[Sir Roger Gale in the Chair]
I beg to move,
That this House has considered teaching on LGBT community and acceptance in schools.
It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Roger. I am glad to be able to highlight lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender tolerance and education and acceptance in schools. I called for the debate for two main reasons. The first is the protests at schools in Birmingham that I have seen on television recently. My constituency is in that region, and in the past few months an increasing number of protests have been held outside Birmingham schools, with parents protesting vociferously against any form of LGBT teaching. The second is that my House of Commons researcher came to see me the other day to highlight a situation in which a friend of his had come out to him, crying, very upset and vulnerable. He did not know how he was going to broach the subject with his family. It is clearly worrying that even in 2019 there are still young people who are fearful of broaching with their most intimate and closest friends and family members the subject of who they are falling in love with and their sexuality.
I was born in communist Poland. I believe I am the only Conservative Member of Parliament to have been born in a communist country—[Interruption.] I am; I have checked it out. I assure you, Sir Roger, that the society of communist Poland was highly intolerant of LGBT people. The Catholic Church in Poland—and I speak as a Roman Catholic—was at the forefront of teaching young people and society at large that being gay was a sin, that it should be punished and that people who had the temerity to fall in love with a same-sex partner would ultimately go to hell. They would be condemned to purgatory and hell because they happened to be gay.
That had a huge impact on a generation of children in communist Poland as they evaluated their self-worth and how they felt about themselves, given that the Church and state were so homophobic. The irony—again, I speak as a Roman Catholic—is that we have subsequently come across so many cases and prosecutions of Catholic priests, whether in Ireland, America or many other countries around the world. Catholic priests have been informing us from the pulpit what a sin homosexuality is, but in their spare time, when mass is over, they have been going out and sexually abusing young boys on an industrial scale. I do not believe that the Roman Catholic Church has apologised enough, either in this country or around the world, for the appalling abuses that Roman Catholic priests carried out over decades against young, vulnerable and innocent boys. Many will inevitably suffer mental angst and torture as a consequence of those vile acts of abuse against young children.
We face different situations. I think that because I was brought up in such a homophobic society, as a young person I was inevitably conditioned—I used that word in an interview with Radio Shropshire today—to think that homosexuality was bad and a sin, and that you should feel ashamed of being gay. What do you do? Some young people have the confidence and conviction to set that aside. They will say, from a very young age, “No, I am gay and I am proud.” Other people do not have that confidence, so they hide what and who they are. They will hide under rocks or under stones and not peek out because they are fearful of the consequences for them and their families of showing that they are proud in being gay.
I have to say that when I was a young person, I actually went as far as to try to trick my own brain into thinking I was straight. You do it over and over again. You pray to God, “Please, could I be a heterosexual and be interested only in women?” so that he will change you somehow and you will not have these strange feelings. You try to trick the brain. The most important thing I have learned in my 47 years is that you cannot trick the brain. You can do almost anything, but you cannot reprogramme your mind and your brain to be something sexually that you are not.
When it was time to come out, I had to go back to Shrewsbury to inform the Shrewsbury Conservative association that, having been married to a lady for 10 years, I was now in a same-sex relationship. I was so fearful, given the conditioning I had gone through as a child, that I had to go and talk to the House of Commons health and wellbeing service. They are, as you know, Sir Roger, great people who help Members of Parliament through periods of stress and strain and mental problems. I pay tribute to the wonderful men and women who work in the health and wellbeing service who helped me so much to have the confidence and courage to go back to Shrewsbury to announce to my local association that I was now in a same-sex partnership. I have to say that, although they had coaxed me into it, when I was on the train from London to Shrewsbury, I prayed on, I think, three separate occasions for the train to break down. I still could not quite face it. I hoped that there would be some sort of godly intervention—something would happen and a tree would fall on the track—or the train would be delayed and I would miss my connection and not have to deal with it. The train arrived at Shrewsbury train station on time, unusually, and I went to see my local association.
I gave my monthly report to the 50 most senior members of Shrewsbury Conservative association, who were sitting in front of me in the room. I went through what was happening here in the House of Commons, politics and some of our achievements in securing investment for Shrewsbury in the last quarter. I looked at the 50 faces in front of me. As I am sure everyone will agree, members of political parties—Conservatives and Labour—are marvellous men and women. They are the hard workers who go out there in the rain, delivering leaflets, organising campaigns and taking abuse on the doorstep. We get paid, but they do it for free. I always say that these men and women are the salt of the earth. They believe in their nation, whatever their politics, whether they be Labour or Conservative. As you know, Sir Roger, a Member of Parliament relies on members of the executive council and senior members of the association. We could not do the job that we do if it were not for those people.
When I announced to them that I was in a same-sex partnership, I looked at the 50 faces. A gentleman in the front row who was a traditional Conservative party member—he was wearing a striped jacket and was a brigadier-general-type figure—immediately stood up straight, like a military man, and said, “Well, I think that’s marvellous. Well done.” He started to clap, and then it was as if a sea of people in front of me all stood up and started to clap. They were coming up to me and giving me hugs. We were in the bar area and they wanted to buy me whisky. Rather than a double whisky, I went away with a tumbler of whisky because all the men were trying to buy me double Scotches.
That will stay with me forever. It is in those moments in life when you throw yourself into a situation where you do not know what is going to happen or how people are going to react, that you see raw humanity in operation. The love, kindness and sincerity with which my Shrewsbury Conservative association treated me will stay with me forever, and it will also empower me for the rest of my life.
I want to mention a lovely gentleman from Shrewsbury Conservatives called Ray Mitchell, who has now passed away. He ran election campaigns as if they were the battle of Tobruk, with hardcore military precision. He knew every road and ensured that people had the correct number of bundled leaflets for every person in every street. He ran a military operation to get my campaign literature across the whole constituency every time a general election was called. He came up to me at the end of my speech, when everyone was hugging and cheering, and said, “I would like a word with you alone, outside, please.” I thought, “Oh no. Here we go. Somebody is really upset with what I’ve said and now I’m going to get it with both barrels.” He said, “Just come outside for a minute. I want a private word with you.” As you know, Sir Roger, an association is divided into different wards. He said, “I hear that you have given one of the other wards a bottle of House of Commons Scotch from the Prime Minister. Can we have one?” He said, “I couldn’t give a monkeys about your sexuality. I’m upset that you’ve given them a bottle of House of Commons Scotch but you haven’t got one for us. Would you mind terribly getting us one?” I wanted to share that story because it meant so much to me at the time.
