House Of Lords
Tuesday, 14th June, 1977
Reassembling after the Whitsun Recess, the House met at half-past two of the clock: The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.
Prayers—Read by the Lord Bishop of Birmingham.
The Earl of Gosford—Sat first in Parliament after the death of his father.
Southern Africa: Maputo Conference
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
The Question was as follows:
To ask Her Majesty's Government what conclusions were reached at the United Nations conference in Mozambique on the situation in Southern Africa and what contribution the British delegation made to the discussions.
My Lords, I have arranged to have placed in the Library of the House a copy of the speech delivered by my honourable friend the joint Minister of State to the Maputo conference on 17th May. This sets out clearly the Government's policy on Rhodesia and Namibia. The conclusions of the conference are contained in the final conference report, and I shall arrange for copies of this to be put in the Library of the House as soon as we receive them.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Is it not the case that one of the decisions taken was that economic pressure on Rhodesia should be intensified? Furthermore, in view of the fact that there now exists the last chance of a negotiated peace, is it not desirable that, in order to balance military intervention from other sources, there should be increased economic pressure from our country, including the banning of all oil supplies? In addition to the investigation which is being made into British companies, would the Minister approach the American Government with a view to stopping the supply of oil from the multinational companies there?
My Lords, the question of economic sanctions is, of course, under constant review by this country in concert with its partners in the United Nations, and it was further considered at this particular conference. I welcome very much what my noble friend has said about the need for a negotiated peace; indeed, we sent my honourable friend to this conference once more to make it clear that it is the view of the British Government that a fair and durable solution of the problems of Southern Africa can be achieved only through negotiation and not by armed struggle. As to the point that my noble friend made about oil, I think that we should leave it where it is now; that is, under investigation by an official appointed by Her Majesty's Government. I note what my noble friend has said about keeping in touch with the United States on this matter.
My Lords, will my noble friend agree with those of us at the Maputo conference who came clearly to the conclusion that it is the refusal of the South African Government to carry out their international obligations which is the main source of the continuing dangers in Southern Africa? Would he agree that this country, which has provided the main source of financial support for the South African Government, has a clear obligation to insist that the South African Government should meet their international obligations in respect of Rhodesia and Namibia?
My Lords, I would agree with my noble friend that it is necessary for this Government now and in the future, as in the past, to exert every possible pressure and persuasion on the South African Government to play their full part in the resolution of these problems. I entirely agree with him; the South African Government have a major role to play in creating the situation in which a peaceful solution of the Rhodesian and the Namibian (the South West African) position can be achieved.
My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that most people in your Lordships' House do not believe that the right way to solve the problems of Southern Africa is by force? Does he agree that there should be much more emphasis on that belief in the Statements made by Her Majesty's Government?
My Lords, I do not think that I quite understood what the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, was saying. I am sure that he did not mean to suggest that at any time Her Majesty's Government's spokesmen in this House or in the other place, or in fact anywhere, have extolled the use of force in settling these very difficult problems. On the contrary, we have repeatedly said—I have just said it myself—that we do not see a lasting and fair solution for these problems emanating from the use of what is called armed struggle. Rather we have worked, and are still working, very hard indeed for a negotiated peace, a negotiated solution, both in Rhodesia and in South West Africa.
My Lords, I should like to ask the Minister whether our representative at the conference mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, took the opportunity of once again condemning raids by any party involving murder and destruction of property in another country's territory? Will our representative express understanding regarding the situation when Rhodesian forces enter another territory in order to destroy the centres of that destruction?
My Lords, this is, of course, two-way traffic, and Her Majesty's Government have repeatedly said that they do not agree with what is called hot pursuit into another country. This applies both to Rhodesian forces and to those with whom they are in conflict. I do not see that any other basis for Her Majesty's Government's attitude is possible. I cannot tell whether or not my noble friend said at the conference precisely what the noble Lord stated, but I am quite sure that on every possible occasion in Maputo he, and representatives of this Government, have taken every opportunity of making it absolutely clear that we do not condone what is called the armed struggle. We may understand the reasons for it, but never condone it.
My Lords, did this conference reach any conclusions on the situation in Mozambique, which from all accounts is absolutely chaotic?
My Lords, I have no doubt that the discussions at this conference ranged all over Southern Africa. Whether they dealt specifically with the internal situation in Mozambique, I am in no position to say.
Hyde Park: Cyclists
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
The Question was as follows:
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the experiment to allow cyclists to use certain footpaths in Hyde Park has interfered with pedestrians and whether this relaxation of regulations has increased the number of cyclists using footpaths which are forbidden to them.
My Lords, there is nothing to suggest that the experimental cycling route along the Broad Walk has seriously inconvenienced pedestrians or increased illegal cycling. I propose now to make the Broad Walk a permanent cycle route, and also to allow cycling along the path on the North side of Rotten Row. I hope this will encourage cyclists to keep to the authorised routes.
My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Baroness for her Answer. There are two further questions I should like to ask her, for information. In Hyde Park many of the signs at the beginning of paths which said "No cyclists" have, in the past few years, been destroyed. Would it not be helpful to have those signs replaced? Secondly, are there any more pedestrian footpaths which are not now open to cyclists but which it is intended should be opened?
My Lords, so far as the signs are concerned, I am having this matter looked into urgently and, where there is need for replacement or, indeed, for repair, this will be done. On the second point, although we had a great deal of pressure from cyclists to make diagonal paths available for cycling, we are not in fact doing so because of the danger and inconvenience to pedestrians and other park users.
My Lords, while it is all very welcome that the noble Baroness has taken this course, will she keep her mind open about the rights and facilities available to cyclists in the Royal Parks and elsewhere, since they are a persecuted and perfectly harmless minority?
My Lords, I always try to keep my mind open. On this occasion, I would entirely agree with the noble and learned Lord. There has been a tremendous increase in cycling and in the number of cyclists, and what we are trying to do in the parks is to give them an opportunity but, at the same time, to respect the convenience and the amenities of everybody else.
Disabled Persons: Rate Relief
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
The Question was as follows:
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have now decided how to amend the relevant legislation to provide for reduced rating assessments for dwellings adapted for equipment needed by severely disabled persons.
My Lords, I am indeed glad to be able to inform the House that the Government have decided the general lines on which legislation on rate relief for the disabled ought to be amended. Statements have just been made in written replies to Questions in the other place by my right honourable friends the Minister for Housing and Construction and the Secretary of State for Scotland. These statements refer to the present uncertain state of the law both sides of the Border, and to the intention of introducing legislation at an early opportunity to improve the situation. The amending legislation would define more clearly the circumstances in which entitlement to relief will arise, and the relief would be given by way of a deduction from the rate bill instead of, as of now, by a deduction from the rateable value. The statements add that the organisations representing local authorities and those concerned with the problems of the disabled will be consulted shortly on the Government's proposals.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for what at last appears to be a very welcome statement on this subject. Is the noble Baroness aware that it was noble and learned Lords in this House, sitting in their judicial capacity, who first pronounced that the existing legislation was "ambiguous, labyrinthine and unsatisfactory"? And is she aware that the statements to which she has referred, which will no doubt be read tomorrow by those concerned, will be regarded by all who are involved with the severely disabled as being a significant step forward, because they will bring relief to our hard-pressed hospitals, and also to our health services, by allowing more of the disabled to live outside those institutions?
Yes, my Lords, and I am delighted that we are at last going to be able to see our way, we hope, through this labyrinthine jungle, and before long will have the proper legislation on the Statute Book.
School Examination Steering Committee
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
The Question was as follows:
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the balance in the Steering Committee, appointed by the Secretary of State for Education and Science to study the question of a common system of examining at 16 plus, is such that the interests of the examining boards are equally represented.
My Lords, the members of this Committee were appointed in a personal capacity rather than as representatives of particular interests. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science is satisfied, however, that the membership of the Committee is not biased towards the interests of any one group of examining boards.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for the information which she has given me, that the members of this Committee are serving in their personal capacities, and I am sure that they will endeavour to do this. But are the Government not aware that the Schools Council's proposals, which would have marked a major change in the examination system, were received with criticism on educational, administrative and financial grounds by the GCE boards but not with the same criticisms by the CSE boards? The question I must therefore now ask the noble Baroness is this: Can the Government say how many members of this Steering Committee are associated with the policy-making committees of the examination boards?
My Lords, there is a Mr. Cooke, who is a member of the Schools Council and is the headmaster of the Highfield Comprehensive School at Gateshead, who is a member of the Committee at this moment. The only other members of the Committee with any connection with a GCE board are Miss Wood, who was a member of the Associated Examining Board about five years ago, and Mr. Mumford, who has only a slight connection with the Cambridge board through informal membership of a further education advisory committee. Mr. Williams also served for about seven years with the West Midlands CSE board, but he ended his connection with that board some four years ago.
My Lords, is the noble Baroness not aware that her reply reveals that, so far as the examination boards are concerned, there is an imbalance on this Steering Committee because in fact the only relevant name which the noble Baroness read out is the one who is a member of one of the CSE boards? Are the Government also aware that there are, of course, representatives of the Schools Council, which is responsible for producing proposals which the Secretary of State herself has referred to as giving rise to "major uncertainties"? Can the Government therefore explain how this Steering Committee will tackle their task with a totally fresh mind?
My Lords, I hope that the Steering Committee will tackle their task with a totally fresh mind and with a completely unbiased one. The views of the examining boards are going to be taken into account by the Steering Committee because they have already indicated to those boards that they would like board representatives to join a group to investigate the costs of examining at 16-plus. I would expect the Committee to hold consultations with the boards on a broad range of issues before submitting a report to my right honourable friend. The question of some kind of common system is an important and complex one and one on which it is essential that we get the right answer. I therefore cannot hold out any hope that there will be a quick or early report from the Committee. It may be some time before they report their findings to my right honourable friend, and I hope that when that happens we will have the right answers.
My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that when the Schools Council discussed this matter there were only two dissenting votes against the advice offered to the Secretary of State? In the constitution of this Committee, knowing that the majority of those involved in the Committee are already committed to a point of view, is it not a reality that the advice they are likely to offer is predetermined?
My Lords, I do not accept that. The Schools Council made their proposals for replacing the Certificate of Secondary Education and the General Certificate of Education O level by a common system of examining last summer. My right honourable friend responded in a letter to the chairman of the Council on 26th October and that letter was published. She took the view that the proposals gave rise to a number of important educational, administrative and financial uncertainties. She said that she would not be prepared to take a decision until they had been further studied. Therefore, the Steering Committee was established and are now studying those proposals.
My Lords, would not my noble friend agree that the purpose of examinations at this level is to ensure that, in the interests of fairness, there is a uniform method carried out throughout the whole country? Would she not also agree that it is rather surprising to have it suggested that there are some special interests of examining boards? Surely no examining board ought to have any other interest than that of fair examining.
My Lords, my noble friend is perfectly right. The chairman will be meeting representatives from each of the 14 CSE and the eight GCE boards on 16th June and will discuss with them informally the relationship between the Steering Committee and the boards.
My Lords, while not in any way seeking to quarrel with the test of fairness which has been put forward, may I ask whether the noble Baroness realises that what many of us—and most parents—are deeply concerned about in examinations is the maintenance of adequate standards in education.
My Lords, we agree with that. Surely one of the outcomes of this Committee will be that we shall have a fair and equitable examination system.
My Lords, would the noble Baroness perhaps be concerned to inform the Secretary of State that there is, on the part of many people who know something about examinations, as well as on the part of Schools Council, a certain concern that those bodies who are the most expert in the techniques and objectives of examinations have not a sufficiently loud voice in deciding these very important issues now under discussion?
My Lords, I am sure that consultations by the Steering Committee will be held with all kinds of people and bodies. I will ensure that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State is aware of the views expressed by the noble Lord.
My Lords, can my noble friend tell me why "oldies" are continually denigrating the children and youth of today on their abilities? Despite juvenile deliquency and the inadequacies of children, is she not aware—and she has only to look at the Listener in the period of about 1933—of the fact that more children are today taking City and Guilds certificates and going to universities than ever in the history of Britain; and that the standard of ability is higher today technically than it has ever been with our children?
My Lords, I would not disagree with one word that my noble friend has said.
My Lords, with the leave of the House, at a convenient moment after 3.30 p.m. my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor will repeat a Statement on devolution.
Sex Ual Offences (Amendment) Bill Hl
My Lords, I make no apology for once again raising the subject of sexual practices between consenting male adults. It will be almost ten years in July since the 1967 Sexual Offences Act received the Royal Assent. Since then, the legal age of majority has been lowered to 18 by the Family Law Reform Act 1969; yet the age of consent for consent for homosexual acts in private has remained at 21. However, after reviewing the obvious factors involved in fixing an age of consent, the Wolfenden Committee proposed 21 because,
So, on the Wolfenden Committee's own criterion, the age ought now to be 18. It is interesting that the Criminal Law Revision Committee was first asked by the then Home Secretary, Mr. Roy Jenkins, to review the whole of the law relating to sexual offences at the precise time that the 1967 Act became law. That was 10 years ago, and the Committee are now getting down to their task in earnest and a special Policy Advisory Committee is currently studying the age of consent both heterosexual and homosexual. No doubt we shall be told to await the recommendations before proposing legislation but, as many bodies and individuals have been submitting their views to the Policy Advisory Committee, this would seem to be an opportune time to test the views of the House. There has been a wide range of suggestions: from the Festival of Light proposal that the homosexual age of consent should be raised to 24, at one extreme, to the proposition that ages of consent should be abolished altogether as a legal concept—with which I, naturally, do not agree. Today, I hope to gain your Lordships' support on the same grounds as I gained it in 1967. It may be that you think that we live in an over-permissive age and that things have gone too far. Your Lordships may well ask yourselves when it will ever end. So far as I am concerned, the buck stops here. For myself, I shall never be a party to condoning pederastic practices. I promise your Lordships that I can never be a party to lowering the permitted age to one day below 18. I hope that your Lordships will accept my solemn word. The idea, frankly, appals me. If any of your Lordships were to propose such a thing. I should speak and vote against it. So far I have spoken, and strongly, about what I will not support. What I do support—and support strongly—is based on reason and nothing else. A man can marry at 16 and a man can vote at 18. What is more important than marriage? What is a greater responsibility than playing one's part in the community by voting? By contrast, what counts less than indulging in major or minor indecencies? Your Lordships may be disgusted at the idea—most men are—but there are minorities and they too have a right to be considered. When your Lordships gave your approval to the Sexual Offences Bill you thought of such evil things as blackmail. That used to be called assassination of the soul. It still happens. We experienced the greatest moral anxieties before your Lordships officially saw the business through the House. I should like to think we shall not have the same trouble all over again, although there is a tendency at the moment to go back on what we previously thought. There is such a thing as justice and compassion. Which of your Lordships would wish to be homosexual? Which of you would not be frightened of blackmail? I know that most men are not usually frightened of such threats, but the danger exists. I tend to believe that it will always exist until human nature changes. So long as there remain homosexuals, they will remain a matter of pity. As I said in the very first debate, they are the men with a limp. Every man—or almost every man—goes through a homosexual stage; it is a short stage, in most cases quickly overcome. However, there are homosexuals who remain homosexuals all their lives, but not many. It is not so much them about whom I am thinking, though as I said at the beginning of my speech, minorities as well as majorities have to be cared for. Why have I selected the age of 18, my Lords? It is a purely arbitrary age. First, because to go lower would, to my way of thinking, be dangerous. Secondly, it is the age of responsibility, just as a man can die at 17. Anyway, any age one chooses is arbitrary. There is no right or wrong. One cannot fix an ultimate age; the only thing is to play it safe. To me 17 would be dangerous, and 16 bordering on pederasty. In Holland they have accepted the age of 16. I could not and would not go along with that; I believe that it would be wrong. Moreover, I believe that it would not be acceptable to this country as a whole, though I am told that there are men who would be prepared to take the risk. I ask your Lordships to give me your trust and support. I cannot say with certainty that 10 years ago I or the House did right. When I am asked to give my opinion of what we did then, I think there are two views: either we did more wrong than even Socrates is supposed to have done, or we removed fear from the hearts of many—one man in 20 being homosexual. I feel proud—as I believe the House does—of having done this. It is with the same purpose that I ask the House this afternoon to give this Bill a Second Reading. I beg to move."All things considered, the legal age of contractual responsibility seemed to us to afford the best criterion for the definition of adulthood in this respect".
Moved, That the Bill be now read 2ª.—( The Earl of Arran.)
rose to move an Amendment to the Motion for Second Reading, to leave out all the words after ("That") and insert ("in view of the growth in activities of groups and individuals exploiting male prostitution and its attendant corruption of youth, debasement of morals and spread of veneral disease, this House declines to give the Bill a Second Reading.") The noble Earl said: My Lords, I beg to move the Amendment which stands in my name on the Order Paper. In doing so, I am going to allow myself only one generalisation before turning to the wording of my Amendment, which I shall defend in detail, word by word. I shall not thereafter link what I have to say to the pros and cons of any particular age of consent. I will leave that to emerge in the course of the debate. If there is anything to be said thereafter, I shall say it in reply on winding up. My immediate concern is to be as brief as possible.
The generality is this. Given any disability whatever, one has the alternatives of either making the best or making the worst of the situation in which one finds oneself. Homosexuals have this choice. It is as open to them as to anyone else. Those who make the best of their situation are the responsible ones who would no more molest little boys than a responsible heterosexual would molest little girls, or go down the streets soliciting strangers, or reject stabilised relationships for promiscuity. The law does not concern itself with them and nor do I.
Those who make the worst of this situation, the sick ones, suffer from a psychological syndrome whose symptoms are the following: first of all exhibitionism; secondly, promiscuity; thirdly, proselytising; fourthly, boasting of homosexual's achievements as if they were due to and not in spite of their inversion. A particularly nasty sub-group of the sick is the sado-masochistic one represented currently by the leather men and the skinheads.
So far as women are concerned, they seem mostly responsible types. The sick are conspicuously absent and that is why lesbianism is not a social problem. What follows is exclusively concerned with male homosexuality. The sick group wants to be placed on an equality with the responsible group without accepting the obligations of responsible behaviour. It is they who are kicking up the shindy about the age of consent. It is they about whom I am talking. It is they who ought not to be enfranchised of our undergraduate population.
Now to the wording of my Amendment. It speaks of growth, "growth in activities of groups and individuals". It accuses them of exploiting male prostitution. It refers to the corruption of youth and the degradation of morals in consequence. Lastly, it attributes the spread of venereal disease to male homosexual promiscuity by implication. I hope to establish every one of these charges to your Lordships' satisfaction.
The groups are of two kinds: social and pressure groups on the one hand; and, on the other hand, publishing groups. The social and pressure groups are currently: the Campaign for Homosexual Equality, sometimes abbreviated to CHE; the Gay Liberation Front; the Scottish Minorities Group; the Union for Sexual Freedom in Ireland; and Gay International. These movements hold meetings and conferences; they sponsor the production of gay tokens which enable homosexuals to recognise one another. They organise dances. A gay jubilee dance included the crowning of a silver queen. A queen in this context is, of course, a male homosexual. Another dance specified "dress: feathers". That was about the only funny note I struck in the course of my homework. They organise benefits to raise funds for the publishing groups if the latter run into legal trouble, as at present when Gay News is being sued by Mrs. Whitehouse. They ceaselessly demand recognition of the false doctrine that homosexuality is a valid alternative to heterosexuality.
Ten years ago no such groups existed. There is the proof of growth. The publishing groups are first, Gay News, on the one hand; on the other hand, there are no fewer than 17 assorted monthly "glossies" priced at around £1·50, each specialising in some form of "kinkiness"—sado-masochism or white preference for coloured partners, and so on. Gay News, at 25p, consists of a bi-monthly issue of 36 pages of news, feature articles and advertisements with a four-page insert of personal advertisements. It claims to be the largest homosexual newspaper in Europe. A companion publication, Gay News International, is announced for launching this month.
Common to all these publications are advertisements, which of course pay for the cost of production. There are advertisements for gay bars, hotels, motels, restaurants, houses of assignation (many of them sauna baths), and they are all earmarked as "gay". There are advertisements for gay bookshops and second-hand gay books and, lastly, gay guides to gay haunts, together with the telephone numbers of gay switchboards in our largest cities, where the visiting gay boys can get clued up as to what is going on and where to go. Typical feature articles in Gay News are entitled: How do you pick up someone you fancy? How do you solicit in a train?; How to procure models—that is, prostitutes; Techniques of seducing boys; So you want to know how to do it—illustrated with line drawings; Should the Campaign for Homosexual Equality continue its association with the political Left?
Gay News was established four or five years ago. Not a bad growth rate, my Lords. It is impossible to sort out the ramifications of the social group and the publishing group. Each supports the other in its own way. I have only to link one of them to prostitution and the other is automatically involved as an accessory. The linkage is easily established by studying the advertising matter and deciphering its thinly-veiled codes with the aid of a glossary of slang which is sold in gay bookshops: The Queen's Vernacular—and may I again assure your Lordships that this has nothing to do with the Sovereign— a gay lexicon, Everyman's Directory to the Gay Underworld. That is what they call it: it is their word, not mine. Why should we enfranchise that underworld to the undergraduate age groups? If I emphasise undergraduates it is only because, as Chancellor of a university, they are the ones in which I have a personal interest. From it I extract only one entry for my purpose, which I will quote:
"Model: male prostitute of the call boy variety who uses modelling as a front".
Turning to Gay News of 19th May, I find an advertisement on page 2 reading:
"Models, men: you could earn £100 a week at least after taking our fashion and television course in modelling".
That is a procuring advertisement. I am convinced that the publication of much of this advertising matter is in breach of the
law and I hope that in commenting on behalf of Her Majesty's Government later the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, will be able to tell the House whether he agrees with what I have said and, if so, why these publications are not prosecuted.
