon. Friend will not leave this subject without telling the House—indeed, I shall do it for him — that, although we were both arrested, we were subsequently let off without a stain on our characters.
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)
Order. I hope that we can now get back to the amendment before the House.
I shall be glad to get straight back to the amendment, Mr. Deputy Speaker, although I think that on reflection you will agree that my hon. Friend's point is not irrelevant.Although the redundant clause was rejected by the courts, none the less, the police sought to use it. As that Act had not been used for 150 years, I see no guarantee or assurance — I do not know about other hon. Members—when the Minister says, "The meaning of that word is obsolete. Therefore, there will not be a prosecution." There will be prosecutions, which will be time-consuming and involve a great deal of personal strain and anguish for many of those involved. While my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West and I may be sufficiently thick-skinned by exposure in public life not to be concerned about such matters, many people who are not in public life and who do not face its challenges and responsibilities will suffer from such actions in the courts. I have great problems understanding the arguments not only by the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Bennett), but especially by the hon. and learned Member for Perth Kinross (Mr. Fairbairn). The hon. and learned Gentleman has a peripatetic relationship with this Chamber. He is like the Scarlet Pimpernel—we see him here, we see him there and some times we see him nowhere. I very much regret that he is not here at the moment because I should have been glad to have some clarification of what he thinks the clause is about. It seems that, for him, the clause is about buggery, because he stressed that that is an unnatural act. I hesitate to suggest this to the hon. and learned Gentleman, because I am not sure that I am more expert in these matters than he is. I will none the less put it to him that if one takes a book such as Sade's "Justine" or the play "Marat-Sade", one has certain difficulties in defining a relationship which involves penetration of the back passage as "homosexual". In "Justine"—one thing that many people find abusive — the sexual intercourse between a range of persons and Justine was exclusively by the back passage. Let us be quite clear in this instant that Justine was a young woman. There can be no basis for the kind of claims that the hon. and learned Gentleman has made that in some sense a particular form of sexual intercourse is de facto or by association homosexual rather than heterosexual. I very much regret that the hon. and learned Gentleman is not present to answer certain other questions. Indeed, I am sure that he would have risen to his feet, and I am equally sure that I would have given way. For example, what is homosexual about oral sex? I wish the hon. and learned Gentleman was here so that he could assure the House that he has never had sex on any occasion except by one passage and one passage only. If the hon. and learned Gentleman could assure us about that, we would also be assured about several other matters. The question of the promotion of homosexuality as a result of events or literature has been mentioned. The hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Squire) who opened on the Conservative Benches — his speech was extremely persuasive — referred to Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears. Let us consider a performance of Benjamin Britten's setting of the Michelangelo sonnets. I happen to be extremely familiar with those sonnets and Britten's setting of them. In my opinion, there is no question that, by choosing to set those sonnets, Britten approved of the relationship that they reflected. The Michelangelo sonnets were written not to some young woman in Dantesque manner, but to a papal guard. They are quite explicitly homosexual.
Very beautiful, especially when they are sung by myself. I will not detain the House with a rendering of those sonnets, unless there is overwhelming support from both sides of the House.
Mr. Tony Banks
I have heard my hon. Friend sing those sonnets and he tells the truth. I hope that he will regale the House for just a brief moment.
Not this evening, unless joined by the hon. and learned Member for Perth and Kinross.
Mr. Allan Roberts
The only evidence that has been presented by Conservative Members relating to the promotion of homosexuality in schools and its abuse has been quotes from particular newspapers—the Evening Standard and The Daily Telegraph. Is my hon. Friend aware that, on 19 February 1988, The Daily Telegraph produced a list of 100 books that every school leaver should have read? That list included "Lolita" by Vladimir Nabokov, "Collected Poems" by W. H. Auden, "Don Juan" by Byron, the works of Oscar Wilde and the short stories of Guy de Maupassant. I hope that Conservative Members will take that list seriously and that those books will not be banned from school libraries.
My hon. Friend has made an important point, with which I agree.The hon. and learned Member for Perth and Kinross passed through Socrates—stamping where others fear to tread—and then moved swiftly on, in a bound, to the Renaissance and started to speak about Leonardo. I am not sure whether the hon. and learned Gentleman has read Freud's essay on Leonardo's homosexuality and what may have caused it. Several of my hon. Friends have said how difficult it is to date a particular sexual orientation. Freud said that Leonardo's sexual orientation was reflected in his art. It appears that his sexuality derived either from an experience in his cot no less, when it was possible that his mouth was brushed by a bird's tail, or in the particular manner in which he was kissed by his mother. I am sure that Conservative Members do not regard this as very serious, but I cannot be entirely sure whether the hon. Member for Edgbaston is up with the arguments. I am not sure whether we are safe from the risk that she and others will regard Freud's essay on Leonardo as pernicious in the sense that, by implication, it condones homosexuality, and therefore seek to exclude it from libraries. The hon. and learned Member for Perth and Kinross came out with words that, if he reads Hansard tomorrow morning, he may come to regret. He referred to Leonardo's squint. Of all the draughtsmen in the world, Leonardo is surely the last whom one can accuse of squinting. But it seems that the hon. and learned Gentleman disapproves of the creative genius of the Renaissance. We have no idea how the clause will be used. I am concerned because it is unsound in philosophical and legal terms. It will give rise to considerable abuse and will bring considerable distress on those in the homosexual community. Unlike the hon. and learned Member for Perth and Kinross, I use the word "community" since gays tend to stick together in their social life precisely for reasons of mutual and collective defence. Such self-defence will be made more necessary by the clause. I oppose the clause because of its ridiculous conceit, as well as because of the offence it will cause to many people who, as my hon. Friends have said, have decent, caring and respectful relationships that happen to be homosexual. I recommend to the House that it reject the amendment.
We have spent three hours discussing the general issues, and it would seem helpful if we could focus our attention on the Amendment Paper, for a moment or two at least, and consider both the Lords amendments and the Opposition amendments to them.The hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) said that after all this time perhaps those of us who have been closely involved with the clause now regret what has happened. I have no regrets. I have worries about some of the things that others have done and said, and before I discuss the detailed issues, may I place it on record once again that I most certainly deplore bigotry of all kinds. I accept that during the debate over the past few months there have been occasions on which 1 have heard bigotry. Equally, I join Opposition Members in deploring what they describe as the gutter press—their words, not mine. In a debate of this nature, salacious and cheap attacks on people will not achieve what is absolutely necessary if we are to get to the heart of the issue—a constructive, friendly and thoughtful exchange of views between people of different opinions. As the proposer of what was originally clause 27—I am still trying to keep up with the numbers; at the moment it is clause 28 but I am sure that we shall reach 30 or 31 before the Bill is enacted—I welcome for two reasons the amendments that the Lords have sent us. First, in not rejecting the clause, the Lords have accepted what this House originally accepted—that there is a need for action now and that the Bill is the correct means of taking it. Secondly, the amendments prove the point that those of us who have argued for the clause have always been ready to listen and to take on board suggestions that clarify what was intended at the outset. The amendments give the lie to the spurious claims that some of the scaremongers have been putting about. By the same token, I totally oppose the two amendments tabled by the Labour party. The first of them seeks to torpedo one of the basic intentions of the clause and the second seems to be a statement of the obvious, which is totally unnecessary in an Act of Parliament. It is interesting that the justification advanced by the hon. Member for Copeland simply fell back on exaggerations that we have heard before, on red herrings with no relevance to the debate and on the scare stories put about by those who want us to change our minds.
The hon. Gentleman asserts that I exaggerate, although I do not. Does he make the same assertions about the Arts Council, the National Council for Civil Liberties, library associations, various local authority associations and all sorts of other bodies and organisations concerned with freedom and civil liberties in our society? Are they all exaggerating too?
I shall deal with that question in detail. For the moment I am saying that I was replying to the earlier speeches of Opposition Members. Many of the organisations which have been mentioned, with the exception of the Arts Council, have raised red herrings that have nothing to do with the clause or the Bill. I was suggesting that they have raised red herrings and scare stories, not that they have exaggerated.I consider amendment (e) to be a wrecking amendment. It resembles the amendment that the Arts Council tried to get the other place to take on board. It seems to suggest that homosexuality can be intentionally promoted by local government if the motivation is to prevent discrimination or abuses of civil rights. That smacks of the argument that the end justifies the means, an approach that is unacceptable to the overwhelming majority. My postbag—I suspect that this is true of the postbags of many other hon. Members—has been enormously illuminating. I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) is not in his place. He, like my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Perth and Kinross (Mr. Fairbairn), moves in and out of the Chamber. The right hon. Gentleman is present when I am not speaking and now, when I am on my feet, he is absent.
Mr. Tony Banks
My right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) is not silly.
The right hon. Gentleman helped me by spelling out the policy of the Labour party. I have received quite a few letters on this issue and when he was speaking I wondered whether he would be able to help me to reply to them. I shall read part of the letter that I received from a gentleman who lives in London, SE3. He writes:
He continues:"I have been a member of the Labour Party and I have supported it ever since 1945, yet I totally agree with your views on homosexuality."