In 2017 I went to 10 Downing Street for the premiere of an LGBT film marking the 50th anniversary of the rescinding of jail sentences for LGBT people. In the audience there were many senior citizens who had faced prison sentences in the 1950s and whose friends had been incarcerated. They themselves had had to live their whole lives in fear and worry about being exposed as gay and, ultimately, being sent to prison. Seeing those people at that film was an important event in my life.
I pay tribute to Mr Geoffrey Hardy, who has campaigned for LGBT issues in Shrewsbury for many decades. In 2005, thanks to the Labour Administration, he was able to undertake a civil partnership. He and his partner Peter had been together for 25 years, and were the first couple in Shropshire to have a civil partnership. He wrote to me to say:
“BBC Radio Shropshire broadcast the cheer from the Registry Office and the Shropshire Star put it on the front page. The reaction we had when driving through Shrewsbury, pink ribbons on the front of a vintage Bentley, was overwhelmingly positive, an emotional time for us. Civil Partnerships were a huge step change in acceptance of our lives and relationships.”
I pay tribute to the Labour Government for introducing civil partnerships and reiterate this sentence:
“Civil Partnerships were a huge step change in acceptance of our lives and relationships.”
Of course, the subsequent Conservative Government introduced equal marriage; I will come to that later.
Mr Hardy has been at the forefront of creating the Shropshire Rainbow Film Festival, which started in 2006 and has gone from strength to strength. He writes:
“In 2011, we advertised with banners across the streets—a huge step forward. Year upon year, the Festival has become very successful and more heterosexual people have attended, realising that our lives and experiences are not separate.”
He has written the words “banners across the streets” in bold and underlined them. This is about being proud to be gay and proud that there is a film festival promoting LGBT rights and experiences. This is not in metropolitan London, but in quiet, sleepy Shrewsbury. The huge enthusiasm for LGBT rights in Shrewsbury comes to the fore in everything that Mr Hardy has been telling me over the years. He is a staunch socialist and a strong Jeremy Corbyn supporter, so Members can imagine how little he and I have in common when it comes to politics, but we are kindred spirits when it comes to promoting LGBT rights and sharing our experiences.
Mr Hardy goes on to talk about the campaign for equal marriage. The Roman Catholic bishop was often on the front page of the Shropshire Star opposing it. He says:
“We distributed fliers, wristbands and encouraged people to write to their local Members of Parliament.”
That is an important issue to highlight. I remember the debate we had on equal marriage. It was a difficult issue for me: at that stage, I had not come out and many constituents wrote to me, angry and furious that we could even be contemplating equal marriage. Same-sex partnerships were one thing and civil partnerships were another, but hon. Members will remember the anger, antagonism and frustration about equal marriage. People felt it was a step too far—that marriage was only between men and women, and that we should not be pursuing it. It was difficult for me at that time, but I voted for equal marriage and I am proud to have done so. I am even more proud that a Conservative Government put it on the statute book.
A very religious couple from the village of Condover—I will not mention their names—spent the day with me on the day we were passing the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013. They and their two children had lunch with me in the House of Commons. Their son had been at Shrewsbury School and was now a doctor in Manchester. The mother, who was a strong Protestant, turned to me and said something that will stay with me forever. She said, “You have to vote for equal marriage because I don’t want my son living in sin.” Just remember that for a moment: it came from a devout Protestant lady.
Lastly from Mr Hardy, there is Shrewsbury carnival Pride. LGBT Shrewsbury has joined with the Shrewsbury town carnival; we have a wonderful town carnival that goes through the whole of Shrewsbury and the Quarry every year, and we have massive floats. We are not quite Rio de Janeiro in Shrewsbury, but we do our best. We have all these floats going through the town, and for many years now we have had an LGBT float. I stood there watching one year, with my partner of eight years, and to see the applause and cheering from all young people in Shrewsbury for that float was something very powerful for me. I am very grateful for that. Of course, the LGBT float has received many prizes over the years.
Getting back to specifically the schools element on this, I wanted to read out something that Stonewall sent me. It is a quote from Joshua, 19, from Scotland. He says:
“I think there needs to be a fundamental rethink about how we teach young people about sex, love and relationships. LGBT issues need to be an important part of our curriculum in order for us to truly feel we are part of an equal society.”
Stonewall sent me a lot of evidence, and another quote that struck me was this—I would like hon. Members to really listen and remember it:
“A growing number of faith schools”—
not ordinary schools, but faith schools—
“are delivering LGBT-inclusive teaching. They are doing this not in spite of their faith ethos, but because of it—by recognising the values of love, tolerance and acceptance that lie at the heart of their faith.”
That is such an important quote because—I have said this from my own experiences of Roman Catholicism, but it also applies to certain Muslim groups and others—the intolerance toward homosexuality, I would argue, goes squarely against the teachings of those religions, especially my religion of Catholicism, which seeks to promote love, tolerance and acceptance. That is very important to remember.
Ahead of this debate, the House of Commons decided to post on Facebook to ask for people’s views and experiences of teaching on LGBT community and acceptance in schools. There are two quotes that I think are relevant and that I wanted to share. One is from somebody at Lacuna magazine, a magazine that promotes human rights. This person writes:
“When I think of how the knot in my teenage heart could have been loosened if I had even one lesson at school telling me I wasn’t broken or put together wrong...I realise that this isn’t a religious or even spiritual debate. It’s a matter of human rights.”
There was also a quote from the National Secular Society:
“We agree wholeheartedly with Daniel Kawczynski MP that it is important to make sure all children, from an early age, are taught that there is nothing wrong with being gay. We also agree that doing so would help to improve mental health and reduce bullying and abuse. We fully support efforts to make education in the UK inclusive for all. We urge the government to ensure every child, regardless of their religious background, leaves school in the knowledge that LGBT+ people are equal and that it’s perfectly OK to be gay.”
I am going to wrap up shortly, but I want to ask the Minister about the LGBT action plan that the Government have put in place. Of course, it has not received sufficient attention because of the merry-go-round that is Brexit and the focus on that, but I ask the Minister about one thing that particularly appals me: conversion therapy. I think of conversion therapy as some sort of Frankenstein’s monster of abuse—not only physical abuse, but mental torture. I could not imagine anybody possibly wanting to send their child to have it.