Time does not permit my taking your Lordships through all the homework I have done in breaking these thinly-coded advertisements. The effect of one after the other is cumulative and I can only convey to your Lordships my own sense of conviction that when it comes to procuring, pimping, soliciting and prostitution, Gay News is in it up to the neck through its advertisement revenues, thereby involving the social group willy-nilly in its own degradation. Many of the advertisements solicit youths of 21 plus. Do your Lordships doubt that if this Bill became law this solicitation would be amended to 18 plus? Can solicitation be other than corrupting? Can anything be more degrading than to get so used to what is corrupting that you cannot any longer see it as such? If you have doubts about that, my Lords, listen to what other noble Lords, who speak for the Scouts, the Boys' Brigade and youth clubs will tell us later in the debate.
Lastly, I come to venereal disease. I am very glad to see the name of my noble friend Lord Stamp on the list of speakers because, as a doctor, he can speak with authority where I cannot. I shall leave him to make this part of my case, with one exception, by way of reporting to your Lordships what a consultant venereologist told me of his experience in cross-examining his patients. "Where did you pick it up?" is his first question after diagnosis. The commonest answer is, "In a sauna bath". The next question is, "Do you know the name of the man who infected you?" and the stereotyped answer is, "You never exchange names, neither first nor second names, in a sauna bath". What people, my Lords! An hour's anonymous grinding and home you go with the pox.
On the subject of anonymity, The Queen's Vernacular—the glossary of gay slang—refers to it as follows, under the heading "Glory Hole":
"a hole drilled or carved between the partitions of two toilet stalls in a men's room and used for sex … Glory holes are attractive to those who wish anonymity mixed with the sensation of danger."
My Lords, these are very sick folk indeed. They may deserve our compassion but they do not need access to our undergraduate age group. This subject is a sick subject, and by receiving the support of the sick the Bill becomes a sick Bill. It should not be given the courtesy of a Second Reading. I beg to move my Amendment.
Moved, as an Amendment to the Motion for Second Reading, to leave out all the words after ("That") and insert ("in view of the growth in activities of groups and individuals exploiting male prostitution and its attendant corruption of youth, debasement of morals and spread of venereal disease, this House declines to give the Bill a Second Reading.")—( The Earl of Halsbury.)
My Lords, this is a subject which is not a political one in the Party sense and it has traditionally been one upon which there have been free votes. Any views which I express in the course of the few remarks I shall make are personal.I understand, I think, the motive of the noble Earl, Lord Arran, in introducing this Bill. I think he is actuated by feelings of tolerance and also by a sense of logic: that is what appeared to flow from his opening speech. At the time when the 1967 Act went through, the age of majority in this country was 21, and it has since been reduced, together with the age for voting. Superficially, it seems logical to bring the 1967 Act up to date, but I shall seek to prove to your Lordships that there is a great deal more involved in this legislation than the age of majority. I remember well the public debate preceding the 1967 Act. I was a Member of another place at the time and I remember the discussions on that Bill, which related to England and Wales. One of the principal arguments as I remember it—an argument that won the acceptance of the majority of the elected representatives then in Parliament—was this: a proportion of all men are born with homosexual tendencies. It may be a small proportion; the statistics give an indication. One may be sorry for them; they cannot help it, and it is their nature. It has been said that their nature cannot be changed, but I suspect that the medical profession is able to do almost anything with hormones and other drugs and medicines nowadays. However, it would be unthinkable that anything of this kind should be compulsory, and also it would be inhumane. Provided that homosexuals by nature were carrying out their acts in private, provided they were old enough to know that they were homosexuals and provided they were causing no offence or harm to others, it was thought that in a civilised society that should no longer be a criminal offence. That is a summary of what I understood the arguments to be during the debates in 1967, but it was my clear impression at that time, even though the Wolfenden Commission had related the age of 21 to the age of majority, that the age was chosen largely because by that age it was thought a person should definitely know that he was not naturally heterosexual and could not be attracted by the opposite sex. Also—and I think that this is most important—it was to avoid the risk that one of the two persons involved, being a younger person who was not homosexual by nature, would be drawn into the situation by the other. If both persons were 21 or over, then by that time they ought to know their own nature and it was likely that both would be homosexual by nature. That Act of 1967 was a measure of tolerance towards a minority in the Community. But, as I understood it, it also protected younger men, who were not basically homosexual, from being unnecessarily drawn into that fraternity. Such an event could be an upheaval in their lives and could upset their characters and their whole lives, if they would otherwise have been normal. I think that what I have been saying reminds us that the age of 21 in the 1967 Act had a greater significance than the noble Earl has given it in his speech today. There was a significance assigned to it related to the fact that, by that age, people should know their own nature. rather than to the age of majority, now 18. I submit that we must consider the situation where an older man, a homosexual, is attracted to a younger man who is not a homosexual. The younger man, who is under 21, may admire the older one and respect him for his attributes—intellect, good fellowship, achievements in his occupation or for some other reason. He may be led into practices in which he would never otherwise have been involved. I am sure that most of us would wish to prevent that kind of situation from occurring and, certainly, that was in the minds of those in both Houses in 1967, especially of course in terms of teenagers and young boys. At the same time, 10 years ago Parliament was tolerant about the genuine homosexual minority, provided that no harm or offence was caused to others. That brings me to a letter which the noble Earl, Lord Arran, circulated to a number of Peers, and I was included in the circulation. He repeated some of it in his speech today, and it sought to give the reasons why he was introducing this Bill. He told us that he himself would certainly never be a party to the age being reduced any lower than 18, and he repeated that today. But he stated in his letter:
He used the word "maturity", but the age of maturity is not 18. I suspect that what he meant was the age of majority, but he said "the age of maturity". He may not intend to reduce the age lower than 18; it may be a Freudian slip. But once the age of maturity is mentioned, then there will be people who want to come down to that age, which is 13 or 14, or to the age of consent. So that that would be the next likely demand, if the use of the word "maturity" in his letter was not a slip. I would now refer to the allusion to the age of dying for one's country. There are servicemen aged 16 and 17. In the Army, junior soldiers join at the age of 16½, and they are eligible to be sent on active service when they are 17½. Again, if that reference means anything at all, it is an invitation to those who are wanting to go further in the direction of lowering the age, to go down to 17 or 16. But I may add that that part of his argument is wholly irrelevant, because subsection (5) of Section 1 of the 1967 Act exempts the Armed Forces. I will read that subsection which states:"The age of maturity—and what an important age 18 is—is the same as the age of voting and dying for one's country."
So I hope that the noble Earl realises that that reference was an inappropriate one. Both Houses of Parliament accepted in 1967 that this was not appropriate to the Armed Forces. No doubt the reason was that homosexuality is incompatible with military organisation and discipline. Since fallibility is a human weakness, I hope that the noble Earl will not mind my having demonstrated that that point was not only wrong, but irrelevant. The noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, has moved an Amendment, and he spoke very strongly of the corruption of youth and the dangers of the spread of venereal disease. He has just explained the reasons for his Amendment, and has pointed to the dangers. He has done research. I cannot myself vouch for the growth of evil forces in our society, to which he has referred. Noble Lords will no doubt make up their own minds about that. But he has described groups which are proselytising, trying to spread the activities of homosexuality and procuring. I think that there are two different kinds of group. We can all sympathise with a group which consists of persons who are homosexual by nature. Through it they are in touch and meet together because the people in it have the same tendencies—some of us may describe them as weaknesses. But if they are publicly proselytising and trying to draw others, quite unnecessarily, into that fraternity, then no encouragement should be given to that kind of group. It may seem to your Lordships' House that the main supporting arguments of the noble Earl, Lord Arran, are being totally demolished during the course of the two speeches that have followed his initial introduction of the Bill. It is a matter for noble Lords to make up their own minds how they will vote if there is a Division on the Amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury. For my part, I think your Lordships will have guessed that I intend to vote in favour of the Amendment."Subsection (1) of this section shall not prevent an act from being an offence (other than a civil offence) under any provision of the Army Act 1955, the Air Force Act 1955 or the Naval Discipline Act 1957."
My Lords, I should first like to thank the noble Earl, Lord Arran, for bringing this simple and necessary Bill before your Lordships' House today. Of course, deciding on an age of consent is always a rather arbitrary operation, but I have no doubt whatsoever that the age of 21 is far too high. It is the consensus of almost all reputable authorities that homosexual tendencies are formed very young in life, and certainly the vision raised by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, of a bevy of over-18 year old heterosexuals being lured into homosexuality by older people, and thus perverted and ruined for life, is quite frankly, and possibly quite suitably, a fairy-tale.At the moment, the age of majority seems to me to be as fair a place as possible at which to put the age of consent, given the present state of public opinion on this matter. It is, as we know, the age of legal majority for contracts; it is the age when you can vote; it is—the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, notwith-standing—the age, more or less, when you can die for your country. It is not the slightest encouragement to people to say that there are boy soldiers at the age of 16. As the noble Lord pointed out, they go on active service when they are 17½, so we are merely speaking about a very small matter of six months. Nor is the point which the noble Earl, Lord Arran, raised, and which I repeat, about the age when one is able to die for one's country at all irrelevant merely because the Armed Forces are excluded. The fact remains that in time of war and international dispute all citizens are liable at some stage or another, whether in the Armed Forces or not, to die for their country. There is a certain age at which we say that people are old enough to fight for us. It seems to me that to say that at that age people are not entitled to choose with whom they should privately go to bed is a real insult to their human dignity. People of the age of 18 in our society now are very mature in many ways. Of course some of them are not; some people who are a very great deal older are very immature, too. However, the age of 18 has been settled on by the law as the right age for decision in a great many areas, and it seems to me to be the right age here. I do not think that there is any particular need for extra protection. The expert committee which was set up by the Dutch Government, the Speyer Committee, which reported in 1969, said that there is no reason to protect boys between the ages of 16 and 21 to a greater extent than girls of the same age, against assaults upon their chastity. I believe that to be true. Various dangers arise when sexual outlets are against the law. There are very serious psychological dangers when, living in a highly sexually excitable society, as many noble Lords who are due to speak today are constantly telling us, boys and men between the ages of 18 and 21 have no legal outlet for what to them are their natural sexual activities. Also, it is an invitation to blackmail, as the old law was, and as it still is in this area. To me, this is a matter of simple civil liberties. Therefore the arguments of the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, seem to me to be irrelevant. I am delighted to say that it is the official policy of the political Party to which I belong that this Bill should be put into force. I very much welcome it. I do not think that the law has any place in the bedrooms of this country. People of 18 are adults and should be treated as such, and I shall have great pleasure in supporting the Bill.
My Lords, with permission, I wish to repeat a Statement which is being made in another place by my right honourable friend the Lord President. It reads as follows:"With permission, Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a Statement on devolution. Following the decision of the House not to approve the proposed timetable Motion on the Scotland and Wales Bill, I announced that the Government were to invite discussions with each of the other Parties represented in the House. The Government's approach to these discussions was that a substantial majority of the House had approved the principles of the Bill in the vote on Second Reading and subsequent votes in the Committee proceedings gave approval to the proposals for elected Assemblies for Scotland and Wales. "The Government's view was that any further consideration of the Bill should proceed within the general framework of the decisions which the House had already reached and be consistent with presenting the House with legislative proposals at an early date. "The Government therefore suggested that the Bill might be referred to a select Committee of the House which would be empowered to consider the Bill on this basis. There was general support for the suggestion of a Select Committee, with the exception of the Scottish National Party who declined to meet the Government to discuss the proposal. The Government believed that it was equally essential that there should be general acceptance of the terms of reference for any Select Committee. The Conservative Party however proposed wide ranging terms of reference which, in the view of the Government, put at issue the whole concept of devolution and were consistent neither with the decisions of the House nor early action by the House. Accordingly, the Government do not believe that in these circumstances it would be useful to proceed with the appointment of a Select Committee. "The Government remain wholly committed to the establishment of directly elected Assemblies for Scotland and Wales. We believe it is essential that Parliament should seek to reform our system of Government to give the people of Scotland and Wales a more effective and democratic influence in those matters of Government which directly concern them within the context of the unity of the United Kingdom. It is no longer practicable to contemplate further progress on the Scotland and Wales Bill in this Session. However, it is our objective that legislation should be enacted next Session. To this end, the Government are engaged in consultations on our proposals for legislation with our own supporters and the Liberal Party, and we remain very ready to welcome representations from any other part of the House."
My Lords, that completes the Statement.
My Lords, I should be lacking in courtesy if I did not thank the noble and learned Lord for repeating the Statement to this House. I have no wish to initiate a prolonged debate on the subject, but the noble and learned Lord will forgive me if I describe the Statement as dreary, jejune and totally negative. When will the Government learn the basic facts of life about this dispute? The basic question to be decided is, first: which options are really viable for this United Kingdom? Are they not three and three alone: either the status quo, with or without modifications, or some form of federated society, or complete separation?Will not the Government recognise that their failure this Session with their existing legislation was due to their failure to identify the options and their persistent insistence upon blurring the distinction between the first two? Is it not certain that an attempt to reiterate those mistakes will lead to exactly the same failure in Parliament as took place this Session and that the only worse thing which could happen—and it would be a good deal worse—would be if it were actually carried into law? Is it not the case that the approach by way of Select Committee was in fact the only effective way forward, and that the attempt by the Government to muzzle the Select Committee by limiting the terms of reference to the existing framework, which has failed, is the one sure way to lead to disaster in this field? Will not the Government realise that those of us—and I include myself in this number—who sincerely want some form of devolution in this country are in absolutely desperate straits, because we believe that the Government are playing ducks and drakes with the unity of the United Kingdom by fluffing the alternatives and failing to identify them for the sake of public discussion? Can they not be persuaded to learn something from their failure this Session and to try to approach the problem a little more humbly?
My Lords, I should like to welcome the Statement which has been repeated by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. I agree that it is too late for further progress on devolution in this Session, but I welcome the Government's commitment to legislation next Session and I see nothing negative about a positive commitment to legislation in the next Session. I should only like to ask the noble and learned Lord whether it is contemplated that there shall be two Bills, one for Scotland and one for Wales; when will they be ready to study in draft form and whether we can make a real effort to take them very early in the legislative programme of the next Session?
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Byers, for his support of the Statement, and perhaps I may deal briefly with the two questions he has raised. No decision has yet been taken as to whether there should be two separate Bills, one for Scotland and one for Wales. That is a matter that we shall be considering in the continuing discussions. As to the time of the introduction of the Bill, I hope it will be early in the new Session, but clearly as there is much more discussion to take place I cannot specify any particular time.I was surprised to hear the criticism of the noble and learned Lord that the announcement of the Lord President was totally negative. It was exactly the opposite; it was totally positive, in the sense that there was a positive commitment for devolution and for the setting up of Assemblies for Scotland and for Wales. His adjective describing the statement as "dreary" is not a controversy I should like to enter into, nor should I like to compare it with the scintillating quality of the noble and learned Lord's own statement. That must remain yet another manifestation of the many-sidedness of truth. At any rate, the Government have made it perfectly clear that they are committed to devolution and to the setting up of the Assemblies and we look forward to the discussions which will continue and in respect of which I hope we may yet receive suggestions from the Conservative Party. The difficulty we are in is that the Conservative Party has now apparently resiled from the initial commitment to devolution—to Assemblies—and that I concede presents them with a difficult position at the present time. They have my sympathy in that. These fundamental changes in policy decisions are always painful and always involve painful consequences. I understand that what is being proposed by the Conservative Party as terms of reference is really a review of the whole process of Government. It was proposed in terms which frankly would have amounted to an abandonment of the commitment, certainly of the Labour Party and the Liberal Party and other minority Parties in the House, to enact legislation for devolution. I hope accordingly that the noble and learned Lord and the members of his Party will look again at this matter in the hope that we can move forward to achieving consensus on this problem. With that part of the noble and learned Lord's observations, I entirely agree. We are embarking upon a major constitutional change and, therefore, I hope there will be no final taking of the decision and that discussions may continue. At any rate, what we are committed to is a Bill—or Bills—in the next Session.
My Lords, is the noble and learned Lord aware that his last few words seemed to be in direct conflict with the Statement which he repeated? The Statement made it perfectly clear that the Government intend to push on with this, even by making it a Party issue on a constitutional matter which ought to be settled by way of consensus, as the noble and learned Lord has just said. It is quite clear that the importance of this matter is such that it ought to go through the sieve of a Select Committee with the widest possible terms of reference, so that it comes to both Houses with that examination having been made in detail and with all the thoroughness with which it can be made. It is not surprising that the noble Lord, Lord Byers—
Several noble Lords: Question!
My Lords, is the noble and learned Lord aware that it is not surprising that he has the support of the noble Lord, Lord Byers, speaking for the Liberal Party, because he now seems to have joined to make it a one-Party appeal although it has the two separate headings of the Socialist Party and of the Liberal Party? Is it too late to ask the noble and learned Lord to have the Statement reconsidered by his colleagues with a view to referring it to a Select Committee with reference wide enough for it to have the detailed and thorough examination that the issues ought to have before a constitutional change of this kind is contemplated?
My Lords, perhaps I may explain that there have been discussions in the hope of arriving at agreed terms of reference for this Select Committee, but there was a fundamental difference of approach, on the one hand, from the Conservative Party, which was not prepared to commit itself to the principle of devolution to Assemblies but wanted the whole structure of Government to be reconsidered, including the conception of federation and the examination of our whole governmental system, which really would have put the argument back to before the Kilbrandon Report. It was in the light of that fact that the Labour Party and the Liberal Party spokesmen in these discussions found that agreed terms of reference for a Select Committee could not be arrived at. Of course, this Bill will have to be the responsibility of the Government when they introduce it, but I still hope that when its terms are finalised it will receive support from various Parties in the House and it may be from at least some Members, also, of the Conservative Party.
My Lords, there is an assumption in the Statement which has been repeated in this House that there is an increasing or a majority demand on the part of the people of Scotland and Wales for devolution. It is some time since this subject was introduced and since then there has been a growing disenchantment with the idea of an Assembly. Is the noble and learned Lord aware that there is an increasing feeling that the demand for devolution has lost some of its importance as the consequences of separation are becoming fully realised? Would it not be wise, therefore, to test public opinion in Scotland and Wales by means of a referendum before embarking on the principles proposed in the new legislation?
My Lords, on the matter of a referendum I think frankly, to put it at its lowest, it would be unsatisfactory to have a referendum before a devolution Bill was enacted. The referendum itself would involve legislation, of course, but I venture to suggest that it would be a very imprecise affair before the shape and colour and content of the devolution Bill was available to the public. Indeed, it would be asking voters to approve or reject a scheme of devolution which had not been voted on by Parliament and would then of course be open to modification by Parliament after the referendum. In their proposals for the Bill as it stood, the Government favoured a referendum after devolution, and that proposal will still continue to be considered because clearly the Government attach great importance to ensuring that before any proposals are implemented they have the support of the majority of the Scottish and the Welsh people.
My Lords, I must press the noble and learned Lord once more. He really rather provoked me into initiating a debate on this subject which I will not yield to the temptation of doing. But may I just put to him this point because he has grossly misrepresented the question which I was designing to put to him. Does he not realise that by limiting the options in the way that he has he has prevented a clarification of the viable alternatives open to this country? Although I used the words "a federated society", I have by no means withdrawn or moderated my desire for provincial Assemblies. Does he not realise that he and his colleagues failed earlier this Session precisely because they tried to draft subordinate Assemblies on to a unitary State, and as he is now banging his head against the same brick wall he will find, like the Bourbons, that it does not pay to learn nothing or to forget nothing.
My Lords, I certainly do not feel particularly Bourbonish about this. The fact is that in another place on Second Reading a very large majority indeed supported the principle of devolution to Scottish and Welsh Assemblies. That basic principle was never resiled from in the votes that took place in another place. It is true that there has been great room for discussion about matters of detail, taxation possibilities and the rest of it; those, I hope, we shall sort out between now and publication of the Bill in the coming Session. But to turn hack on what had been carried by a majority in the House, on the basic principle that we are facing, would have been to reduce the whole argument to a futile postponement into the "never-never land."
My Lords, might I ask one question of the noble and learned Lord. Is it intended that the Select Committee will cover some forms of local government? Is he aware that the increasing cost of government in Scotland is a matter of anxiety there, and I believe it is a matter of anxiety that England should have to bear some of that cost as well.
My Lords, I am afraid I did not make clear the decision that there will be no Select Committee, that now we will proceed with preparation of the Bill, and it will be introduced in the next Session.
Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill Hl
Second Reading debate resumed.