He then says that if that does not happen there is no hope of the Labour party ever again gaining power. I wonder whether any Opposition Members can help me answer letters of that sort. Amendment (e) has three faults. First, it is wrong in any circumstances for local government to try fundamentally to change our national society. In continuing with this theme, I shall try to answer a question posed by an Opposition Member, who asked why I was prepared to support the clause. It is wrong for local government to seek to usurp the rights of this place to discuss the fundamental values of British society. If there is to be a discussion about the promotion of homosexuality, it should take place in the Chamber. If there is to be an attempt to change society, it should be made in our national Parliament and not within local government. Secondly, amendment (e) is wrong because it is not for local government to advocate—I choose the next words deliberately — abnormal sexual activity for whatever reason. Thirdly, the amendment is wrong because it is not for local government to divert itself from basic services when those services are so in need of improvement."I have already written to Mr. Neil Kinnock … I have told him that unless he and other Labour leaders repudiate the view that homosexuality is on a par with normal sexuality"—
Mr. Tony Banks
The hon. Gentleman has said that if there is to be any change in our national society in terms of sexual mores, the change should be made in this place. Is he suggesting that if we were to pass a law to the effect that everyone should have homosexual relationships those outside would take it seriously and change their way of life?
All I am saying is that the people who say that society should have different values, morals and ethics—I have deliberately kept out of those arguments—and who wish to alter fundamentally national society must do it through the national democratic process and not act in an ad hoc fashion through local democracies.Amendment (f) has absolutely nothing to do with the Bill because clause 28, or 29 as it will become, says nothing about discrimination or about civil rights. We have been round the argument for nearly three hours. The clause will not prevent homosexuals from doing anything. It will not deny homosexuals any of their civil rights. The clause is about homosexuality and local government; it is not about homosexuals and their personal lives.
Mr. Geoffrey Dickens (Littleborough and Saddleworth)
Does my hon. Friend accept that the Sexual Offences Act 1967 showed tolerance, compassion and understanding, though not necessarily approval? If gays and lesbians want people like ourselves to stand shoulder to shoulder against the so-called queer bashers, they have to take this gently and steadily and not expect too much. Certainly they should not expect the 90 per cent. majority in the country to allow that to be a subject on the curriculum in schools.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that point because it gives me the opportunity to say once again for the record that I am totally against any attempt to turn the clock back on the 1967 legislation. This clause has nothing to do with that.The second point raised by my hon. Friend is also relevant. The very fair point that is important about amendment (e) is that again it raises the problem of the ends justifying the means. The idea is that it is wrong to discriminate against people and that the clause will somehow affect civil rights. We must stand up and say that we agree that that must not happen. The way in which we do so is crucial. If things are advocated, as they have been advocated, argued about and abseiled in the last few months, that will produce a backlash. It is not the clause that will produce the backlash but the arrogant, self-assertive, aggressive boastfulness and self-glorification of a particular lifestyle which is upsetting the overwhelming majority of the people. The lesson which we can learn is that if we wish to change society and to be seen as reformers, we must take society at its own speed. If we try to stampede society, people will feel threatened and there will be a real risk of a backlash. This is why I am in no way sorry that we have been engaged in this debate over the last few months. Over recent years a dangerous head of steam has been building up. The minority have made the majority feel threatened. If we do not take steps to deal with that, pressure will build up. It is to be hoped that the debate that has taken place has had the effect of lancing the boil so that the minority can become aware of the views of the majority and the majority can say to themselves, "Let us try to understand and answer some of the worries of the minority." As for amendment (f), as I said at the beginning, I believe it to be totally unnecessary. Local government has already got power to do most things unless the law specifically prohibits it. All the amendment does is state the obvious. The amendment seems to be trying to draw attention to claims about problems which will be caused to particular services. That is complete nonsense, as the past three hours have shown. Much has been made about sex education. There are no problems for teachers provided that they handle the subject of homosexuality in a neutral and objective way. It is interesting to note that, although clause 28 has triggered an enormous amount of discussion, there are some important points in the Department of Education and Science circular No. 11/87. Indeed, this circular was available for debate long before the Local Government Bill was considered in Committee. Paragraph 22 of the circular sets the scene for sex education. It states:
I can only express surprise at the indignation of Opposition Members. If that indignation were genuine, it would have focused on the points in circular No. 11/87 long before the Local Government Bill appeared. Worries have been expressed that amendment (f) might affect artistic freedom. We need only consider the legislation that seeks to prevent discrimination against people on grounds of race. Over the years since that legislation has been on the statute book, I have not noticed that Shakespeare's "Merchant of Venice" has been performed any less frequently. There is an argument that local authorities should be able to give money to people for counselling services if that helps with problems. I support that, but it is totally spurious to argue that clause 28 has anything to do with that. As I have said elsewhere, I know of no one who has ever argued that the Samaritans promote suicide. I urge the House to support the Lords amendments and to reject the Opposition amendments to the Lords amendments. By accepting the spirit of the clause, the other place agrees with us that there is a grave abuse of the real role of local government in this country. Local government is intentionally promoting homosexuality. It is assisting others to do the same and it is trying to portray homosexuality as a pretended family relationship. By producing the amendments the other place has helped us to clarify exactly what we mean — that our target is local government. By making local government the clear target for the clause, we are answering our critics and we will reassure those who have been worried by the debate that has taken place over the past few months. Above all, by accepting the Lords amendments and rejecting the Opposition amendments, we will do everything that we possibly can to protect our children, our society and above all our future."There is no place in any school in any circumstances for teaching which advocates homosexual behaviour, which presents it as the 'norm', or which encourages homosexual experimentation by pupils."
Mr. Tony Banks
I will be brief, but I want to say something about the speech made by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Dame J. Knight). I felt that her speech owed more to imagination than to truth. I listened to an interview that the hon. Lady gave on Radio 4's "Today" programme. Mr. Brian Redhead asked her to support her statement that she had a great deal of evidence about schools promoting homosexuality. Mr. Redhead asked her what evidence she had and she replied that she had not brought her files with her, but she claimed that she had the evidence. When she was pressed even further, she said "I didn't offer to name any schools." I am not surprised that the hon. Lady has received letters from parents who have been alarmed about the position. They have been alarmed by what the hon. Lady said.
Dame Jill Knight
Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
No. If the hon. Lady will wait a moment, I will give way to her, and that is more than she did to me or to anyone else.It is not surprising that parents have become alarmed by the kind of scare stories and fantasies that the hon. Lady has propagated in her various interviews and speeches. She has no evidence and she has never been able to produce evidence, other than that which comes from her over-fertile imagination.
Dame Jill Knight
I have repeatedly given a list of local authorities in whose areas this has been going on. It seems odd to me that Opposition Members are apparently unaware that local authorities run local schools. [HON. MEMBERS: "Name the schools."] I have repeatedly given all the names of the local authorities, and this is local authority policy. I must also say that parents were complaining long before—
Dame Jill Knight
I have named them. The hon. Gentleman must not nit-pick with me. If he does not understand that local authority education runs the schools, he ought to go back and start learning about how these things are done—[Interruption.] Let me complete my remarks to the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks), who was good enough to give way.None of this clause would have come into being without ample evidence, some of which I have read out tonight. All the parents complained long before I made that broadcast. A pregnant woman was kicked in the stomach and jolly nearly lost her child long before it.
The hon. Lady has not mentioned one school. She is clearly guilty but insane. I rest my case.
Mr. Andrew Rowe (Mid-Kent)
When the Bill was before the House last time, I voted for the clause, because I believed that it would provide a degree of valuable protection for the children of this nation against what I saw as a possible over-enthusiasm on the part of a small section of people, many of whom flaunt their homosexuality in a way that I regard as unnecessary. Since then, however, I have been reflecting on the clause, and have decided not to support the Government this evening.I have three reasons. First, I think that the clause is unnecessary. Secondly, although I am certain that my hon. Friends had no intention of causing any such development, the reaction to the clause seems sufficiently dangerous and hysterical to make any value that might be derived from it far inferior to the damage that it will cause. The third reason is linked to that. I think that we are in serious danger of allowing our desire to deal with various ills in society to spill over into finding nice little target groups on whom the evils of society can be blamed. At present, homosexual groups happen to be that target. That kind of hysteria leads to danger for those in such minority groups. When similar prejudice was evinced publicly against Asian immigrants, when they really were immigrants, it led to considerable dangers for the immigrant community. Let me elaborate those points. I find it very strange that, in this enormously permissive and, on the whole, liberal age, it is probably uniquely difficult for a bachelor to share a house with another man — or for a single woman to share a house with another woman—without a kind of prurient voyeurism being beamed upon them, and all sorts of people speculating, often openly, on whether their friendship issues from some kind of physical behaviour, of which they then choose strongly to disapprove. That is extraordinarily illiberal, dangerous and totally unnecessary. I believe that if our Lord were here now in physical presence walking about with his group of disciples, there would be plenty of people anxious to view his progress through the world with exactly the same sort of prurient voyeurism as we tend to display now. That is dangerous. What we should be inculcating in our children and the nation as a whole is that relationships, whether heterosexual or homosexual, should be non-exploitative. The partnerships should be equal in dignity and affection, if that is possible. We are in danger of creating an atmosphere in which it is difficult for people to attain that sort of relationship, and I find that distasteful and worrying. Homosexuals who have taken it upon themselves to make the maximum demonstration of their anxieties about this clause have done themselves no good. I do not believe that one can promote tolerance or affection by the use of foul language or criminal behaviour. For example, the idea that the secretary of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Dame J. Knight) should be telephoned in the middle of the night and subjected to obscene language does the cause no good. It is absurd to present that as a full argument against the case. There are extremists on both sides of the argument. They are ugly and unattractive people and their behaviour should be deplored. During the debate no hon. Member has addressed the issue of the proper function of the teacher. That function should be to assist a child to understand the subject that it is studying and the world in which it is being brought up. Any teacher who uses his or her position to exert undue influence upon a child to believe something simply because the teacher believes it, or worse, because the teacher hopes subsequently to exploit the child by teaching it in that way is a poor teacher. Such teachers are dangerous and should be disciplined out of the profession if they cannot reform. We do not need this clause because we are in the process of introducing a Bill to reform education. One of the purposes of that Bill is to bring regular assessment of teachers into being and to improve the discipline of teachers. If a teacher behaves in the way that I have described, the new Bill will make it possible to discipline or get rid of that teacher in an appropriate way. We do not need a heavy-handed clause of this sort to achieve that.