As I have said, it is impossible to recalibrate the mind. It is impossible to trick the mind. It is impossible to turn somebody from being gay to being straight. The mental angst and torture that children would go through in conversion therapy deeply troubles me. I call on the Minister to explain to us when the practice will be outlawed in the United Kingdom and to give me an update on the matter.
On the one hand, I respect the rights of the parents outside schools in Birmingham to demonstrate. Nobody wants our children to have overtly sexual things in schools at an inappropriately young age. This is a delicate matter and it must be treated with a huge amount of sensitivity. However, I appeal to those protestors: what sort of a message does it send out to young LGBT people when we see the anger, the rage and the vitriol emanating from them on LGBT issues?
By all means, if they have concerns about LGBT acceptance and education in schools, they ought to be coming to see the Minister, lobbying Government and questioning and probing all the time about how it will be implemented and what the sensitivities are, but I appeal to them to show some tolerance and some civility, given how vulnerable young people are at that stage, and not to do anything that sets young people thinking that they are not worthy and somehow unequal. I went through that as a young person, and I do not want young people to go through that again.
Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
I will take an intervention from the right hon. and learned Lady, somebody from the Labour Benches whom I respect enormously—that has probably done her career no good whatever, but she is.
I was finding it difficult to know when to intervene on the hon. Gentleman’s speech, because it has been so powerful and heartfelt that I have no words, except to say how much I applaud absolutely everything he has said. I want him to know that I think his words here today will mean that the knot in many teenage hearts will have been loosened. I feel so proud that he is a Member of our House and that he has used his own personal experience, as well as his analysis, to make this speech. It has been very important and I thank him for doing it.
I thank the right hon. and learned Lady and I pay tribute to her. She has been a stalwart of campaigning for equality on LGBT issues—and not just today, when it is easier so to do; she was at the forefront of campaigning on LGBT issues back in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, when it was not so easy. She is not part of the LGBT community herself, so her empathy on this issue just shows how pioneering and visionary she is, and the integrity and honour that she has always displayed as a Member of the House of Commons.
I end on this point. I am not really a football fan so I do not follow football, but recently a famous footballer was apparently going to come out, but he decided not to. It was all over the radio that he was going to announce that he was out and start raising LGBT issues, and then he decided to back off. I say to him, publicly and on television, and to anyone who has a position of responsibility or a public profile, whether they are footballers, play for England’s rugby team, are television presenters or are a Member of Parliament, if someone is gay and they have come out, it is extremely important to do what I am doing today—to carry on talking and giving assurance to young people that, if they go through this process, 99 out of every 100 people will show them love, tolerance and understanding.
I took my beloved mother on holiday to our favourite Polish seaside resort with my partner, Fernando, and I would like to inform hon. Members that after eight years of being together, Fernando and I are going to have a civil partnership ceremony in the House of Commons on 9 November. It is on a Saturday and even if we have an election I will abandon campaigning to come back for my civil partnership; I am not going to leave my hubby at the altar just because of the general election—I can tell you that for nothing!
We have a duty and a responsibility to carry on talking and to give people confidence in the extraordinary, positive experiences that we have had with our fellow men and women in society and to demonstrate how loving and tolerant they are to us.
I took my mother on holiday and she gave me one example of prejudice. My mother lives in Gloucestershire, but every election time, she comes to Shrewsbury. Nobody works harder than my mum when it comes to handing out leaflets on doorsteps and canvassing. I was talking to her about this debate, and she told me a story. Two men in Shrewsbury—I will not mention where—looked at her in horror when she told them that she was campaigning for Daniel Kawczynski and that she was his mum. They looked at her with disgust and said to her, “Of course we are not going to vote for that deviant.” It is a shame, is it not, that we can never reason with prejudice? There are always going to be prejudiced people in our society. She was upset, of course, that they would say that to her. I would hope that they would assess me and any other gay Member of Parliament on our politics and what party we stand for, rather than on whom we love and want to be with.
I remember watching Margaret Thatcher in 1979, when she was asked on television how she could be Prime Minister when she was a woman. In 1979, many people were fearful and questioned the ability of a woman to be Prime Minister. I will never forget that Margaret Thatcher said that it was as well that those people did not live in the period of Elizabeth I. What would have happened to our great nation if it was not for great women such as Elizabeth I and what they did for our country? Margaret Thatcher fought against prejudice when it came to women standing in politics and achieving the highest office. Today, in a different way, we are standing against the prejudice that still exists in our country.
I have been to more than 90 countries in the world through business and politics. This is one of the most, if not the most, tolerant and welcoming of societies that I have come across in any country in the world. Sometimes, I think because we are British, we tend to hide our light under a bushel. We ought to be extraordinarily proud, despite our huge political differences over Brexit and other issues, of the beacon of tolerance that this country is, compared with other countries around the world— 16 of which still have the death penalty for someone who happens to love a person of the same sex. We need to promote and celebrate tolerance, not only in our own country, but as a beacon for other countries around the world that are on the path towards where we are today.
As ever, it is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Roger. I particularly want to thank the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Daniel Kawczynski) for securing this debate. His personal reflections bring so much to the debate. It is genuinely inspiring. I know that young LGBT children and adults will be listening, and to see that someone is able to speak out in this place and be proud to speak out is so inspiring.
I want to reflect on the hon. Gentleman’s opening remarks about young people internalising the perceived shame of being gay, and his closing remarks about the intolerance in society and how that can impact on young LGBT children’s lives. For me, relationship education is about keeping all children safe. We have to be aware that four in five young trans children and three in five young LGB children self-harm, and that two in five trans children and one in five LGB children contemplate taking their own lives because of the pressure put on them by an intolerant society. That is why, along with colleagues and charities, I campaigned so hard for relationship education, particularly at primary school age. I firmly believe that its introduction will have a transformational effect on the next generation, supporting them to form healthy relationships, be tolerant, recognise harms and have safe sex.
We know that LGBT young people are often more vulnerable, face greater risks and have lower levels of wellbeing than their peers. Robust, age-appropriate relationships and sex education that is inclusive of LGBT young people and integrates them fully into the curriculum can help to reduce those risks. Research has shown that LGB young people are more likely to engage in risk-taking behaviour, including unprotected sex. Sex education at secondary school will give pupils information about safe sex and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS. Young people need to be aware of the facts. They need to appreciate the importance of condoms and know how to use them properly. They need to be aware of post-exposure prophylaxis, pre-exposure prophylaxis—anti-HIV medications—and where they can find out more information.