My Lords, I have real pleasure in following the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, who has made a model speech of sense and sensibility—the first one in this debate. As between the two noble Earls, I should like to say that I will vote for the Second Reading of Lord Arran's Bill, though I will not go to the stake for it because I think that public opinion has to have a little further education on the subject. But I will go to the stake to oppose the Amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury.My Lords, it seems to me that in regard to everything that the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, has said about homosexuals, I take an absolutely opposite view. I do not regard homosexuality as a disease or a sickness, or anything that could be put into those categories. I do not regard it as criminal. The criminal activities that may be suggested about homosexuals could equally be said about heterosexuals. Homosexuals do not necessarily go more for young people than heterosexuals. It is exactly the same kind of bad conduct that both can indulge in. I do not think that homosexuals are a menace. I think homosexuality is a perfectly natural thing. It is very natural in young people. Most people eventually become heterosexual. Some remain homosexual and there is nothing very wrong with that. Nor do I wish to exaggerate any of the sexual deviations which we hear about these days. Nor am I in favour of the kind of pornography we have now, the pornography which is exploited. If it is, it is very largely due to the fact that we constantly advertise pornography by the kind of debates we have on it in this House. It is very remarkable that, as people grow older, and old, they seem to begin to try to shift their own guilt on to the younger generation. It seems that many of the things we have talked about in this House have contributed to the exploitation of a very ugly pornography. Exploitation will come about and will happen in all walks of life, whether it is in sex or money or whatever it is. Sometimes when we in this House discuss sexual activities, I begin to think that we are discussing two models, plastic models of human beings, hermetically sealed, who are taking part in some kind of activity in private. We do not seem to he discussing human beings of flesh and blood at all. I regard the attitude of those who speak of homosexuals in terms such as used by the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, about prostitution, as a very unhealthy attitude indeed. I regard their attitude to the complicated aspects of sex as altogether unhappy. My Lords, I have not written a speech. I simply wanted to pick up one or two things that have been said. Personally I might be prepared to trade the noble Earl's desire to lower the age of consent between consenting adults to 18, for the age for young men going into the Army being raised to 21. Why not have it that way round? It seems to me that there is as much to be said for raising the age of going into the Army as for lowering the age for homosexuals to get together. My Lords, I support the Second Reading of Lord Arran's Bill.
My Lords, although I have the fullest sympathy for people of a homosexual condition, and number some of them, as I suppose, among my friends, and certainly among those whom I much admire, I want at the outset of my contribution to this debate to make it plain, without, I hope, adopting any holier than thou attitude, that I regard homosexual acts as an undoubted deviation from the natural order, and in religious terms as contrary to the divine intention. It is not the purpose of law to signify approval of what is no longer subject to legal prohibition or penalty. It seems evident to me, as to other Members of the House, beyond any doubt, that since the passing of the Sexual Offences Act there has been an upsurge of support and clamour for the recognition of homosexual acts as normal. And there is equally no doubt that, just as changes in the law can be in response to public opinion, so changes made in advance of public opinion can influence and alter the public view of what is no longer subject to legal penalty.But in this matter I do not regard the lowering of the age of consent as warranted by the present state of public opinion. Still less do I consider that to make such a change as is proposed would be supported by those—and I think them still to be a majority—whose standard of personal conduct is derived from their Christian sympathies, if not from their clearly expressed convictions. A primary purpose of the law is to protect, and in this area of the law that function is to protect young persons whose sexual development is not yet complete—to protect them from experiences which may deflect them from a normal development as heterosexuals into an exclusively homosexual orientation. It is plain that there are widely differing judgments about the age by which sexual orientation is held to be complete. But even if this process is achieved well before the age of 16 in the great majority of cases, as some assert—and still more by the age of 18—there is still a significant minority to be considered and, as I believe, to he protected. It is argued that homosexual encounters have at most a minor significance in altering sexual orientation.
My Lords, has the right reverend Prelate any evidence for his statement that there is still a significant minority over the age of 18 whose orientation is not complete and who need protection? Is there any evidence to that effect at all?
My Lords, the only evidence that I have is my own experience of people, and Bishops are not immune from consultation in matters of this kind. I cannot speak more generally—I wish I could. It is the absence of that evidence which greatly worries me in the context of this debate. Indeed, I do not know how these figures can be adequately substantiated. But such encounters on the part of persons, one of whom is a professed or admitted homosexual and the other not yet completely sexually orientated, can, as I know, leave a lasting scar on those who are the object of the overtures of other people. I do not believe that the time has come to make such encounters more possible and to bring them within the sanction of the law.I admit that 18 years of age is now the recognised age of personal responsibility to do this and that in one way or another. But those things which are legally possible at the age of 18 are, in the main, concerned with actions about which there is no real moral conflict and therefore seem to me to provide a quite inadequate standard of argument and judgment. Eighteen year olds may be thought to have reached the age of full responsibility, not least in their own opinion. However, I do not believe that this is universally true, and the law should not lightly remove barriers to the exploitation of adolescents whose growth towards a stable heterosexual personality is still proceeding. I strongly support the view that any reduction in the age of consent in this context must be accompanied by sufficient evidence of the sexual development of young people, in order to mitigate public suspicion about the corruption of young people, which is still very much in the minds of many folk. For most of my life I have been connected with the Boy Scout Movement. I am a vice-president of the Boys' Brigade, as perhaps others in this House may be, and I have had a long association with the National Association of Boys' Clubs. I believe that the point of view which I am trying to express represents the anxiety which the responsible leaders of these movements, who include in their membership a vast number of young people, feel about this Bill. It is out of my own concern that there stems a desire to reinforce the resolve of young leaders, not least in the Scout Movement as well as in other voluntary organisations, to resist temptation or inclination towards homosexual acts themselves. Again from this stems my concern, lest by their very membership of such organisations, they invite suspicion of their motives in this area of personal conduct. It has been argued—and will again, I have no doubt, be argued—that young persons under the age of 18 are already protected by the provisions of the Children and Young Persons Acts. The care and protection jurisdiction of the juvenile courts is often cited, but it is also often questioned as to its adequacy. It is by no means clear that social workers who have to invoke that protection would welcome additional demands being placed upon that jurisdiction, and their views have not, as I believe, been sufficiently heard. I admit that many of us who speak from a professedly religious standpoint need to shift our emphasis from stressing the evil of homosexuality to proclaim the norm of heterosexuality; to assert that every person has a moral obligation to do everything in his or her power to attain this norm. I believe that the community has a real obligation to meet the needs of homosexual men and women and to do so with sympathy and understanding, accepting their limitations, if that is how they are regarded—and they certainly are by me—but without giving their sexual activities, if and when they occur, the cloak of normality and respectability at any age, whether below or above the age of 21. We already have the Act of 1967 and I am not arguing that we should go hack on it. But enough is enough. So if this Bill is pressed to a Division I shall be compelled to vote against it, though I fully appreciate and respect the motives of the noble Earl, Lord Arran, in moving it. Whether I can support the Amendment in its present form, I still have to decide.
My Lords, following the remarks just made by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham I have decided to support the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, in his Amendment. As some noble Lords may be aware, I was a member of the Wolfenden Committee which reported in 1957, and whose recommendations became the basis of the 1967 Act. Here we are again, ten years later, still discussing these matters. I shall not make a long speech. I do not wish to reopen or go into all the discussions that we had years ago on homosexuality and its causes, its treatment, the legal and penal aspects involved. Suffice it to say that I believe that the 1967 Act was a good Act and dealt with the situation very adequately. The noble Earl, Lord Arran, introduced his Bill today with great sincerity, which I respect. So I hope that he will not take it too amiss if I beg to disagree with him on this occasion, particularly in view of his general support for the aims and achievements of the Wolfenden Committee, which I trust we still share.In considering this question of lowering the age for consenting adults in private to 18, I should like to mention two aspects. The first concerns the arguments and discussions that led the majority of us on the Wolfenden Committee to decide to recommend the age of 21. They are set out fully and, indeed, I think fairly, in paragraphs 63 to 71 of the report. I shall not weary the House by going into long quotations from them now. However, noble Lords will see that several options were considered at that time in length and in detail, and particularly the age of 18. It was admittedly a very difficult decision. Finally we came to the conclusion that we should recommend the age of 21 on what seemed to be the overriding ground—and here I shall quote shortly from the report—that:
that is, the age—"To fix it"—
Ten years later Parliament upheld that view in the 1967 Act and I believe that it remains valid today. How has the situation changed? What is the situation today? We know that the age of attaining legal adulthood has now been fixed at 18 years and we have been reminded of what this involves in terms of rights and responsibilities for young people reaching that age. I think the House will agree that these are certainly considerable and to some extent frightening. It is also true—and we have heard about this already today—that there is nowadays a much greater awareness about homosexuality and much propaganda regarding it. All this is aimed at making it appear normal and socially acceptable, and the pressures on young people, particularly susceptible young people, are greatly increased. As the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, reminded us, homosexual societies are common and homosexual publications are becoming ever easier to obtain. I fear there is little doubt that homosexuality is on the increase. This was certainly not what the members of the Wolfenden Committee intended, and I suppose to that extent we have failed. Also it was not what Parliament intended in 1967, and I would hope that the same view is held by your Lordships today, for if this is, as I personally think it is, an undesirable state of affairs then I suggest that the lowering of the age to 18, however logical the grounds may seem in some respects, can only make matters worse. It would, for instance, go some way to making life easier for what one might almost describe as homosexual bullies. One of the unfortunate symptoms of this condition is that it frequently enables the strong to intimidate the weak, and the powerful to intimidate the dependent, and the old the young. There has always been, and still is, a strong body of medical opinion which holds that many young men—I would not by any means say all—do not establish what is called a definite gender role until they are between the ages of 18 and 21. These are the people who, in my view, are particularly susceptible to outside pressures and influence and subtle forms of corruption and persuasion. This is precisely the age group that the Wolfenden Committee and Parliament have always wished, rightly in my view, to protect. The noble Earl, Lord Arran, was frank and honest with the House when he said that he himself was of this opinion 10 years ago when he introduced his Act, although I think it would be fair to say that he thought perhaps the House and Parliament were being over-cautious at that time in that they were worried that the homosexual floodgates might be opened; fears which the noble Earl thought were groundless. But, alas! I do not think that those fears were so groundless as we all hoped. The 1967 Act, based on the Wolfenden Report, aimed at protecting adult homosexuals from unfair pressures, particularly blackmail. In supporting the right for consenting adults in private over the age of 21 we did, I think, recognise that it might be said that we were in some ways condoning what has come to be known as the permissive society. Certainly that was not our intention, although we realised that there was a risk in the course that we proposed. I, for one, certainly did not intend to see what I might almost call a submissive society appear where it seems that any actions which are now legally permitted are taken by too many people to be, if not compulsory, at any rate socially and in any other sense acceptable. A further point was touched on by the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, and I just mention it here. He mentioned the National Association of Boys' Clubs, among other bodies, who have been making representations to him. I am very struck by the force of the argument that if the age of 18 is established it will only be the thin end of the wedge, because pressure groups tend not to he satisfied. I am pretty certain that if the age is lowered to 18 it will not be long before pressure is mounting again for a lower age still, or possibly no age at all. There is one further broader point which I might mention concerning protection, and it is this: it seems to me that a man has as much right, and needs as much protecting, as a woman against intercourse which takes place against one's will. As women are rightly demanding that the laws on rape make it absolutely clear what does or does not constitute consent, surely there should be some similar law for men. Maybe there is; I do not know about this; but I raise it because if the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, who is going to reply, can enlighten me on this point I should be grateful, although it is slightly outside the scope of this debate. In conclusion, may I say that I think that all noble Lords appreciate that the noble Earl, Lord Arran, has introduced his Bill with the most sincere and genuine motives. Personally I am equally sincere in thinking that the Bill, if it is passed, will lessen protection for young men and that the dangers which I have outlined may well come to pass, and that in the end the Bill will be seen to have done more harm than good. Therefore, I shall have great pleasure in supporting the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, in his Amendment if it goes to a Division in the House."at eighteen would lay them [young men] open to attentions and pressures of an undesirable kind from which the adoption of the later age would help to protect them, and from which they ought, in view of their special vulnerability, to be protected".
My Lords, I am very glad to follow the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, who speaks with special experience as a member of the original Wolfenden Committee. I should like to answer a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, earlier on, and I would remind the House that the noble Lord was a member of the Working Party of the Sexual Law Reform Society which advocated an age of consent of 14 for both heterosexual and homosexual acts, and in paragraph 5 expressed the view that any legal age of consent appears increasingly out of keeping with realities in the present day. The point was mentioned that the age should be the same as that for heterosexual offences. These two acts are of a completely different nature. One is in accordance with nature, one is against nature. The point was also made of the possibility of blackmail of young men between the ages of 18 and 21. If you protect a few people from the possibility of blackmail, you open the door to many more people to the kind of influences about which we heard earlier from the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury.I should like to quote from a letter a teacher wrote to me. He is a teacher at a large comprehensive school in London. He said:
bodies such as Family Planning Association, the Campaign for Homosexual Equality, the Albany Trusts—"I would just say that teachers are being put under great pressure in school these days from organisations like the"—
In addition to pressure from the sources I have mentioned, there is also pressure from the National Union of Students and I quote from the Daily Telegraph of 19th November 1973; I do not know that the NUS has changed its attitude since then:"and even the National Youth Bureau (which is totally Government financed with grants from three departments) to cause young people to see homosexuality as 'normal, natural and right'. Those of us who teach sex education and personal relationships and who take a different view need all the legal help we can get that can reduce this pressure. Should the age of consent be lowered to 18 it won't be long before there are calls to bring it down to 16 or whatever the heterosexual age of consent may be, and should that be the case not only will our school pupils be under enormous pressure to experiment before they have had an opportunity to develop and mature into adult manhood (and I see that as being beyond 18—I think we were told in college that adolescence continues till about 24) but our task in school will be made so very much harder … You should also know that the Albany Trust and the Campaign for Homosexual Equality are putting great pressure on the Schools Council health education project team to include homosexuality in the next phase of their work—the 13–18 teaching material.".
I also quote from a letter, written to the teacher I spoke of, from a hospital worker:"Sex education to teach children that homosexuality is an acceptable form of conduct is to be sought by the National Union of Students. The union is also calling for the establishment of a university chair of homosexual studies and for the right of a homosexual couple to adopt children".
Of course we must do all we can to help people in this way, but is it any kindness to young men of 18 to 21 to open the net wide before them?"I must first state that I am not a homosexual, but having worked amongst a few of them in my 20 years in mental work, I do feel great understanding for them. Sexual urges in very many people are so strong—like Freud's 'Id'—that it takes every ounce of our personality and God's help to deal rightly with them … I am what one might call a very liberal Christian theologically but definitely not a supporter of the 'new morality' which is only the 'old immorality' writ large.… The physical changes of anal penetration are never mentioned by pro-homosexuals. I saw one once in my old hospital. It would be a good thing to have lots of photographs of anal injuries caused by sodomy … The poor man I saw had a huge part of his bowels protruding from his anus. With no exaggeration it was as big as his head. How the surgeon got it back I will never know …".
My Lords, it is always a pleasure to speak following the noble Viscount, Lord Ingleby, especially when he is speaking on moral questions. I support very much what was said by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham when he stressed the need, if we claim any sort of Christianity, to show a personal understanding of homosexuals. I myself, for what it is worth, have tried to show my good will towards them over the years. It is over 20 years ago, just after the publication of the Wolfenden Report, since I moved a Motion in this House supporting the Wolfenden proposals. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, described me at the time as the non-playing captain of the homosexual team. I hope he has not forgotten that tribute. I do not think I deserved it and after today's effort I do not think I shall retain that title.
My Lords, perhaps I might tell the noble Earl that that was only because I was largely instrumental in getting the Wolfenden Committee, which has my full support, set up.
In that case the noble Lord's unusual tribute came with all the more authority, my Lords. As time has gone on I have tried to show my good will to people handicapped in this unfortunate way. As a publisher, I have published books by homosexuals, including one by Mr. Ian Harvey, an old friend of mine, who has done much for the Campaign for Homosexual Equality. I have spoken at their gatherings and at meetings of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality and, unless the invitation is cancelled after my speech today, I hope to be speaking to them again. Therefore nobody can accuse me of being hostile towards homosexuals. I fear, however, that today I cannot support the proposals of the noble Earl, Lord Arran, although I realise how genuinely he feels on this issue and if there is a vote I shall go into the Lobby behind the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury.I may be asked—it would be reasonable if I were asked—how I was able to play such an active part 20 years ago in supporting the Wolfenden Committee while I am now against Lord Arran. The noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, spoke on that subject with special authority (he was a member of the Wolfenden Committee) and I will not try to duplicate his arguments. I may be asked whether I still accept what was generally treated as the main principle of the Wolfenden Committee, although it was not the only principle, one which I suppose was borrowed from John Stuart Mill, though it was not necessarily any the worse for that. The principle was that we should not interfere by law with anyone who was not harming anyone else; that we should not interfere with two people acting together if they were not harming anybody besides themselves. That was the central principle—as I say, borrowed from John Stuart Mill—and it was regarded as a new revelation when the permissive society was just coming into its own. In my view, that principle provides a useful starting point for discussion, although I do not regard it today as Holy Writ. Consider one aspect of it. With the coming of drugs, for example, few of us now would say that we must never stop anybody from destroying himself by, say, heroin, and there are other examples where we intervene by common consent. There is a more fundamental point on which I must touch, and I was amazed by the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Gaitskell, who seemed to be arguing that I perhaps more than anyone had increased pornography by raising it in this House.
Would the noble Earl give way?
My Lords, perhaps the noble Baroness will allow me to finish this part of my speech. Nobody has spoken with more frenzied ardour on that subject than has the noble Baroness. I will not pursue that, except to say that I was rather surprised to find that, somehow or other, while the enemies of pornography are supposed to be the people responsible for it, yet here she has championed pornography, so it is all too complicated for me, but let me return to the subject under discussion.One believed, perhaps 20 years ago—I certainly may have believed this—that one could imagine somebody who was corrupted in isolation. Now I am afraid I do not think that happens very often, although it may happen occasionally; that somebody is corrupted but does not do any harm to anybody else. From all my experience of all these social questions over many years and over many investigations, it is my view that if one is well and truly corrupted, one will become an agent of corruption. Thus, I believe that the idea that if somebody is corrupted it is their own affair is a proposition at which one cannot look in the way one might have looked at it 20 years ago. Nevertheless, I would say—I say this particularly to Lady Gaitskell, who feels so strongly about homosexuality—that we must think long and hard before we interfere with anybody's freedom to go wrong in their own way. We must think long and hard certainly in the case of any mature adult. But I think almost everyone agrees that young people deserve some sort of special protection, and the main problem is where we begin to draw the line. When I am talking of homosexuals—perhaps this is obvious from what I have said, but it might not be obvious or somebody might pick up a casual reference, a quotation of mine—I am of course referring to sexual practices, as was the right reverend Prelate and others; we are not referring to the unfortunate fact that one may be a homosexual. No one, certainly no Christian and I do not think anyone with any ethical feeling, believes it is wrong to be a homosexual; it may not be one's own fault at all and most of us have known schoolmasters and university teachers, for examples, whose apparent preference for young men to young women has been the inspiration of lives of wonderful service. They have, so to speak, sublimated their homosexuality and have not practised it in the way in which it is coming under discussion today, with reference to the criminal law. But the vast majority of Christians still believe that it is morally wrong to indulge in sex outside marriage, though few of us would treat that as the worst of all sins or fail to recognise the need for compassion towards those who have erred in this direction. But what about heterosexual offences? The noble Baroness places heterosexual and homosexual offences on the same level. She has the most delightful daughters but she has no sons, and I cannot believe that, had she had sons—
My Lords, I have a very grown up son by my first marriage. I know about sons.
My Lords, I apologise. I know the noble Baroness's daughters, who are very charming. I do not for a moment believe that her son by her first marriage was a homosexual. I know enough to know that that is untrue, and all I can say is that had he been a homosexual I know that no one would have regretted it more than the noble Baroness. So far as that goes, we might leave that point there.
My Lords, may I interrupt my noble friend? I do not believe that he ought to put words into my mouth. I do not think that he ought to say things like that about what I would have felt or what I would have done. I should not dream of saying that to him about his children.
My Lords, the noble Baroness is perfectly entitled to say anything she likes about me or anybody else. I was only pointing out that very few people would, in their own families, put homosexual offences on the same level as heterosexual offences. I know that I should not. Very few people —and I believe that this would be true of the noble Baroness and almost all of us—would put them on the same level.But what about heterosexual offences? We must consider this seriously. None of us will wish to minimise the damage done by the seduction of girls. I am not for a moment saying that that is moral, so here I am going along with the noble Baroness. The intention may be precisely the same. As far as the intention goes, I am not blaming the man who seduces a man more than the man who seduces a girl but, in the nature of things, the damage done is likely to be much more lasting. After all, girls may go on to marry, have children and lead an ordinary family life, but the young man who is either turned into a homosexual or confirmed in what is, for many people, a transitional tendency will go through life under a permanent handicap and will be denied a natural fulfilment. It has been implied by some of the speakers that by the time one reaches 18 one's disposition is settled for life. As anybody who has recently read the lives of some of our more talented authors will know, some people—in fact, many of us knew several at university—who were homosexual in their youth are now married with children and grand children. So one cannot for a moment argue that people's disposition is settled by the time they are 18 or 19. Today, we are discussing the law and the application to a particular age group. Obviously, as has been said by more than one speaker, there is something arbitrary about all such legal distinctions, but I am assuming that nearly everybody present would accept the necessity for age limits of some kind. I understand that Gay News is urging that the age of consent should be soon reduced to 16 and, no doubt, if the Bill of the noble Earl, Lord Arran, is accepted, another Bill to that effect will soon be brought before your Lordships. I appreciate that the noble Earl has said he will not introduce it but I do not doubt that somebody else will.
My Lords, in no circumstances would I introduce such a Bill.
My Lords, when the voting age is reduced to 17 I suppose that the noble Earl will abandon the arguments that have weighed with him this afternoon.
My Lords, should be disgusted.
I dare say, my Lords. But suppose the voting age is reduced to 17. I should imagine that the noble Earl would be compelled to side with those who wished to introduce such a Bill.
My Lords, may I beg the noble Earl to defer his point? He will have a further chance of speaking and I shall not. The real question is whether, if the present Bill is carried, young men of 18, 19 and 20 will have a better chance of leading a good and happy life than at present. I can imagine a few cases where this might be so, but in my estimation they would be very few. Unfortunately, the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, has had to leave for a while: I should have liked him to hear this. In the past 20 years of dealing with delinquents young and old I have become well aware that the years of 18 and 19 are crucial. In a high proportion of cases, they are the years when the destiny of young men may be decided for life. Here, I am not referring only to sex, but I know all too well of quite a few cases where young men of that precise age have been corrupted by middle aged men of wealth and position. You can call this consent if you like, but I call it seduction by bribery and I know of quite a few cases where that has occurred.I am sorry to have to come out so strongly against the noble Earl, Lord Arran. As I say, I know the genuineness of his feeling, but I hope that the Amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, will prevail. I believe that it would be a terrible day for this House and this country if it failed.