My hon. Friend may have reservations about what happens in schools and what legislation is available to prevent it, but will he accept that there is a whole lot more to local government than schools? There is an awful lot more promotion of homosexuality going on by local government outside classrooms.
The difficult decision that is faced by any part of our society is where one draws the line to prevent discrimination against an individual or group without appearing in some way to encourage or sell the nature of an individual group. I believe that some local authority officials have gone over the top and, as they did when they tried to prevent discrimination against ethnic minorities, they have evoked precisely the response that they were trying to avoid. I do not believe that that by itself constitutes an adequate reason for this clause.We would do well in the House and in society as a whole to do our' best to promote privacy and permanence. As to privacy, we live in a society that flaunts private lifestyles to an extent that makes it extremely difficult for an adult or child to be able to enjoy the proper privacy of their own way of life. The media have responded to the voyeurism that is so widespread in society by pandering to it, and that makes it difficult for many people to preserve their own privacy. It is not society's business what individuals do in the privacy of their own homes, provided that they are not exploiting one another. We fought a hard battle about this matter some years ago, and I fear that this clause might be seen as the thin end of the wedge for the gradual destruction of privacy. With regard to permanence, what matters most is the mutual dignity of a relationship. Children should be taught to honour their partner and to strive for a measure of permanence in their relationships and the mutual support and esteem that a permanent relationship affords. Society has failed to promote that, whether it be between friends of the same sex or of the opposite sex, and that failure helps to account for the extraordinary difficulties that we all have in trying to maintain a permanent, supportive relationship in the privacy of our own homes.
Miss Joan Lestor (Eccles)
Looking back over the years at the subject of homosexuality and lesbianism, I have been struck by the fact that for so long homosexuals were the butt of the music-hall artist. They were stereotyped as being effeminate, made-up, powdered and mincing. This was the general way in which homosexuals were presented to society.When I was a girl, people did not talk about lesbianism because Queen Victoria said that it did not exist. Nevertheless, the way in which homosexuals were presented was that of stereotyping them as people to be laughed at, to be degraded and to be classified as being something outside the norms of society. We hoped that the Sexual Offences Act 1967 would begin to change people's attitudes—I believe that it did —and that we would have a society more tolerant of the behaviour of people whose sex life, as the hon. Member for Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe) said, is entirely their own affair. But some of the stereotyping continues. What interests me is that the moment a local authority or group of people challenge that stereotyping and says, "Hold on a minute, homosexuals are not like that. Lesbians are not like that. They are not all stereotypes. They are not all mincing and effeminate and they do not all wear make-up or wigs. Let us present people in a positive way as individuals, making a contribution to society"—as we all are—they are told, "My God, you are promoting homosexuality. You are saying that it is a good thing and something that everyone should emulate." 9.45 pm While all the stereotyping, character assassination and discrimination is going on, most people make no complaint at all. It is extraordinary that when groups of individuals, local authorities or whatever say that they want people, particularly young people, to have a positive image of their sexuality, which they have not chosen, all hell breaks out and we are told that that is actively promoting homosexuality. Some hon. Members, although not all, talk about homosexuals and heterosexuals, but some people are bisexual and there are all sorts of degrees of sexuality. People cannot be categorised in the way in which many would try to do. The clause is about much more than protecting children. So many of the speeches that have been made in defence of the Government's position have talked not about children, but about all sorts of practices and ways in which promotion is taking place. As many hon. Members have said, although some people are supporting this in the genuine belief that it will be a help, they are wrong. What they are really talking about is re-criminalising homosexuality, as it was in the past. [HON. MEMBERS: "Not true."] If we are not talking about that, we would not have had the speech by the hon. and learned Member for Perth and Kinross (Mr. Fairbairn). I am glad that hon. Members say that that is not true. I hope that nobody who supports the clause would say that they would go back to that situation. But if it were true that the clause is only about protecting children, as one or two hon. Members have said, as did the hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Dame J. Knight), there is a solution. The hon. Lady could have gone along to the Department of Education and Science in which I have been a Minister, with all the evidence that she failed to produce, and she could have said to the Secretary of State, "Look, this is what is going on in our schools. Look at this school. Look at that school. What are you going to do about it?". If the evidence had been produced—it was not, as has been pointed out—the Secretary of State could have issued a circular or guidelines, he could have pointed out what is already in existence or assisted people in such a situation. That is what could have been done. But no, the clause goes much wider than that. The hon. Member for Mid-Kent hit the nail on the head. A climate of opinion is now being created that makes homosexuals and lesbians the butt of those people who are bigoted and prejudiced. It makes them the scapegoats in our society. The hon. Member for Edgbaston said that she had been the subject of a great deal of abuse, as had her secretary. She said that her car had been vandalised. What was the point of saying all that, unless she was saying that homosexuals and others who disagreed with her were doing those things to her? My car was vandalised last week, but I do not go around accusing people who hold an opposite view to mine of doing it. It would be completely erroneous to do so. It is frightening and worrying that reports from, for example, the gay London group of young people show that there is an increase in attacks upon young gays and lesbians in our society. More of them are being beaten up and 20 per cent. have attempted suicide. Ten per cent. of them are thrown out of their homes and large numbers of them are homeless. Some of the arguments and language used in the debate, and some of the attitudes struck in it, promote intolerance towards homosexuals and lesbians, and should have no place in a modern society. We should not be doing that to people. I found the contribution of the hon. and learned Member for Perth and Kinross frightening. He said that if a child went to a teacher and said that he wanted to steal or do something else bad the teacher would tell him not to, because one should not give in to feelings such as that. He even equated homosexuality with murder, if my notes are correct, and said that people should not give in to such feelings. I cannot understand how anyone who knows anything about law or society can possibly equate feelings of homosexuality or lesbianism with a desire to murder or steal. That is utterly ridiculous. It is all right, if one is heterosexual, to give vent to feelings and express them in any way that one wants. Such people may form any relationships that they want, and that is fine. But homosexuals must repress their feelings, said the hon. and learned Gentleman, because they are as undesirable as stealing, shoplifting or murder. That is an unbelievalbe argument. Some Conservative Members, among them the hon. Member for Edgbaston, said that they were not concerned with reverting to the law as it was before and did not want to discriminate or make life difficult for homosexuals—they wanted only to protect children. The hon. Lady, who started all this, offered no evidence that children were in danger. When challenged, she has never been able to bring forward evidence, and none has been produced. If hon. Members are concerned on the basis of no evidence, they should not support the clause.
It is late; I shall be brief; I shall not give way.The hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) invited me to speak. I apologise, but it would be ungracious of me not to accept his invitation. I know why he invited me to speak—he was hoping that I would make some injudicious comment that might help him in pursuance of his case. I hope and anticipate that I might disappoint him. The first rule of politics is that one can make enemies but never friends. If we do something right, we are expected to do so; but, by and large, we will offend someone. On that basis, I understand that many of my hon. Friends want to keep their heads down, and people have advised me to keep mine down on this issue. But there is a case to be made against what has been said by the Opposition. Those of us who were here at the time were impressed by the articulation—if that is the right word—of the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith). He made a speech, as he did three months ago, of great honesty and integrity, and we all respect the points that he made. But 1 feel that he was wrong in his basic premise and alarmist in some of his later remarks. The hon. Gentleman's basic premise — I may be wrong—and the basic premise put by hon. Members on his side of the argument was that the hand is dealt. One is born either heterosexual or homosexual. There is another point of view, and I am not saying that it is right, either. That may happen to some people, but some people become homosexual. They are persuaded, converted or, dare I say it, seduced into becoming homosexuals. The hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury may think he is right; other people may think they are right; but the reality may well be somewhere in between. We must all accept that that may be so. The hon. Member is also wrong to say that the measure is anti-homosexual. It is not. There are real concerns among parents that if their children go to school there is a chance, on the argument I have advanced, that some people might seek to convert them from being heterosexual to being homosexual. If they have that concern, it is right and proper that the Government should take account of it. It is therefore right and proper that this amendment should be accepted by the Government. The hon. Member for Copeland thinks that it is wrong that the Government should listen to public opinion and take account of it. The hon. Gentleman is wrong also to think that the amendment is anti-homosexual and that it is our desire to drive the homosexual community back into the closet. That is not right at all. I appreciate what the hon. Gentleman said. Homosexuals have friendships and lovers. They live together. They have a way of life. They are entitled to it. That is their life. It can be beautiful. Conservative Members respect that, too. We are not anti-homosexual, nor is the measure that my hon. Friend put forward.