LGB young people are also at risk online, being more likely than non-LGB peers to experience online victimisation and have online sexual conversations with people five years older or more. Studies have shown that gay and bisexual boys are particularly vulnerable to exploitation by those of the same sex. RSE will support young people to recognise the dangers of grooming and educate them to spot dangers online. RSE can support all young people to make sensible decisions about meeting up with strangers and using relationship apps intended for adults such as Tinder or Grindr, and, importantly, can teach them about consent, particularly informed consent.
RSE is not a silver bullet, but my hope is that it will help to address some of the wider issues LGBT young people also face, such as mental health issues and bullying. The evidence tells us that adolescence is the most difficult period for people who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual. While attitudes have improved in the UK, it is still very difficult for young people to come out and access information from support services. LGBT pupils and their families will see their existence validated by RSE lessons. Young people will see LGBT people represented alongside non-LGBT people in educational materials. They will hear that in modern Britain, our families come in all shapes and sizes—single parents, adoptive parents, same-sex parents. They will learn, alongside their peers, of the joys of relationships as well as how to avoid the harms. Slowly and surely, we may begin to see some of the differences in outcomes that I mentioned shrink, and—hopefully in the not too distant future—disappear entirely.
I ask the Minister to ensure that teachers have the training and resources needed to deliver high quality LGBT-inclusive education. I urge the Government to hold firm and continue to publicly encourage primary schools to deliver LGBT-inclusive education.
I want to mention some of the myths and the excitement brewing around relationships education in primary schools. The main message in relation to children in primary schools being taught relationships education is that it is up to the parent to teach it; it is the parent’s choice to teach it. Of course it is, and we are looking at the parent doing that teaching every evening and every weekend. However, I campaigned for relationships education because I want to prevent harm to children. We must acknowledge that 90% of child abuse happens within the extended family. With the best will in the world, if a child has an abusive parent or close family member, how exactly are they meant to know that what is happening to them is wrong unless they get that one lesson where a teacher explains to them what abuse is and how to report it? It does not undermine the parents teaching whatever they want to teach in the other hours of the day, but that one lesson could save a child from harm and the lifelong impact of abuse.
Relationships education and sex and relationships education are about safeguarding and preventing abuse. I congratulate the Minister on all his work. He worked extensively to listen to all parties and all sides of the debate, and he has come up with a solution that is genuinely focused on preventing harm to the child, but, more importantly, creating a more tolerant and accepting society, which we all want.
I join hon. Members in congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Daniel Kawczynski) on initiating this debate and on his moving and inspiring speech in which he explained the importance of the subject.
I am pleased to be able to take part in the debate both as an ordinary Member of this House and as chair of the all-party group on global LGBT rights—one of the largest APPGs in this Parliament. Much of our work focuses on the need to ensure that the terrible abuses of LGBT+ people around the world do not happen and on pressing for action to deal with it. In doing that, we have to ensure that we uphold the highest standards in our own country. After the conclusion of equal marriage legislation in England and Wales, which was followed rapidly by Scotland, it was easy to think that the legislative journey was largely complete in most of the United Kingdom and that we could lift our sights and look at what was happening globally. Of course, there is unfinished business in our own country: equal marriage in Northern Ireland, for a start.
There are also continuing concerns about the bullying of young people and discrimination in the workplace, and particular concerns about the lack of role models in certain sports and the need to ensure that young people and their heroes fully reflect the diversity of today’s society. So much work still needs to be done, particularly in schools.
We know from Stonewall’s school survey that there has been an absence of the kind of sex and relationships education that children need to ensure that they can be safe and that they understand that relationships can be different but are just as valid, and that if they themselves are different it is nothing to worry about. All that is immensely important, so I welcome the guidance that the Government issued this year. It was intended to strengthen sex and relationships education guidance in secondary schools and relationships education in primary schools.
However, there are issues that we need to consider. The first has been brought into sharp relief by the protests outside Birmingham schools. I attended a meeting of representatives of Parkfield school in Birmingham that was organised in this House a month or two ago.
I had already been pretty horrified by the film that we all watched on the news of the protests that took place outside the schools. I was even more alarmed when I listened to the evidence of the leaders of the schools and heard about the pressures that they felt they had been put under by the parents. They raised an issue that I want to put to the Minister; I do this in as neutral a way as I can, but I want to understand what the Government’s view is. Although relationships education has effectively been made discretionary for primary schools, the view of the headteachers was that it should not be. They felt that the fact that it was discretionary placed a huge burden of responsibility on them and made them the targets of parental protest.
It would be easier for those leaders if it was very clear to every school what it was required to teach. There might be good reasons why the policy was framed in such a way by the Government, so I am not criticising them, but I want to understand what the rationale is, and I question whether the guidance offered to schools needs to be more explicit or whether more effort needs to be made to ensure that the guidance can be implemented by schools without their fearing any kind of repercussion.
The second issue concerns protests outside schools. My hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham said much that I agreed with, but I did not agree when he said that he respected the right to demonstrate outside schools. I question whether it is ever right to have protests, particularly of the kind that we have seen, outside school gates. I note that the new Secretary of State for Education, my right hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire (Gavin Williamson), said that there was no place for protests outside schools, and I agree—particularly when it comes to primary schools.
When the protests are vociferous and bullying, they must be intimidating to parents, and if they are intimidating to parents, what can their children—their young children—be thinking? Most of us who saw the film and the way in which the parents conducted themselves outside the schools—the manner in which they hectored—found it disturbing. We are, of course, all proud of living in a country where peaceful protest is permitted. The fundamental nature of our democracy allows that, but we have always understood that where protest spills over into harassment, it is not acceptable. It becomes criminal. Good policing relies on the ability to exercise a judgment about where the line has been crossed. There is a real question about whether such protests should be allowed right outside the school gate because they are harassing, so it is important that that issue is looked at.
The third issue I want to raise concerns resources. The new guidance is, as I said, welcome, but a question has been raised by Stonewall, which does excellent work in this and other areas, about whether there is sufficient resource to ensure that schools can receive the training and information that they need to implement the new guidance. The Government’s estimate of the amount of money needed was a sum considerably in excess of the £6 million being made available. Today the Chancellor has made the immensely welcome announcement of a spending uplift for our schools. I wonder whether my right hon. Friend the Minister will be able to say whether he thinks more resource will be available to schools, to ensure that that important new guidance can be implemented effectively.