My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down may I ask him whether he has never found any young women who have been corrupted by older men?
My Lords, I apologise if I said anything sharp to the noble Baroness earlier but I feel that she ought now to apologise to me because she clearly has not been listening. I said that a lot of young women were corrupted. That was a serious matter, but I said that it was likely to have a much more serious and lasting effect upon young men. I think that I said it twice, and I know that I said it once very clearly.
My Lords, I am always rather astonished that men should have so much to say on the subject of abortion. I should have thought that this was a subject on which men would have preferred to listen rather than speak. I wonder how much protest for and against abortion would be made if every man who had ever taken advantage of a woman, or desired to do so, remained silent. Homosexuality, too, is not just a subject for men. The child is our concern. Women's right to speak in defence of the innocent is greater than that of any man. The majority of men are afraid to speak on the issues that are of basic importance in our society. The label "do gooder" is almost the mark of public leprosy. Men show more concern over the right tie than they do over the right label.The issue at stake is perfectly clear. Are we to encourage the infectious growth of this filthy disease by giving the authority of Parliament to the spreading of corruption and perversion among a new generation of young men and the younger boys in contact with them? We were so strong and swift to deal with the deadly danger of tobacco, but the trade in drugs, pornography and the sale of women and boys continues to prosper, and now we are asked for a further relaxation of the protective power of the law. Listening to the news and reading the newspapers, I often wonder how many men in this Kingdom live on the fruits of crime. If there is one man living on the profits of, for example, prostitution who is as protected by the law as any other decent citizen and is not persecuted and prosecuted until his miserable trade is ended, then the law is at fault. The ability to live on the profits of crime is apparently a weakness of democratic society that we must accept. Yet here we have a Bill to extend the tentacles of evil, to withhold the protection of the law from the innocent, the gullible, from the simple youth who has just arrived in the big city and the boy who is charmed and overcome by cheap flattery and easy money. In whose favour is it? No one's but the pervert and the money grubbers, waiting to pounce. In the past, homosexual activities were looked upon not just as a crime against society, which I personally believe they still are, but as a sin. Clearly, to have these homosexual tendencies as a result of birth cannot be sinful. The psychologists have explained the reasons for homosexual behaviour, and no blame can be attached to those who suffer this handicap. But you cannot be a homosexual alone, which inevitably leads to the corruption and perversion of others, which is a symptom of the disease. So although it would be wrong to condemn, just as it would be wrong to condemn the victim of an attack of cholera, such an outbreak must be contained and isolated, not given a licence to multiply. If indeed homosexuals are born and not made, then we could sit back and allow this Bill its course. In fact this is not the case. We meet children who are gentle and timid, and others who are tough and aggressive, but the homosexual inclination develops later. In some cases it develops inevitably, so we are told; in others it would remain dormant, even unknown, were these young people not corrupted by contact with perverts, and we now know that the inclination is quite common at a certain stage of a young man's development. Would it not be true to say that the majority of boys have homosexual inclinations, but develop an immunity through the example of good family life and of men whose ways of life they admire and on whom they model themselves? The framework of our society is the teaching and example of Christ. He is our model. There can be no accord between homosexual activities and Christianity. The homosexual can, of course, be a Christian, so long as he is struggling against his inclination, just as we all have to struggle—and not necessarily win. But the homosexual committed to the corruption of the innocent will have neither my approval nor my vote.
My Lords, if the words that have just fallen from the noble Countess, Lady Loudoun, had been her maiden speech, it would have been my duty to congratulate her. It was not her maiden speech, and it is not my duty but my pleasure to congratulate her—and I do it with all sincerity—upon a most excellent speech. That speech, together with the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, should between them, I feel, produce a definitive answer to the Bill of the noble Earl, Lord Arran. There is very little that can be added to the debate—and certainly not by me. But there is one thing which I wish could be removed; that is, the references which have been made to the age of majority. The age of majority, as I understand it, is that at which a person is thought old enough to accept the duties and obligations that fall to an adult member of society. No one will suggest, I suppose, that any homosexual practice, whether in public, or private, or anywhere else, is a duty to society or an obligation upon either of the persons involved in that particular act. Therefore the parallel does not exist there. As for the question of fighting for one's country, there is no age that I know below which it is illegal to fight for one's country, and to die for it has been done by many, quite regardless of age. This again has nothing whatever to do with the subject.Let us forget all about the age of majority. This may be the official view of the Liberal Party, as expounded by the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley—and I am interested to know that the Liberal Party, alone, I believe, among Parties, has an official view; and I shall look forward to the influx of noble Lords coming from the Liberal Party into Lord Arran's Lobby, and indeed, I suppose, to listen to the powerful speech to be made by the noble Viscount, Lord Barrington, in favour of the Bill. I shall hear that with interest, and, I suspect, possibly surprise. The noble Earl, Lord Arran, was good enough to give me a copy of the letter to which my noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy referred earlier. If I may also refer to it without impertinence, I should like to mention that he described this as a Bill to do with, "a man going to bed with a fella". If the noble Earl thinks, after hearing what the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, has said, that this debate in which we are engaged is simply about "a man going to bed with a fella" I shall, again, be enormously surprised. He said that he was going to speak entirely from reason. In fact this has been impossible, or has been regarded as impossible, I suspect, since some of the more extreme logicians among the mediaeval school men, who were able to debate such matters as how many angels could dance upon the point of a pin. It is necessary for reason itself to be based upon something. Reason by itself is a non-existent, and indeed—if I may use a logical term, as the noble Earl himself has used the word "logic"—it is a non-operational concept. Upon what did he base this reason?—on very little that I can see, apart from the age of majority and some opinions of his own, but no facts, and no evidence. If there is an argument between two sides upon a Bill or an Amendment to a Bill (such as this), it is surely necessary to produce evidence for one argument and then for the other side to produce the evidence for the other side of the argument—
My Lords, if the noble Earl will forgive me for interrupting, I thought that I had produced all the arguments that were necessary. I made it very clear, I thought.
My Lords, in that case I misunderstood the noble Earl, and I apologise. I intended no offence, I assure him. But the point that I am about to make is not affected in any way. It is that I myself did not detect in the noble Earl's speech any evidence in favour of the argument that he has put forward—and I repeat "evidence". On the other hand, the other noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, whom, without offence to the former, I would describe as the slightly more painstaking noble Earl, has produced evidence, upon evidence, upon evidence—almost Pelion piled upon Ossa. On one side I see no argument in favour of the Bill of the noble Earl, Lord Arran, and I see total destruction heaped upon it by the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury.
I am going to answer the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury.
My Lords, I have not hitherto intervened in any debate in your Lordships' House on the subject of the place of the homosexual in society, but I feel that this debate today may be a landmark in the way it will be regarded in the future, and therefore I must do so, even if some of my points have, as usual, already been made. As one surveys the different attitudes adopted towards it, one is struck by the passionately held differing points of view—the width of the spectrum in which each and every person must have a place. At one end there are those who regard homosexuality as a sin before God, an abomination for which there can be no tolerance; in its physical form a disgusting perversion, which makes one feel quite sick. This band of the spectrum—
My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord is not referring to me.
I certainly am not. I ask the noble Earl to listen to what I have to say, and I hope that I shall be able to get things straight. This band of the spectrum merges into that consisting of those who, while personally disapproving, and from their own make-up finding it completely incomprehensible, if not experiencing the same degree of revulsion, are prepared to accept that others may feel differently. They emphasise that as this is a free and tolerant society one is not justified in placing any limit on what adult individuals whose sexual proclivities have been fully and unalterably established, do in private, stressing though with great emphasis the word "adult".This group merges into those who regard the homosexual less unfavourably —on the contrary, often very tolerantly and with great understanding. It may be that they have had urges in that direction at one stage of life themselves, or have had homosexual friends or relatives with whom they have great sympathy. Others may be solely motivated— and I expect that this applies to the noble Earl, Lord Arran—by pity or concern for the plight of all those who might be referred to as "unwilling homosexuals", who feel ostracised or alienated from society and who are desperately unhappy about their situation and feel that nothing can be done about it, though in fact an understanding psychiatrist might be of great help. Such "unwilling homosexuals" themselves form the next distinct group in the spectrum. Next to them, towards the extreme end of the spectrum, are the gay liberationists, who glory in their proclivities and are out to proselytise and convert others to their way of life by every means in their power; a group that, as the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, stressed, are becoming increasingly active. In passing, it is a supreme irony that, had their own fathers been seduced by persons like themselves, they themselves would never have been born—a thought, I should have felt, hardly conducive to their so-called "gaiety". But even this is not the end of the spectrum of sexual proclivity and deviation. There are those, composed mainly, but not entirely of homosexuals (about 70 per cent., often young) known as paedophiles (I think they themselves prefer to pronounce it "piedophiles")—the child lovers—who indulge in sexual practices with young children and whose increasing proselytising activities are closely related to the gay liberation movement. My Lords, I feel I must refer to this subject as the movement referred to as PIE, or paedophile information exchange, is gaining ground in this country, and also, particularly, in the United States. In the information sheet and membership form of PIE they state:
PIE have in fact made a submission to the Criminal Law Revision Committee suggesting four as acceptable as the age of consent. I have referred to this extremely unpleasant subject also because I believe that the subject of the age of consent for homosexuals cannot be considered in isolation. It is all part of the slippery slope of sex permissiveness, which includes the legal age of sex relationships with young girls as well as the child victims of the paedophile movement. It is a slippery slope on which it would be impossible to maintain a foothold for long once the first step had been taken. So far as the homosexual is concerned, it is clear that the proposed age of 18, I think, as other noble Lords have mentioned, is only the first step, from the letter that I and, I expect, other noble Lords have received, along with a book entitled No Offence by Bob Sturgess, which was sent by the information officer of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality. In this letter asking for support for this Bill today, he also asked,"We campaign for the legal and social acceptance of paedophiles. We believe it is inhumane to children to outlaw their sexuality and we support moves to lower the age of consent".
Nor, of course, would it stop there if the legal age for sexual intercourse with girls were ever to be lowered from 16. Chip away at the safeguards to protect the youth of the country little by little and one by one, and the aim of the advocates of sex permissiveness will be achieved. My Lords, they must not succeed. In deciding how I shall vote over this Amendment I ask myself but one question, and it is this. How should I feel if a son or grandson of mine were to develop into a homosexual? What I and, I am sure, all must wish for their own is that they should achieve the greatest measure of fulfilment and happiness possible in life. Could they achieve this if they were to develop a relationship which would make family life and the having and sharing of children an impossibility? One of the supreme joys of life, parenthood, in which grandparents also share, would be lost to them for ever. It is true, as is pointed out in the book No Offence to which I have referred, even if a man is heterosexual he may not marry. But there is always a chance that he might, and marriage is always open to him. It is pointed out in the book also that, even if married, the couple may be childless; but adoption and a happy family life are usually open to them. The fully homosexual state shuts the door completely. Of course the homosexual may have other outlets for a creative urge. One has only to think of all those who have greatly enriched music, the arts and other creative spheres: but what a tragedy, my Lords, that in such cases there is no possibility that these talents might be passed on to their descendants, as otherwise might be the case! The breakdown of the procreative function of man, essential to the survival of the human race, can only be regarded as unnatural—again, whatever may be said to the contrary in the book to which I have referred. The argument put forward, that if homosexuality is propagated sufficiently widely this would provide an effective means of world population control, hardly need to be taken seriously. The least fertile ground for such propaganda is likely to be in the developing countries, where the need for population control is the greatest; and in the developed countries, such as our own, apart from any other consideration, the record low birthrate must now be a cause for concern even to the most fervent advocates of birth control in the past—but that, of course, is the subject for another debate. My Lords, in the question I posed I referred to the wish for the greatest possible happiness for my children and grandchildren, and in fact, of course, for all young people. This is concerned not solely with finding a happy family life but also with their adjustment to society. In a letter I have received from a senior probation officer, Mr. Kavanagh, he writes as follows:"…for support for an amendment which will be introduced to lower the age of consent to 16".
"For the past 20 years I have dealt in a professional capacity with youths and men who are homosexually orientated, in approved schools, in prisons and before the Courts, many of them for offences not of a sexual nature but which sometimes arise from the frustrations of being sexually incomplete—unable to relate to the opposite sex—and who feel unable to compete on equal terms with members of their own sex. I set out my personal view below.
So writes this probation officer. As a postscript I might add that the most pitiful figure of all is the elderly homosexual obtaining his sex relationships only by paying for a male prostitute, sometimes very young, who is frequently provided by a vice king and is a potent reservoir for transmission of veneral disease, to which I shall refer later. My Lords, I do not believe there is one of your Lordships who would not do everything possible to minimise the risk of such a fate for those near and dear to us. In the question I posed I referred also to their developing into homosexuals —vitally important words in the context of this debate. I do not propose to go into the questions as to how far homosexual tendencies or a liability to over-react to the possible environmental influences suggested, such as a domineering mother and so-called "weak" father, may be genetically transmitted, as these are very contentious. What seems to be generally accepted is that boys and girls frequently go through a homosexual phase, as has been repeatedly stressed today. In general the fundamental questions to be answered are: at what age does this usually transient homosexual tendency pass into the permanent heterosexual proclivity and how far can this transition be influenced by contact with and the advances of the adult practising homosexual? So far as the question as to the age at which the young man's sex makeup is stabilised is concerned, there is no reason whatever to equate this with the age at which the vote is given, enlisting in the Armed Forces and, if necessary, being expected to fight for one's country or even the age at which normal heterosexual activity is legally permitted in girls, or any of the other criteria on which the exponents of homosexual reform base their case. The age for legal homosexuality, it seems to me, can be determined by reference to biological factors alone, whatever may be their underlying mechanisms. Just as the extent of potential hetero- or homosexuality varies in different individuals, so does the age at which one or other tendency is confirmed; and the law must take account of the late heterosexual developer which it does at present by setting the age of consent at 21. The power of the adult practising homosexual over a young man needs no emphasis. In a position of influence he can bind him to his will: "Consent or else!"—and those between 18 and 21 at university or starting out in certain careers are particularly vulnerable. Heaven help those who may be subject to such blackmail if this Bill goes through! My Lords, in conclusion, as a bacteriologist I must refer briefly to that great social problem the spread of venereal disease which is greatly accentuated if not dependent upon promiscuity—a characteristic feature of the homosexual relationship with the young adult. I need not enlarge on the problem of the increase in venereal disease in general. I have done so many times before. But in relation to homosexuals the following facts are relevant. Ten years ago syphilis was becoming so rare that it was difficult to find material to instruct students in diagnosis. Now, it is relatively common and ample material is available. Out of 100 new cases reported in one teaching hospital, 80 were in male homosexuals, many of them young. Gonorrhoea is about ten times as common as syphilis and in the same hospital about one-third of the new cases were in male homosexuals. In addition to this is a report referred to in The Times of 16th February this year in which it was stated that a viral disease known as hepatitis B which can lead to jaundice and also to chronic liver failure can be transmitted venereally and particularly among homosexuals. It has been referred to by Dr. Duncan Catterall as now the most serious sexually transmitted disease. My Lords, I shall not detain you further. But, in conclusion, these are the reasons why I shall follow the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, into the Division Lobby this evening and I hope that your Lordships will see to it that his Amendment is carried overwhelmingly and that this Bill is heard of no more."The campaign to persuade society that homosexuality is as natural as being red-haired or left-handed is nonsense, and cruel nonsense. Many men who are sexually incomplete and know only too well the disadvantages are being pressured to deny their anxiety and pretend it does not exist. One of them has talked of the 'hell of alienation', not just alienation from society but the alienation born of not being firmly established emotionally as a member of the sex to which they belong anatomically. Those of us who are preparea to listen to them know well the evil and cruelty of a campaign which equates their situation with the colour of hair".
My Lords, I rise to support the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, in his Amendment. Before doing so, I have been asked by the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, who has taken part in similar debates recently, to express his regret at not being present owing to an engagement in Scotland which he could not break and to express his agreement with the Amendment. I have also been specifically asked by the Boys' Brigade and by the Association of Boys' Clubs, in both of whom I have held honorary positions, to say that they agree with the Amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury.My Lords, I wish to support the Amendment on two grounds: one is corporate and the other individual. First, on corporate grounds, quite rightly most speeches have been dealing immediately with the immediate situation, but I think it is important that at least one speech should see the issue in a wider setting. I refer to the fact that we live in a world of permissiveness which has not been exceeded since the time immediately preceding the collapse of the Roman Empire. Solely for the sake of brevity, I want to see this in terms of the Ten Commandments, to show how I think it is related to other issues that we cannot afford to scorn. First: "Thou shalt not covet." Seven years ago—and I referred to this in this House not long ago—there was a London bank which had a very large investment in the Cabora Bassa Dam. The Cabora Bassa Dam was built largely to assist apartheid in South Africa. Some students wished to protest, and each took a share in order that they might be present at the annual meeting. At that meeting, they tried to protest against this use of money from London for this purpose. The chairman of the foreign section of the bank got them together in his room afterwards and said to them: "You young men must understand that international trade is now so intertwined that if you bring principle into it there would be no international trading." In other words, where profit is concerned to blazes with principles—and that from the chairman of a bank. To be more up to date, in the recent accusations against Leyland regarding bribes, set at nought by the discovery of forgery, before the discovery, no less than the Director-General of the British Overseas Trade Board, Sir Fred Catherwood, rushed into print by way of an interview with a newspaper to assure us that bribery was not a crime in certain countries and that unless we indulged in it in those countries we might lose 600,000 jobs. So where profit is concerned, let principle go! "Thou shalt not covet" is gone by the board. This is our atmosphere. "Thou shalt not kill". I need not take time on that in a nuclear age; but not enough people know that the President of the United States has said that he may use nuclear weapons before the Russians use them. Not enough people know that when asked by two Congressmen whether he was ready for the Russians, a recent President said: "I have only to take up that telephone and say the code word, and 70 million men, women and children will be dead in half an hour" Not enough people know that, so precipitate is nuclear warfare, there will be no time to go to Parliament to decide whether to go to war. This means that it is going to he decided for us by the President of the USA, and that we may wake up one morning to find that we are involved in nuclear war in order to prove the superiority of Christianity over Communism and that we are likely to kill 70 million men, women and children in half an hour. This is the mood and atmosphere in which we are, since we have got away from ultimate moral principles. In the matter nearest to the subject. "Thou shalt not commit adultery", not enough people know that in Italy there have been 1 million abortions in the last recorded year, and that in the USA in the last recorded year there were more abortions than births; and, as everybody knows, the vast reason for this is just simply lust on the part of men—and there is the unbelievable experience of sadness of over 1 million women at the moment when it should be their greatest hour. I am saying that, in the light of this mood and this significance, this Amendment has its own place; just at the moment when in the United States, they are making great moves against pornography—and I can give details about that—and just at the moment when in Florida, as in the Press in the last week, there has been a great move against homosexual practice. It seems a pity that this House should hack such a Motion as this at this moment. Or, in terms of our own country, when the Jubilee celebrations have been so glorious in their amazement to everybody in the determination of our country to go new ways, what lack of imagination it is that at that same time we should be speaking in the terms that seem to be the terms of this Bill. My only other point is a shorter one. It is on the individual level and it has been made by the noble Lord who preceded me. Anyone who has the job of giving pastoral counselling to young men in distress in this regard knows that it is precisely between the ages of 19 and 21 that there appear to he homosexual tendencies which, in fact, can disappear. I could give six cases which occur to my mind at once, though I would not give them, of young men who thought that they were permanently in this situation and were begged to continue living in normal relationship. All of them are married now, and with young children. Had they lived in the present climate, they would have been led astray for the rest of their time just by the present mood, which is in terms with a mood with which we cannot afford to be critical by reason of the background I have given. If this Bill is passed, rest assured that scores of young men will be led up the garden path who might otherwise shortly be married and be happy; this will be caused simply by the mood that we seem to be assisting if we pass this Bill. I know there are some who cannot help it for they are made that way; and, in all sincerity, we express our deep sympathy. But are they the only people who are made in a particular way and cannot help it? What about kleptomaniacs? Could not some of them start a gay kleptomaniac movement to allow them to meet together in a gay kind of way and decide how best to raid Woolworth's? My Lords, you say I am joking; but I am not, because money happens to be our real god and not the god of morality, to whom we are said to pay court. Right across the hoard we have given up the god of our morality and money has become our god. If we do not want to topple, as the Roman Empire toppled, let us defy all legislation that attempts to unseat the moral law.