Mr. Chris Smith
Does the hon. Gentleman accept that if a schoolteacher said what he has said about some homosexual relationships, he or she would quite probably be in contravention of the clause?
The hon. Gentleman said that in his speech. That is his view. My hon. Friend the Minister might refer to that in his winding-up speech. I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman. He is being alarmist in his interpretation of the measure.One of the problems is that some Opposition Members have been alarmist and have misrepresented the matter, because they do not understand or believe in the measure or, perhaps, for political mischief. They have misrepresented what the Government are trying to do. They have had the effect of whipping up hysteria amongst the homosexual community—quite wrongly. The danger is that they will provoke members of the homosexual community into a reaction that will have a counter-effect — the danger that this provocation will cause public opinion to move against homosexuality when it would otherwise not have done so. I caution Opposition Members not to be alarmist about the Government's measure. There is no need for alarm. The more alarmist they are, the worse the effect they will have. The new clause constrains local authorities against intentionally promoting homosexuality or publishing material with the intention of promoting homosexuality. We have heard semantic discussion by the hon. Member for Copeland. Really, does the hon. Gentleman wish intentionally to promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality through the local authorities that the Labour party controls? If he does, it might satisfy some members of the management committees of the Labour party but, by golly, it will turn off its supporters.
Having spoken in the debate on 15 December, I regret that, at this stage, Conservative Members have still failed to produce any evidence in support of the clause. The problem with tonight's debate is that we can consider only the Lords amendment and the amendments that have been tabled in the names of my right hon. and hon. Friends. We need to eliminate the clause from the Bill, but that is not our choice tonight. If the hon. Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) really believes that the Bill's objectives are limited solely as he described, he is mistaken. He must understand that many people have fears. Indeed, the hon. Members for Hornchurch (Mr. Squire), for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) and for Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe) clearly demonstrated their fears and reservations about the clause.Conservative Members have not produced their evidence, but have used a lot of rumour and misinformation to put their case. Certainly there have been press reports that have never been substantiated as to the type of material that is claimed to have been used in schools, or the way in which that material has been used in schools. It is a question not simply of the material which has been referred to by Conservative Members in making their case but of the way in which that material has been used or has been intended to be used.
It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
Business Of The House
That, at this day's sitting, the Lords Amendments to the Local Government Bill may be proceeded with, though opposed, until any hour.— [Mr. Peter Lloyd.]
Question again proposed, That the amendment to the Lords amendment be made.
It has to be said that frequently the material has not been used in the way described by hon. Members supporting the clause.The hon. Member for Hornchurch said that there was a solid view on both sides of the House that we wished to protect children. He was absolutely right to say that. Of course we all wish children to be protected from sexual abuse, whether homosexual or heterosexual. We also wish to protect them from mental and physical abuse of any kind. There is no dispute whatsoever about that. However, the amendment does not deal only with education, as some Conservative Members have claimed. Its scope goes way beyond that. If the protection of children is the main criterion on which the Government wish to take action, the Local Government Bill is not the means by which they should do that. In my last speech on this issue, I said that, if it were in the Local Government Bill, it would not apply to children being educated in the private sector. If one takes the Government's point of view and says that promoting homosexuality is totally wrong, effectively the clause is saying that it is all right in private education. If one accepted for a moment that there was a problem, and I do not, the amendment would not deal with it. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Dame J. Knight) referred to instructions to teachers about teaching about homosexuality in a positive way. She objected to that. Teaching about homosexuality in a positive way is not telling people receiving education that they should be homosexual, gay or lesbian. The hon. Lady really should examine the education guidelines in other fields such as religious education, which state that teachers should give a positive image of religions other than Christianity—such as the Hindu and Moslem religions. I am sure that those guidelines are not arguing that children should convert to those religions. It is right that they should be taught in a positive way about those religions so that they can understand them, just as we believe it is right that they should recognise that homosexuality exists, that people do not make a choice and that homosexuality should he recognised and fully understood. In the last debate on this issue I referred to two letters which clearly made that case. One was from a teacher who expressed concern and doubt about the clause. I have had a number of such letters since that debate.[Interruption.] Mr. Speaker: Order. It is very difficult to hear at this end of the Chamber.
I have had a number of letters since that debate that have supported my argument and have expressed similar fears to those in the letter I quoted in that previous debate. I have received letters from teachers, youth workers and community workers expressing genuine fears about how they will be inhibited in dealing with problems. For example, a young person may think that he or she is gay or lesbian and want to be understood and given advice. Young people may feel that they are the only gay or lesbian people in the whole world and that there is no one else in that position. They want to be advised that it is not totally abnormal but quite common and that it can be accepted and fully understood. Such a person should have the opportunity to live his or her life in peace and freedom, just as a heterosexual person does.10 pm Having analysed the speeches by Ministers, including that made by the Minister in Committee, those in the Chamber and in the other House, it is clear that they believe that the clause will be interpreted in a narrow way and that our fears will not be fulfilled. If that is what they genuinely believe, they must recognise that, as I have said many times, interpretation of the clause once the Bill becomes an Act of Parliament will be not for the House to determine, but for the courts. The courts will determine the word "promote" in a way which the Ministers do not. I give Ministers the benefit of the doubt because I do not believe that they want to go as far as the way in which the wording may be interpreted if the Bill is carried. I sent to the Minister a letter from a youth community worker in my constituency. I asked the Minister to meet me to discuss that letter because it summarised that youth community worker's feelings and fears about the way in which the clause will be interpreted. The amendments in the names of my right hon. and hon. Friends should he carried because, like the Lords amendments that have gone through, they make at least some improvement to the situation. Even at this late stage, it might be advisable for the Government to say, "We have thought again. We have gone too far. We withdraw the clause and will send it hack to the Lords and ask that it be deleted from the Bill."
This House should address itself first of all to the reason why the 90 per cent. majority of parents and grandparents in this country feel threatened and intimidated by the 10 per cent.Back in 1967, when the Sexual Offences Act was introduced, we said that it was an Act of tolerance, compassion and understanding. I think that it will always so remain. However, it seemed to give the homosexual fraternity an opportunity to run gay clubs, gay centres and gay pubs that specialised in a homosexual clientele, where magazines could flourish and contacts be made, enticing and corrupting others to join their ranks who perhaps would never have done so. Much more serious than that are the memories of grandparents who remember Cambridge in the 1930s, when the intellectuals of Cambridge—[Interruption.]
Order. We must listen to the hon. Gentleman's argument.
I am not intimidated by the noise, Mr. Speaker. It is like addressing an audience from the stage of "La Cage Aux Folles". I should like to remind hon. Members of that well-known hymn "I am what I am", and this is no illusion.I return to my point about Cambridge university in the 1930s. The so-called intellectuals of that time were latching on to every minority group in the hope of gaining power. Many of them flirted with Communism in exactly the same way—[Interruption.]
Order. This is a place where we all express our opinions freely.
Many of them flirted with Communism in exactly the same way—Conservative Members will agree with this—that the loony Left has attached itself with a sympathetic ear to the homosexuals to snare them into its ranks. That is something we must watch.What is the homosexuals' shopping list and why do the 90 per cent. of society feel intimidated? They now want the age of consent to be lowered to 16 years if you please and they want spouses of the same sex to be allowed entry to the United Kingdom as immigrants. They even want to adopt children. Such is the path to be followed by the homosexuals. It is doing homosexuals no favour to flaunt their activities by marches and protests in our cities. A few weeks ago I was debating this subject in the Oxford union — [Interruption.] I have to be fair. I listened to a speech by a student who opened the innings for the other side with a straight bat—[Laughter.] That speech was one of the best and most moving that I have ever heard. That student was a self-confessed homosexual and he made a sincere speech. I am sure that those who were on my side of the argument were greatly touched by his contribution — [Interruption.] This is a serious subject.—[Interruption.]
Order. Time is getting on.
The homosexual fraternity should not expect too much from the 90 per cent. majority. There is no way in which that majority want homosexuality to be a subject on the school curriculum. My hon. Friends and I are determined that they will not get it. By the same token, people like me should stand shoulder to shoulder with the homosexual fraternity against the so-called "queer bashers". They are only likely to get that support if they stop continuing to flaunt their homosexuality and thrusting it down other people's throats.[Laughter.] Mr. Speaker: Order. We will all digest that. Mr. Livingstone. [Interruption.] Order. Mr. Livingstone.
Mr. Norman Buchan (Paisley, South )
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Are you not aware that 90 per cent. of this House would like to hear more?