I was heartened by the statement of the new Education Secretary that headteachers should be
“able to teach about Britain as it is today.”
I think that headteachers, school governors, chairs of governors and teachers need to know that the strongest possible lead is being given by Ministers and this place about the importance of same-sex relationships education. I question the extent to which we should license any suggestion that it is right to prevent teaching that same-sex relationships are valid. We have, I think, got past the point where we believe it is acceptable to sell goods on a discriminatory basis. We have outlawed that.
We have outlawed discriminating against people in the workplace. In many areas of public life now, we are absolutely clear that discrimination on the grounds of sexuality is simply unacceptable, so I question why it might be acceptable to prevent a school from teaching children even of a relatively young age that same-sex relationships are valid. I am not sure that we should be tolerant about those who try to prevent that, if we are going to uphold the values that we hold dear in this country. To allow the importance of that kind of teaching to be swept aside seems to me potentially to be subjecting young children to understanding the wrong thing at a formative age.
We should be resolute about universal values of equality, right from the top, and transmit those values to every school. I am afraid that if there are those who say they do not want that validity to be taught, we have to face that down, just as we do if people say they would like to be able to exclude gay couples from their bed and breakfasts, or to be able not to employ a gay person, or to be able not to offer a service to gay couples. We do not tolerate that any more. Why should we tolerate what I have described? We have to be clear about that precisely because the age in question is such an important one, at which children should be taught about our common values.
My hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham mentioned the Catholic Church. A few months ago, I attended a meeting in the Vatican with my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Crispin Blunt), who is the secretary of the all-party parliamentary group on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights. It was intended to be a meeting with the Pope but in the end it was with the Cardinal Secretary of State. It was to discuss with Baroness Helena Kennedy, the International Bar Council and others the Catholic Church’s stance on homosexuality.
Our proposal was that the Church could and should at least condemn violence against LGBT people. It has immense influence and importance in many regions of the world—particularly south America and southern Africa. It is a shame that there is not a stronger stance on the part of leaders of the Catholic Church against something that, whatever our views on homosexuality and the validity of homosexual relationships, we should all be able to agree on: that violence against anyone is wrong. The Catholic Church should be able to say that, and it would be immensely powerful if it could.
In my work as chair of the new global equality caucus, tying up parliamentarians from across the world to promote LGBT+ rights, I go to many different countries to talk to parliamentarians about those issues. Next week I will be talking to Czech parliamentarians about same-sex marriage. The following week I will be in Tokyo talking to Japanese politicians and others from the Asia-Pacific region about equality issues. We have to be able to hold our heads up high in doing that, and I think for the most part we can, but this is unfinished business in our schools. I am grateful for the robust stance that the Government have taken, but they must see it through with the clearest possible guidance, leadership and support for the teachers who are being oppressed in Birmingham and elsewhere, and with the resources to match.
I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Daniel Kawczynski), who spoke with such passion, honesty and authenticity. In these debates we often talk about what happens to LGBT young people and tell their coming out stories. Sometimes we neglect those who come out a little later in life and their difficulties with the norms that have been built around them, especially if they come from a more overtly heterosexual relationship into discovering who they are and being honest about it. It is harder, and the courage of the hon. Gentleman’s speech today is to his credit. I thank him for tabling the debate.
I am pleased to see that the Minister is still in his place after the reshuffle. He and I have spent much time talking about schools in Plymouth, and I shall try to include some relevant experiences in my remarks today.
It is right that every child in our schools should know about the world—both about the difficulties in the world, and about the things that are amazing in it. They should be taught about families, communities and about right and wrong. That is not exclusively the role of teachers and teaching assistants. Parents, communities, grandparents and friends have a role as well, but we must make sure that every child knows that they have worth and are loved, and that they have rights. They have the right not to be abused and the right to make decisions about what happens to their own bodies. That type of education must be provided universally—to all our children—which is why teaching sex and relationships education is so important.
The Minister and I have spoken about that a few times. I should be grateful if he would talk about how we are to make such provision for children who are home-schooled. In Plymouth there has been a great rise in the number of home-schooled children, and sometimes that is because they have been excluded. I am concerned about the increase in the number of exclusions, in relation to Government policy, and what it will mean for kids, particularly those with special educational needs and disabilities or mental health problems, who are unable to cope and get the support they need in mainstream education, and who are taught outside those environments. How are we making sure that all the home-schooled kids get the understanding that kids in more traditional education settings get?
It is right that we say there is nothing wrong with being LGBT. The right hon. Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert) said that we should not tolerate anyone who discriminates. That is right, but the key to not tolerating things is the recognition that the hate has not gone away. That is important because there is a belief, now that we have legislative barriers to prevent discrimination, that we have crossed the Rubicon and are suddenly in an age of equality with no discrimination. However, those legislative barriers do not mean that hostility to equality—that uncomfortableness based on traditional values, religious views or misapprehensions or misunderstandings—has not gone away; people have just felt unable to voice it.
That is the type of anger that was sometimes articulated in the Brexit debates—people had views that they did not feel they could express. The key to dealing with discrimination in the matters in question is not just to call out hate and bigotry—although we must do that. It is also about education. It is about helping people understand what their neighbours are like and why it matters that we celebrate our diversity in all our communication. That is why education is key and why the debate about SRE in schools has been so powerful. Instead of being a debate about negatives, it has been about positives. It is about saying, “Look what can be achieved if we show every single child that they have value and worth and that diversity matters.” It is something positive.
There are fantastic spokespeople. The right hon. Member for Arundel and South Downs mentioned Stonewall, which has fantastic advocates, but they are not the only ones. There are many more besides. I want in particular to pay tribute to one of my heroes, whom I met recently, Olly Pike, the LGBT author. Writing LGBT children’s books can have a profound effect on young people.
I gave my young nephew the book “And Tango Makes Three”, which I have spoken about in the main Chamber. It is about a pair of gay penguins who adopt a baby penguin, and it is a wonderful, beautiful story that fits well on his little bookshelf. The thing that makes it so perfect is that it makes no difference to my nephew whether they are two boy penguins or a man and a woman—it is just normal. We teach discrimination into children; if we do not do that, they will not have it. I am proud of that, and people such as Olly Pike and the authors of “And Tango Makes Three” make such a big contribution.