My Lords, not for the first time I must disappoint your Lordships by rising to speak when I had decided to scratch my name off the list of speakers. I know that most of your Lordships have made up your minds and want to get on to the vote. The reason I do so is not that I have been tempted by Lord MacLeod of Fuinary's references to abortion with which, as I think he knows, I thoroughly agree; nor to contradict him in saying that our god is Money—though I think at the moment it is Sex. The reason I am speaking is that I was needled by the noble Earl, Lord Cork and Orrery, into contradicting an impression he had and which some of your Lordships may have had from the otherwise excellently clear, and very courageous speech by my noble friend Lord Beaumont, to the effect that supporting Lord Arran's Bill was the unanimous policy of the Liberal Party. I think that was a misunderstanding, and I think I am speaking with permission when I say that it is certainly not unanimous policy. Having listened to all these speeches—though I had made up my mind before—I intend on this occasion to support Lord Halsbury's Amendment.So many points with which I agree have been made so clearly that, in view of the shortage of time, I will not speak further except to defend myself to my noble friends. Unconsciously—they are too polite to say so, unlike the charming late Lord Silkin who once accused me of being a hyena—they, I think, have accused me in the past of being a Roman Catholic and a Reactionary. Which is the more serious crime I do not know. In fact, I am neither. But they may tonight think I am also an opponent of progressive legislation. I am not; I am entirely in favour of much progressive legislation. But, like all good things, I think it has two dangers: I think it can go too fast, and too far, as when a traveller—and here, my Lords, before I sit down, may I quote lines from a Victorian poem which was better known in Browning's time than our own:
"As when a traveller from North to South Scorns fur in Russia; what's its use in France?
In France, spurns flannel; where's its need in Spain?
In Spain, cuts cloth, too cumbrous for Algiers.
Linen goes next; and last, the skin itself,
A superfluity in Timbuctoo.
It may be said on moral matters we should not mind being flayed alive for a good cause; but the point I should like to make is that a journey from North to South does not end at Timbuctoo. If one goes on on the assumption that the climate is going to get warmer and more comfortable, and having shed one's skin one can shed one's flesh and presumably a lot of blood, and arrive further South as a happy skeleton, by the time one gets to the Antarctic I believe that any muscles left would be stiff and that literally the marrow might be frozen in one's bones. That has happened to civilisations in the past. All of us agree that it would be a pity if it happened to ours. I believe that this debate is a minor milestone in an attempt to arrest that. My Lords, I apologise for speaking for three minutes when I meant to speak for one.Where in his journey was the fool at ease?"
My Lords, I greatly sympathise with the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, in the unpleasant after-taste with which his very thorough researches left him. I am sure that my reaction would have been exactly the same had I been allocated the same task. But with all respect, his findings do not seem to me to have much to do with the Bill under discussion. Either the male prostitution and quasi public practices which he found are already illegal and the law ought to he enforced, or they are not illegal but perhaps ought to be made so, in which case the restrictions ought to apply across the board to all ages and not merely to those between the ages of 18 and 21.I should like to take up briefly a point made by my noble friend Lord Stamp in which he spoke about "late heterosexual developers". Is it not the case that the evidence unanimously given by medical witnesses to the Wolfenden Committee was that a person's sexual tendencies are established early in his or her life, which I take to be before the age of puberty? If this is the case, surely this Bill could not make very much difference one way or the other. Listening to today's debate which to a considerable extent retrod the ground which we covered 10, 11 and 12 years ago, I could not help thinking, not for the first time, how much more sensibly they order these matters in Latin countries. In France and in Italy people do not, on the whole, lie awake at night worrying themselves sick about what other people may or may not be doing within the four walls of their bedrooms. In consequence, there have never been laws making certain types of private behaviour a criminal offence. There is a significant corollary to this way of looking at things: because of the absence of vindictive and Draconian legislation, there is consequently an absence of guilt feeling; and, accordingly, there is not the excessive indulgence towards blatantly provocative and exhibitionist behaviour that we find all too often in this country. Indeed, in Paris or Rome a homosexual who behaved in a publicly offensive or proselytising manner, particularly if it were suspected that young people were involved, would quickly find himself on the verge of being hurled into the Seine or Tiber respectively, leaving the majority of homosexuals, who conduct their intimate lives with the same discretion and decorum that the majority of heterosexuals do, to get on with their lives in peace. It seems to me a great pity that this pragmatic, down-to-earth and unhysterical way of regarding the matter could not be more widely adopted in Anglo Saxon countries. On this subject I hold two things to be axiomatic: first it is degrading to society, as well as to the individual policemen who are compelled to carry out the task, to force the police to peer through keyholes of people's bedrooms—whether literally or metaphorically—except in the most extreme circumstances. The second is that in a free society adults have the right to conduct their own private lives as they wish so long as third parties are not harmed thereby. The operative words are "private" and "adult". I agree entirely that public homosexual behaviour of an intimate nature is far more offensive than public hetero-sexual behaviour would be. I totally disagree with what the Campaign for Homosexual Equality maintain, that there is no difference between the two, and think it is absolutely right that the law should be harsher in this respect. I should also like to mention that I would resist absolutely any move to lower the age of homosexual consent below the age of majority; I think that would be utterly wrong. With all respect to the noble Earl, Lord Longford, I do not think there is any chance whatsoever of the age of majority being lowered to 17. The real nub of what we are discussing today is the word "adult". Eight years ago the age of majority was lowered from 21 to 18, although there was no overwhelming demand for this on the part of young people, and although many of us doubted the wisdom of lowering the age by a full three years, for reasons quite unconnected with the Bill before this House today. Nevertheless, in the mistaken belief, I suspect, that it would be electorally disadvantageous to oppose the move, such doubts as existed in this country were stifled, and we are now faced with the fact that the age of majority is 18 and is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. That being the case, what could engender more cynicism, more resentment and more contempt among young people for the values, the teaching and the traditions of their elders than the prospect of the older generation conferring the privileges of adulthood upon the 18 to 21 year olds with one hand in order to get their vote, while seeking to remove an important aspect of those privileges with the other hand, at least so far as the private lives of young males are concerned. It is not just the small homosexual minority that would seethe with justifiable resentment but the enormous heterosexual majority as well. I can assure your Lordships of that. I consider that the dangers to the long-term health and cohesion of this country that would result from such resentment far outweigh such small risks as might result from the successful passage of this Bill. For that reason, and because I believe the Bill to be essentially just, I shall have no hesitation in joining the noble Earl, Lord Arran, in the Division Lobby this evening.
My Lords, I, too, support the noble Earl, Lord Arran, and I have done so in the past on a number of occasions. He has been a standard-bearer of liberty movements over the last few years in your Lordships' House. This Bill is in line with his earlier efforts. Its prospects at the moment look a little bleak, but he certainly has the support of quite a number of us. As one who now seldom rises to his feet in your Lordships' House, I feel that I owe him my support this afternoon, even as a voice from the past.I do not propose to make a long speech, commenting on speeches made earlier. The noble Lord, Lord Monson, who has just resumed his seat, seemed to me to let a fresh breeze of logic and reason into the debate, which has been marked by a number of the most outrageous arguments I have ever heard put forward—and that includes a category of very outrageous ones indeed. The noble Viscount, Lord Barrington, said he felt he might well be accused of being a reactionary. I have no hesitation whatever in describing him as a thorough reactionary and of saying that there has been more reactionary twaddle talked this afternoon than I have heard for a very long time. The only other speech I should like to refer to is that of the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, who, in an interesting speech which was to some extent at least founded on the report of the famous Committee of which he was a member, told us how long the debates in that Committee had been as to whether or not they should recommend the reduction of the age of consent from 21 to 18. He said that, after long and careful consideration, they decided that 21 was the proper age. That no doubt is right and at that time I think I should certainly have agreed with them, because 21 was the age of citizenship. The noble Lord, Lord Monson, pointed out—and it cannot be emphasised too strongly—that after years of very careful discussion in your Lordships' House, in another place and throughout the country, it was decided that 21 had become too old a year for citizenship to be taken on by the people of this country and that full citizenship should start at 18 rather than at 21, as in the past. Surely, it is logically completely indefensible to make an exception in a case of this kind. Sexual freedom is as important as any other kind of freedom; and this is an absurd exception to be left on the Statute Book, as it will be if the vote goes in the way that the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, hopes. I hope that your Lordships will pay very close attention to this particular point, because it is not only illogical but ridiculous and absurd that, after all this discussion and careful deliberation, when 18 has been chosen as the age for citizenship, you should make an exception of this kind. I shall therefore vote, without much hope but with conviction of principle, in favour of the Motion that we give this Bill a Second Reading.
My Lords, because of the several organisations with which I am associated and which have approached me on the subject of this Bill, and perhaps because this very Friday I am opening the new local headquarters of the district Boy Scouts of which I am President, I have decided to put the case, as I see it, for those youth organisations. Rather than putting it all on to myself I have here a letter, which I should like to quote to your Lordships, from the noble Lord, Lord Baden-Powell, who cannot be here. It refers peculiarly to the Boy Scouts. This is what he says:
"Apart from the moral, religious and psychological issues involved in this attempt to lower the age of consent for male homosexual acts, there is the consideration of the effect on the young people themselves. The older age training section of the Scouts' Association—the Venture Scouts section—is involved with young people of both sexes between 15 and 20 years of age. I am a Venture Scout leader and I am aware that young people today are very much more sexually aware and frank than at any time in the past hundred years. They are not the little innocents we would believe them to be. However, the effect on these young people when an approach has been made to them by an older person—a not uncommon experience—is traumatic. They are not mature enough to know how to cope with and rebuff the advance, particularly if the approach has conic from someone physically stronger than themselves. I have seen young men return from such an encounter white with fright and, in an alarming number of instances, they have known they have only been saved by their assailant's ultimate fear of the law as it now stands.
I think that that is a better way of expressing what I want to say. The only other point that I should like to make is that what I find so repulsive nowadays is the arrogance of these homosexuals, especially in their publications, and I am looking forward to hearing the answer of the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, to the question of the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, as to whether these publications will be allowed to continue.It is sometimes argued that some homosexuals are not attracted to younger men. That may be so, but there are enough who are to make even the present law inadequate. These young people, after such an encounter, affect much bravado in front of their peers but it does have a deep and lasting impression on them beyond reasonable bounds, as they are haunted by the fear of further approaches which they will not be able to contain. I have known such an approach to have had a positively detrimental effect on an individual's work and social relationships for a considerable while afterwards. I have not yet observed, thank God ! what effect is made on the young person when the approach has been pressed to a conclusion. In those circumstances, who is to say if consent is freely given or given under duress? The awful effects on that young person's mind are beyond comprehension. These observations are not mine alone, but are also those of virtually every other Venture Scout leader with whom I have discussed this problem. We all agree that these approaches by older men to our members and the consequent lasting traumas are the single most recurring problem we face as leaders of that age group".
My Lords, I should like to apologise to the noble Earl, Lord Arran, and to your Lordships for having come so late to the Chamber at the end of a debate of such importance. I had to be in Cambridge for a centenary meeting, where many of my brother bishops were also present, and I apologise profusely for missing the opening part of the debate. But I have been so overwhelmed with the tremendous pressure from young people, and from organisations of all kinds concerned with young people, that I feel I must share that fact briefly with your Lordships. All of us who are on the Bishops' Bench are in touch with young people, and my senior colleague beside me has made his own clear speech earlier this afternoon. But when one lists the National Association of Boys Clubs, the Scout movement, the Pathfinder movement, the Colleges Department of the universities, the Colleges Christian Fellowship, of which last year I was president, and the Anglican Committee of the Boys' Brigade, of which I am chairman, it will be seen that I have personal knowledge of the extreme concern of almost every organisation working among senior young people, who are totally and unitedly against this Bill.Secondly, I should like to say that I believe the Bill to be both illiberal and cruel. I say that it is illiberal, because it takes away the liberty of our growing and senior adolescents, who are between the ages of 18 and 21, to go on developing in natural and harmonious psychological ways, and removes the cover for them in those vital years. Those of us who are parents—and I have three in my family who are between the ages of 14 and 21—recognise that this Bill is illiberal and cruel, in that it will put at risk the growing number of young people of that age, who will not have the protection which they have at the moment. I say that it is cruel, because there is physical danger in homosexuality. There is also moral danger and, from the simple Christian point of view, the matter of sin in homosexual relationships. There is, too, the compassion, love and care that need to be shown to those who may be going through a formative period in their sexual lives, and have not yet found themselves as persons, and who at this stage can he hurt for many years if this Bill is passed. I therefore believe it to be both illiberal and cruel. Though not all of us may be able to vote for the Amendment—I shall do so myself if it goes to a vote—I hope that all of us who are engaged in the care of young people will not vote for this Bill, quite simply because we have a responsibility for the family, for the individual and for the nation. The opening of the flood gates of further sinfulness in this way can do nothing but harm. I do not believe it to be a liberalising Bill, because it puts the best of our young people, who are aged between 14 and 21, at risk in half a dozen different ways. I speak briefly, because we are near the end of a long and important debate. But I believe that we should be failing in our duty at this period of our nation's development if we allowed this Bill a Second Reading.
My Lords, I apologise to your Lordships for rising at all, particularly because what I am going to say has been referred to more than once in this debate. I want only to state officially that the National Association of Boys Clubs is entirely opposed to this Bill—and very strongly so—and in favour of the Amendment. I say "officially", because I happen to have been a vice-chairman of that Association for 39 years.
My Lords, I know that we all listened with care and attention to the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Arran, in moving the Second Reading of this Bill, and I am certain that we are all grateful to him for having given us an opportunity today to debate this question. As on previous occasions when matters of this character have been debated, it is customary for the Government to remain neutral and to allow the issue to be decided according to the consciences of individual Members of this House. We propose to follow the same course today and, indeed, I think that we have probably been strengthened in our resolve as a result of the discussion which has taken place between the noble Viscount, Lord Barrington, and the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, as to what exactly is the policy of the Liberal Party on this question. It is pre-eminently a question on which—
My Lords, there is absolutely no doubt about the policy of the Liberal Party. It is this Bill. The noble Viscount, Lord Barrington, quite rightly exercises his right to dissent from it on this occasion.
My Lords, I am delighted that this matter has been clarified, as I am sure is the whole House. I am also sure we welcome the fact that Members are allowed to dissent on matters of conscience, as apparently the noble Viscount is doing, from decisions taken by that Party. Nevertheless, it is right that matters of this kind should be left to the consciences of individual Members, both of this House and of another place. This is not a matter for Party decision. It is manifestly not such a question.Before I come to the substance of this debate today, I should like to deal with one point which was raised by the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, who asked whether certain publications were unlawful. Clearly, I should not be in a position to answer without knowing something about the publications. But, in any event, quite apart from that, it is not for the Government to answer a question of this kind. The Government are not responsible for a matter of this kind. This is a matter for the prosecuting authorities; in the first instance, the Chief Constable of the force concerned, where the publication takes place, or, alternatively, the Director of Public Prosecutions. Certainly, if the noble Earl believed that a publication in his possession represents in some way a breach of the law, he would be well advised to draw it to the attention either of the Chief Constable of the appropriate force, or of the Director of Public Prosecutions. Turning now to the substance of the debate which we have had today, I think I should make it clear at the outset that, while we certainly fully appreciate the sincere motives that have led the noble Earl to introduce this Bill, there are a number of factors which we consider the House will want to take fully into account before deciding whether it would be appropriate to give this Bill a Second Reading. Your Lordships will recall the origin of the present law, and indeed there have been many references to it in the debate today, not least in the speech of the noble Earl who introduced this Bill. It was based on the Wolfenden Committee's recommendation, which set 21 as the appropriate age at which homosexual acts in private between consenting adults should for the first time cease to be unlawful. We had the advantage of hearing the speech of the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, who explained to us the reasons which had made the Wolfenden Committee come to the conclusion that it did. Before the Sexual Offences Act 1967 became law several Bills (two of them, I believe, introduced by the noble Earl, Lord Arran) failed to reach the Statute Book. I know and fully appreciate the noble Earl's interest in this issue and I am conscious of the part which he played in securing the successful passage of the 1967 Act. As a result of the passage of that piece of legislation, we have accordingly had some 10 years' experience of the greater freedom which has been allowed to homosexuals. In the meantime —this again has been referred to in many speeches—there has been much campaigning by the Campaign for Homosexual Equality and similar groups to alter the law so as to achieve still more freedom. We are now asked to make a decision as to whether or not the minimum age for homosexual relations ought to be 18 rather than 21. I accept at once that there have been several changes in the meantime which appear to be relevant to this issue of what the minimum age should be. Especially is this true now that the age of majority for voting and certain other purposes has, following the recommendations of the Latey Committee, been reduced to 18. Because of the current need to study the whole question of sexual offences, the law relating to the age of consent is now being considered by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary's Criminal Law Revision Committee and the Policy Advisory Committee on Sexual Offences, in the context of a wider review of sexual offences. The latter Committee, which is a multidisciplinary committee, was, as your Lordships are aware, appointed by my right honourable friend the former Home Secretary in December 1975. The committee has the particular function of looking into the medical, sociological and other wider issues which arise in a review of the law on sexual offences, and to provide an assessment of lay opinion. Its terms of reference are, and I think it is appropriate to quote them:
Its first task was to look thoroughly at both the minimum age for homosexual relations, and the heterosexual age of consent. I understand that the Policy Advisory Committee, under the chairmanship of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Edmund-Davies, until his retirement and now of his successor, Lord Justice Waller, has made a careful study of the whole question of the minimum age for homosexual relations, and has sought and obtained views from a wide range of organisations and individuals. It is too soon yet to say what the views of the two committees are likely to be. While significant progress has certainly been made, further work remains to be done, both in the light of the results, so far as they can be known, of the legislation already passed and the relevant ages in other countries, in both Europe and the Commonwealth. My own view is that we ought to wait until these committees have reported before we go further towards decriminalising homosexual acts. We have clearly here an issue of substantial importance where views are divided. The question is by no means a simple one. It should not, I think, be the subject of a hasty decision, taken without the support of a full report by a highly competent committee. I do not want to attempt to influence any of your Lordships to vote otherwise than as his conscience directs, but I see great merit in waiting until we have a report on this subject from the Criminal Law Revision Committee and the Policy Advisory Committee, which I hope will not be long delayed. We can then, in the light of their advice, take a fully informed decision. In the light of what I have just said and in the context of the very valuable debate which we have just had and the explanation I have given of the action being taken by the Government to explore the issue, I would certainly urge the noble Earl, Lord Arran, to withdraw his Bill. If he does not do so, I must make it quite clear that I shall be quite unable to support him."To look into and advise on the age of consent in relation to sexual offences and such other issues arising during the Criminal Law Revision Committee's review of sexual offences as may be referred to them by the Home Secretary or that Committee."
My Lords, my aim is simply this: to lower the age of consent among homosexuals from 21 to 18, for it will serve the function of fully acknowledging that homosexuals are perfectly ordinary people. I am aware that the latest research in London hospitals indicates that there is a strain of venereal disease that is markedly more common in homosexuals than in heterosexuals. This is regrettable but is by no means a reason for stamping out a practice which it has been discovered will be solved medically. Senior consultants in venereal disease hospitals are in favour of lowering the age of consent because patients are more willing to come forward for treatment when they know that what they are doing is not illegal. If they hold back, this tends to spread rather than prevent infection. Syphilis, which took a heavy toll of lives before modern medicine, has now been curbed. Males of all ages are equally susceptible.I acknowledge the point made by noble Lords about homosexual promiscuity. I am also aware that since the Sexual Offences Act came into force a great deal of research into homosexuality has given us an altered and more informed picture of homosexual social behaviour. Today we are, hopefully, more sympathetic, and we should be seeking to bring the law into line with others that deal with the age of consent. Is there any reason why a man who is old enough to marry, vote and die for his country should be disallowed from fulfilling his sexual desires? Freer legislation towards homosexuals should, in the long run, create for them the possibility of a more stable domestic life. Homosexual practice, often, no doubt, indulged in in early manhood, can exhaust itself rapidly, and thereafter heterosexual partnerships will be made. Surely correct legislation should encourage the quicker passing of what is, frankly, only an early phase. I understand that male prostitution exists, but it would be naive to suppose that the present law protects all those who are not yet 21. This issue is unrelated to age relations for homosexuals. We come now to the question of the lowering of standards. Have not all the great philosophical minds exhausted themselves on this thorny subject? I do not feel guilty of having lowered standards, as indicated in the Amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury. Perhaps your Lordships and I are wrong, but I can see more harm in restricting the sexual development of young men, with possibly long-term bad effects, than leaving these matters to their own often underrated discretion. Your Lordships might argue that a man of 18 is more easily misled than a man of 21. However, we mature more rapidly now than ever before, and for this good reason other legislation relating to age limits has adapted itself. In truth, it is not a question of the 19-yearold who is at his most intractable and self willed. In reality, the critical stage in a man's sexual life is almost invariably before the age of 18. Few men at the age of 18 suddenly turn homosexual. The young generation are exposed to much more knowledge of these matters than we ever were. Is restrictive law suited to the spirit of our time?
My Lords, in rising to reply to the comments that have been made on my Amendment, I should like to thank all those who have spoken against the Bill or in favour of the Amendment in a quite long and very interesting debate. I think there are only three critics to whom I have to reply. I do not believe that the noble Baroness, Lady Gaitskell, was listening attentively to what I said when she appeared to imply that I thought homosexuality was a sickness. I never said that. What I said was that homosexuals who did not adopt proper standards of behaviour and make the best of the situation in which they found themselves, by living good lives, would be overtaken by the syndrome whose symptoms were exhibitionism, promiscuity, proselytism and a vainglorious boastfulness about the merits of being homosexual. I never suggested that homosexuality itself was a sickness.I have three points to reply to, two of them made both by the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, and the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley. One is their disposition to chase a will-o'-the-wisp; that is to say, a logical connection between the age of citizenship, the age of consent in heterosexual matters, the age of consent in homosexual matters and the age of military service. There is no logical connection between any of those matters; they are not geometrical deductions like Euclid. They are considered judgments in social situations. One might just as well ask for there to be a logical connection between these matters and the age at which you are allowed to have a licence to drive a motor bicycle. The other point was that I found their concepts of freedom are a trifle naive—and I say that with regret. In any context there is always "freedom for" and "freedom from", and one man's "freedom for" is bound to exercise a limiting effect on another man's "freedom from". In pleading for freedom for homosexuals, what about the freedom from homosexuals that we should like our young people to enjoy for as long as possible? To some extent all these must be matters of compromise and consensus. That leads me to the third point that I wish to make; namely, a certain misunderstanding in interpreting the actual words in which the Wolfenden recommendations were made. The phrase began: "All things considered". What were all those things? There were a number of them, but one point quite clearly in all of them, if I may put it in my own words, was the need for a kind of close season for seduction by older men in the immediate post-school leaving age period. At a time when the age of majority and of citizenship was 21, the choice of 21 as the age of consent provided that close season from seduction. It does not follow if you lower the age of majority from 21 to 18 that you abolish the need for the close season. It merely re-opens what that should be. My Amendment simply seeks to preserve the status quo. I am deeply grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, for replying to my question, because he killed two birds with one stone and answered the question in my mind with regard to these piles of pornography that I have been accumulating while doing my homework; that is, where am I going to put them when this debate is over. The noble Lord now tells me that I can land them on the Director of Public Prosecutions, together with a copy of Hansard. Not one single voice has been raised against the facts that I adduced in support of my Amendment. Nobody has disputed anything I said, and therefore it remains only to invite your Lordships to follow me into the Division Lobby by an overwhelming majority when the Question is put.