I am glad to follow the hon. Member for Littleborough and Saddleworth (Mr. Dickens) because he said that he is what he is. All we are asking is that he should allow other people to be what they are. The Bill will not allow that; it will reinforce discrimination.I doubt whether people can remember their own early sexual experiences. Conservative Members have told us that there are points in time when one can go one way or the other, that a bit of pressure or persuasion can turn someone into a homosexual or, presumably, a heterosexual. Is there any hon. Member who can say that, at some point in their early years, they faced a conscious choice of whether to be homosexual or heterosexual? Of course not. We all know that that is nonsense. Our sex drives are there before we are aware of their existence—perhaps even before we can speak. We have to ensure that we do nothing in this House that makes it more difficult for people to give expression to their sexuality. Broadly, I support people's right to do whatever they choose as long as it does not impinge on the freedom or welfare of others. 10.15 pm As well as some interesting early reminiscences, several bits of what has now become folklore have been invoked to support the clause. All that we hear is the repetition of vague innuendo. Again and again we have called for the name of one school that is teaching homosexuality. No Conservative Member has been able to name a single school in a county or city in this country that is doing what they claim is now so widespread that legislation is needed to stop it. I have listened carefully, and I have heard only three examples given to justify the clause. One was an article in the Evening Standard and one was an article in The Daily Telegraph. Since when did the legislature base legislation on two articles in newspapers? Before introducing detailed legislation affecting the lives of millions, should we not do a little better than to rely on what some journalist has cobbled together, regardless of whether it is accurate? The only example given to justify the measure to which we should perhaps pay some attention is the third—a GLC publication "Changing the World". Hon. Members say that all this has happened in the past 18 months. I speak with some authority when I say that it is almost two years since the GLC was abolished. I am sure that Conservative Members were delighted to advance my rapid appearance in this place by abolishing it—and I thank them for it. If Conservative Members have copies of "Changing the World", they will see it for what it is. It is a result of two years of debate, discussion and research in which the lesbian and gay community in London came together to produce a list of 142 changes in legislation and administrative practice that would remove discrimination against them. The only one of those 142 recommendations referred to today was the one dealing with heterosexism. There is a genuine misunderstanding here. Heterosexism as a term does not mean that we are opposed to heterosexuality or that we wish to discriminate against it. Heterosexism is exactly the same kind of term as racism or sexism. They all describe discrimination against a particular group or class or gender. Heterosexism is no more than a way of describing the institutional and legislative discrimination against homosexuals in our society. If anyone has misunderstood that, I apologise. If hon. Members have thought that those using the term "heterosexism" are in favour of discriminating against heterosexuals, I am sorry, but they are wrong. I wish to deal with two points that call into question the sincerity of those who will vote for the measure tonight. There is a problem relating to the protection of children in our society. There is widespread and systematic abuse of children—perhaps beyond anything that we fear at present. [Interruption.] I hear Conservative Members saying "Rubbish." It is not on to argue that one is supporting the clause to protect children and then to reject out of hand the suggestion that there is widespread sexual abuse of children in our society. Studies have been undertaken by centres and groups that provide support for those who have suffered from incest. Their works suggest that one child in 10 is sexually abused by a relative. Almost all these instances of abuse involve fathers and uncles within the family and they are directed against their sons, daughters or nephews. Conservative Members who may want proof of this assertion should be aware that the evidence to support it is more substantial and better documented than any of the arguments that we have heard Conservative Members advance in support of the clause. I do not accept that the clause is a serious attempt to protect children. I believe that the Government are pandering to bigotry in the hope that that will produce votes. There are instances of homosexual abuse of children, and I have brought the issue before the House four times since my election to it. Four times I have asked the Prime Minister to open an inquiry into one of the most appalling examples of the homosexual abuse of children in this century. On all those occasions, the Prime Minister has refused my request. The reason is simple. During the homosexual abuse of the children, MI5 was photographing the perpetrators so that it could blackmail the Loyalist politicians who were committing the acts. If the Government are appalled by the buggery of children, why do they cover it up when it is carried out by one of the state agencies? Why is it that every attempt to raise this issue is stamped upon? [HON. MEMBERS: "Proof."] Conservative Members ask for proof. Proof is available to the House if it is prepared to assert its right to see the MI5 files, including the photographs. However much Conservative Members may try to prevent this issue emerging, enough is known now and enough people are now prepared to talk to make it inevitable that the proof will be revealed. How can any Conservative Member vote for the clause one day while refusing to investigate a well-documented case of homosexual child abuse the day before? That brings into question any claim of sincerity. It opens Conservative Members to the charge of the grossest hypocrisy. They are prepared to cover up homosexual child abuse when it is politically embarrassing for the Government of the day while stamping around Britain trying to stir up hatred against the gay and lesbian communities to try to gain votes. The heterosexual community is not living in fear and intimidation as a result of any activities of the 10 per cent. of society that is homosexual. The people who live in fear are those who are killed in the most appalling way by the queer bashers in our society. There is a growing catalogue of the most horrifying incidents—no doubt egged on by the general climate of homophobia in the press and the media and on the Conservative Benches—where thugs have come out on to the streets to murder gay men.
The activities of certain individuals, such as members of the IRA, whatever their sexual habits, are rather worse than anyone to whom the hon. Gentleman has referred.
Order. The debate is going rather wide of the clause.
I condemn any act of violence wherever it takes place, as I condemn any act of child abuse, whoever commits it and whatever the individual's orientation.I have one last abiding worry about some of the reasoning that lies behind the clause. The Conservative party whipped up homophobia in the run-up to the last general election and now it feels that it has to pander to the forces that it whipped up. When he was orchestrating the election campaign in the Conservative party, the right hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) made homosexuality an issue in the crudest and grossest way. I hope that he can live with his conscience because of what he has done to demean the lives of gay men and lesbians in Britain, as I hope other Conservative Members can live with their consciences every time another gay man is murdered by queer bashers.
It would be difficult to do full justice to all the varying qualities of this remarkable debate. Many of the contributions have been based, like the amendments to the Lords amendment, on a misapprehension of the nature and effect of the provisions which are before the House. That observation also applies to the campaign which has been waged against the provisions of the clause since the Bill left the House for another place.I re-emphasise that it is no part of the Government's intention in supporting the provision to remove the rights of homosexuals to receive council services. As ratepayers and electors, they are entitled to access to council services on the same basis as anyone else. There is nothing in the provision which would damage that right. Allegations that the provision would lead to censorship of the arts, stop activities in health care and counselling and prevent local authorities from granting entertainment licences are quite unfounded. I am happy that that was recognised.
Ms. Clare Short (Birmingham, Ladywood)
I do not believe it.
The hon. Lady says that she does not believe it, but it was recognised by the Opposition spokesman in another place, the noble Lord McIntosh of Haringey, who on Third Reading accepted that the clause did not have the kind of restrictive effect which was feared by many, particularly in the artistic world, who had been so worried about it. Of course, he was speaking in sharp contrast to the observations of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) in making that point.
Mr. Tony Banks
This morning I got from Luke Rittner, the secretary general of the Arts Council, a statement which says that the Arts Council remains deeply concerned at the possible implications and effects of clause 28. The Minister has not satisfied the worries of the Arts Council.
No, we have not satisfied all the concerns, but those, including the Opposition spokesman, who have sat through all the debates in another place have a greater appreciation of the true effect and nature of the provisions than do some others who have been considering the matter from outside.
Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)
Can the Minister give the House a categorical assurance that, if a local authority makes a grant to an arts association to put on a play, let us say, about the life and times of Oscar Wilde, that would not fall foul of the cause of promoting homosexuality?Mr. Howard: I find it a little hard to respond to such questions because, when I do, as I did in a letter to which the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) referred in his speech, I am told that nothing that I say is of any relevance because at the end it is all a matter for the courts. Indeed, it is, at the end of the day, a matter for the courts. Opposition Members cannot have it both ways. They cannot say that the assurances given by Ministers are worthless because at the end of the day the matters are for the courts, and in the next breath pop up with questions about the effect of the provisions. The best answer that I can give to the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) is that it is most unlikely that such an event would fall foul of the provisions. In order for it to fall foul of the provisions there would have to be a deliberate intention to promote homosexuality behind the act of the local authority in funding that performance. I think that it is most unlikely, in the circumstances to which the hon. Gentleman has referred, that the event would fall foul of the provisions. In a speech which was characterised by a schizophrenic approach, of which I shall have more to say in a moment, the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) asked for an assurance that we had no intention of extending the purport of the clause to other areas. I think that he specifically mentioned broadcasting and the Arts Council. I am not aware of any abuses in those spheres of the kind which have given rise to the need for the clause. In those circumstances, I am happy to give the hon. Gentleman the assurance for which he has asked. 10.30 pm Clause 28 was introduced because of the growing concern inside and outside Parliament about the use of ratepayers' money by some local authorities to promote homosexuality. In particular, there was real concern that local authorities were targeting some activities on young people inside and outside schools in an apparent endeavour to glamorise homosexuality. Not surprisingly, parents have become increasingly concerned about public money being used in that way to influence the attitudes and behaviour of impressionable young people.
If that is so, and all the evidence is in the Government's hands, why was clause 28 not in the Bill in the first place?
Many of the clauses were not in the Bill in the first place and we will consider some of those later. When the matter was brought forward by the sponsors, my hon. Friends the Members for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) and for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Dame J. Knight), the Government shared their view that there could be no justification for local authorities using public money for that purpose.
Where is the evidence?
The hon. Gentleman, from a sedentary position, asks, "Where is the evidence?" There is evidence. I have a list of the evidence. I will content myself with two examples. The first piece of evidence is the publication "Young, Gay and Proud." I have an excerpt from it here and it contains a most explicit description of homosexual activities. The Inner London education authority recommended it for children aged 13.My second piece of evidence is from another publication called, curiously, "The milkman is on his way." That also contains very explicit and rather offensive descriptions of homosexual acts. ILEA recommended that publication for children aged 15. It was available for lending from the children's section of a library in the London borough of Haringey, and I have a copy of the sheet which shows that it was taken from the library and used on numerous occasions. There is no doubt that there is evidence. There is equally no doubt that these activities have provoked considerable public disquiet.