When speaking about LGBT education, it is important not to say “LGBT” as if it is one word that covers one type of person. As someone who is proud to be gay, I fit into the “G” bit, which frequently dominates much of the debate because much of it is made up of white men, who tend to dominate lots of discussions—they just do. That frequently means that the “L” voices—the lesbian community—get drowned out and do not have that self-worth. Certainly—this is discrimination even within the gay community—if someone is a “B”, or bisexual, there is still no validity in that. There is still a concern—“Oh, they haven’t made their mind up yet.” We have heard it time and again, including in our LGBT culture, and it reduces the validity of people who are bisexual.
Then we have trans people, and especially young trans people, which is where, to borrow the phrase of the right hon. Member for Arundel and South Downs, we have huge unfinished business to deal with. The stats presented by my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Sarah Champion) show that far too many of our young trans kids are harming themselves. According to figures from Stonewall, 27% of our trans kids have attempted suicide, nine in 10 have thought about it, 72% have attempted self-harm, and four in five say that they have been verbally abused because of who they are. That is not good enough. As a culture, society and country we must set an objective to eliminate that type of abuse, and we can do that only if we put effort into educating not just our children but society as a whole. It is amazing what powerful teachers children can be when teaching friends and family about what they learned in school that day, or teaching others that something is not right.
Pride events are powerful form of teaching. This year, sadly, Plymouth Pride was called off due to high winds, and because the 60 mph gusts could have lifted the rather fabulous stage into the crowd. That was probably a good reason for the organisers to cancel it. The passion generated by such events, however, has refocused people’s dedication to make Plymouth Pride 2020 even bigger, and hopefully it will involve more of our armed forces. Next year is the 20th anniversary of members of the armed forces being able to serve openly as LGBT members. We should celebrate that, and I hope the Government and Defence Ministers will provide a steer. We should be proud of everyone who serves in uniform, whether they are straight, gay, bisexual, lesbian or trans. At a time when our biggest ally, America, is not pursuing such policies towards trans members of its own military, we should be proud to make a distinction and say that trans members are welcome and valued in our military.
Hate is on the rise, and education in our schools is one way of challenging that. I spoke to some young kids about an incident that happened during a match between Northampton Town and Plymouth Argyle at the weekend. A young person was concerned by what they had read in the local paper about homophobic abuse that was shouted by a member of the green army—Plymouth Argyle’s travelling fans—at a Northampton Town home fan. They described the initial chants of, “Who’s the queer in the pink?”, which was aimed at a fan, and shouts of “faggot”. This young person was disturbed by that, because they did not want that hate in their game. That was really powerful.
In the past, as a gay football supporter, I have not always felt that football has done enough to promote equality. However, for young people in Plymouth who are growing up gay, or who recognise that they live in a diverse society, this statement from Plymouth Argyle is immensely warming:
“Plymouth Argyle Football Club is a community-focused, values-driven organisation…It is our legal duty to eliminate discrimination, harassment and victimisation on the basis of age; disability; gender reassignment; pregnancy and maternity; marriage and civil partnership; ethnicity; religion and belief; gender; and sexual orientation.”
How many times have we heard a football club state so clearly the values that we all hold dear? The club should be praised for its quick and speedy response, as should the Argyle fans’ trust, and particularly its chair, Andy Symons, for saying that we will not accept hate in our game. It needs to be kicked out, just as we attempt to kick out racism. The rainbow laces promoted by the Football Association and Stonewall should contribute to kicking out from our game discrimination against LGBT people.
As a football fan, growing up with an entire set of straight models, without a single gay role model in football, affected my idea that I was associated with it. Young people growing up at the moment need role models from different societies. In the 1980s, if someone was out in the media, they were a flamboyant queen; that was how they protected themselves against discrimination and they made it part of their act. They were colourful, loud and brash, which is how they coped with people calling them “queer” or “faggot”. That is great for a small part of the LGBTQ community, but the vast majority of us need a range of role models from different workplaces and walks of life, and that can directly contribute to teaching diversity in our schools.
There is rising hate in society. After the “defend democracy” protest, someone came up to me and asked why I spoke about there not being enough diversity in our politics. I said that in politics there are far too many straight, white, round, middle-aged men. He said, “Why did you mention the straight bit?”, which for me was an interesting learning experience to reflect on. There are a lot of straight, middle-aged, white, round men in politics, both here in Parliament and in local government. There is something uncomfortable in talking about sexuality that I think we need to address, because if we are truly to deal with discrimination, we must empower all young people to feel that they have a value. We must empower parents and communities to recognise that diversity is a good thing, not a threat.
Sometimes the debate about sex and relationships education in our schools has been flipped. We trust a teacher to teach our children maths or history every day, and we do not suddenly think that by teaching history, teachers will turn every child into a murderous dictator from the past, or a bloodthirsty pirate. We think that our children are learning, and that is what age-appropriate SRE means. Children are being taught something age appropriate for who they are, so that they can value it and recognise it in their friends and family and in who they are. Whether those kids are straight, gay, bi or trans, that message is important. We must recognise the rising hate in our society and do our best to invest in education.
I am glad that the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham spoke about conversion therapy, because there are prominent political figures who say words in and around that, and who suggest that science may “yet produce an answer” to homosexuality at some stage. Conversion therapy is cruel and wrong, and it starts from a place that does not value every individual for who they are. We must not accept that in our society, just as Plymouth Argyle said that there is no place for bigotry, racism, discrimination or homophobia. And it is not homo “phobia”—people are not scared of gays; they are just bigots. We must be clear that we must value every person in every walk of life. I am grateful that the Government have listened to cross-party concerns about SRE in schools and done something about it.
What happens when we do not teach SRE? If people are not taught about who they are, where do they find that information? As a young gay man I wanted to know what these feelings were and what was going on in my head. Like the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham, I had conversations with myself—perhaps with a bit less God, but similar conversations none the less. If someone is not taught SRE, where do they get information about healthy relationships and safe sex and who people sleep with? Is it from their mates, parents and teachers? No, it is from pornography, and that creates a skewed impression of what a healthy relationship is and of what someone’s role is in any sexual relationship. It creates a skewed impression about safe sex, and about the propensity of bareback sex, abuse, violence or intimidation, which is not healthy for anyone.