My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down, may I say that many people dispute his facts. Facts can be used in a completely personal way, and I think the noble Earl has used his facts entirely personally. Also I am not deaf, not particularly stupid, nor particularly naive, so all those accusations against me do not hold water. I distinctly heard the noble Earl say that homosexuality was criminal and was every kind of thing that I do not believe in. That is all.
My Lords, the original Question was, That the Bill be now read a second time, since when an Amendment has been moved to leave out all the words after "That" and insert the words printed on the Order Paper. The Question I therefore now have to put is that this Amendment be agreed to?
|Adeane, L.||Garner, L.||Northesk, E.|
|Ailsa, M.||Gordon-Walker, L.||Norwich, Bp.|
|Alanbrooke, V.||Granville of Eye, L.||Nugent of Guildford, L.|
|Allerton, L.||Gray, L.||Oxford and Asquith, E.|
|Alport, L.||Greenway, L.||Paget of Northampton, L.|
|Amherst of Hackney, L.||Haig, E.||Peart, L. (L. Privy Seal.)|
|Amory, V.||Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.||Phillips, B.|
|Ampthill, L.||Pitt of Hampstead, L.|
|Arwyn, L.||Halsbury, E. [Teller.]||Platt, L.|
|Auckland, L.||Hankey, L.||Popplewell, L.|
|Balerno, L.||Hanworth, V.||Porritt, L.|
|Balfour of Burleigh, L.||Hawke, L.||Rankeillour, L.|
|Barrington, V.||Henderson, L.||Rathcreedan, L.|
|Birmingham, Bp.||Henley, L.||Redcliffe-Maud, L.|
|Blyton, L.||Home of the Hirsel, L.||Robertson of Oakridge, L.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, L.||Hornsby-Smith, B.||Rochdale, V.|
|Brooke of Cumnor, L.||Hunt, L.||Romney, E.|
|Brooke of Ystradfellte, B.||Hylton-Foster, B.||Rusholme, L.|
|Caccia, L.||Ingleby, V.||Russell of Killowen, L.|
|Campbell of Croy, L.||Inglewood, L.||St. Aldwyn, E.|
|Carlisle, Bp.||Jacques, L.||Sandford, L.|
|Carrington, L.||Kagan, L.||Sandys, L.|
|Champion, L.||Keith of Kingel, L.||Seafield, E.|
|Clifford of Chudleigh, L.||Kinloss, Ly.||Selkirk, E.|
|Clwyd, L.||Lauderdale, E. [Teller.]||Sharples, B.|
|Cobham, V.||Leatherland, L.||Spens, L.|
|Coleraine, L.||Lee of Newton, L.||Stamp, L.|
|Collison, L.||Long, V.||Stedman, B.|
|Cooper of Stockton Heath, L.||Longford, E.||Stewart of Alvechurch, B.|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||Lothian, M.||Stone, L.|
|Craigmyle, L.||Loudoun, C.||Stabolgi, L.|
|Cullen of Ashbourne, L.||Lovat, L.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Daventry, V.||Lytton, E.||Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.|
|de Clifford, L.||McCluskey, L.||Strathspey, L.|
|De Freyne, L.||Macleod of Borve, B.||Swinton, E.|
|Denham, L.||MacLeod of Fuinary, L.||Taylor of Gryfe, L.|
|Devonshire, D.||Maelor, L.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Donegall, M.||Mansfield, E.||Terrington, L.|
|Drumalbyn, L.||Masham of Ilton, B.||Teviot, L.|
|Dundee, E.||Maybray-King, L.||Tranmire, L.|
|Elles, B.||Melville, V.||Trefgarne, L.|
|Elliot of Harwood, B.||Merrivale, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Emmet of Amberley, B.||Monck, V.||Wallace of Coslany, L.|
|Falkland, V.||Monckton of Brenchley, V.||Wells-Pestell, L.|
|Ferrers, E.||Morris, L.||Westbury, L.|
|Forester, L.||Morris of Borth-y-Gest, L.||Wilson of Langside, L.|
|Fraser of Kilmorack, L.||Mottistone, L.||Wilson of Radcliffe, L.|
|Furness, V.||Newall, L.||Wynne-Jones, L.|
|Gainford, L.||Northchurch, B.||Younger of Leckie. V.|
|Aberdeen and Temair, M.||Delacourt-Smith of Alteryn, B.||Monson, L.|
|Amherst, E.||Feversham, L.||Pannell, L.|
|Arran, E. [Teller.]||Gaitskell, B.||Seear, B.|
|Banks, L.||Gardiner, L.||Shackleton, L.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L. [Teller.]||Hale, L.||Vaizey, L.|
|Hertford, M.||Vernon. L.|
|Brockway, L.||Houghton of Sowerby, L.||Wade, L.|
|Chorley, L.||Kilmarnock, L.||Willis, L.|
|Craigavon, V.||Listowel, E.|
Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.
On Question, Whether the said Amendment shall be agreed to?
Their Lordships divided: Contents, 146; Not-Contents, 25.
Sexual Offences (Scotland) Bill Hl
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.
Moved, that the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—( Lord Boothby.)
On Question, Motion agreed to.
House in Committee accordingly.
[The EARL of LISTOWEL in the Chair.]
Clause 1 [ Amendment of law relating to homosexual acts in private]:
moved Amendment No. 1:
Page 1, line 5, leave out from ("beginning") to ("subject") in line 6.
The noble Lord said: In moving the first Amendment, I should like to say to your Lordships that it is my intention and hope that this Bill should be, unlike the last one, non-controversial. Indeed, the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, was one of the Tellers when I moved the Second Reading of this Bill. It is a complicated matter, but I want to make clear to your Lordships that my sole objective is to bring the law of Scotland and the law of England into alignment on this subject. I think that is very important. I fully respect and appreciate the attitude of Her Majesty's Government upon this matter. It is one of neutrality. I also respect the attitude of the Opposition Front Bench as expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, that they, too, wish to be neutral in this matter. This is a Private Member's Bill designed for one purpose only, to bring the law of Scotland and the law of England into alignment.
While I respect the attitude and position of Her Majesty's Government, I am deeply grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Kirkhill, to the Crown Office, and to the Parliamentary draftsmen for their assistance in drafting the Amendments to the Bill. They are all essentially drafting amendments. They do not attempt, and I do not attempt, to change the law in any way. They attempt to bring the law of Scotland and the law of England into alignment. It is complicated because the law of Scotland and the law of England are different, and I could not possibly, as one who is not a professional lawyer, have hoped to draft the Amendments which stand in my name, with one exception, upon which I shall say a few words; that is, to fulfil a pledge which I gave on Second Reading to retain the age of 21 as the age of consent.
I therefore propose to move these Amendments formally. I have been through them carefully; I have studied them and I am satisfied that they do nothing except improve the Bill, and further my own wish to bring the laws of Scotland and England into line. I shall therefore in most cases move them formally. I shall say a few words about the age of consent in regard to which I am going to fulfil a pledge I made to the House on Second Reading. If noble Lords want any clarification or explanation, I am going to ask the noble Lord, Lord Kirkhill, to give it, because he knows a great deal more about the technical and legal aspects of this question than I. I am completely satisfied, having worked rather hard on this Bill—I have done more work on it than I have done for a long time past—that every one of my Amendments does nothing except enhance my desire to bring the laws of Scotland and England into alignment, which is important, and also to improve the Bill. I approve of all those Amendments. Certain Amendments have been tabled in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley. I do not say that I disagree with them, but I shall resist them because they run counter to my objective, which is not to change the law but to bring the law of the two countries into alignment. I beg to move Amendment No. 1.
We are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, for deciding to deal with the Amendments in the way in which he has suggested. I think that he has answered most of the questions I wanted to put to him. I was about to ask him whether I am right in assuming that the Bill which he has introduced was needed because the 1967 Act, which applies to England and Wales, was translated somewhat amateurishly in its application to Scotland and, further, whether—the Bill having had a Second Reading from your Lordships' House—it has become necessary to amend it substantially in order to put it into proper shape as Scottish legislation. I entirely understand that exercise; the first exercise was to indicate in principle what the noble Lord intended. Once that principle was accepted, an enormous number of changes appeared to be necessary. For example, I must point out that no less than five clauses are to be removed from the Bill. It is substantial redrafting. Like the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, I do not want to speak to all the Amendments as they come forward.The Amendments fall into three categories. The first category, which consists of most of the Amendments on the Marshalled List, contains those which will put the Bill into proper shape as a piece of Scottish legislation. From what the noble Lord has said, I understand that he has had the services of the official Parliamentary draftsman. Without seeking to put any reflection on his own powers and his own ability, in this respect I am sure that that was wise, because only the draftsman can really give final advice on matters of this kind. On that basis we on this side of the House will accept from this Bench that the Amendments have been examined very carefully by the official draftsman and that they are the right ones for fulfilling the purpose which the noble Lord has in mind. The second category of Amendments contain those to which the noble Lord referred on Second Reading—he said that the first draft of the Bill, which has the age of 18 in it, will be changed. We now have Amendment No. 3 and similar Amendments which raise the age from 18 to 21. That means, if this Bill is passed, that the Scottish law will be exactly the same as the law now is in England and Wales. I indicated on Second Reading that I hoped that that would be done. The third category is the category of Amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, which we shall come to towards the end. At first sight they appear to seek to add to the Bill or change it. That is not the purpose of the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, who is promoting the Bill. He has made it quite clear that he does not want to do anything more than ask your Lordships' House to pass a Bill which is as precisely as possible the equivalent of the 1967 Act for England and Wales. Amendment No. 1 falls into category one. I do not propose to query Amendments which are in that category and which are simply drafting Amendments to put the Bill into proper shape. I hope that Amendment No. 3 can be separated because that is concerned with the age of consent.
I rise at this point to indicate the Government's attitude to the Amendments to be moved by the noble Lord, Lord Boothby. In so far as these proposed Amendments are of a drafting nature only, moved with the intention of improving the Bill where it was previously technically unsatisfactory, I welcome them. I indicated at an earlier stage in your Lordships' House that there were a number of respects in which this Bill could be improved. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, for tabling Amendments to his Bill to meet these points and I would lend these Amendments my support as it appears to me that they have the effect simply of bringing out more clearly what the Bill seeks to achieve in the context of Scots law, and thus making the Bill more workable.In favouring these drafting Amendments, however, I must stress that I am in no way prejudicing the Government's benign neutrality on the issues raised by the Bill. Consideration of these issues will be for individual Members of your Lordships' House to determine.
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
moved Amendment No. 2:
Page 1, line 6, leave out ("the next following section") and insert ("this Act").
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
moved Amendment No. 3:
Page 1, line 9, leave out ("eighteen"} and insert ("twenty-one").
The noble Lord said: This Amendment carries out a pledge that I made to your Lordships on Second Reading, that I would not wish to alter the present law of England and that I would retain the age of 21 as the age of consent. I should like to add that I accept the decision which your Lordships have just reached on this matter and I hope that your Lordships will therefore accept this Amendment. I beg to move.
The noble Lord is carrying out the commitment which was made earlier, and I welcome it. He has also been farsighted, because he must have foreseen that the Bill of the noble Earl, Lord Arran, would fail, as it has earlier today, and therefore it would be right to ensure that the age, 21 years, was the same both North and South of the Border. Therefore, this means that the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, is carrying out a rationalisation of the situation in which in practice no prosecutions have been brought in Scotland over the past 10 years for what would not have been offences in England and Wales. By making this change, together with the drafting which has also been carried out, the noble Lord is bringing the law North of the Border as precisely as possible into line with the law as it exists South of the Border.
I rise to commiserate with the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, in having to move this Amendment and thus ally himself with that vast range of paternalistic speeches, so many of which he must have disagreed with this afternoon. I entirely appreciate why he has had to move it. If I had been in his position I should have done exactly the same.May I take this opportunity to say that the Amendments standing in my name later on in the Marshalled List are only for the purpose of raising the points which I think ought to be aired, and I shall not endeavour at any stage to alter the Bill as it will be after this Committee stage. I do not want to enter once again into the whole range of debate on which we have already spent three hours. However, there is one point which ought to go on record, and that is in answer to the various people who say that they cannot see the connection between an age of consent and an age of majority. Since there has been a sort of heavy air of Christianity about the House this afternoon, may I quote C. S. Lewis in this context. It starts from the point:
I am sure that Dr. Lewis himself would have qualified that to talk about the protection of the young. But when we have an age of majority we declare that people are free citizens of this country, equal before its laws. They are not equal before its laws if they are treated in this way once they are of the full age of citizenship. That is the nexus of the connection between those two points. That is why I object to this particular Amendment, but will of course do nothing about it."My own view is that masturbation, perversion and fornication are all evils but that the law should be concerned with none of them".
I do not need the noble Lord's commiseration because I have never thought that the difference between the ages of 18 and 21 was of much consequence. For one thing, I do not think that in practice it will be found to he enforceable; for another, I know of a number of men of 21 and over who look 16, bit I know of far more of 18 and 19 who look 60! I do not think that it is really of any great consequence, and never have. I am quite happy to accept the age of 21, and I ask your Lordships to accept this Amendment.
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
moved Amendment No. 4:
Page 1, leave out subsection (2).
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
moved Amendment No. 5:
Page 1, line 16, leave out from beginning to ("cannot") in line 17 and insert—
("(3) A male person who is suffering from mental deficiency which is of such a nature or degree that he is incapable of living an independent life or of guarding himself against serious exploitation").
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
moved Amendments Nos. 6 and 7:
page 1, line 21, leave out ("man") and insert ("male person")
page 1, line 23, leave out ("man") and insert ("male person").
The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 6 and Amendment No. 7 together because they are the same.
On Question, Amendments agreed to.
moved Amendment No. 8:
Page 1, line 23, leave out ("mental disorder") and insert ("such mental deficiency").
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
moved Amendments Nos. 9 and 10:
Page 2, line 3, leave out from ("committing") to end of line 4 and insert ("a homosexual act")
Page 2, line 5, leave out ("an") and insert ("a homosexual").
The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendments Nos. 9 and 10 en bloc. They are in fact the same.
On Question, Amendments agreed to.
moved Amendment No. 11:
Page 2, line 6, leave out ("(other than a civil offence)").
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
moved Amendment No. 12:
Page 2, leave out subsection (6).
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
moved Amendment No. 13:
Page 2, leave out subsection (7) and insert—
("(7) In this Act, "a homosexual act" means sodomy or an act of gross indecency by one male person with another male person.").
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.
moved Amendment No. 14:
Leave out Clause 2 and insert the following new clause:
(2.—(1) Subject to the provisions of section 1(2) above, it shall be an offence to commit or to be party to the commission of, or to procure or attempt to procure the commission of a homosexual act—
(2) In this Act—
- "member of the crew" in relation to a ship, includes the master of the ship;
- "United Kingdom merchant ship" means a ship registered in the United Kingdom habitually used or used at the time of the alleged offence for the purposes of carrying passengers or goods for reward.").
The noble Lord said: In moving this Amendment I should like to point out to your Lordships that there is a printers' error in subsection ( b). It should read:
"Without the consent of any party to the act,"
with a small "a" instead of a large "A", and not "part" but "party". Subject to that, I beg to move this Amendment.
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
moved Amendment No. 15:
Leave out Clause 3 and insert the following new clause:
"Revised punishments for homosexual offences
(3. From the commencement of this Act—
(1) A male person who commits or is party to the commission of an offence of sodomy tinder section 2(1) above shall be liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment, or on summary conviction to imprisonment for a period not exceeding 6 months.
(2) Subject to subsection (3) below, a male person who commits or is party to the commission of an offence consisting of an act of gross indecency under section 2(1) above or of the procuring or an attempt to procure the commission by another person of a homosexual act, shall be liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months.
(3) A male person of or over the age of twenty-one who commits or is party to the commission of any of the offences mentioned in subsection (2) above in relation to another male person under that age shall be liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months.").
I commend this new clause to your Lordships as a clearer statement of the penalties that are to apply to each of the homosexual offences listed in the previous clause. Clause 3, as amended, would contain a comprehensive statement of the various penalties pertaining to the different homosexual offences.
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
Clause 4 [ Procuring others to commit homosexual acts]:
On Question, Whether Clause 4 shall stand part of the Bill?
This clause has already been covered by Clauses 2 and 3, and I therefore beg to leave it out.
Clause 4 disagreed to.
Clause 5 [ Living on earnings of male prostitution]:
moved Amendment No. 16:
Page 3, line 16, leave out ("man or woman") and insert ("person").
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
moved Amendment No. 17:
Page 3, line 17, leave out ("prostitution of another man") and insert ("another from male prostitution or who solicits or importunes any male person for the purpose of procuring the commission of a homosexual act within the meaning of section I of this Act").
This Amendment is simply to put it beyond doubt that in Scotland as well as in England and Wales soliciting for the commission of a homosexual act is an offence in the same way that soliciting for the commission of a heterosexual act is an offence. I am advised that there is some doubt about the applicability of Section 12(1)(b) of the 1976 Act to the commission of homosexual acts, and accordingly I welcome this Amendment which makes it clear that soliciting for this purpose is an offence. I must emphasise that this Amendment seeks to bring the law of Scotland explicitly into line with the law of England and Wales by stating clearly what could presently be a matter of doubt in the Scottish context; it does not make any new substantive provision.
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
Clause 5, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 6 [ Premises resorted to for homosexual practices]:
moved Amendment No. 18:
Page 3, line 25, leave out ("lewd").
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
moved Amendment No. 19:
Page 3, line 25, leave out ("practices") and insert ("acts within the meaning of section 1 of this Act").
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
moved Amendment No. 20:
Page 3, line 26, leave out ("lewd").
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
Clause 6, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 7 [ Time limit on prosecutions]:
moved Amendment No. 21:
Page 3, leave out lines 32 to 37 and insert—
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
Clause 7, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 8 [ Restriction on prosecutions]:
moved Amendment No. 22:
Page 4, line 4, at end insert—
("( ) No proceedings shall be instituted against any man who has not attained the age of twenty-one years at the time when the offence was committed for any offence to which this section applies.").
The noble Lord said: I rise to move this Amendment in the hope that the Government will see fit to say a few words about the principle behind it. I sincerely hope that they will not say anything much about the Amendment itself because I suspect that it is inadequately drafted, but as it is not going to be passed anyway, because I am not going to press it, that does not matter. However, it raises an interesting and important point of principle. The corresponding section in the 1967 Act was first moved by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury; it required
prosecutions of persons under 21 to be instituted by the Director of Public Prosecutions. It seems that what was hoped for then was that prosecutions would be extremely rare. The most reverend Primate said in May 1965 in the debate on the Wolfenden Report:
"I now pass to another part of the Wolfenden proposals which I am anxious to commend. It concerns the prosecution of offenders under 21 years or age, and there are a large number of prosecutions of these offenders. Here again I would say that it is unsuitable to regard these offenders in criminal terms".—[Official Report, 12/7/65, col. 83.]
It would seem that the most reverend Prelate and a number of other noble Lords were already of a mind that young people should be protected from prosecution in these matters, as are under-age girls in heterosexual matters. The matter was hardly referred to again and in both Houses young people were regarded as being protected by the Act from older homosexuals; that was the idea the whole way through.
However, it has not really worked like that. For example, in 1975, 68 boys between the ages of 14 and 17 were prosecuted for buggery—this is in England but, when bringing it into line, the same might apply in Scotland—51 for attempting to commit buggery and six for indecency between males. Of that number, 56 were found guilty. It is difficult to understand what purpose prosecution has in this area, particularly at the lower end of this age range, and where a person of that age might deserve punishment, it would usually be because of other factors such as indecent assault and grievous bodily harm. It seems that this is an anomaly which possibly was not meant by those who originally passed the measure, and I should be grateful if the Government would give an indication of their attitude to these matters.
I propose to move an Amendment to leave out Clause 8, because in Scotland the Lord Advocate is in total control, as against the Attorney-General in England, and I am perfectly content to leave it to the Lord Advocate's discretion.