Will the Minister give way?
Not yet.We believed that removing that source of disquiet would do much to alleviate the resentment that had undoubtedly been building up and that had been having a growing and adverse effect on tolerance and understanding.
Mr. Simon Hughes
How could the Minister's ministerial colleagues have advised the other place exactly one year before the Minister accepted a Conservative Back-Bench new clause that it should not accept an identically drafted clause because there was no need for legislation of that type and that the wording was dangerously vague?
if the hon. Gentleman studies the record closely he will find that the remarks made by my noble Friend Lord Skelmersdale in another place were made about a draft of the clause that differed significantly from the form of the present clause. We must also consider what has happened since the remarks were made.When the Bill started its passage last year it was passed without opposition in another place. It then came to this House and was prevented from passing into law by a filibuster waged by an Opposition Member who has since lost his seat. I believe that his filibuster was carried out on the last day that he was an hon. Member of this House. In those circumstances, it is reasonable that the Government should have considered the views of another place and of this place and the way in which the wording of the clause differed from that referred to by my noble Friend Lord Skelmersdale. When the Bill was before Parliament, Government spokesmen made it clear that they were sympathetic to the intention behind the clause and, in the light of all those circumstances, acceded to the amendment brought forward by my hon. Friends the Members for Edgbaston and Spelthorne.
Mr. Simon Hughes
I understand that, and I hear what the Minister says. But surely the Government have the same responsibility a year later to caution Parliament about wording that is vague and dangerous. No change in circumstances justifies a Government adopting dangerously wide definitions. Their duty, surely, is to ensure that definition accurately fulfils intention, and does not risk infringing other rights and liberties.
I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's remarks about the vagueness of the wording. We are satisfied that the clause can be interpreted by the courts in a perfectly satisfactory way.Let me now deal with the amendments made to the clause in another place. They have the effect of achieving greater clarity—the kind of clarity that I understood the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) to desire. Amendment No. 10 makes it explicit that the clause is concerned only with the intentional promotion of homosexuality by a local authority. Amendment No. 11 is consequential on that change. The alternative to deleting the words in question would have been a complex prohibition which, in essence, simply reinforced the effect of the basic prohibition. Amendment No. 12 is, we believe, a useful safeguard. It makes it clear that a court considering a challenge against a local authority would be required to consider all the circumstances of the case and come to a reasonable view on the basis of the evidence before it. It would not be sufficient for an authority simply to claim that its purpose was one thing, when it would be clear to any independent observer taking a reasonable view that that was not its only purpose. Amendment No. 34 is a necessary amendment to the title of the Bill, which includes a reference to the prohibition of homosexuality by local authorities in clause 28. Having made that background clear, let me deal with the two amendments proposed by the Opposition to the Lords amendments. They have been explained by the hon. Member for Copeland. The gulf between the words that he used and the effect of the amendments is almost as great as the gulf that opened up, in the course of the Opposition's consideration of the matter, between the view of the hon. Member for Copeland and that of his right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition. When the matter first came before the Standing Committee, the hon. Member for Copeland said that he would vote for the amendment that embodied the clause and that he hoped and expected that his hon. Friends would so the same. He spoke, it is true, of certain amendments that he intended to put down on Report, but he said that he would do nothing to change the first part of the clause, which states that a local authority shall not promote homosexuality or publish material for the promotion of homosexuality. He did not wish to change what that said in any way, shape or form. In the event, the Committee did not divide on the clause; it was accepted without a vote. That was in December. By the end of January, the Leader of the Opposition had taken an interest in the matter. He made a speech that was widely reported, in which he referred to
It must be very gratifying for the hon. Member for Copeland to know that his leader is willing to express his confidence in him in such resounding terms. By February, Labour Campaign Briefing was telling the world:"a pink triangle clause produced and supported by a bunch of bigots."
In my innocence, I always supposed that if one was totally opposed to a clause the appropriate thing to do was to vote against it. However, the Labour party takes a far more sophisticated approach to such matters. In the new Labour party, if one is totally opposed to something, the thing to do is to say that one supports it and will vote for it, refuse to divide in Committee and, when one's leader has declared one a bigot, to put out a piece of paper saying one is totally opposed to it. That is the extent of the humiliation to which the hon. Member for Copeland has been subjected by the leader of his party. It is against that background that the Opposition's amendments to the clause have to be considered."Jack Cunningham and Labour's front bench have made plain their total opposition to Clause 28 … if it should become law Labour is committed to its repeal."
That is a cheap misrepresentation of the position we have adopted from the beginning. We made it clear that we would be moving amendments to the clause. We did so on Report, we did so in the House of Lords, and we are doing so here. Will the Minister now address himself to some of the issues in the debate and to the fears and concerns of people?
I have great sympathy with the hon. Gentleman.I shall now deal with the amendments that have been tabled by the Leader of the Opposition and his hon. Friends.
Mr. Ian Gow (Eastbourne)
Before my hon. and learned Friend leaves that point, will he please give way again to the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham)?
My hon. Friend tempts me. As I have said, I have great sympathy with the position in which the hon. Member for Copeland finds himself.The first of the amendments tabled by the Opposition, (e), would exempt from the prohibition of the promotion of homosexuality
Let me make it plain that it is no part of our intention in supporting this clause to affect the civil rights of any person. We are talking about the use of public money to give preferential treatment to certain people, activities and tendencies. The clause prevents discrimination in favour of a particular purpose—the promotion of homosexuality. Therefore, there is nothing in the clause that would give any local authority any justification for discrimination against homosexuals. To the extent that the Opposition's proposed amendment is aimed at making that clear, the amendment is unnecessary. The clause is already clear enough. Whatever the aim of the Opposition, the effect of what they are proposing is very different. Intentionally or otherwise, their proposal would enable local authorities to continue all the practices that the Government find so objectionable. Let me try to explain why. Since the Opposition's amendment operates to exclude from the provisions of the clause action for certain purposes, we are, by definition only, considering those actions that could be affected by the clause. What are those actions? By definition, they must be actions intended to promote homosexuality. Therefore, a council would be able to do anything it wanted, if the amendment were accepted, provided that it could show that, as well as intending to promote homosexuality, it had the purpose of protecting the civil rights of some person. The plain fact is that it is quite unnecessary to promote homosexuality in order to protect anyone's civil rights. The second amendment is equally, if not more, objectionable. If the Opposition's purpose is simply to say that what is not prohibited by the clause is not prohibited by the clause, it is unnecessary. Whatever their intentions, we have to look at what their drafting would achieve. It is the effect of their amendment that makes it completely unacceptable. It says that any action, however much it promotes homosexuality, is to be permitted if that action is necessary in the authority's view to provide a service for some other purpose. Therefore, any local authority that intended to get round the clause would simply have to show that in its view it was providing the service for some other reason as well as the promotion of homosexuality. We do not accept that a local authority cannot provide the services its ratepayers and electors require without promoting homosexuality. The Opposition appear to take an opposite view. Its amendment would allow a coach and horses to be driven through the prohibition. It has only to be considered in this way for the true nature of the amendment to become apparent. 10.45 pm The clause has overwhelming public support. Many thousands of worried families in Britain have been concerned about the abuses that have taken place. I shall conclude my observations with a description of how that abuse has grown up. Before Labour Members react with outrage at what I am about to say, I caution them that the words that I am about to use are not mine. Some Labour councils, not all,"any action undertaken for the purpose of discouraging discrimination against or protecting the civil rights of any person."
Those are the words of the noble Lord Mason of Barnsley, who, as Secretary of State for Defence and Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in the last Labour Cabinet, performed more distinguished service for this country than any of those Labour Members sitting on the Opposition Front Bench have clone or are likely to do. There can be no better indication to the people of this country of the difference between the Labour party of 10 years ago and the Labour party of today and the gulf between the words of the noble Lord Mason and those that have come forth from the Opposition Front Bench during the debate on this clause. For the reasons that I gave earlier, I urge the House to reject the amendments moved by the Opposition."abused their powers. They took no account of the views of the majority of ordinary people. They launched and financed programmes to aid and abet homosexuality, lesbianism and other minority causes until they became the laughing-stock of the nation … Under the reselection system of Labour councils those minorities apply pressure well beyond their electoral strength. Councillors will be bound to bend the knee. 'Do as you are told, or else' is the theme that determines their reselection. So inevitably all the Labour groups and councils will gradually be pressurised into promoting homosexual activity."—[official Report, House of Lords, 2 February 1988; Vol. 492, c. 1000.]