In particular I am concerned about the rise of the instafamous culture that is recognised by our young people—about people who are famous for nothing other than being attractive on Instagram. I have seen, and parents have told me about, the progression from being instafamous to self-publishing pornography. Young people increasingly feel that they must post pictures of themselves without their tops on, or wearing low-cut dresses, or with perfect abs and six packs, or provocative images of other parts.
Rather than be abused by a publishing house elsewhere, some young people use platforms such as OnlyFans as an avenue to transition from being instafamous to publishing their own pornography. In some cases those kids create a business model when they turn 18—being young is attractive, so good on them—but in other cases there is a risk that they will be pushed into doing something that they might not otherwise do. We can get out of that with decent, age-appropriate education in our schools.
Like comrades and colleagues from across the House, I support Stonewall’s call for greater funding for teaching, and the training of our teachers, in this space. We have achieved a lot, but there is still a lot of unfinished business. I will be grateful if the Minister will reflect particularly on how we deal with instafame and the self-publishing of pornography.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Roger, and to follow that inspirational speech from my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Luke Pollard), who spoke with real passion about how hate in society is rising, rather than decreasing. As a fellow football fan, I pay tribute to my football team, Manchester City—I seem to be mentioning them quite a lot this week—for all they do for the LGBT community in Manchester through getting rid of discrimination on the football terraces and promoting proper integration. My hon. Friend gave a really powerful speech.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Daniel Kawczynski) on securing this important debate and on such powerful testimony. I am sure every Member here wishes his researcher and his researcher’s friend well. We should all echo the thanks he gave to the health and wellbeing team here in the House, which helped him and which help other Members through a variety of issues.
Before I get into the bones of the debate, I have to say that, based on the hon. Gentleman’s inspirational speech, I will have to come out here as well: I am a Roman Catholic, which a gay friend of mine teased me about not so long ago. Honestly, we do not need collars to tell us that someone cannot partake in liturgy or sacrament, or believe in solidarity, subsidiarity, the preferential option for the poor or the universal destination of goods if they do not believe in the heart of the faith, which is human dignity. Someone who does not believe in the heart of the faith should not be able to partake in the rest of it.
We have seen much better direction under the new Pontiff, for he asked: “who are we to judge” anybody who is gay? For the record, I am the convenor of the Catholic Legislators’ network here in Westminster. The pontiff went on to say that a homosexual man or woman has the right to a family—to a father, to a mother, to a son—and their parents have the right to a son or daughter, and that no son or daughter should be cast out because of their sexuality. I think he was right to say that.
As a Mancunian, I had the great honour of delaying my departure to down here a few weeks ago, just before the recess, because the Governor of the Bank of England was launching the new £50 note at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester. It has Alan Turing on it, who was obviously professor of mathematics at Manchester University, which is why that location was chosen. He is one of the greatest heroes in this country’s history. He cracked the enigma code at Bletchley, which led to the defeat of Nazi tyranny and ended the war early, saving countless millions of lives. How did we, as a society, go on to treat him—when he was living in Manchester and elsewhere—absolutely appallingly?
The hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham mentioned what we did to gay people in the ’40s and ’50s and way before that. I think we were all proud—I was not a Member at the time—when the then Prime Minister Brown offered a posthumous pardon to Alan Turing. If anybody has a chance and a few minutes to spare, they should read the speech of Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, at the launch of that note. It was a powerful, moving testimony.
There is cross-party consensus on the need for inclusive RSE. This will not do my career any good, but I have to concur with my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Sarah Champion) that the Minister has shown some incredible personal and political leadership on this. That is the last time I will say anything like that around the Minister. I think he has probably felt the love from some of us on the Opposition Benches, including the shadow Secretary of State—my boss—my hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Angela Rayner), because of this. I have said that now, so I will move on. There will be some criticisms later.
Figures from the “School Report 2017” show that 40% of LGBT pupils are never taught anything about the issue at school. We must provide comprehensive support for our teachers. Compulsory RSE was championed by my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham, who is sat behind me, and was included in the Children and Social Work Act 2017 following her amendment. A huge debt of honour goes to her. I have issues with the Minister about how we get things on the curriculum in this country, and I am not sure my hon. Friend’s way is the best, but it is through her personal endeavour and tenaciousness over a long time that we are in the place that we are. It was also reflected in the proposals of the then Secretary of State for Education—the right hon. Member for Putney (Justine Greening), who also worked very well on this—to make elements of personal, social, health and economic education mandatory in schools.
High-quality RSE will help to create safe communities—that is essentially what we are saying. Inadequate RSE leaves pupils vulnerable, particularly to abuse. I take up what the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham said about the Church and the priests. A famous Catholic theologian, Karl Rahner, said that power is a gift from God. Abuse of minors has absolutely nothing to do with homosexuality, as some people have said. It is an abuse of power. There are two types of power in our land—relational and coercive. That was all about coercive power. That point needs making strenuously.
The Government’s draft guidance clearly sets out the rights of parents and carers to withdraw children from sex education, but not relationships education. It also notes the role of parents in the development of their children’s understanding of relationships. For primary schools, the draft guidance states that headteachers will automatically grant a request to withdraw a pupil from any sex education, other than when in parts of the science curriculum. In secondary schools, parents will still have a right to request withdrawal from some or all sex education delivered as part of statutory RSE, which will be granted in all but exceptional circumstances. This will apply up until three terms before the child turns 16, at which point the child would be able to opt into sex education if they so chose.
This might seem like a small point, but I never got clarification on it— [Interruption.] Sorry; I was confused by the Minister. Will parents be told if their child decides to have that education in those last terms?
Order. The Minister’s intervention was to indicate that we are running out of time.
Okay. I taught RSE to year 5 in primary school many years, and we had stringent policies. People withdrawing their children would be automatically put on our safeguarding alerts. We need to think about that really seriously.
There is a danger that, without a clear steer from Government, there will be big variations between schools. We need resources going into those schools. This new framework has to be adequately funded, and it is on that that we will hold the Minister’s feet to the fire, now that he has survived another regime change and is one of the longest-serving Ministers ever. I made a Bee Gees joke yesterday; I will not repeat it today.