At the risk of causing the noble Lord. Lord Beaumont of Whitley, a minor upset, I should explain that there are certain technical difficulties about his Amendment. I am advised that the present Clause 8 is a straight adaptation of Section 8 of the 1967 Act, which is aimed at preventing malicious private prosecutions under English law. The noble Lord, Lord Boothby, said he intended to move the deletion of Clause 8 and suggested he is content with the power of control which the Lord Advocate in Scotland presently has.I am advised that the Amendment would not make sense if read along with the existing Clause 8, which is Lord Beaumont's intention at the moment. The same clause would, on the one hand, say that prosecutions for offences involving men under the age of 21 could be brought only with the Lord Advocate's consent while on the other it would say that such offences should never be prosecuted. If Clause 8 were repealed—and Lord Boothby intends to propose that—the Amendment would be technically incorrect in that it refers to, "any offence to which this section applies". Either way the Amendment is technically misconceived. The Amendment is not acceptable in principle, in the view of the Government, in that it would remove the Lord Advocate's discretion to prosecute in appropriate cases where under 21-year-olds were involved. He would certainly not prosecute in all such cases but, in the view of the Government, he should have the possibility open to him, for example in cases where there was a wide disparity between the ages of the two parties, sat a 20-year-old and a 12-year-old. That is a summary of the Government's view.
I should like to comment before the noble Lord Lord Beaumont of Whitley, replies. It had been my understanding, and it has now been confirmed by the noble Lord, Lord Kirkhill, that what is Section 8 of the 1967 Act applying to England and Wales is not necessary for Scotland. That section starts:
On Second Reading of this Bill, I indicated that there was a difference North and South of the Border in that the Lord Advocate had certain discretion North of the Border and that was why no cases had been brought in the last 10 years. Without going into the details of the situation South of the Border, which I am not qualified to do, I have been advised that the Director of Public Prosecutions has certain duties laid on him South of the Border and therefore in certain circumstances he has to act. There is therefore a difference, and that was no doubt the reason for Section 8 being in the 1967 Act. Lord Beaumont has made his point regarding the case that he is making in respect of young persons, and before he replies I should like to ask him a question because I think both of us have received comments from the Scottish Minorities Group, as they call themselves. They put forward an Amendment of this kind, though they had the age 18—and of course that has been changed to 21, which suits what this Bill will now refer to. They in their comments said that they did not accept the situation where someone aged 19 would be associated with someone aged about 14, and Lord Kirkhill said 12. This is where discretion is needed, because the people who put forward that particular Amendment to me and others were in agreement with what Lord Kirkhill said. They were thinking in terms of persons aged 19 and 17. Nobody has actually said where the line should be drawn and I should be interested to hear what Lord Beaumont's views are on the substance of that matter."No proceedings shall be instituted except by, or with the consent of, the Director of Public Prosecutions".
I think I can best answer the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, with the famous Irishism, "I wouldn't start from here". I should have thought that the answer was that if at any future time we were to consider this in legislation which we thought it fit to amend, if what is to me the lamentably high age of 21 was to be kept, then there should be a sort of double tier system underneath. I entirely see the point where there is a wide difference in the age range, but I cannot believe that in England in 1975 all these people in the 14 to 17 year age range who were prosecuted, and many of whom were convicted, were all picking on people very much younger than themselves. I may be wrong about that, but it seems that there is a legitimate cause for worry.I raised the matter because I thought it was a subject to which the attention of the Director of Public Prosecutions might be drawn in England, and in Scotland it is something which, after the passing of this Bill, they should be aware of—not to fall into the same trap that seems to have been fallen into here. I thank the Minister for answering that point and I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 8 [ Restriction on prosecutions]:
On Question, Whether Clause 8 shall stand part of the Bill?
I beg to move that Clause 8 be omitted from the Bill.
Clause 8 disagreed to.
moved Amendment No. 23:
After Clause 8, insert the following new clause:
"Indecent etc. conduct
. In any proceedings it shah not be alleged that any act between persons of the same sex constitutes indecent or unbecoming or unlawful conduct, except as provided in this Act, or where similar conduct between persons of opposite sexes would be similarly described.".
The noble Lord said: These two Amendments, to which I intend to speak separately, are designed to achieve the same end; that is, to try to help dispel the atmosphere of prejudice which exists in dealing with homosexuality and which exists even in the law courts. I believe that it has no place there, least of all. Again, I can save the Minister time. I am well aware that the Amendment is incorrectly drafted. Again, however, I think that there is a need for us to move in this direction.
The Amendment seeks to limit the restrictions on homosexual conduct to those which are restricted by the Bill and to try to give a better climate for fairness and lack of prejudice and lack of discrimination against homosexual men and women. An example of the effects that this Amendment would have, had I drafted it properly and were we to agree it, is in the matter of importuning and, possibly, indecent assaults as well. I understand that there was no Statute on importuning in Scotland but presumably that has been dealt with by Amendment No. 17 so probably it does not now arise. The Amendment might have a considerable effect in employment protection where, in industrial tribunals, although everyone tries to be fair, one can have considerable prejudice. The Amendment might also have a considerable effect in combating the discrediting of persons because of their homosexuality which, again, arises very occasionally—and I emphasise that —in the summing up of the occasional judge, in situations where blackmail victims are held up in court in such a way as to seem rather worse than the blackmailers themselves and possibly in prejudice on and discrimination in sentencing and prison rules.
However, it is not so much the specific points as a general assertion of a principle which, although, as human beings, we may, in our private lives want and be entitled to exercise discrimination between homosexuality and heterosexuality—and we have heard many very deeply felt views about this today—should not at any stage be allowed to tinge the attitude of the law and the courts at any point. That is the purpose of the Amendment.
I should like to speak on this because, looking at the Amendments, I do not think that it has been fully brought out by the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, that both Amendments are based on the same point and try to make the same point; that is, that conduct in public between persons of the same sex should be treated as if it were conduct in public between persons of opposite sexes. Putting it in another way, the Amendments would permit kissing and cuddling in public by males—and I am not referring to the ritual of congratulations after the scoring of a goal, strange custom though that has now become! I am referring to openly sexual behaviour of a homosexual kind.That, as I see it, is the point that has been brought out in these two Amendments. As the noble Lord has said, he is not intending to press them or to try to get them included in the Bill, but he believes that it is a matter that ought to be raised and discussed. What he is suggesting—and I find it impossible to speak on Amendment No. 23 without speaking on Amendment No. 24 as well because they contain the same wording—is that conduct between males not extending to indecency and not being soliciting should be in no way reprehensible. It would mean the outward signs of affection and certainly not soliciting. It could be between two persons who had been living together for months or years. Clearly, this should not be a serious offence and, as I understand it, Amendment No. 23 is intended to ensure that it is not. So when we move to Amendment No. 24, what we have to consider is whether this should he regarded in certain circumstances as a breach of the peace. Do we want to encourage public demonstrations of homosexual relationships? That is the question which comes up under Amendment No. 24. The noble Lord, Lord Kirkhill, will be able to enlighten the Committee more, but it is my impression that under Scots law, a breach of the peace can cover a very wide variety of incident. The kinds of conduct in public which are generally disapproved of and which, by general consent, ought to be stopped by the police while they are happening are, in Scotland, largely dealt with by the breach of the peace provisions. Putting it in layman's language, creating a disorderly situation or causing a nuisance to others is dealt with as a breach of the peace in Scotland. I do not believe that there is an equivalent in law in England and Wales. I believe that I ought to make that clear. My own view—and, again, I am speaking personally because the Bill and this subject are a matter for conscience and personal views—is that I should not want to add anything to the law in Scotland or South of the Border that encouraged public demonstration of homosexual relationships. On the other hand, I think that in the breach of the peace provisions the police must be reasonable in what they consider to be causing a disorderly situation or a nuisance. So I should like to leave the matter as it is now, handled sensibly and discreetly by the authorities and the police. I should certainly think it a great mistake if anything like this were to be added to the Bill. All the Bill is trying to do is to legislate for Scotland on the lines of the present law in England and Wales. As I see it, the point that has really been raised by the Amendments is the question whether outward behaviour in public between males—behaviour which is not indecent—should be regarded in exactly the same way as similar behaviour between a male and a female in public. That, as we all know, is something which people nowadays are prepared to expect and see in public places.
As I indicated, the Government's view of this Bill is one of benign neutrality and the Government did not propose to comment in any detail of this Amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, other than to say that it was right to point out to your Lordships that implementation of the Amendment would carry the law in Scotland significantly further than the present state of the law in England.
Indeed, that is so. It is of course a direction in which I should like to take the law of England as well. My comment on what the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, said—although the present Amendment goes significantly wider than the point that he was taking—is that he approaches this subject, as have a large number of the speakers today, by asking, "Do we wish to encourage?" I approach it from a different standpoint and this is one of the reasons why my Party, unlike other Parties, has a policy on this. We say that things should not be forbidden to citizens unless a very good reason and case can be made out for forbidding them. So we do not approach this by saving, "Should we encourage?" but by asking, "Is there sufficient justification for the awe-inspiring responsibility of a Government to restrict people's freedom?" I still think that, despite the fact that I entirely agree that on the whole the public must be protected from what shocks them, the innocent display of affection from one human being to another in public is such that I do not think it should be penalised. I beg to withdraw the Amendment.
I should like to make a brief remark at this stage. The noble Lord said in his speech that he would like a change beyond the tidying up operation, which seems to be the work that the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, is seeking to do here in bringing the two laws of England and Scotland into unity. It is this very desire at every point to change laws relating to morality which I believe means that this Amendment, though apparently very small, should be resisted. For instance, from the parallel debate which we had in your Lordships' House earlier today this very point was made by one of the major young people's organisations in the country. I quote from one of its letters:
I really believe that the law is designed not only to punish the evil doer, but to protect people who are vulnerable and in moral danger; and that when the country is seeing, as it is as the moment, an upsurge in the breadth of goodness and unselfishness and idealism in a remarkable way, this is the very time at which we should not be seeking to illiberalise our laws by putting more people at moral risk. Therefore, I hope that the Committee will resist the Amendment."Unfortunately, the many pressure groups are known to look upon the lowering of the age group to 18 as the thin end of the wedge, the first step towards a still lower age, and eventually the removal of all restraints".
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
moved Amendment No. 24:
Insert the following new clause:
"Conduct leading to breach of the peace
(. In any proceedings it shall not be alleged that any act between persons of the same sex constitutes conduct likely to lead to a breach of the peace, except where similar conduct between persons of opposite sexes would be so described.").
The noble Lord said: We have largely covered this matter under the last Amendment, but there is one more point that I want to make in addition to the main one which covered the last point. I am concerned here with a complaint which has arisen in England relating to cases where homosexuals are subject to harassment, but in this context I wish to acknowledge that Scottish homosexuals have, on the whole, received extremely fair treatment from the Scottish police forces. However, I am concerned here with harassment on a large scale as, for instance, has occurred recently in Cornwall. It is considered to be conduct likely to cause a breach of the peace if, in a homosexual bar or club or homosexual resort of any kind, people are seen dancing with each other or expressing casual affection, although in a situation in which nobody present could possibly be offended. Discrimination lies at the back of this Amendment because heterosexual behaviour in such cases would not be treated in the same way. That is the only extra point I want to make. Of course, I will give noble Lords the opportunity to comment on the Amendment before I withdraw it.
However, before that I should like to say one thing to the right reverend Prelate. It is no use our arguing together. We have totally different concepts of what the law should be. I think that it has absolutely no place in upholding private morality of any kind. I hope that the right reverend Prelate was here when I quoted C. S. Lewis, whom I think put the matter much better than I possibly could in the quotation to which I referred. I certainly want to see homosexual and heterosexual behaviour—all sexual behaviour—treated exactly on a par before the law. I know that I will see it in my lifetime, and I look forward to it. Meanwhile, I beg to move the Amendment.
I should like to take a minute or so in order to reply to the criticism which the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, made of my remark when I was discussing this matter in our last debate, in relation to the question of whether this behaviour should be encouraged. He said that that was really the wrong approach. I did not want to go over the ground of the debate we had earlier today, because in my speech on the Bill introduced by the noble Earl, Lord Arran, I spelt out the reasons why I thought that young people should be protected from certain things. That was the background to my asking whether this should be encouraged, on the basis that a young heterosexual of 18 might well come under the domination or the example of an older man and be lead into a homosexual life, when in fact he was not at all a homosexual by nature; and this could upset his life, his career, his chance of getting married, and many other things. I will not go over that ground again.But I want to say to the noble Lord that when he speaks of freedom he must bear in mind that it is not just the freedom of the individual to do what he likes; it must be the freedom of other people to be protected also from influences which may cause them damage. That has been said two or three times today, and I say it again because that is what I meant when I asked whether something should be encouraged. Here I should like to give a small example, though I think it brings out the point quite well. None of us is ashamed of the human body, but we do not go about naked. Indeed when "streakers" appear on cricket grounds or elsewhere they are led away; they are not encouraged. I put it again. That is the word I am using. They are not encouraged, because on the whole the community has decided that if people want to do that they should go to nudist colonies or elsewhere, and it is to protect the freedom of other people that mass "streaking" is not encouraged. That is an example of what I meant, though in a very small way. I have indicated my view on the Amendment, and I simply wanted to try to clarify the attitude that I have taken.
Again on this Amendment the Government consider that this a matter for the consideration of the Committee. I do not want to be too boring about technicalities, but perhaps I could say to the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, that (as he recognises) his Amendment seeks to provide that a prosecution for breach of the peace could not be brought in respect of homosexual behaviour, as he has just been telling us, if similar heterosexual behaviour would not be prosecuted. I am advised that the difficulty with the Amendment as proposed is that it is not necessarily the conduct which determines whether an act constitutes a breach of the peace, but the circumstances in which the conduct takes place.
I thank noble Lords for having treated these Amendments seriously, however badly drafted, because they were intended seriously as points which undoubtedly we shall have to discuss another day when the reports of the various committees come in and the whole question of sexual law reform comes before your Lordships' House. I should like to say to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, that I think two points arise over the question of protection. In regard to the protection of the public from matters which would shock them, I am entirely with the noble Lord. I think we have got to do this, and I see that there is a danger in this Amendment which I have put forward on that matter. I am entirely on the noble Lord's side on that matter. I am not for doing it in the streets, nor for other people doing it in the streets. Where I think I am opposed to him, and to the right reverend Prelate, is in speaking of, "the freedom to protect people". I think it is no duty of the Legislature of the State to protect adult citizens of sound mind from themselves or from the influences of other adult people. I find that an appalling encroachment on the liberty of the subject. I find it a move towards a totalitarian approach when you start saying, "Let us do good to them". It is foreign to large parts of the Conservative Party, and this is a view which Tories and Liberals, particularly, have long shared. That is my attitude to that. I thank your Lordships for giving me a hearing.
I hope the noble Lord will forgive my interrupting him, but this is Committee stage and we can speak several times. There is a misunderstanding here on what the noble Lord said about adults being free to do things provided they cause no offence or harm to other people. The point is that these are acts in public, and if people are carrying out acts in public then nobody knows whether or not young people will be there or what are the ages of the people there, who might be very much affected by these acts and the homosexual relationship, tendency and everything else which they reflect. So I was not saying that acts such as the noble Lord described are, in private, reprehensible: I was simply saying that when they are carried out anywhere in public then you do not know how the audience is made up, and it could include a young person who, on seeing this, could be much affected by it.
I do not really think that displays of love and affection between human beings, at the particular time in which we live, will ever do much harm, particularly when compared with some of the other displays that are seen; but, with that, perhaps we can leave it, and I beg your Lordships' leave to withdraw the Amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 9 disagreed to.
moved Amendment No. 25:
After Clause 9, insert the following new clause:
(. Section 7 of the Act of 1976 is hereby repealed.").
The noble Lord said: In moving this last new clause, I should like to say to your Lordships that, having sat in Parliament for over 50 years, this is the first Bill, and I hope the last, that I have ever introduced. I should just like to thank sincerely the noble Lord, Lord Kirkhill, the Scottish Office, the Crown Office and your Lordships generally, on all sides, for all the help given me.
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
Remaining clause agreed to.
House resumed: Bill reported with the Amendments.
Import Of Live Fish (Scotland) Bill Hl
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.
Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—( Viscount Thurso.)
On Question, Motion agreed to.
House in Committee accordingly.
[The Lord ALPORT in the Chair.]
Clause 1 [ Power to limit the import etc. of fish and fish eggs]:
moved Amendment No. 1:
Page 1, line 5, at beginning insert e' without prejudice to section 1(1) of the Diseases of Fish Act 1937 and subject to subsection (1A) below,")
The noble Viscount said: In moving Amendment No. 1, may I first of all thank your Lordships for the reception given to this Bill at Second Reading, which has emboldened me to avail myself of the help which the noble Lord, Lord Kirkhill, offered, and for which I am most grateful. In preparing these Amendments, I am most grateful both to the noble Lord, Lord Kirkhill, and to the officials of the Scottish Office, who have helped in bringing these Amendments forward and in drafting them in order to put muscle into the Bill and to carry out the intention of it.
The first Amendment, which is to insert the words:
"Without prejudice to section 1(1) of the Diseases of Fish Act 1937 and subject to subsection (1A) below",
is because the Diseases of Fish Act 1937 imposes an absolute prohibition on the importing into Great Britain of live fish of the salmon family", and these are defined in Section 10(1) of the 1937 Act as including,
"all fish of whatever genus or species belonging to the family Salmonidae".
The Amendment ensures that the provision contained in Clause 1(1) of the Bill which overlaps the 1937 Act provision does not prejudice the latter. The Amendment also relates the provisions of the new subsection (1A) to the making of an order in terms of Clause 1(1) of the Bill. The new subsection (1A) requires the Secretary of State to consult the Nature Conservancy Council, which we shall discuss later on—and this provision was introduced because of criticisms of the Bill which were made at Second Reading—and any other person with whom he considers consultation appropriate before deciding whether or not to make an order under Clause 1(1). The Nature Conservancy Council has a duty, of course, to advise the Secretary of State on
"the development and implementation of policies for or affecting nature conservation in Great Britain "—
Section 1(1)( a)(ii) of the Nature Conservancy Council Act 1973 refers. I beg to move the first Amendment.
I might at this stage indicate the Government's view that we should like this Bill to he given a fair wind. We are, generally speaking, in support of it; and certainly, of course, we support Amendment No. 1.
On this first Amendment, I simply want to remind your Lordships that at Second Reading I said that I supported the principle of the Bill and would commend it to your Lordships' House, but that I believed that quite a lot of work on the drafting of the Bill might be necessary before it was enacted. We now find that the Amendments down in the name of the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, expand the Bill from about half a page to about four pages, with no less that (I think it is) four new clauses. Clearly, the noble Viscount has sought the services of skilled draftsmen, and I congratulate him on doing that. We assume that the changes that this and other Amendments are making will better bring about the purposes for which the Bill has been introduced and given a Second Reading. There are some particular Amendments which we may wish to discuss separately, but otherwise I would support the Amendments which have the effect of improving the drafting of the Bill and carrying out its purpose.I would point out that there are some Amendments which make considerable changes and additions, such as powers of entry and inspection, creating offences and so on. If these are necessary, then no doubt they will have to go into the Bill if it is to have any effect; but at this stage I can see that by this Amendment and others the noble Viscount is simply trying to improve the Bill without changing its purpose, and I see no reason to dissent from the Amendment.
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
moved Amendment No. 2:
Page 1, line 5, leave out ("for Scotland").
The noble Viscount said: The purpose of this Amendment is obvious. It is a common error that one falls into—I have fallen into it before in this House—to forget that "Secretary of State" means any Secretary of State and it is not therefore necessary to specify which one. I beg to move.
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
moved Amendment No. 3:
Page 1, line 6, leave out from ("forbid") to end of line 7 and insert ("either absolutely or except under a licence granted under this section, the import into, or the keeping or the release to the wild, in Scotland of live fish, or the live eggs of fish, of a species which is not native to Scotland and which in the opinion of the Secretary of State might").
The noble Viscount said: I understand that the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, would like his two Amendments (Nos. 4 and 5) to be discussed along with my Amendment No. 3. The reason for this is that if we were to pass my Amendment it would leapfrog his Amendments Nos. 4 and 5. Therefore we might appropriately, if your Lordships agree, discuss the whole question that evolves around these three Amendments in one discussion at this stage.
If I may intervene, I was in error in not telling the Committee that if Amendment No. 3 is agreed to I should be unable to call Amendment No. 4.
Perhaps I might at this stage assent to what is suggested because not only do Amendments Nos. 4 and 5 deal with the same substance but also those Amendments would be eliminated from discussion if Amendment No. 3, as I would expect, is accepted.
The purpose and effect of Amendment No. 3 is to provide for both an absolute prohibition and also a prohibition except under licence granted by the Secretary of State. The licensing powers will permit controlled entry, for example, for experimental purposes, of live fish or eggs of a species which might otherwise be excluded. In its wording, it also substitutes the word "keeping" for the word "rearing". This, in my view, is an important substitution because rearing is too narrow a word for the purposes of the Bill. I would readily agree that the word "keeping" with its wider implication, is much more in line with the intention of the Bill which is, if necessary, to he able to remove dangerous fish from within Scottish waters whether they are on a fish farm or, in a wider context, on a loch or a lake or something like it. This removes the possibility of persons not being subject to the controls which the Bill provides because they are keeping material or fish in circumstances not accepted as involving rearing.Amendment No. 3 also restricts control under the Bill to species not native to Scotland; otherwise the control could relate to imports of native species such as sea trout, brown trout or Atlantic salmon, and this is not the intention of the Bill. It is to deal with what one might think of as more exotic species than those. It also substitutes the word "might" for the word "could" in line 7 in relation to the opinion to be arrived at by the Secretary of State before he may make an order under Clause 1(1). This part is a drafting Amendment, the word "might" being considered more appropriate as indicating more clearly the test to be applied by the Secretary of State before making an order. Those are the purposes which my Amendment No. 3 has in mind. Perhaps, at this stage, I should leave it to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, to talk to his Amendments.