Mr. Allan Roberts
I should like to begin by paying tribute to the hon. Members for Hornchurch (Mr. Squire), for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) and for Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe) for their brave and courageous speeches, for standing up to the intentions of this clause and for standing against obtaining votes by bigotry, to which some of their colleagues are putting their names.I have noticed a change among Conservative Members since the debates on Third Reading and Report. It is now being said, "The clause will not attack gay rights and the civil liberties of homosexuals; it will not prevent a lot of the funding by local authorities of gay groups and other organisations". Those are the same groups that Tories were attacking so vehemently on Third Reading and Report. A massive campaign against the clause has been organised by the Arts Council, local government, the National Council for Civil Liberties and many other organisations. There was a march of 20,000 people in Manchester, at which there was no violence or arrests, protesting against this clause. The approach that is now being adopted by Conservative Members is, "Gently, gently, offer faint praise and, without sneering, teach the rest to sneer." Those who try to use other people's bigotry to obtain votes are as bad as the bigots themselves. The bigotry and prejudice still came through, even in the smooth Minister's speech, but he did not produce any evidence. It has always been verdict first and evidence second. He produced no evidence of abuse in schools and he did not name any schools. The Minister quoted one of the few sources that he has been able to quote throughout the Committee proceedings—the book, "Young, Gay and Proud", which he claimed is recommended by ILEA for children of 13. He knows that that is not true. It was put on a reading list for parents by ILEA advising parents of books that they might want to read if they wanted to understand their homosexual children. The Minister is about to intervene, as he did in Committee, and read from the sleeve of the book, which says:
That was the publisher's recommendation, nothing to do with ILEA, and it was on the reading list for adults. The Minister knows that."Recommended for children of 13 and over."
Is the hon. Gentleman denying that in the reading list issued by ILEA against the title, "Young, Gay and Proud" there appear the words:
Mr. Roberts: The Minister has quoted the publisher's notes about a book which was on a reading list for adults and was never recommended by ILEA for children. He gives the lie to his own misrepresentation. Let me read a paragraph from a leaflet entitled "Understanding homosexuality". It says:"Its friendly, unpatronising and reassuring tone make it easy to read and very helpful for everyone—13-plus, staff and parents."?
"Medical evidence suggests that a person's sexual orientation is formed before the age of five. It is, therefore, unlikely that an adolescent could be turned into a homosexual by an occasional contact. But such a contact might bring to the fore an orientation which is already there but unrecognised. The realisation could put an end to a young person's confusion and unhappiness."
Who wrote that?
I guess that it is controversial literature. It was written and issued by the Mothers Union in 1983 and is still available today. But it will be caught by the clause if the Mothers Union is funded by local government.The variety of organisations that may find themselves under attack once clause 28 becomes law is staggering. All they need is to be funded by the local authority. The Minister has made that clear in his speech. The Government will not discriminate against the civil liberties of gays, homosexuals and lesbians; they will just make sure that local authorities do not spend money on them, provide services for them and help and assist them. If that is not discrimination, what is? Another pillar of the community, founded by ladies doing good works, is the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux. Last year, at its national conference, it voted to take account of lesbian and gay issues, oppose discrimination and, where possible, to recruit people who are homosexual to their management committees. Will the Government now turn on the citizens advice bureaux? The hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) said that the Government were worried not just about schools, but the whole of local government. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Dame J. Knight) said that the clause was just about protecting children, but the Government have produced a clause that has nothing to do with protecting children. According to the advice of lawyers and many organisations, it will make illegal the provision of joint tenancies for persons seeking housing as open homosexuals. It will put in doubt the provision of social services advice and assistance to persons who are uncertain of their sexual orientation. It will put in doubt whether local authorities can refer people seeking advice to social services, and, via social services, to voluntary groups run by and for homosexuals, the provision of grants to students and student unions in higher education, the position of lesbian and gay societies, the stocking and display in public libraries of books and periodicals written by and for homosexuals and the financial support for gay and lesbian centres. If that is not the case, why are Right-wing Conservative councillors in places like Manchester threatening that when the clause is enacted they will use it to take councillors to court to prevent such funding and activities? That is what is happening at the moment. Yet the Government say that they are against public money being spent for specific purposes. All those activities may, depending on the circumstances and interpretation of the words "promoting homosexuality", be made illegal by the clause. The Minister admits that he cannot say how the courts will interpret the word "promote" or the words "intentionally promote". The danger that he is putting the civil liberties of homosexual people in by promoting the clause is unbelievable. The other week Elizabeth Taylor was asked on the Michael Aspel show why she got involved with raising money for AIDS research. She said that she was appalled by the silence from Hollywood. She said that homosexuality had become a taboo subject, and yet, as she put it,
That is not true only of Hollywood; there are homosexuals everywhere. Homosexuality is a part of society. So why do people fear it so much? Is it because, as some Conservative Members said, people fear the abnormal? [Interruption.] In the case of the clause, we are talking about fear of abnormal relationships and families. That is what Conservative Members say exists. But what is normal? Are single parents, step-parents, heterosexual couples living together, married couples without children, single sexually active heterosexuals and celibates normal? Is what the majority does normal? Most people who get married get divorced. Is that normal? Normal is hard to define. Morality is based not on what most people do but on what is acceptable. I find love, care and respect acceptable, and exploitation, bullying and unreasonable prejudice unacceptable. The clause is unacceptable because it is based on unreasoned prejudice. It is a bullying tactic to push homosexuals back into secrecy. It exploits the fear of AIDS and the misinformation that has been whipped up around it. Fear of AIDS has whipped up prejudice against gay people and the Government are cashing in on that. To quote Tom Robinson,"Hollywood was built by homosexuals."
To listen to some Conservative Members one would think that homosexuals were going around proselytising and that homosexual images were being presented everywhere—especially by local authorities—to convert people. The opposite is true. Heterosexual images are used to sell everything from chocolate to cars. Exhibitions of homosexuality are discreet compared with those of heterosexuality, but Conservative Members think that because local authorities help gay groups, homosexuals and lesbians, everyone will suddenly be converted. What nonsense. What nonsense. The hon. Members for Spelthorne and for Edgbaston—"The solution is simple. They could do it with ease—stop attacking the patients and attack the disease."
Mr. Anthony Beaumont-Dark (Birmingham, Selly Oak)
—want homosexuality to disappear, and do not want to know of its existence. The hon. Member for Edgbaston has opposed all sex education in schools for years. She would rather that any complication to do with sex disappeared. From the beginning, the Labour party has stood firmly—
—against the Government's intention in the clause. My hon. Friends and I made it clear in Committee that we had seen the clause for the first time only briefly and did not know what the word "promote" meant — [Interruption.] If it means advocating homosexuality as an alternative to heterosexuality, we have not changed our position on that. We have tabled amendments to ensure that the clause does not discriminate in the way that the Government refuse to accept that it does.If the Government do not seek to destroy the civil liberties of gay people, why will they not accept the amendment, which reads:
"other than by any action undertaken for the purpose of discouraging discrimination against or protecting the civil rights of any person"?
If the hon. Gentleman had listened to my speech and departed for a moment from his pre-arranged rant, he would have known the answer to that question.
If the Minister had listened to informed public opinion, or the National Council for Civil Liberties, or the associations of local authorities, he would have withdrawn the clause.
Mr. Simon Hughes
Will the hon. Gentleman, whose indignation about the proposal I accept, explain why when he, the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham), the Minister, other Committee Members and I were together in the Committee, we heard the following phrase, said on behalf of the Labour party:
That was for this clause as proposed and supported by the Government. Why the change?"I shall vote for the amendment and I hope and expect that my hon. Friends will do the same." — [Official Report, Standing Committee A, 8 December 1987; c. 1213.]
I just hope that the hon. Gentleman's party's campaign on the issue of gay rights — [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer the question."] I shall answer the question in my own way.I just hope that the hon. Gentleman's campaign on the issue will be based on the speech that he made today and not on the kind of literature and gay rights campaign with which he and his party have been involved. A June 1987 general election leaflet, entitled "Bermondsey constituency Liberal focus leaflet in support of the Simon Hughes candidacy", states:
It ill-behoves the victor of Bermondsey to lecture us about gay rights. Homosexual people are ordinary people made extraordinary or different by other people's and Conservative Members' obsessive interest about what they might, and probably do not, do in bed. Conservative Members' obsession with sex makes me sick."Labour's support for positive discrimination for gays is a key reason why Labour was not even fit to be the Opposition, let alone the Government."
Mr. David Shaw (Dover)
I shall not give way.To quote Michael Cashman, Colin in "Eastenders", who spoke at the gay rights rally in Manchester, we could round up gay people, we could shoot them or gas them, but they will not go away. As long as men and women procreate, they will continue to create homosexuals, and there is nothing that we can do about it, even if Conservative Members want to. I urge all those Conservative Members who claim that this is not a bigots' charter and that it is not against the civil liberties of gay and lesbian men and women to vote for our amendments.
Question put, That the amendment to the Lords amendment be made:—
The House divided: Ayes 201, Noes 254.