Children must know their rights if they are to exercise them throughout their lives. Relationships and sex education is effective when it sits as part of a whole-school approach, is embedded across the curriculum and is delivered by well trained staff. The Government must now ensure that schools have the resources to deliver that.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Roger. Let me start by welcoming my hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Daniel Kawczynski) and congratulating him on a very passionate and moving speech. We are all very grateful to him for organising and securing the debate and for the way he introduced it today. We are also grateful for the very moving and powerful speeches from the hon. Member for Rotherham (Sarah Champion), my right hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert) and the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Luke Pollard).
My hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham said that he was the first Conservative MP, the only Conservative MP, to have been born in a communist country—it was in Poland, in 1972. Let us hope that the forthcoming general election does not lead to a Corbyn-led Labour Government lest in 20 years’ time we have many more MPs who have been born in a communist country.
My hon. Friend asked about conversion therapy. He is right to point out that in the Government’s 2018 “LGBT Action Plan”, we committed to bringing forward proposals to end the unacceptable and abusive practice of conversion therapy in the UK. We are currently engaging with stakeholders and will set out further steps in due course, but my hon. Friend can rest assured that we take that issue very seriously and will be taking action.
Schools play a critical role in promoting integration and widening opportunities for all communities, including LGBT young people. Many schools already do that successfully, creating inclusive environments in which children are able to learn the values that underpin our society. Through education, we can ensure that the next generation learns about those values of fairness, tolerance and respect.
The Government are clear that every pupil, regardless of their sexuality, deserves the opportunity to progress and fulfil their potential and to do so in an environment free from prejudice and discrimination. I am personally committed and determined to stop, for example, the use of the word “gay” as a pejorative term in our schools, as that can often cause anxiety to LGBT pupils—in fact, to all pupils. The Department for Education is providing more than £2.8 million of funding, between September 2016 and March 2020, to four anti-bullying organisations to support schools to tackle bullying effectively. The Government Equalities Office is also providing £3 million, between 2016 and 2019, to help to prevent and respond to homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying, and has invested a further £1 million to extend that funding to March of next year.
Respect for all is fundamental to the reforms that we have made to the curriculum. We are making relationships and health education compulsory in all primary schools and relationships, sex and health education compulsory in all secondary schools. We are encouraging as many schools as possible to start teaching the new subjects from September 2019; they will be required to do so from September 2020. I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Rotherham for the huge part that she played in campaigning for relationships education and in helping the Government to develop and then implement their policy so successfully.
Let us remember what these subjects actually address and why their introduction gained the overwhelming support of the House. At the heart of relationships and health education in primary schools is a focus on putting in place the key building blocks of healthy, respectful relationships, focusing on family and friendships, in all contexts, including online. At secondary level, teaching will build on the knowledge acquired at primary level and further develop pupils’ understanding of health, with an increased focus on risk areas such as drugs and alcohol, as well as introducing knowledge about intimate relationships and sex.
These subjects also represent a significant step forward in terms of equality by ensuring that young LGBT people will receive teaching relevant to their lives, preparing them for the adult world and supporting them to form positive, healthy, nurturing relationships. In the statutory guidance, we are clear that all pupils should receive during their school years teaching on LGBT relationships. Secondary schools should include LGBT content in their teaching, and primary schools are strongly encouraged and enabled, when teaching about different types of families, to include families with same-sex parents. Of course, the reality of that will be reflected at the school gates of many primary schools, with some children being dropped off and picked up by two mums or two dads. It is right that pupils understand that these families in which their classmates are growing up are characterised by love and care, just like any other family, and are equally deserving of respect.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs asked about the discretion that we have given primary schools for teaching about LGBT. We think that it is right for schools to decide their curriculum, based on the needs of their particular cohort of pupils. We have been clear that, for the majority of primary schools, teaching about LGBT people and relationships will be age-appropriate for their pupils and we strongly encourage them to do that. But we have been at pains to ensure that this groundbreaking policy carries as much support as possible and achieves a broad consensus. That has been generally achieved.
We have applied the requirement to teach RSE not only to the schools in the state sector; we have applied that requirement also to schools in the independent sector, including independent orthodox faith schools. The law applies to those schools as well, and we have managed to achieve consensus with many of the religious organisations. That is why we have had that discretion in relation to teaching.
The hon. Member for Rotherham asked about training material to enable teachers to teach RSE, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs raised the same issue. The Department is committed to supporting schools to deliver high-quality teaching of relationships education. To support schools, we are investing up to £6 million, in this financial year, for the Department to develop a programme of support for schools. The funding will not be distributed to schools; it is about preparing the materials.
Further funding, beyond the next financial year, is, of course, a matter for the spending review that has just been announced. The programme of support will focus on tools that improve schools’ practice, such as the implementation guide that my right hon. Friend referred to, easy access to high-quality resources and support for staff training. The Department is currently working with schools and teachers to develop a programme of support suited to their needs. To support that, we are also setting up a new working group, and it will provide insight into how the guidance is working in practice. That is chaired by Ian Bauckham CBE, who is our education adviser and a senior headteacher.
We are very clear that parents from all faiths and none do not want their children to feel bullied or excluded at school or to feel that their family is not equally valued. Through our call for evidence and the consultation on the content for these subjects, there was an absolute consensus that all pupils should be taught, as a minimum, about respect for themselves and for others.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham for his passionate speech. I hope we can all agree that children are never too young to learn about love, kindness, tolerance, difference, compassion and empathy, as part of creating a cohesive school community and in building a tolerant society. We need to do all we can to loosen the knot in the hearts of LGBT young people with relationships lessons and with role models, such as some of the hon. Members who have spoken in this important debate with such eloquence, passion and honesty.
I thank the hon. Members for Rotherham (Sarah Champion) and for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Luke Pollard) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert), who all spoke so eloquently and with such great passion. I must admit that my interaction with the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport has been relatively limited since he joined the House. I will certainly look forward to getting to know him better and working together in the coming years on promoting LGBT rights across our country.
We did not see as many Members as expected attending this debate because of the Brexit debate in the main Chamber, but I am sure that a lot of young people around the country have been listening to what we have had to say today and have heard how we support them being supported over LGBT issues in schools.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs mentioned that he felt that parents protesting outside schools on these sorts of issues was something that the Government ought to be looking at. I could not agree with him more. I was trying to be a little bit more circumspect in my comments, but he has given me the courage and conviction to think about this issue more and I would strongly reiterate to the Minister the sentiment that has been conveyed.
Question put and agreed to.
That this House has considered teaching on LGBT community and acceptance in schools.