We are grateful to the noble Viscount for explaining how the new wording suggested would improve the Bill. Certainly, the use of the word "keeping" (also to he inserted in the Title) does, I think, cover more clearly what the noble Viscount intends in his Bill. Amendments Nos. 4 and 5 which I have tabled are probing Amendments. I am concerned about the interpretation of the Bill and the subsequent enforcement of the Act and whether it has been thought out.In Amendment No. 4 I have suggested leaving out "to the wild" because the phrase in the Bill is releasing to the wild May I take the example of the fish farm? I presume that the ponds and waters used by a fish farm would not come within the definition of "the wild". On the other hand, I know only too well that small fish can escape from fish farms. Most fish farms are beside a river or have running water passing through them and are based on a stream or a river. I must make it clear that for 10 years there has been a fish farm on the other side of a river adjoining my property in Scotland. Many a new rainbow trout has come into that river because of the water level suddenly rising or because of some other unexpected event. Some of the fish escape unintentionally into the river. Presumably, that is being "released to the wild" although unintentionally. I give that example. I am sure noble Lords will be able to think of others. In the case of the rainbow trout I should add that those who fish for salmon in that river are disturbed about it because some have said that the adult rainbow trout eats salmon parr and, therefore, the unintentional release of those rainbow trout from the fish farm into the river—which can easily happen, because the whole fish farm is based on an old mill lade with water running through it—could be said to be damaging the salmon fishing in that river. Noble Lords will be able to think of other situations which might be difficult to interpret. For example, ponds or ornamental ponds, if fish were put into them, might not be interpreted as "the wild". On the other hand, in certain circumstances they might be so interpreted, depending on where they were situated. Again, if fish escape by a stream passing through the pond they would then be out of control. I would ask the noble Viscount and the Government whether they are happy about that wording. I have not sat down to try to improve upon it but simply have put down probing Amendments to indicate that there could be difficulties about enforcement or interpretation of the wording as it is at present. My Amendment No. 5 draws attention to the words "compete with". The Secretary of State has to consider whether a new species of fish, or a species of fish to be newly introduced into Scotland, might compete with an indigenous species. We can understand quite easily the other words—"displace, prey on or harm the habitat of"—but all these appear to be alternatives. The Secretary of State could decide that the new species of fish would not "displace, prey on or harm the habitat of"; but it might well "compete with" other fish. This would be difficult to interpret unless the Government are very clear about it and regulations are issued or there is circular guidance of something like that. Almost all fish compete for food; and where there are more fish than there is food available they can be said to be competing with each other. I think there are some difficulties in the wording of this Bill. Someone who wished to prevent a neighbour from introducing some species of fish from abroad because he was worried and frightened about it, might well argue about whether this new species was going to "compete with" indigenous fish simply in its ordinary existence by eating and surviving. We all know that from the fish that hatch from the ova a very small proportion eventually reach maturity. I ask the noble Viscount and the Government whether they are happy about the wording of the Bill on these two counts.
It may be helpful to the Committee if I indicate at this stage that the Government are perfectly content with Amendment No. 3, and entirely content with Amendment No. 4. The Government are less than content with Amendment No. 5. The noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, has in fact beautifully described the brief which is before me. His analysis is absolutely first class and might well have emerged from the Government machine.But the Government draw a different conclusion from that of the noble Lord. On the Government side, we should like the phrase to be retained; it gives the Secretary of State the opportunity to examine a case at an earlier stage than if he had to wait until characteristics of displacement preying upon or harmful to habitat emerged. It is for that reason that the Government prefer the phrase to be retained, and fully acknowledge the example which the noble Lord has given—that there is competition for food, for example.
I have had no communication with the Scottish Office at all about this subject. It is simply that we have both been thinking on the same lines in examining this Bill. I am glad to think that our conclusions have been much the same. The noble Lord has explained the words, "compete with" from the point of view of the Secretary of State. I understand that, because it is a blanket phrase which will enable him to put a stop on the fish being imported before he has to consider some of the other matters.I want to point out that it could also cause considerable argument—I will not say" "litigation"—if there is a difference of opinion among those in Scotland about whether the fish under consideration and about to come into the country is going to benefit or in some way be damaging to the species already existing. The noble Viscount will agree with me that there is no subject which can cause more controversy in Scotland than the question of fishing and fish. There is some controversy with the particular fish which has given rise to this Bill, the coho salmon, but so far I have not become involved in it. I am aware that some people are worried about that fish. They may have no reason to be worried. I recognise that this can cause great apprehension. In those circumstances individuals, with their legal advisers, might well be worried about the phrase, "compete with" if they thought that fish were being let in. Obviously, they Would be very pleased if the Secretary of State of the day used the words "compete with" to stop the fish coming in. The noble Lord has indicated that the way the Government see it being used is to stop fish coming in. But if fish are allowed in, I foresee there could be some trouble because people will say: "They are competing. They may not be doing damage to the habitat but they definitely are competing and causing a reduction in the stocks of other fish". This is a difficult point which we want to sort out as soon as we can.
I do not think that the Government can argue a council of perfection in this case. But on a balance of probability and possibility, and so far as can be envisaged at this stage, the wording seems reasonably effective.
I do not think this Bill, however satisfactory we get the drafting, is going to solve the Secretary of State's problems for him when he has to make a decision about whether or not to grant a licence, allow an import or allow the continuance of the keeping of a species of fish. What it is designed to do is to give him the power to intervene and control matters if he thinks that some other species of fish is liable to cause grave danger to an important native species. He will then have powers, whatever the circumstances may be, to deal with a situation which may be thought liable to get out of hand. He will also, as we shall see later on, be given powers to carry out experiments to ascertain how far it may be sensible to allow the import of certain species of fish.I take Lord Campbell's point in his Amendment No. 4. I take it more on the ground that it is tautological to talk about releasing "to the wild". If we are to give this Bill enough muscle to carry out the task which it has to carry out, and to give the Secretary of State enough powers to carry out the intention of the Bill, then he has to be able to not only control the keeping of the fish within a farm or experimental tank situation, he has also got to have power to control the keeping of the fish in a wider context. He has also got to have power to stop people simply pulling the plug out, emptying the pond and saying: "There you are, the fish have got out anyway and there is nothing more that you can do about it, it is not my fault". We have to cover the question of release of the fish because if the fish were to be deliberately released, this could cause the very damage which this Bill is being put before your Lordships to try and prevent I take the point that perhaps the words "to the wild" may be tautological, but I would hope to keep the word "release" because I think this is important. We should not allow the deliberate release of fish which might otherwise be banned by the Secretary of State because of their danger to native species. In relation to Lord Campbell's Amendment No. 5, the phrase, "compete with" is a most important consideration for the Secretary of State. It is probably the most important consideration for him in deciding whether to allow any species into the country. Most of the game fishes of the country are territorial in habit. It is the fact that a fish takes up a territory and commands a territory within the water that allows it to obtain the food supply which lets it grow more favourably than its neighbours. If one were to allow in a fish which is known to have an aggressive territorial habit, then one would be endangering species which have a less aggressive territorial habit. This matter should be considered by the Secretary of State and he should be given powers to forbid the import of a species on those grounds. Therefore I move my Amendment No. 3 and I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, will withdraw Amendments No. 4 and 5. In return, I should be happy to reconsider the words "to the wild" and perhaps move another amendment at a later stage to delete them.
I should like to support very strongly what the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, has said about the phrase, "compete with". This is a most important phrase to insert. Importation of livestock, using the word "compete" is different according to whether the animals are domesticated or wild. If one imports cattle of a foreign breed, they will certainly be competing and they are being imported in order to compete with the existing breeds. Whether or not they compete successfully, is another matter. It would be wrong of us to refuse the importation because they competed with the existing breeds in the country.On the other hand, where you are dealing with a feral species of animal, the argument put by the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, is absolute to my mind, that the animal is competing for the available food and is not competing primarily on quality. He is competing for the available food and, to that extent, it may well lead to the extermination of the existing species which was of a better quality. Therefore I hope the Committee will agree to retain the word "compete" in the Bill.
I indicated at the beginning that my Amendments Nos. 4 and 5 were probing Amendments. Indeed, what my noble friend Lord Balerno has just said very much confirms what I said in moving my Amendments, that it was a question of competing for food that I was concerned about. It is not so much a matter of removing the words as their interpretation. As I said, I think there could be trouble with people claiming that almost any fish was competing with the existing species. It is the interpretation that I think may be difficult. I am grateful to the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, for considering sympathetically my Amendment No. 4. As your Lordships will see, I have not included the word "release", so that word would remain in the Bill. If the noble Viscount, with the assistance of the draftsmen, can take that into account in any Amendment he might like to bring forward at the Report stage, I shall support it wholeheartedly. However, as I said, my object in putting down these Amendments was simply to draw attention to the use of these words and to explore how they were to be interpreted. I am grateful both to the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, and to the noble Lord, Lord Kirkhill, for having given their explanations.
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
moved Amendment No. 6:
Page 1, line 8, leave out from ("any") to end of line 9 and insert ("freshwater fish, shellfish or salmon in Scotland")
(1A) Before determining whether or not to make an order under this section, the Secretary of State shall consult the Nature Conservancy Council and any other person with whom the Secretary of State considers that consultation is appropriate.
(1B) The Secretary of State may grant a licence to any person to import or keep live fish, or the live eggs of fish, of a species specified in an order under this section.
(1C) A licence under this section may be granted—
The noble Viscount said: This Amendment is designed to clarify the species which are to be protected. "Freshwater fish, shellfish, or salmon in Scotland" is considered to describe more accurately those fish which the Bill is intended to protect. The use of the adjective "acclimatised" may give rise to doubts as to whether, for example, a rainbow trout were to be protected. The new subsection (1A) requires the Secretary of State to consult the Nature Conservancy Council and any other persons he considers appropriate before deciding whether or not to make an order under Clause 1(1). This is a direct result of the Second Reading debate, where a suggestion was made that the Nature Conservancy Council should be named and that there should be provision for consultation of suitable or interested bodies.
The new subsection (1B) enables the Secretary of State to permit under licence the entry and the keeping under controlled conditions of live fish or eggs of species which are otherwise subject to prohibition under orders made in terms of Clause 1(1). This will enable him to license imports, for example, for experimental and research work, where he is satisfied that the work can be done safely in prescribed conditions.
I hope that this Bill will not be considered in any way as just a means of banning every kind of progress in the examination of fish species. I myself, having done research relating to the Bill, have become extremely interested in several varieties of fish, for which I may at some later stage find myself applying to the Secretary of State for a licence to import. In the first instance, I think it is probably proper that the Secretary of State and his scientific advisers should have the power to do the sort of experiments that might be necessary to establish whether or not certain species were safe to import.
Paragraph ( a) of subsection (1C) enables the Secretary of State to charge a fee for giving a licence, as is normal practice; and paragraph ( b) enables him to attach such conditions as he considers fit to the licence, which would allow him to ensure that not only does an import meet the strict health requirements before entry but also that it can be confined in satisfactory conditions and that the disposal of any progeny can be effectively controlled. I beg to move.
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
had given Notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 7:
Page 1, line 15, after ("made") insert ("or licence granted").
The noble Viscount said: I do not propose to move Amendment No. 7 because I am advised that the drafting is not entirely apt; but I would propose to put down another, more suitable, Amendment later which would be aimed at achieving the same purpose—that is, enabling licences granted under Clause 1 to be varied or revoked. It may be that it will be more appropriate to bring that in under the new subsection, stating that the power to grant would include the power to vary or revoke.
moved Amendment No. 8:
Page 1, line 15, at end insert—
("(3) In this Act—
"eggs" includes milt;
"fish" includes shellfish;
"freshwater fish "means any fish living in fresh water including eels and the fry of eels, but excluding salmon;
"salmon" includes all migratory fish of the species Salmosalar and Salmo trutta commonly known as salmon and sea trout respectively;
"shellfish" has the same meaning as in section 22(1) of the Sea Fish (Conservation) Act 1967.").
The noble Viscount said: This Amendment contains definitions which are necessary for the purposes of the Bill. I would draw attention to the fact that "eggs" include "milt", the sperm of the male fish. Without control of import of milt, it would be possible, using modern keeping techniques, to produce hybrids by importing milt which might prove a danger to native species. Therefore, I think it is wise for this to be included. It is necessary to extend the definition of fish to include shellfish, in order to ensure that they are covered by the terms of the Bill because shellfish are also found and the same provisions which apply to the fish could apply to shellfish for the purpose both of controlling non-native species and of protecting our own species. Freshwater fish and salmon are separately defined, which is normal practice in salmon and freshwater fish legislation, because of the different provisions attaching to each. The practice is preserved here in order to avoid confusion. Between them, the two definitions embrace all fish inhabiting our inland waters. I beg to move.
It seems that for clarity it is necessary for these definitions to be included, but at this point I should like to ask the noble Lord, Lord Kirkhill, about a matter of which I have given him notice, because we have discussed in this Chamber the future of fish farming. I am one of those who believe that there must be advances in fish farming. I know there are great difficulties over controlling diseases, and so on, but I believe it will be an important source of future protein. When we have had debates on this subject previously—and I am thinking of one held a year or two ago—we discovered that in Scots law fish are treated differently from South of the Border. On one side of the Border they are included in the definition "livestock", and on the other side of the Border they are not. I wonder whether the noble Lord could tell us whether this apparent anomaly, which came up sometime ago, still exists and whether we still have to cope with the difficulty that fish are "livestock" in one part of the United Kingdom but not in another part. If the noble Lord has not been able to get to that point in the time available, I shall quite understand; but it is an anomaly which I think should be put right at some stage.
The difficulty is not that this noble Lord has not been able to get at or near to the point. In fact, I have a voluminous and copious note. The difficulty is that, historically speaking, as the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, probably knows, the definitions of the words "fish" and "livestock" have posed problems, particularly in agricultural legislation. However, my advisers have been discussing this in depth and I will write to the noble Lord once I have assessed a number of competing opinions which have been placed before me within the course of the last two days or so.
I am grateful to the noble Lord. I should simply like to point out that in bringing these definitions in the Amendment into this Scottish Bill, we are dealing with definitions which draftsmen, and those who have to operate Scots law, understand. But there is this considerable difficulty in dealing with United Kingdom legislation, about the difference between the law North and South of the Border. I hope that this will be looked into and remedied in future.
Perhaps I should have explained—I may have been rather peremptory—that my advisers cannot at this time detect a significant difference in terms of Statute relating to definitions North and South of the Border. But that, of course, is only one nuance of what is a more general and complex problem. However, after I have formed an opinion, I will write to the noble Lord.
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.
moved Amendment No. 9:
After Clause 1, insert the following new clause:
.—(1) If an order is made under section 1 of this Act forbidding absolutely the keeping of live fish, or the live eggs of fish, of a species, any person who on the date on which the order came into force and on 10th May 1977 was keeping live fish or the live eggs of fish of that species in Scotland shall, subject to subsection (2) below, be entitled to receive from the Secretary of State compensation in respect of any financial loss which he may suffer by reason of the prohibition contained in the order:
Provided that the compensation payable to a person under this subsection shall not in any case exceed the amount which would be payable to him if he had, at the date when the order came into force, possessed only the same number of such fish or eggs and the like structures and equipment as he possessed on 10th May 1977.
(2) A claim for compensation under subsection (1) above shall be made within 3 months after the date on which the order came into force; and any question in dispute as to whether compensation is payable under this section, or as to the amount of compensation so payable, shall be determined by a single arbiter to be appointed, in default of agreement, by the Lord President of the Court of Session.
The noble Viscount said: This clause provides for compensating anyone who is legitimately keeping fish or fish eggs in Scotland on 10th May 1977, when Her Majesty's Government made known their support for the principle of control. If the destruction of those fish or fish eggs were subsequently necessitated as a result of an order being made under Clause 1 of the Bill and there was financial loss to those concerned, it would allow for compensation. I may say that I hardly envisage great financial loss, because if what is said by those people who might be affected is true, their product should be so valuable by the time it was ordered to be destroyed that they would probably make a profit. Nevertheless, it is only right that this Bill should not cause unfair loss to anybody. From now on, anybody who may wish to import a species of fish which comes under the jurisdiction of this Bill will be forewarned, and therefore will have carried out their import in the full knowledge that at some stage there may be an order made to dispose of or destroy the fish. But somebody who has innocently and legally brought fish into this country should not suffer undue loss. I beg to move.
While the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, was explaining this clause, I was wondering whether, procedurally, there may be some difficulty about a Financial Resolution. This is something which could affect another place, because it is often difficult with Private Member's Bills to get the Government to bring forward a Financial Resolution, and this clause involves the Secretary of State being in a position to produce money for compensation. So that while I understand the purpose of the clause, and commend the fairness which the noble Viscount is holding out in it, I wonder whether the Government can tell us if they can produce a financial resolution in another place, if it is needed.
I do not know whether the noble Lord—
If the noble Viscount will keep on speaking for a moment or two, I shall be delighted to reply to that point.
I shall be delighted to keep speaking for a while. I do not think that this clause will cost very much if these fish are reared to the point at which they are of an appropriate size. At that stage they can be sold as food and, according to their sponsors, they will have a fairly good value. So I do not think that I, for one, would feel that there was likely to be a case for a very great sum in compensation.
I do not want to extend—
There is a procedural point here, which affects the whole of the United Kingdom. If the procedural point has any basis, then I should have thought this was an ideal case for following your Lordships' normal procedures which allow Bills to be looked at again on Report, or even to be amended on Third Reading. If this procedural point has any basis, it ought not to be answered with a quick nod and a wink between the Box and the noble Lord who is doing his very best to deal with it. Now that the point has been raised, we should use the normal procedures and look at it on Report rather than now.
That is what I was rising to say. I did not intend to extend the proceedings, and it was not meant to be a fast ball. But I saw that the clause requires the Government to produce money, which always raises difficulty on Private Member's Bills. I certainly did not want to delay the proceedings in order for the noble Lord to produce an answer, and I simply wanted to register the point, because it is very much one which could affect the future of the Bill and whether it will go through in this Session.
I take the point which the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, has just made, and I would not attempt a "quickie" if that would in any sense mislead the Committee. It was not a point to which I had addressed myself before coming to your Lordships' House today, but I am advised that there is a specific Treasury agreement on this Bill, so that procedurally it would proceed in the other place.
I am grateful, because I think that the noble Lord has, in principle, given us an answer now. If it has the financial blessing of the Government, then no doubt this important point on which Bills have failed in the past will be looked after. But I would not want to take up the time of your Lordships' Committee by pursuing this point now, when we have occasions to consider it in more detail later.
Before we entirely leave this general matter, I wonder whether the noble Viscount is certain that his provisions for compensation are not rather more open-ended and potentially more expensive than he suggested. I do not want to elaborate now, but "loss" could be loss in the years to come, and I wonder whether he will look at this point in the meantime.
I am certainly glad to look at this point between now and the next stage, and if I see any difficulties or dangers in it I will certainly raise them on Report.
I would just say in passing, purely as a preliminary comment, that I am of the opinion that the Government would wish to resist that suggestion. We can discuss this later, but I can see difficulties in pursuing the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Gray.
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
moved Amendment No. 10:
After Clause 1, insert the following new clause:
"Powers of entry and inspection
.—(1) While an order under section 1 of this Act is in force, any officer commissioned by the Commissioners of Customs and Excise, a police constable or a person duly authorised by the Secretary of State may at all reasonable times, on production of his authority if so required, enter and inspect any land occupied by a person holding a licence granted under that section and any other land upon which he has reason to believe that live fish, or the live eggs of fish, of the species specified in the order are being kept or may be found.
(2) In this section "land" includes land covered with water."
The noble Viscount said: This Amendment is to give powers of entry in order to enforce the controls provided by the Bill. It follows the normal practice in such cases; for example, Section 6(2)( b) of the Diseases of Fish Act 1937, which provides for powers of entry on to land which would be required for enforcement. I beg to move.
This clause, and the new clause which we shall discuss after it, are related, inasmuch as they introduce into the Bill offences and powers of entry and inspection to see whether the offences are being committed. As Parliamentarians, all of us wish to avoid introducing new offences if we possibly can. Moreover, we wish also to reduce to the minimum the occasions upon which any official needs to exercise powers of entry and inspection. At this stage, therefore, I would ask the noble Viscount or the Government only to tell us that they have looked at the point and are satisfied that the Bill could not be operated and enforced without having in it these two new clauses. I understand that if the Bill is passed and contains no powers of enforcement we are all wasting our time. On the other hand, one is reluctant to introduce clauses of this kind unless they really are necessary.
I think the clause is necessary. One of the criticisms of the Bill at an earlier stage was that it did not have muscle and teeth and that it was unable to carry out its own purposes. Without offences, clearly it would be difficult, if not impossible, to enforce some of the provisions, especially if some- body were tempted to take a chance, try to circumvent the law and bring in a species of fish sub rosa. The penalties and powers have to be there. Having said that, I do not envisage the powers being used to that extent. The real power in the Bill will be the power of the Secretary of State to make orders prohibiting imports, preventing things happening and stopping the fish, eggs or whatever getting into the country. This is the important point, and I am sure that it is the one at which control will take place.We shall have to give these powers to the Customs officials; they may very well have to be used at the point of Customs inspection. However, the powers require to be there in case something is discovered about a fish that has been imported and it is necessary to deal with it because it is a danger. If new evidence is found which makes it necessary to deal with it, the Secretary of State should have that power. Also, if somebody gets around the Customs in some way and it is found that these fish are being kept in Scotland, then it would be necessary to have the powers in order to deal with the situation. However, I do not envisage the powers being used frequently, or being used unless an order is made or a licence enforced.
Control of disease is one of the objects of the Bill. I question whether any Act has been passed by Parliament for the control of disease in livestock that has not contained sanctions, some of them very heavy, against those who infringe the law. Therefore I believe that we must have these sanctions in order to fulfil the purpose of the Bill.
On Question, Amendment agreed to.