Division No. 207]
|Abbott, Ms Diane||Galbraith, Sam|
|Allen, Graham||Galloway, George|
|Alton, David||Garrett, John (Norwich South)|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Garrett, Ted (Wallsend)|
|Armstrong, Hilary||George, Bruce|
|Ashdown, Paddy||Golding, Mrs Llin|
|Ashley, Rt Hon Jack||Gordon, Mildred|
|Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)||Graham, Thomas|
|Battle, John||Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)|
|Beckett, Margaret||Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)|
|Beith, A. J.||Grocott, Bruce|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Harman, Ms Harriet|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Haynes, Frank|
|Boateng, Paul||Healey, Rt Hon Denis|
|Boyes, Roland||Heffer, Eric S.|
|Bradley, Keith||Henderson, Doug|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)|
|Brown, Gordon (D'mline E)||Holland, Stuart|
|Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)||Home Robertson, John|
|Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)||Hood, Jimmy|
|Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith)||Howarth, George (Knowsley N)|
|Buchan, Norman||Hughes, John (Coventry NE)|
|Buckley, George J.||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)|
|Caborn, Richard||Hughes, Roy (Newport E)|
|Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)||Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)|
|Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)||Hughes, Simon (Southwark)s|
|Campbell-Savours, D. N.||Illsley, Eric|
|Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)||Janner, Greville|
|Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)||John, Brynmor|
|Clay, Bob||Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)|
|Clelland, David||Jones, Ieuan (Ynys Môn)|
|Clwyd, Mrs Ann||Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)|
|Cohen, Harry||Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald|
|Cook, Robin (Livingston)||Kennedy, Charles|
|Corbett, Robin||Kilfedder, James|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil|
|Cousins, Jim||Kirkwood, Archy|
|Cox, Tom||Lamond, James|
|Cryer, Bob||Leighton, Ron|
|Cummings, John||Lestor, Joan (Eccles)|
|Cunningham, Dr John||Lewis, Terry|
|Dalyell, Tam||Litherland, Robert|
|Darling, Alistair||Livsey, Richard|
|Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)||Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)|
|Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)||Lofthouse, Geoffrey|
|Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)||Loyden, Eddie|
|Dixon, Don||McAllion, John|
|Dobson, Frank||McAvoy, Thomas|
|Doran, Frank||McCartney, Ian|
|Douglas, Dick||Macdonald, Calum A.|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||McFall, John|
|Dunnachie, Jimmy||McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)|
|Eastham, Ken||McKelvey, William|
|Evans, John (St Helens N)||McNamara, Kevin|
|Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E)||McTaggart, Bob|
|Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)||McWilliam, John|
|Faulds, Andrew||Madden, Max|
|Fearn, Ronald||Mahon, Mrs Alice|
|Field, Frank (Birkenhead)||Marek, Dr John|
|Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)||Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)|
|Fisher, Mark||Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)|
|Flannery, Martin||Martlew, Eric|
|Flynn, Paul||Meacher, Michael|
|Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Meale, Alan|
|Foster, Derek||Michael, Alun|
|Foulkes, George||Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)|
|Fraser, John||Millan, Rt Hon Bruce|
|Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)||Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)|
|Moonie, Dr Lewis||Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)|
|Morgan, Rhodri||Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)|
|Morley, Elliott||Snape, Peter|
|Mowlam, Marjorie||Soley, Clive|
|Mullin, Chris||Spearing, Nigel|
|Murphy, Paul||Squire, Robin|
|Nellist, Dave||Steel, Rt Hon David|
|Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon||Steinberg, Gerry|
|O'Brien, William||Stott, Roger|
|O'Neill, Martin||Strang, Gavin|
|Orme, Rt Hon Stanley||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)|
|Parry, Robert||Taylor, Matthew (Truro)|
|Patchett, Terry||Thomas, Dr Dafydd Elis|
|Pendry, Tom||Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)|
|Pike, Peter L.||Turner, Dennis|
|Powell, Ray (Ogmore)||Wall, Pat|
|Prescott, John||Wallace, James|
|Quin, Ms Joyce||Walley, Joan|
|Radice, Giles||Wardell, Gareth (Gower)|
|Randall, Stuart||Wareing, Robert N.|
|Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn||Welsh. Andrew (Angus E)|
|Richardson, Jo||Welsh. Michael (Doncaster N)|
|Roberts, Allan (Bootle)||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Robertson, George||Williams, Rt Hon Alan|
|Robinson, Geoffrey||Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)|
|Rooker, Jeff||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)||Worthington, Tony|
|Ruddock, Joan||Wray, Jimmy|
|Salmond, Alex||Young, David (Bolton SE)|
|Sheerman, Barry||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert||Mr. Frank Cook and|
|Short, Clare||Mr. Tony Banks.|
|Adley, Robert||Butterfill, John|
|Alexander, Richard||Carlisle, John, (Luton N)|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael||Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)|
|Amess, David||Carrington, Matthew|
|Amos, Alan||Carttiss, Michael|
|Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)||Cash, William|
|Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)||Chapman, Sydney|
|Ashby, David||Chope, Christopher|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Clark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n)|
|Atkins, Robert||Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)|
|Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)||Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)|
|Banks, Robert (Harrogate)||Colvin, Michael|
|Batiste, Spencer||Conway, Derek|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)|
|Beggs, Roy||Coombs, Simon (Swindon)|
|Bellingham, Henry||Cran, James|
|Bendall, Vivian||Critchley, Julian|
|Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Currie, Mrs Edwina|
|Benyon, W.||Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Davis, David (Boothferry)|
|Blackburn, Dr John G.||Day, Stephen|
|Bonsor, Sir Nicholas||Devlin, Tim|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Dickens, Geoffrey|
|Boswell, Tim||Dorrell, Stephen|
|Bottomley, Peter||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James|
|Bottomley, Mrs Virginia||Dover, Den|
|Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n)||Dunn, Bob|
|Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)||Durant, Tony|
|Bowis, John||Dykes, Hugh|
|Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes||Eggar, Tim|
|Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard||Evennett, David|
|Brandon-Bravo, Martin||Fairbairn, Nicholas|
|Brazier, Julian||Fallon, Michael|
|Bright, Graham||Farr, Sir John|
|Brittan, Rt Hon Leon||Favell, Tony|
|Brooke, Rt Hon Peter||Fenner, Dame Peggy|
|Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)||Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)|
|Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick||Fookes, Miss Janet|
|Buck, Sir Antony||Forman, Nigel|
|Budgen, Nicholas||Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)|
|Burns, Simon||Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S)|
|Burt, Alistair||Forth, Eric|
|Butler, Chris||Fox, Sir Marcus|
|Franks, Cecil||Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)|
|Freeman, Roger||Hunt, David (Wirral W)|
|French, Douglas||Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)|
|Gale, Roger||Hunter, Andrew|
|Gardiner, George||Irvine, Michael|
|Garel-Jones, Tristan||Jack, Michael|
|Gill, Christopher||Jackson, Robert|
|Glyn, Dr Alan||Janman, Tim|
|Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles||Jessel, Toby|
|Gorman, Mrs Teresa||Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey|
|Gow, Ian||Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)|
|Gower, Sir Raymond||Jones, Robert B (Herts W)|
|Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)||Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine|
|Greenway, John (Ryedale)||Key, Robert|
|Gregory, Conal||King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)|
|Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E')||King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)|
|Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)||Knapman, Roger|
|Grist, Ian||Knight, Greg (Derby North)|
|Ground, Patrick||Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)|
|Grylls, Michael||Knowles, Michael|
|Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)||Knox, David|
|Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)||Lamont, Rt Hon Norman|
|Hanley, Jeremy||Lang, Ian|
|Hannam, John||Latham, Michael|
|Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')||Lee, John (Pendle)|
|Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)||Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)|
|Harris, David||Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark|
|Haselhurst, Alan||Lilley, Peter|
|Hawkins, Christopher||Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)|
|Hayes, Jerry||Lord, Michael|
|Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney||Luce, Rt Hon Richard|
|Hayward, Robert||Lyell, Sir Nicholas|
|Heathcoat-Amory, David||McCrindle, Robert|
|Heddle, John||Macfarlane, Sir Neil|
|Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael||MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)|
|Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)||Maclean, David|
|Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)||McLoughlin, Patrick|
|Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.||McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)|
|Hind, Kenneth||McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)|
|Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)||Madel, David|
|Holt, Richard||Maginnis, Ken|
|Hordern, Sir Peter||Major, Rt Hon John|
|Howard, Michael||Malins, Humfrey|
|Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)||Mans, Keith|
|Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)||Maples, John|
|Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)||Marlow, Tony|
|Martin, David (Portsmouth S)||Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas|
|Maude, Hon Francis||Ridsdale, Sir Julian|
|Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick||Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)|
|Meyer, Sir Anthony||Roe, Mrs Marion|
|Miller, Hal||Ross, William (Londonderry E)|
|Mills, Iain||Rossi, Sir Hugh|
|Miscampbell, Norman||Ryder, Richard|
|Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)||Sackville, Hon Tom|
|Moate, Roger||Sainsbury, Hon Tim|
|Monro, Sir Hector||Sayeed, Jonathan|
|Montgomery, Sir Fergus||Shaw, David (Dover)|
|Morris, M (N'hampton S)||Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)|
|Moss, Malcolm||Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')|
|Moynihan, Hon Colin||Shelton, William (Streatham)|
|Neale, Gerrard||Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)|
|Needham, Richard||Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)|
|Neubert, Michael||Shersby, Michael|
|Nicholls, Patrick||Sims, Roger|
|Nicholson, David (Taunton)||Skeet, Sir Trevor|
|Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley||Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)|
|Oppenheim, Phillip||Soames, Hon Nicholas|
|Page, Richard||Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)|
|Paice, James||Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)|
|Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil||Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)|
|Patnick, Irvine||Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)|
|Patten, Chris (Bath)||Stradling Thomas, Sir John|
|Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)|
|Pawsey, James||Thurnham, Peter|
|Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth||Vaughan, Sir Gerard|
|Porter, David (Waveney)||Waddington, Rt Hon David|
|Portillo, Michael||Walker, Bill (T'side North)|
|Powell, William (Corby)||Watts, John|
|Price, Sir David|